B2B buyers: not as well informed as they used to be?

“B2B buyers are increasingly turning to online sources, earlier in their process, to research purchases before ever calling a ‘live’ sales rep”, according to Nailing Down Evidence That the Nature of the B2B Buyer Has Changed on Propelling Brands. That’s almost certainly true. But I’ve also seen it used as evidence that B2B buyers are better informed than they used to be. And I don’t think that’s the case. Do you?

Ten or twenty years ago, as a B2B customer, the easiest place to find out the best product to meet your requirement was to pick the brains of your suppliers’ sales reps. It was crucial for suppliers to remain uppermost in customers’ thoughts, which was why there was so much brand advertising going on. Now, buyers just go on the web and start searching for answers …but they do this because it’s quicker than calling their suppliers, not because it’s easier. After all, if you had a salesman sitting in the same room as a customer, you’d expect him to be consulted before Google.

So your buyers are doing their research online. But does this make them better informed? I don’t think so. In B2B, information doesn’t tend to be published quickly or clearly, and rarely can it be found that easily, because few companies devote adequate budget to their online presence. Your customers might be looking online for answers, but what they’re finding isn’t nearly as useful as what they’d have got from their friendly local sales rep in the days when they called him first.

All of this surely provides you with a huge opportunity. If you can provide the service on the web which you once offered by having a knowledgeable sales rep on call, you can once again be who customers turn to. Get that advice out of your salesmen’s heads, where customers don’t seem to want it stored any more, and on to the website, where they would like it to be.

Here at Business Marketing Online, we’re constantly being asked to rebuild companies’ websites. Last week I started work on the site of a small company in an interesting industrial market sector, and began – as ever – by listing the things we’d like the rebuilt site to offer. All of these were achievable on a very ordinary budget. We then looked at all the competition, to see which sites were already in the position we aimed to achieve. None of them were even close. Even simple things such as an application-centric approach (rather than a product-led one) were nowhere to be seen. The opportunities out there at the moment are tremendous.