Subject Matter Expertise A Growing Factor for B2B Buyers When Evaluating Vendors

November 2, 2020

HingeMarketing Evaluating B2B Prof Services Firms Nov2020The percentage of B2B buyers evaluating vendors by their knowledge of the industry/subject matter expertise has risen sharply in the past couple of years, according to Hinge Marketing’s latest report [download page] taking “a look inside the buyer’s brain.” The study follows buyers’ movement to digital channels to assess vendors, what attracts them to certain professional services firms, as well as some of their top concerns.

In terms of how buyers are developing their awareness and interest in professional services, the top approach to searching for new solutions to professional challenges is asking peers or colleagues for a recommendation (8.0 on a 10-point scale of the probability of using each channel). This is very closely followed by digital methods such as doing a general web search (7.7), looking on social media (6.4) and reading an article or blog post (6.4).

Compared to the survey fielded by Hinge in 2018, social media has become more popular, rising to the #3 position from #12. And, by some margin, LinkedIn is the social media platform being used for work-related purposes most (81.0%), followed by Facebook (37.3%), Twitter (26.5%) and YouTube (21.4%).

How Buyers Make Decisions

In 2020, buyers are using a number of methods to evaluate different professional services firms, prioritizing expertise and flexibility. Taking the top spot by a slim margin is knowledge of the industry/subject matter expertise (32.2%), which buyers are looking for a great deal more than they were in 2018 (up from 20.6%). Following close behind is talented staff/team skills (31.7%), and relevant experience/past performance (31.2%).

Client service (flexibility/responsiveness/timeliness) was cited by fewer respondents (22.2%), though this method has seen a sizable increase since 2018 (13.4%).

That said, what is it that can concern buyers when selecting professional services firms? At the top this year after a large increase since 2018 is overpromising/underdelivering (19.6%, up from 10.9%). This echoes findings from 2019 by TrustRadius in which B2B buyers cited vendors being more transparent about product limitations and capabilities as the top way they could improve the purchase process.

Close behind and after a similar change since 2018 is bad fit/wrong values (19.2%, up from 11.4%), followed by poor-quality deliverables (17.7%, up slightly from 16.1%).

When it comes down to making a decision about professional services firms, talented staff/team skills is the #1 scale tipper for buyers. Also concerned with talent, this was followed by relevant experience/past performance, while on a more pragmatic level having an existing relationship is at #3. Slightly fewer feel that knowledge of the industry/subject matter expertise is their scale tipper, while having a good cultural fit saw the biggest change since 2018.

Read the full executive summary of the report here.

About the Data: Findings are based on a survey of 1,981 B2B and professional services buyers.


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