Some of the key methods that professional services buyers use to search for information about work-related topics remain steady over time, while others have shifted, according to an executive summary [download page] from Hinge Research Institute’s latest Inside the Buyer’s Brain study.
The leading way by which buyers search for this type of information is by asking their peers or colleagues for a recommendation, with respondents average an 8.1 probability (on a 10-point scale) of using this channel for learning about a work-related topic. This was also the top method in 2020 (8.0).
The next-most likely way to learn about work-related topics is through a general web search (7.9), much as it was in 2020 (7.7). It’s no wonder then that keyword research/SEO is one of the most impactful marketing techniques of high-growth professional services firms.
Beyond recommendations and search, however, there have been some noticeable changes. This year listening to an expert speak on a topic has vaulted into the 3rd spot (average probability of 7.1), all the way up from the last ranking (and a score of 4.8) in 2020.
Interestingly, while buyers are more likely to listen to an expert speak this year to learn information about a work-related topic, they’re less likely to attend a conference or event. This method dropped to the 8th spot this year, down from the top 5 in 2020.
However the biggest drop in rankings is for the use of social media, which appears to have lost its appeal. Buyers gave the use of this channel a probability rating of just 3.2 on a 10-point scale this year, putting it in last place, down from 2020 when it was the #3 channel (6.4).
LinkedIn remains a mainstay, though. Some 85% of buyers of professional services use LinkedIn for work, up from 81% in 2020. This bucks a trend in which use of other platforms has dropped markedly during that period. For example, just 23% report using Facebook for work-related purposes this year, down from 37% in 2020.
When it comes to evaluating professional services firms, buyers first assess sellers’ knowledge of the industry and subject matter expertise. This has repeatedly been found to be a key consideration for B2B buyers.
Beyond that, buyers are considering relevant experience/past performance and the talent of the team. This year an existing relationship has grown significantly in importance compared to 2020, and buyers are also paying more attention to client service, such as flexibility, responsiveness, and timeliness.
Alongside that, a poor customer experience/poor responsiveness has become a much larger concern for buyers this year when selecting a professional services firm. Buyers are also growing more concerned about sellers overpromising and underdelivering, and about dealing with inexperienced/incompetent staff.
All in all, the top decision influencer (“scale tipper”) for buyers this year? An existing relationship.
For more, download the executive summary here.
About the Data: The 2022 study data is based on surveys of 1,914 buyers of B2B and professional services conducted between 2020 and 2022