Almost half of B2B buyers believe their relationships with vendors are getting either stronger (15%) or slightly stronger (33%) over time, reports LinkedIn in a recent study [download page]. Based on a survey of more than 6,000 buyers, marketers, and salespeople from mid-size or enterprise companies across 7 countries, the study reveals that trust (52%) was the top-cited reason for strengthening relationships, with personal relationships (45%) and responsiveness (45%) next.
Notably, while responsiveness was a key reason for stronger relationships, lack of responsiveness figured even more prominently in the list of reasons given for weakening relationships. Of the 3% of buyers who reported weakening relationships, the largest share (31%) pointed to lack of responsiveness, followed closely by financial terms (30%) and speed of delivery (28%).
Interestingly, value for the money was cited by relatively few respondents as a reason for strengthening or weakening relationships.
When it comes to the most important factors for buyers’ willingness to engage with a vendor, the report shows that knowledge is key, with the following 4 reasons tightly bunched at the top:
- Understands my company’s business model (26%);
- Is a subject matter expert/thought leader (25%);
- Provides valuable consultation, education or tools (25%); and
- Knows my company’s products/services (25%).
That aligns with research contained in a MarketingCharts report on B2B digital marketing, in which buyers said that salespeople are most likely to earn their trust by demonstrating high levels of knowledge about their products and services (74%) and the buyer’s organization (52%).
Turning to content marketing – important in the context of thought leadership referenced above – the LinkedIn study indicates that for buyers, product info, features and functions are considered the most effective type of sales content (35% rating as a top-3 content type). Demos (31%) followed closely, ahead of best practices (20%) and case studies (19%).
In comparing buyers’ viewpoints with those of salespeople and marketers, the study notes that buyers are considerably more likely to see demos as effective while being less likely to consider case studies among the top-3 effective types of content. As noted in the MarketingCharts B2B report, many buyers will complete a form to obtain a product demo or evaluation, but few report a willingness to do so in order to receive a case study.
In terms of the content channels used by buyers, information sharing across the organization was the preferred channel across all stages of the funnel. It was joined at the top by social usage only at the awareness stage, with social usage falling behind online search across the “scope,” “plan” and “select” stages. The report notes that social media usage tends to dwindle as buyers progress through the stages of the funnel, with usage as follows:
- 67% during the “awareness” stage;
- 48% during the “scope” stage;
- 42% during the “plan” stage;
- 41% during the “select” stage; and
- 32% during the “implement” stage.
It’s worth noting that the majority of the survey sample are LinkedIn members, which may skew the results in favor of social media usage. For readers interested in more data about the use of social media by B2B marketers and buyers, see the MarketingCharts report on B2B digital marketing.
Finally, in other results from the LinkedIn study:
- Buyers who use social media were considerably more likely than those who do not to say their relationships with vendors have grown stronger over the past year (55% vs. 34%);
- Similarly, buyers, marketers and salespeople knowledgeable about sales process technology were more likely than those not knowledgeable on the topic to report strengthening relationships with each other; and
- 86% of marketers reported aligned relationships with sales, though almost 4 in 10 salespeople said that marketing does not provide enough quality leads.
About the Data: The report is based on For this research, a survey of 6,375 buyers, marketers and salespeople in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, the United Kingdom and the United States. About half of the sample (3,210) were LinkedIn members, and the other half (3,165) were selected from Ipsos’ database (many of whom also are LinkedIn members). The surveys were in the field from July-August 2015. The targets were B2B buyers, marketers, and salespeople at mid-sized to enterprise companies around the globe.
Some 57% of buyers were from enterprises (1,000+ employees), as were 46% of marketing and sales respondents. The tech industry was the most heavily represented across groups.