Vendor websites might be one of the most used information sources by B2B buyers, but they’re towards the bottom of the list in helpfulness and trustworthiness, according to a report from TrustRadius [download page]. Instead, free trials, product demos and referrals are among the information sources that lead the way in trust and utility, per the study.
As the analysts note, “it is clear buyers want a realistic view of how a product will work for them on a day-to-day basis.” As such, free trials and accounts are not only considered the most helpful information sources, but also the most trustworthy. Product demos are close behind, rated the second-most helpful source (of the 12 identified) and the third-most trustworthy.
Word-of-mouth also has a strong influence on buyers, who rated referrals from colleagues, peers and friends as their third-most helpful information source and second-most trustworthy. This aligns with research indicating that B2B marketers believe word-of-mouth has a bigger impact on revenue than any other channel. Separately, the TrustRadius survey finds that direct peer recommendations have a relatively high degree of importance to buyers during the vendor selection process. Still, while more than 4 in 10 have recommended products to peers and acquaintances, far fewer (less than 15%) have served as customer references for vendors or provided testimonials or case studies for vendors.
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Meanwhile, in comparison to free trials and peer recommendations, content marketing appears to face a significant degree of mistrust. Asked to rate the various sources on a 4-point scale (where 1 is least trusted and 4 is most trusted), vendor collateral (2.69) came in last on the list of sources, barely exceeding a neutral rating (2.5) from the standpoint of trust. Vendor and product websites (2.7) were right down there with vendor collateral, as were vendor sales representatives and presentations (2.71).
Worth noting is that while vendor collateral and websites were also at the bottom of the list in terms of helpfulness, sales representatives and representations fared better on that end. Research has shown that sales representative interactions have a positive impact on the decision-making process.
Interestingly, relatively few buyers said that trust in vendor’s claims is an important factor in their selection process. However, this may relate to their having a relatively small amount of trust in these claims to begin with.
When asked to describe a vendor claim they didn’t quite believe during their purchase process, the most common one mentioned by buyers was a generic over-promise (17% share of respondents). Close behind, 15% of mentions surrounded the availability of a specific feature. That’s important, since the strength of the feature set is one of the more influential factors considered by buyers during the selection process. It also speaks to the helpfulness and trust placed in free trials and product demos, where buyers can presumably ascertain for themselves the extent of the feature set and the believability of buyers’ claims.
The TrustRadius report does indicate that lack of trust doesn’t necessarily prevent purchases, as 58% of buyers said a questionable claim made actually came from the vendor they bought from. But previous research has pointed to trust as a key factor in buyer-vendor relationships, so it’s not one to be ignored…
About the Data: The results concerning buyers are based on a survey of 418 individuals who were required to have played a key role in a significant software purchase during the previous 2 years. IT (31%) and marketing (27%) were the most heavily represented departments. Some 42% of buyers came from companies with more than 500 employees.