Five years ago the division between in-bound and out-bound marketing hardly was hardly discussed. Now it is probably the most significant factor in the B2B marketing planning process. For major purchases and complex purchases the buyer is often faced with a wealth of choice and incomplete knowledge – more importantly in the B2B arena the consequences of that purchase can be a major strategic consideration for the business, they can’t afford for it to go wrong.
So what does the B2B buyer do in such a situation? At all costs they look to reduce the risk of purchase. The buyer looks to a series of informal education options around the purchase, which include media reviews, opinion from their peer group and “expert” opinion from the various potential sellers. Previously this would have been a reasonably concentrated informal research period with the major part of the information coming from the potential sellers. However the web has changed this significantly. Now peer review, expert opinion, media coverage and seller information is all available online immediately and the sellers opinion probably not as influential as it once was. It’s a paradox that this hasn’t shortened the informal research process. The ease of access to information and opinion via the web now means that B2B buyers are starting their education process much earlier, sometimes even years earlier.
Why is this important to B2B sellers? Because now when a B2B buyer approaches you to gather information they are significantly further down the sales process than they ever were previously. They aren’t approaching you with an open mind. Based on all the information they have gathered from the web over the previous months and years, you’re already the hot favourite or a rank outsider – you just don’t know it.