- Buying process insights. In B2B, familiarity and trust are key drivers, overshadowing detailed feature comparison.
- B2B selling shift. Longer sales cycles and buyer independence redefine B2B selling strategies.
- B2B buying trends. Buyers increasingly rely on personal networks over extensive research in B2B buying.
Today, we’re more clued up than ever about how B2B buyers buy. We know, for example, that sales are taking longer, that buyers are more independent (they probably don’t want to speak to your sales people) and that their shortlists are rarely as well researched as we might hope. Let’s take a look at the buying process in B2B.
Buying process in B2B: Buyers Base Choices on Familiarity, Trust
Far from being meticulous or even fair in their comparisons of features, functions, service or expertise, for the most part buyers rely on their brains, their guts and their peers in the buying process in B2B.
Supplier shortlists are typically made up of companies buyers have “heard of” and that they can recall off the top of their heads, plus one or two that someone they trust has recommended.
Related Article: What B2B Buyers Want, and Ways to Align Your Customer Journeys
Marketers’ Goal: Boosting Brand Recall
So raising brand awareness to a point where it can be easily recalled when it really matters — i.e., when buyers are in market for the buying process in B2B — ought to be every marketer’s mission.
The literature calls this “mental availability” and, when it comes to recalling brands, it’s in seriously limited supply. Try it yourself with any category you like, from toothpaste to law firms. If you can remember four in any category, you’re doing very well indeed.
Related Article: Are You Creating the Best B2B Buyer Customer Experience?
Tracking Brand Growth with Free Tools
Where you sit within your category (or categories) is really important. And if you’re pushing brand activation hard, you need to be able to measure its growth and its success.
The good news is brand awareness is easy to track using free tools, i.e., Google Trends search data (which goes back to 2004). We call this “share of search,” and it’s simply the number of searches a brand receives divided by the sum total of searches for all brands within a competitor set.
Simply plug your brand name and your competitors’ brand names into Google Trends. The small bar graph to the left of the screen will show you an average of the keyword search volume for the time period you’ve selected. Add these figures together to get a total and then work out the percentage of brand search traffic for each brand name.
Related Article: Buyers Hate B2B Content. Here’s How to Fix It.
Measuring Organic Search Share with Semrush
You can use tools like Semrush to drill down into keyword search data further, for example to calculate the average position your brand ranks for among certain keywords, like “digital experience software” or “precision metals manufacturing machinery.”
Crucially, this is a measure of your share of organic Google search queries, not paid search. This is important because it’s a measure of intent that can help us make predictions. People tend to run Google searches when they’re looking for answers to problems, i.e., before they take action.
Search Share Predicts Future Market Share
Research by Les Binet, group head of effectiveness at adam&eveDDB, says that a brand’s share of search can help anticipate its market share several months in advance. That makes sense, he says, when you think of Google as Google does — “the world’s biggest database of human intentions.”
Research has shown that share of search is a very good proxy for brand awareness, representing 83% of a brand’s market share, according to a study led by Vizer Consulting’s James Hankins for the IPA’s new share of search think tank.
It’s enlightening because it’ll give you an idea of where you sit, but it also shows you that your competition isn’t necessarily who you think it is. And this is key.
Expanding Competitor Lists for Accurate Analysis
If you’re trying to work out a competitive set to plug into Google Trends, you need to think beyond direct competitors. If you search “European data center” in Google, what’s returned might be a data center in the US or India, which shows you that your competition isn’t who you think it is. And you should always be careful to view search terms from a customer’s perspective — you may call things something very different than your customers do.
And remember, the shortlisted companies you’re up against are never the full competitive set, because people solve problems in-house, or in other ways, or end up doing nothing at all.
But, generally speaking, the more expansive your list of competitors, the more accurate your share of search reports will be. And the better your understanding of the buying process in B2B will be.
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