We have been doing a lot of research around what type of information buyers prefer when in the considered purchasing process. While I can’t share with you the actual stats because the data belongs to our customers, I can talk about some of the findings. One that is really interesting is the increasing preference of buyers to trust peer or user recommendations or reviews. Throughout our surveys over the year, buyers (particularly technology buyers) time and time again rank peer and user data as their most trusted source.
Here is what I think is going on:
- Buyers have always trusted “referrals”: That is a time-honored tradition. I prefer restaurants, movies and vacation spots recommended by like-minded folks to those recommended by a travel magazine.
- Buyers have always had access to referrals, but not to the increasing degree that are becoming available to the business community. You probably have a friend you trust to recommend a place to get great lamb vindaloo, but you may not have a friend who can recommend which data migration software to purchase.
- The “Yelp” Factor is in effect: The Web has helped create a vehicle to get buyers the peer data that they need as a part of their purchase research . Yelp has become the ultimate peer review source and thus the basis for my analogy, but now we have Linkedin and “Ask the Expert” sections of vertical sites start to fill the void for the business community.
- “Fear Factor” is in effect too: Reality TV’s rise is also instructive. The consumer of today prefers “real” people in “real” situations to actors and contrived scripts.
How does this information help marketers? A lot. (Period)
Today, marketers spend a lot of time creating offers such as whitepapers, webinars, online video and blog posts that are polished, carefully written and punctuated with “powerful” words. The resulting marketing materials end up contrived with no “real” data or anecdotal feedback. And, ironically, this is what the buyers want. Information written or told to them by like-minded professionals with real stories about how they used the solution, what the experience was and what the results were.
Think about leveraging user feedback across your entire funnel from lead-generation offers to education materials to the sales process. If you get creative, you’ll find a lot of compelling areas where you can substitute a boring webinar starring your VP of Product Marketing with some reality TV.