Are You Ready For The Consumerization of B2B Buying Behavior?

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Tony Zambito

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consumerism will getcha
consumerism will getcha (Photo credit: macwagen)

A major shift in buying behavior is occurring.  If you are not on top of it, you may be the last to find out what people as buyers are saying about you.  And, you may have your assumptions about how you stack up against competitors shaken.

Something Else

The struggle with content marketing ineffectiveness may mean buyers want something else.  The something else may be just around the corner.

What is going on?

Our thinking about B2B Marketing and Sales can be changed forever if buyers adopt technology, which allows them to openly share opinions and reviews.  What is looming on the horizon is the “consumerization” of buying.  Using technology and services similar to Amazon, Yelp, and Trip Advisor.  Where consumers share their opinions and reviews of products.  It is already here.

Two companies making this possible in the business software and technology sector are G2 Crowd and TrustRadius.  What makes each unique, is business users are willing to make their opinions known and have their trusted online identities known.  Another words, their reviews and opinions will not be anonymous.

I became aware of these two companies through an excellent article, The future of business purchasing will look a lot like Yelp, by reporter David Yanofsky (@yano) on Quartz, the digital news outlet owned by Atlantic Media Company.  David’s well written article highlights how these two services are attempting to disrupt business purchasing.  For more details, please read this article as well as see glimpses of G2 Crowd screenshots.

Disruptive New Development

The implications for B2B will be significant if this type of service and technology further evolves.  Which, I believe it will – just as Amazon evolved during the past decade.  It will be disruptive to marketing and sales.  If you are a senior marketing or sales leader not getting this on your radar screen, it can disrupt you personally.  Here are my perspective and recommendations on how you can be ready for this disruptive new force:

The Rise Of The User In Marketing and Sales

My prediction is the user will become more prominent as a voice.  While the user has often been considered for product development, they have been an elusive thought in marketing and sales. Marketing and sales will now have to think in a broader context of how to engage users in buying and the path-to-purchase.

Rethinking Content Marketing

There has been a meteoric rise in the use of content marketing.  From my perspective, marketing itself and not buyers or users primarily fuels the rise.  This may account for why there continues to be a struggle with ineffectiveness.  Buyers simply may distrust content marketing – especially if it is product-centric and makes non-credible claims.

Competitive Landscape Expands

Be prepared for buyers and users to become more aware of what and who comprises the competitive landscape for your industry.  For example, G2 Crowd uses a grid showing leaders, contenders, high performers, and niche.  In the article referenced, this considerably opened up the field of players in marketing automation for full view.  With buyers being able to learn more about contenders and niche players from such review services, this will further level out the playing field.

Acceleration of Buying Behavior Shifts

Each new introduction of digital technology and services has an impact on buying behavior.  The shift towards the “consumerization” of B2B buying will accelerate if open opinion and review sharing based services grow.  The starting point for both marketing and sales, in terms of dialogue as well as engagement, will be further moved downstream of buying processes as well as the paths taken to purchase.  Increasing expectations to deliver value – in the manner described through open opinions and reviews.

In my estimation, these four trends will continue to evolve.  As I have written before, organizations are becoming flatter with technology allowing more participants into buying decisions.  The advancement of transparent reviews will accelerate new rules of purchasing within this context.

B2B companies will be faced with tough choices.  One of those is whether to embrace this new digital technology service – or not.  Despite the uncomfortable transparency involved, it may be one which not embracing can send the wrong signal to customers.  Mike Volpe (@mvolpe) who is CMO of Hubspot and interviewed for the referenced article, summed it up best by saying – “What our customers want is exactly the information that is there.”

(Changes are happening rapidly.  Schedule time with me and a conversation to help you understand how these changes impacts you.  I am very interested in getting your thoughts and perspectives on this latest development.  Please share widely – your peers and colleagues are trying to respond before it is too late.)

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8 thoughts on “Are You Ready For The Consumerization of B2B Buying Behavior?”

  1. Tony, I don’t know if I quite agree that this is the consumerization of B2B. Sites like G2 Crowd are a very interesting emerging dynamic, I see this as another step in the democratization of information.

    As marketers, it becomes one more place where you can only influence, through your product, service and your culture on display in your interactions with clients and prospects. Imagine a day where you, the company, is in control of zero information. You influence it through your behavior, you curate and distribute it as a service to clients and prospects, but all of the information is on display, freely available, for all to see.

    While I don’t call that a consumerization, but it is an extremely interesting and relevant trend emerging in B2B. Thanks for bringing it up!

    1. Hi Eric,

      Thanks for commenting. I like your perspective on this, as I always do. The democratization of information has been the ongoing story since the Internet was unleashed. It is leading to significant changes both in consumer and business buying behaviors.

      The consumer world has opened a new expectation of open transparency. This will become, in my opinion, a driving force in the business world. Which, is what you describe.

      Digital technology for consumer and business are intersecting more than ever. Companies like G2 Crowd and others to follow will – by trial and error – provide another source of influence. This time coming from primarily users as I see it – and not our conventional thinking of a buyer.

      It is going to get interesting for sure!


  2. Tony – thanks for calling attention to this trend and for mentioning TrustRadius. I think consumerization is a fair analogy in that as consumers we’ve become accustomed to getting social proof online to help make and/or validate our decisions, and while similar behavior has occurred in B2B though ad hoc comments in forums/list servs, and through personal contact, it’s never until this point happened at scale. We’re witnessing a real craving for authentic insights from peers.

    There are however some real nuances between B2B and B2C, given that most B2B purchases are highly considered that are worth making. These nuances have heavily influenced how we’ve designed TrustRadius:

    1) Business buyers have a lower tolerance to sift through noise to get to important insights. Hence editorial control, curation and structure for reviews are all very important.

    2) It is important to ensure that content contributors are truly insightful and not just rating a product for the sake of winning a cash reward or scoring points for an iPad.

    3) There is a strong desire to filter results to hear from people most like you. If you work in demand generation at a large multinational company, you want to hear from people who are in similar roles in similar sized companies. The ability to filter insights to those most relevant is critical.

    4) There need to be more protections against fraudulent or clearly vendor biased reviews to compensate for the fact there’s likely to be a far lower volume of responses than in a typical B2C scenario to mitigate those issues. We put every review through a vetting process by a human being before it’s published to ensure balance, comprehensibility and completeness.

    Thanks again for bringing attention to this important trend.

    Vinay Bhagat
    CEO, TrustRadius

    1. Vinay,

      Thank you for your very well written comment and informative response. Highly appreciated. The points you provided are a welcome guide regarding this future trend. The nuances between B2B and B2C are well noted. While behavior may be labeled “consumerization”, the expectations between consumers and business buyers will be distinct.

      B2B marketers would be wise to not fall into the mistake of not paying attention to the 4 distinctions you pointed out. It is good to see TrustRadius on the forefront blazing a new trail. A trail, I believe, buyers are eager to take.


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  6. Thanks for the kind words, We’re big fans of the work you done. We just followed you on Twitter as well and hope to connect soon

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