In an age of information overload, over 30% higher than years past, the research indicates that buyers are trying to find ways to cut through the noise and get help to solve their specific problems / personalized advice and references that proposed solutions will deliver true value.
The least credible source not surprisingly was vendors themselves, pointing to the need for vendors to:
- receive third party validation and leverage content, especially from trusted analysts and pundits
- use social media such as blogs that contain advice and peer communities and groups to gain more trust
This research was an important follow-on to a survey in 2006, the latest research examining sources of information b-to-b buyers consider during different stages of the buying process and the influence of each on their purchase decision.
The most trusted sources of information overall are industry analysts (cited by 31.4% of respondents) and peers (28.7%).
The influence of vendors as a trusted source of information has also increased, from only 3.3% of buyers who cited them as a trusted source in 2006 to 8.1% this year, but remains dramatically lower on the trust scale than other sources.
In the early stage of the buying lifecycle, the most influential sources of information for b-to-b buyers are internal events or triggers (cited by 31.1% of respondents), peers (24%), industry analysts (15.6%) and trade publications (13.3%). Search engine results were cited by only 4.4% as trusted sources; consultants, by only 2.2%.
The most favored sources of content during the early stages of b-to-b decision-making are white papers (64.4%), peer referrals (51.1%), webinars (48.9%), trials or demos (42.2%) and analyst reports (37.8%), the survey found. Buyers are looking for diagnostic advice and ideas, and white papers as well as executive assessment tools provide a foundation today for early decision making.
In the middle stages of buying, the most influential sources are peers (22.7%), industry analysts (15.9%), trade publications (15.9%), vendors (11.4%) and internal events (11.4%). Notably, the influence of vendors in the middle stage has gone up since 2006, when they were cited as a trusted source by only 3.5% of buyers.
In the late stages of decision-making, the most trusted sources are peers (28.9%), industry analysts (20.0%), trade publications (11.1%), consultants (8.9%) and search engine results (8.9%). From these results, it would appear that peer comparisons and personalized benchmarks could be a great help in guiding decisions and winning trust in these later buying stages.