While technology vendors rely mostly on their websites to entice customers, buyers say they prefer product demonstrations and customer reviews to help them decide what to purchase, a new study finds.

In the end deals do get done, but buyers of B2B technology and services apparently have a very healthy skepticism in the information they get from vendors.

That’s the main conclusion of a new study of nearly 500 buyers of a range of B2B technology products and services from TrustRadius, a business ratings and review site for business technology based in Austin, Texas. The survey also included a response from a range of B2B technology companies ranging from e-commerce platform developers and information technology services to business intelligence and marketing.

Many B2B technology vendors claim to be buyer-focused, but in reality, most vendors fall short.
Emily Sue Tomac, analyst
TrustRadius

For example, B2B technology vendors at 80% and 76%, respectively, count on their website and product demonstrations as the sales and marketing tools they use the most to attract B2B buyers. In contrast, buyers at 65% and 49%, respectively, view product demonstrations and user reviews as the sources of information they trust and use the most to research the purchase of B2B hardware, software and services.

“Many B2B technology vendors claim to be buyer-focused and even ‘customer-obsessed’ in their marketing, sales and product strategies, but in reality, most vendors fall short,” says TrustRadius research analyst Emily Sue Tomac in a blog posting. “Buyers don’t trust vendors to tell them the whole truth about their products, and it isn’t always easy for buyers to connect with customers who have relevant experience.”

B2B techology buyers use five sources of information to research a purchase with the top source being a product demonstration followed by user reviews, a vendor’s website, a free product or service trial and a sales representative.Vendors are the go-to source for lots of need-to-know product information, including technical specs and pricing information,” Tomac says. “But most buyers don’t trust vendors to tell them the whole story, particularly when it comes to the cons.”

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The TrustRadius report finds:

  • Vendor websites are used by 48% of buyers taking part in the survey, but 54% and 55%, respectively, of buyers found the websites to be less influential and less trustworthy than other forms of information.
  • 64% of buyers use product demonstrations while 88% of buyers found them to be more influential and 81% more trustworthy compared to the sources.
  • Marketing collateral was used by only 28% of buyers and only 23% and 13%, respectively, used case studies and blogs from vendors as a key source of product information.
  • 52% of buyers found vendor blogs less trustworthy while 52% of buyers taking part in the survey said the same for vendor case studies.

“Only 37% of buyers in our study said the vendor they worked with was very forthcoming about where the product works well and where it is not a good fit,” Tomac says in a blog posting.” The rest felt the vendor avoided discussing product limitations, left them with an incomplete picture, or answered their questions but was not proactively transparent.”

Buying B2B technology products or services is expensive—the most common cost for one technology product, purchased in the past year by buyers who participated in the survey, ranged from $11,000 to $50,000 annually, with 23% of buyers spending over $100,000 per year. “Among the factors you might care most about are adaptability, scalability, return on investment (ROI), implementation and adoption, support, integration—essentially everything you need to know to go into a new purchase with eyes open,” Tomac says.” But if you want the full picture, you’re going to have to look beyond the vendor’s purview to get it, according to buyers who experienced the purchase process this past year.”

Despite being skeptical of certain information—and sources of information—from various vendors used in researching and buying a B2B technology product or service, many buyers in the end seem to be satisfied with their purchase at the end of the process. On a scale of 1 to 10, “42% of buyers rated the product they bought a 9 or 10 and only 11% rated the product they bought a 1 through 6,” the survey says.  “Additionally 90% say they intend to renew.”

But if sellers of B2B technology and services want their sales and marketing tools and campaigns to resonate more with buyers, they need to be more transparent, Tomac says. 23% of buyers said the vendor they worked with was highly influential in their purchase decision,” she says in her posting. “Highly influential vendors were about twice as likely to be very forthcoming about product limitations, provide buyers with additional learning opportunities, connect them with customer references, and provide them with customer evidence like reviews and case studies.”

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