Great insight into how European business buyers think and behave is revealed by the 2013 Buyersphere study, which probed 500 purchasers of significant business items (worth £20k – £78m each) in the UK, France and Germany.

For anyone in B2B marketing it’s worth looking at the research in full, but here are the findings I think are most significant – or surprising.

1.    Motivations for buying: quality beats price

The most popular motivation for a purchase decision was to ‘improve productivity’ – cited as highly important by 51% of respondents. ‘Business expansion’ came second. Only 32% rated ‘cuttings costs’ as important.

So even in this tough economic climate, for B2B purchases, cost savings aren’t a primary factor.

This is backed up by another part of the study which found 65% chose the ‘best quality’ offering, compared with 49% who chose the lowest price. Similarly, ‘a supplier that understands our needs’ scored highly.


2.    Strong brands win

Intriguingly, another significant driver for purchase decisions was ‘because it’s the kind of thing we should have’. So a notable proportion of buyers, even of high-cost business purchases, make decisions on non-specific, emotive grounds.

This underlines the importance of B2B suppliers building strong brand profiles to radiate credibility and provide customers with that emotional reassurance, as well as focusing on promoting the details of their products and services.


3.    Websites are king

The most popular single source of information on potential purchases was suppliers’ websites (cited by 47%).

The importance of websites is no surprise. What strikes me is that this 47% went directly to these sites, compared with 29% who accessed them via search engines.

This links to another finding that two thirds of buyers had existing relationships with their chosen suppliers. Presumably these buyers already knew whose sites they wanted to visit – and it underlines the crucial importance of maintaining relationships with current and previous customers.

That said, 29% using search engines is hardly to be sniffed at: performing well in online searches remains vital.

4.    Paper is alive and kicking

Despite the undoubted importance of websites, when asked about the best information format, while 51% had downloaded PDFs, no fewer than 47% had turned to printed brochures.

Rumours of the death of paper collateral are clearly highly exaggerated.

5.    Polarised views on social media

Whereas around half of respondents placed varying levels of value on the role of social media in informing purchase decisions, a striking 47% were completely against it. Yes social media are becoming increasingly important, but in B2B marketing they’re not yet the silver bullet many pundits would have you believe.


6.    Proliferation of devices

It’s significant, if no surprise, to see that digital marketing information is increasingly viewed on smaller, portable devices – by B2B buyers as much as consumers. Twenty percent was viewed on smartphones and tablets by the respondents in the study and this is only set to grow every year as technology advances.

Marketing information clearly needs be designed with all of these formats in mind.

7.    What frustrates B2B buyers

Finally, when asked if they suffered any frustrations when researching purchases, a third said they did. The most common responses included:

  • Information too vague
  • Sales speak
  • Lack of clarity
  • Slow response to information requests
  • Too much information
  • Information insufficiently credible

The truth is, no matter how good your product or service, if your marketing collateral is weak, you could lose to your competitors.

Frustrating your potential customers is never a wise move and some B2B marketers clearly need to sharpen up.


What are your views on what the study tell us? And how do we need to undertake marketing to address it?

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