Today’s guest blog post is by Chris Newton who is VP of Business Development at Influitive, the advocate marketing experts. Before joining Influitive, he started the first product-centric customer advisory board at Siebel, and created one of the earliest advocate marketing programs using Influitive’s AdvocateHub platform at Xactly. In his life before software marketing, he was a pilot in the U.S. Navy and earned an MBA at Harvard.
While some companies do a terrific job of truly educating their prospective buyers, others are guilty of producing self-serving, promotional content that leaves a bad taste in the mouths of tech buyers like you.
A recent study by the CMO Council backs this up. Its research found that “BtoB buyers and influencers are turned off by self-serving, irrelevant, over-hyped and overly technical content.”
This even extends to customer references supplied by vendors. While seemingly objective, there’s no way around the fact that companies cherry-pick the customers and experiences they want to highlight. In other words, they’re carefully presenting a positive – and unbalanced – picture.
To bypass this, B2B buyers are “migrating to peer-based communities and new sources of trusted, relevant and credible content and conversation,” according to the CMO Council report. Recent research from Forrester also demonstrates that customer advocates and category influencers are the most trusted sources of information for buyers today.
Lucky for you, these days you can discover plenty of unbiased viewpoints about a vendor and its offerings. In fact, existing customers of a vendor you’re considering are an invaluable resource that you can trust due to their independence.
Moreover, by tapping into the experiences, insights and advice of fellow B2B buyers, you can eliminate a lot of the legwork involved in evaluating a vendor and its offering.
Your peers can guide you through the selection process by:
- advising on questions to ask
- sharing competitive comparisons
- explaining the implementation process
- indicating the price you can expect to pay
- and more
So, as you are evaluating options for a purchase, be sure to gather information directly from your own trusted sources, whether via a social network such as LinkedIn or Twitter, a vendor community, a product review website like IT Central Station, or in-person at networking events and conferences.
Not sure how to take advantage of the wisdom of your peers? Here are a few recommendations for how you can connect with other buyers and benefit from their insights:
- Attend a vendor’s user group conference to interact with existing customers.
- Send an email to trusted peers or post your vendor-specific questions on a relevant LinkedIn Group or online community forum.
- Search for vendor names on social networks and third-party sites to unearth relevant conversations.
- Seek out customer “testimonials” and reviews through third-party sites such as IT Central Station to avoid a “pre-selected” customer reference.
- Take into account both positive and negative feedback about a vendor and/or its offering to develop a well-rounded picture.
Learn more about the role of customer advocates in the buying process:
Join me and IT Central Station Founder and CEO Russell Rothstein for a Google Hangout on March 13 at 1 p.m. EST. Our guest will be Eric Dirst, a former CIO who spent more than a decade leading IT organizations before being promoted to President of Online Services at DeVry Education Group. Register now.