The ‘Yelp’ Factor in B2B

We have been doing a lot of research around what type of information buyers prefer when in the considered purchasing process.  While I can’t share with you the actual stats because the data belongs to our customers, I can talk about some of the findings.  One that is really interesting is the increasing preference of buyers to trust peer or user recommendations or reviews.  Throughout our surveys over the year, buyers (particularly technology buyers) time and time again rank  peer and user data as their most trusted source.

Here is what I think is going on:

  1. Buyers have always trusted “referrals”:  That is a time-honored tradition.  I prefer restaurants, movies and vacation spots recommended by like-minded folks to those recommended by a travel magazine.
  2. Buyers have always had access to referrals, but not to the increasing degree that are becoming available to the business community.  You probably have a friend you trust to recommend a place to get  great lamb vindaloo, but you may not have a friend who can recommend which data migration software to purchase.
  3. The “Yelp” Factor is in effect: The  Web has helped create a vehicle to get buyers the peer data that they need as a part of their purchase research . Yelp has become the ultimate peer review source and thus the basis for my analogy, but now we have Linkedin and “Ask the Expert” sections of vertical sites start to fill the void for the business community.
  4. “Fear Factor” is in effect too: Reality TV’s rise is also instructive.  The consumer of today prefers “real” people in “real” situations to actors and contrived scripts.

How does this information help marketers?  A lot. (Period)

Today, marketers spend a lot of time creating offers such as whitepapers, webinars, online video and blog posts that are polished, carefully written and punctuated with “powerful” words.  The resulting marketing materials end up contrived with no “real” data or anecdotal feedback.  And, ironically, this is what the buyers want. Information written or told to them by like-minded professionals with real stories about how they used the solution, what the experience was and what the results were.

Think about leveraging user feedback across your entire funnel from lead-generation offers to education materials to the sales process.  If you get creative, you’ll find a lot of compelling areas where you can substitute a boring webinar starring your VP of Product Marketing with some reality TV.

Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter

  • This is so true, yet another example of how B2B buying and marketing have changed in the internet-era. I really like the “Yelp factor” label — mind if I co-opt it? One question is how can marketers best take advantage of it? At Marketo, we’ve posted links to reviews and comments from our customers to our website. What have others done?

  • I agree with your characterization of the Yelp factor. I think another social network that’s emerging for B-to-B is Twitter. I think IT purchasing decisions will increasingly be driven from in-network recommendations, like via Twitter. It’s nothing significant today, but I think it can become significant.

  • Through market research, our firm has also consistently found that third party validation of a product or service carries a lot of weight when trying to sell to prospects. Leveraging client testimonials and measureable data on results achieved using the product or service, for example, is great supporting information to include in whitepapers, case studies, webcasts and podcasts. This type of information appeals to prospects to be less marketing speak and more of a true endorsement when in the voice of a client.

    To add credibility to any marketing piece, interview your clients and get them to tell you – in quantifiable terms – how using their product or service has helped them improve productivity, streamline processes, save money, and increase revenue, etc. Are they 20% more productive than before? What tasks or duties is their staff able to do more of now that they weren’t before, and how has that helped the business and to serve their own customers? Outlining those measurable results will speak volumes to prospects to prove that not only can your product or service deliver, but that your company cares about delivering those results for clients.

  • Craig,
    That’s a pretty good way to describe how social media/networking has added to the B2B marketing mix.

    Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook all help bring communities together, and those communities are expert in their chosen groups.

    To us, it’s a way to ‘socially network’, even if the people are from all over the world, and can’t actually meet. They still can share advice, best practices, tools etc.

    Yelp factor. Let’s make sure it get attributed to you! At least in B2B marketing.

  • I agree that reviews are very important in the buying decision. I frequently use Yelp to find new spots in Chicago because I’ve lived here for less than a year.

    But the question is – What are Yelp sites in the B2B world? Is there a site out there now that dominates as a review site for the B2B industry?