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The Rise of Peer Reviews: Key insights from the 2016 B2B Buyer’s Survey

The B2B buying cycle is becoming longer and more complex. Demand Gen Report recently released their 2016 B2B Buyer’s Survey Report, and the results show that business buyers increasingly act like traditional consumers. Notably, there is a growing emphasis on independent research, with a significant uptick in the role of peer recommendations and reviews. While this can be discouraging for marketers who are accustomed to more control over buying cycle, there is also significant opportunity for vendors who are ready to embrace these trends.

Here are three key insights we pulled from the B2B Buyer’s Survey, and how you can leverage them in your marketing and sales efforts.

1. Play the long game

B2B buyers are spending more time considering their options before selecting a vendor. Demand Gen Report found that the purchasing cycle has significantly or somewhat increased for 54% of buyers.

“The biggest reason for the longer buying cycle is research,” they noted. “According to respondents, 80% said they spent more time researching purchases, and 73% said they use more sources to research and evaluate purchases.” Additionally, 62% of buyers said they rely more on peer recommendations.

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“There is more at stake so we need to vet vendors more thoroughly,” said one survey respondent.

Rather than trying to short-circuit the research stage, embrace this trend by facilitating the process. Proactively share the credible resources that your prospects seek out. For example, Mattersight cut five weeks out of their sales cycle by training their reps to send TrustRadius reviews when asked for references. With buyers prioritizing substance over buzzwords, neutral sources that provide relevant facts and relatable experiences have an edge over traditional marketing material.

2. Leverage your buyers’ trust in peers

“Given today’s long and winding purchase process — and the sheer amount of research involved — it should come as no surprise that more buyers are turning to trusted sources for advice when choosing between vendors,” noted Demand Gen Report.

Buyers identified peers and colleagues as the third most important resource for information regarding solutions. In 2016, 49% listed peers as a top resource, a massive jump from just 20% in 2015. As we’ve seen on TrustRadius.com, this is a rapidly growing trend that shows no signs of slowing down.

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“There is more complexity around peer recommendations,” said Andrew Gaffney, editorial director at Demand Gen Report. “Before buyers trust or decide on a company, they want to know what the experience for other buyers was like. They want to look at ratings, look at reviews and hear directly from peers.”

Relevance matters when it comes to peer feedback, so elevate ratings and reviews that specifically address the areas prioritized by buyers. When it comes to the top three variables buyers consider when evaluating vendors, 84% emphasize solving a specific pain point important, 83% weigh deployment time/ease of use and 81% focus on features/functionality. These are all considerations where hearing from other users can add valuable third-party validation. To ensure this information is covered, TrustRadius has designed a review flow that gets current customers to share their detailed perspectives, as well as the ability to implement custom questions in the review template.

3. Invest in a review program

With this increasing focus on trust, it is no surprise that Gaffney found hand-picked customer references are falling out of favor.  “I think B2B buyers are becoming more sophisticated than that,” he said. “They want an uninhibited look at a different mix of buyers. They want to go deeper than you putting them on the phone with people that have been pre-rehearsed.”

The survey also found that “review sites — long a staple of consumer marketing — continue to gain influence in the B2B realm.” During the evaluation phase, 55% of buyers said reviews were a very important point of consideration. As far as external sources of validation, reviews were listed above case studies and analyst rankings, which is where B2B companies have traditionally focused their investment.

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Peer reviews should be unbiased, but that doesn’t mean you can’t support, improve and promote them. At TrustRadius, we work with vendors to increase both the quantity and quality of reviews. We also provide a variety of ways to distribute your content, such as on-site TrustQuotes and syndicated industry reports. In addition to assisting with the consideration cycle, reviews can be proactively used as a demand generation tools, an invaluable asset for digital marketing and a key piece of sales enablement.

Ultimately, successfully leveraging reviews in the buying process is a team effort. By evangelizing the power of reviews internally, and using that content across your marketing, sales and customer success programs, you’ll be in the best position to influence today’s B2B buyer. If you’re interested in learning how TrustRadius can help, check out our vendor site or send us an email at vendors@trustradius.com.

Julie Neumann

Julie Neumann is the Director of Content Marketing at TrustRadius, where she focuses on educating and engaging our vendors. A journalist turned tech marketer, she has built programs at Yahoo!, MapMyFitness, Bigcommerce, Clearhead and more. Julie has an MA in journalism from the University of Texas and a BA in English and Economics from Vanderbilt University.