7 Questions About Reaching and Engaging B-to-B Decision Makers, Answered

Who they are, how they buy and what content they consume

Business-to-business marketing approaches vary widely, but the need to reach and motivate key decision makers is one thing that unites pretty much all b-to-b marketers.

Who are decision makers these days, exactly? How big of a role do they play? How do they actually find content, and which types move the needle most? Let’s answer these questions and more.

What characteristics define a b-to-b decision maker?

Rare is the decision maker who doesn’t run with a pack. In the vast majority of instances, there isn’t a single decision maker—it’s a group of people with varying titles. In enterprise organizations, 99% of all tech buying decisions are made by two or more people, with buying committees having a median size of eight people.

While there may be a primary decision maker—usually someone from the C-suite when this is the case—it can be costly to assume that the most senior member of the buying committee wields more influence than the other members. Sometimes they do, but sometimes they purposefully play a supporting role. Often, it’s the end users who research options, identify which ones to explore further and actually trial them. That’s why it’s so important to map the b-to-b buying committee, matching each member with the role they will play. Sales and marketing alignment is a pretty big deal in this regard.

Did b-to-b buyers become dormant due to the pandemic?

According to Demand Gen Report’s 2020 B2B Buyer Behavior Study, b-to-b buying teams weren’t as inactive as we may have thought during the Covid-19 crisis. Yes, 47% of buyers froze their budget and delayed purchases, and that’s significant. But the majority of b-to-b buyers are still active. More than a third say they became more active than they were pre-pandemic.

Source: Demand Gen Report’s 2020 B2B Buyer Behavior Study

What else is changing with b-to-b buying teams?

The buying committee growth spurt continues. Sixty-one percent of those surveyed by Demand Gen Report said they’re involving more people in the purchase decision than they did in previous years. Understandably, with more people involved, b-to-b purchases are taking longer to execute. More than two-thirds of buyers said their purchasing process takes longer than it did a year ago, and 25% said it was significantly longer.

The good news for b-to-b marketers is that our content is becoming more crucial. More than two-thirds of respondents said they’re more reliant on content as a means of informing their purchase decision than they were a year ago.

What’s happening in the b-to-b buying process?

Demand Gen Report also asked b-to-b buyers about when they perform buying activities. As you can see, much of the activity takes place early in the process:

Source: Demand Gen Report’s 2020 B2B Buyer Behavior Study

With so much happening early, it’s increasingly important for b-to-b marketers to lay the groundwork before the purchasing process actually begins. For more on how to do this without throwing your lead gen goals out of whack, check out this primer on Brand and Demand: The Key Principles of Marketing Growth.

What are the most important qualities of content?

When asked to share the top five reasons for choosing the winning vendor over other vendors, the most important factor (69%) was that the b-to-b vendor “demonstrated a strong knowledge of the solution and the business landscape.”

Granted, this could be achieved via thought leadership content, via the sales team’s effort, or (ideally) both. When it comes to content-specific reasons, the most important factor (62%) was that the vendor “provided content that made it easier to build a business case for the purchase.”

What content formats are executes drawn to?

This stat is a little older (2018), but it’s a unique look into the types of content most capable of capturing executives’ attention. According to the latest Quartz Global Executives Study, the C-suite is attracted to “dynamic visual content,” such as data visualizations, photography, charts, interviews, interactive features, videos, maps and more. It’s clear from their preferences that executives want perspective at both an analytical and human level.

This finding aligns with LinkedIn and Edelman’s research regarding the true impact of b-to-b thought leadership, which found that decision makers like to use thought leadership content as a way to vet organizations. More than half credited thought leadership as directly leading to awarding the business.

Where do decision makers look for content and buying insights?

In short, the internet. When asked by Demand Gen Report to name the first three sources that informed them about the potential solution, decision makers overwhelmingly listed web search (53%) and vendor web sites (41%) as their top choices.

For b-to-b marketers, the takeaway is to achieve a balance between web-indexed content (also optimizing content for social search) and user and peer reviews. The two feed off each other—favorable reviews and links can boost content visibility and content visibility can lead to more buyers seeing the reviews—so think about ways to integrate your “findable” assets with your most compelling reviews or the review sites you want decision makers to visit.

Alex Rynne is an award-winning content creator at LinkedIn who builds global content campaigns designed to inspire and enable marketers and sales professionals to find success on the LinkedIn platform.