Over the last two years, the role of the small business website was a source of debate for local marketers. While some argue that Google is the new homepage for many small businesses, others argue the power of the website goes beyond the SERP. From the buyer’s perspective, the website is a critical checkpoint, particularly in the B2B segment.
According to a new study from LinkedIn, 44% of B2B buyers said a company’s website is the top influence on their purchasing decisions (see below) and 70% said it was in their top two considerations. The study featured data from a survey of “502 business decision makers from the U.S. who have influence over purchasing decisions at B2B companies.”
We see similar results as it relates to the website from broader “buyer” studies. According to 2018 results from the LSA’s Local Media Tracking Study (n=8,000 U.S. adults), the website was the top channel consumers turned to when ready to buy. In 2018 an Adobe study found that 48% visited a brand website when researching a product which was the top channel overall. And so on.
Beyond the website, LinkedIn’s study found that 28% of B2B buyers say events are the biggest influence, allowing the ability to network and meet face-to-face with potential vendors. The remaining 28% is related to content and expertise or “thought leadership” activities. The marketing conclusion here is that the most effective B2B brands will have a compelling website, will be available to meet in person and will offer their insights and expertise via content.
The study went on to identify the factors that influence B2B buyers in an initial sales engagement with a brand. While the channels that influence buyers suggested a thoughtful research process, 52% said representing a “well-known brand” was the biggest influence during an initial engagement. This is to say that simply being aware of a brand influences B2B decisions. Personalization, shared connections and charisma accounted for the other top influences.
It is interesting to see the power and importance of branding and advertising in the B2B segment. But it shouldn’t be surprising. Consumers (all of us) often subscribe to the thinking that if we heard of a brand or saw an expensive commercial, it must be successful and good, often putting too much credit towards a company that we know little about. While this behavior isn’t the case for all buyers, it happens often.
B2B marketers recognize this and a recent survey of 150 B2B executives found that 87% have increased their brand investments over the past five years, with the majority of these investments going towards inbound and outbound marketing. The majority (82%) said these investments are paying off in the form of sales and acquisition.
For local marketers and sellers serving SMBs, the study suggests a formula that includes a compelling website, “thought leadership” (a.k.a. content marketing) and an advertising strategy that builds awareness. Brand awareness in particular may play an outsized role in the decision-making process, when local business owners are ready to buy.