European B2B buyers embracing social media & content marketing

A new study reports that B2B buyers in Europe are actively using supplier-produced content and social media to aid in their purchasing decisions. The “2012 Buyersphere Report” interviewed a total of 800 B2B customers in the U.K., France, Italy, and Germany. The major findings clearly demonstrated the value of combining content marketing with inbound marketing tactics (search, social media, and public relations) in the revenue generation process.

  • Respondents identified Web search (71%), word of mouth (55%), and social media (20%) as their most important and useful purchasing information sources. LinkedIn accounted for half of the social media mentions.
  • Participants noted suppliers’ Web sites (73%), articles in the trade press (47%), supplier e-mails (39%), and downloaded white papers (20%) as the kinds of information used most.
  • B2B buyers discovered most whitepapers (86%) and blogs (71%) via Web search, but learned about seminars and videos (44%) by e-mail.
  • The information sources cited as having the greatest usage and influence were offline events and Webinars followed by supplier e-mails and Web sites.
  • The use of supplier-provided content (white papers, applications briefs, videos, etc.) as buying information resources was up considerably over last year.
  • About 90% of the surveyed group said they use e-mail to share information with others, followed by company Intranet (44%).
  • The trend toward accessing information on mobile devices is growing, with 13% using Smartphones and tablets to gather buying data.

The study found that B2B buyers are getting more selective in their use of social media.

  • Business use of Facebook in 2012 dropped to 5% from 15% last year, while use of Twitter plunged from 10% in 2011 to just 3% in 2012.
  • The use of LinkedIn was up significantly.
  • 20-something B2B buyers are twice as likely to use social media as 31-40 year olds.
  • Under 30s are the only age group of B2B buyers who rate social media more useful than word of mouth. The report suggests that social media is WOM to this group.

The study also revealed how buyers use information sources at different stages of the B2B buying process.

  1. When defining their needs, they rely on white papers, industry press articles, and press advertising
  2. To identify suppliers, they use Web search, LinkedIn, and supplier Web sites
  3. For final supplier selection and validation, they turn to Twitter, supplier e-mails, Facebook, and word of mouth

This report confirms what we have been experiencing for the last few years. B2B buyers in Europe are just as likely to respond to content marketing strategies promoted through inbound marketing channels as their North American counterparts. And this trend will grow as purchasers use mobile devices to view supplier e-mail and download high-value content.