Debunking Top Five Myths of B2B Word-of-Mouth Marketing

In this post we are going to debunk the the top five myths around B2B word-of-mouth marketing. Word of Mouth (WOM) is the “world’s most powerful sales tool,” according to Neilsen. Today, thanks to social media like blogs, social networks, Twitter and more, word-of-mouth is more influential than ever. But is word-of-mouth effective in B2B environments?

Myth #1: WOM is not influential in B2B.

Fact: WOM is the #1 influencer of B2B purchase decisions.

Word-of-mouth Forrester

Few B2B customers ever buy anything without first asking their peers or colleagues about their experiences with the vendor and/or product. In a recent survey of B2B decision makers by Forrester Research, 84% of respondents said Word of Mouth recommendations influence their purchase decisions. While nearly all B2B companies have blogs, only 24% of respondents said they trust blogs. Other research firms also have found that WOM rules in B2B.

Myth #2: Businesspeople are not active users of social media.

Fact: Businesspeople are 2X to 3X more socially active than consumers.

Forrester recently surveyed B2B buyers to learn about their usage of social media. The results were stunning. B2B buyers are actually three times more active creators of social media and twice as active consumers of social content, the survey found.

Based on the survey results, Forrester told B2B marketers: If you’re not using word-of-mouth and social media as part of your marketing mix, you’re late to the party.

Myth #3: Businesspeople don’t advocate companies and products.

Fact: Businesspeople are more active advocates of companies and products than consumers.

Another myth that has pervaded B2B marketing is that businesspeople don’t advocate companies and products. In fact, B2B executives are more active recommenders than consumers, according to a study conducted by WOM research firm Keller Fay.

The study showed that business executives have 118 WOM conversations weekly compared to 100 for consumers. On average, executives mentioned 102 brands times per week compared to 77 for consumers. In 61% of the WOM conversations, executives recommended a brand or product to a peer or colleague.

40% of B2B Buyers are Advocates

Zuberance has conducted interviews with thousands of business decision makers to find out how likely they are to recommend the companies they do business with and products they’ve purchased.

On average, about 40% of customers are Advocates; they are highly likely to recommend. Survey results for eight B2B companies are shown in the chart to the right. The percentage of Advocates for these eight companies ranges from 25% of customers of a communications equipment company to 61% of customers of a broadband service provider.

Myth #4: B2B companies only have a few Advocates.

Fact: B2B companies have many Advocates.

As B2B marketers know, within a single account there are multiple people who spread Word of Mouth. This includes end users, gate keepers, technical buyers, decision makers, and others. While some are more influential than others, all of these people are part of a Word of Mouth Community within an account.

At a single enterprise account, there may be 500 people who are part of a Word of Mouth community. Thus, a B2B company that has 100 customers may have a total Word of mouth community of 50,000 people (100 accounts x 500 people.)

Assuming that 40% of these people are Advocates, the company could have 20,000 Advocates (40% of 50,000). This is a large, highly influential, yet under-leveraged Virtual Salesforce. By energizing their Advocates, B2B companies can amplify positive Word of Mouth and drive qualified referral leads and sales.

Myth #5: The impact of Word of Mouth can’t be measured.

Fact: The impact of Word of Mouth can be measured as precisely as any form of online marketing.

There are dozens of tools that enable B2B marketers to measure the quantity and quality of Word of Mouth about their companies and products in the blogosphere and on social networks like Twitter.

Advanced Word of Mouth analytics enable B2B marketers to go beyond measuring buzz to measuring business and marketing results. For example, advanced analytics track Advocate impact on open rates, click through rates, and conversion rates. These advanced analytics enable marketers to harness the proven power of Word of Mouth and track its impact as precisely as a PPC or email marketing campaign