ITSMA study: Earning B2B buyer trust matters even more now

Trust is at the core of most relationships, both personal and professional. For nearly 300 B2B senior executives in business and IT, their top sources of truth are tech providers, professional services firms, and systems integrators, according to a recent survey by the Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA).

The survey and subsequent report, co-sponsored by Adobe and SAP, examines new and changing business priorities in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as executives’ preferred methods of engagement. Surveyed companies reside in the United States and Europe, do business in seven major industries, and, for the majority, have revenue exceeding $1 billion.

According to the study titled, ”How Executives Engage: Understanding Changing Buyer Behaviors in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic,” since March, 88 percent of B2B executives said they’ve been going online to keep up with evolving industry and technology trends. Technology providers, professional services firms, and systems integrators tied as their leading places to find trusted content, cited by 35 percent of executives, who look to them for general information (33 percent) or as part of the purchasing process (35 percent).

In fact, solution providers’ trustworthiness was the No. 2 attribute when considering purchases over $500,000, cited by almost a quarter of survey respondents. This was just behind providers’ product prices, as cited by 27 percent.

Interestingly, content format – be it an article, interactive visualization, webinar, or podcast – had little bearing on what executives perused online. What did matter was that the content itself was practical, unbiased, backed by research, and offered new ways of thinking, among other factors.

Bigger picture, though, is why B2B executives wanted to buy new technology in the first place. Two words: digital transformation. Most executives (86 percent) characterized their companies as “digital immigrants,” meaning they were founded before digital was a “thing,” and are now transforming themselves by adopting digital business practices. The pandemic has heightened acceleration, pushing digital transformation to the top of business priority and IT investments lists, according to the ISTMA report.

Nearly half of companies surveyed said they’re at the stage of strategic investments in new technologies, with 24 percent of those executives citing upgrading systems and infrastructure to support a remote workforce and employees’ ability to collaborate as one of their companies’ top three priorities. That slightly trails the 29 percent who cited transforming to enable digital business and engagement with customers, employees, and the supply chain as their business priority, and just ahead of the 23 percent that want to cut costs.

As for actual technology investments, 49 percent of executives pinpointed the cloud as their top priority, followed by security (32 percent), and collaboration software (17 percent). Artificial intelligence was just slightly behind, at 16 percent.

Also included in the report are ways B2B executives prefer to engage with their solution providers – in-person meetings, as expected given current climate, were far down the list – how solution providers can better earn their confidence (think: collaborative innovation), ways to increase the effectiveness of virtual meetings and events, and the changing role of sales.

Click here to view the report.