Hill and Knowlton recently released their annual Tech Decision Makers study.  The goal of the study was to evaluate how technical decision makers are choosing vendors and solutions.  The study was conducted by interviewing top executives across the US, Canada and UK.

Part of the study asked participants to share their criteria for choosing a technology providers.  Credibility/reputation is as important as a superior product and customer service.  Great products and service will lead to a great reputation but companies need to think about how they spread the word.  In a close second to the first set of answers was previous experience, internal recommendation or an external recommendation. Technical decision makers are talking about their experiences and the companies that can tap into this resource will accelerate their brand recognition in the market. It’s also important to recognize that Sales/Marketing Materials or Presentations are at the bottom of the list.  This is the table stakes of starting a conversation. A great commercial or marketing slick is not going to push anyone over the edge in making a decision.

As a B2B organization you know that you have to reach your customers where they are seeking information. Hill and Knowlton found that over 50% of tech decision makers use personal experience and word of mouth as their most important source of information. Let’s assume for now that you are already delivering a great experience for your customers. How are you helping them spread the word? Are you still using polished testimonials that marketing put together? Your customers see right through this. Testimonials lack the emotion and authenticity that we all seek today. Trust in organizations is at an all-time low. Companies that tear down walls and open up conversations are already seeing massive benefits. This was a topic we wrote about back in 2007 and is becoming even more important today.

IBM is the perfect example. Here you have an organization of over 300,000 employees. They have a killer brand. And despite all of this they started a dialogue with their customers early in 2008. I can also tell you that more and more businesses are recognizing this need. It seems like every week we are having conversations with companies that are exploring how to leverage Social Commerce to deliver ROI in B2B.  What I can tell you is that Social in B2B is here to stay, it is delivering measurable value, and it is reshaping how these companies think about marketing. It isn’t about marketing to customers it is about marketing with your customers.

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