Heavy Executive Level Reliance on the Internet for Finding and Working with Professional Service Providers
In less than 15 years, the Internet has fundamentally changed the way we do things:The way we shop, stay current, gather information, build relationships and networks, and do business. B2C marketers have reacted dramatically—reallocating budgets to invest in new ways to get found and connect with their buyers online.
B2B service marketers and, especially, professional service marketers, have been slower to adapt their marketing strategies to this new brand world. Why? Because they do not believe executive-level buyers use the Internet to find or connect with lawyers, accountants and consultants. This erroneous belief can be put to rest based on a new research study of executive decisionmakers.
Research that calls for new interactive strategies
A newly completed survey by professional service branding leader Greenfield/Belser and its sister organization, The Brand Research Company, puts a spotlight on how, where and what executives search for online as they consider professionals and firms to advise them. The findings are drawn from an online survey of executive-level buyers of accounting, consulting and legal services across the U.S. The study is called Finding and Working with Professional Service Providers on the Web. The survey findings constitute a clarion call for offline marketing efforts to be integrated with online strategies. Highlights include these facts:
Executive-level buyers are online, in droves
94% are online daily for purposes other than email.
82% report the Internet has replaced other methods of researching almost completely.
76% told us the Internet has replaced other methods of receiving news almost completely.
42% indicate the Internet has replaced other methods of securing business purchases almost completely.
- 78% surveyed say they go online to search for outside legal, accounting and consulting professionals, but the majority (59%) do so less than monthly on average.
Search engines are a key tool for learning about professionals
50% of executive decisionmakers say that search engines are important.
48% say that being listed near the top on Google matters.
When they use search engines, one in two decisionmakers always include keywords with specific expertise and industry.
- Other critical, but less important keywords include general practice areas, city and state.
Newer media tools gain traction
Two-thirds of executives surveyed use social networking sites. For business, LinkedIn tops the list.
75% read blogs, with 37% reading them on a daily or weekly basis.
- Mobile phones are ubiquitous, but only 28% of executive decisionmakers view or listen to online content of any type on their phones; those who do, most often use it for news.
Firm Websites matter more than ever
85% of executives consider professional service firm websites important sources of information in their search for professionals.
Three in four say the quality of a firm’s site influences whether they put a firm on their short list.
53% have put a firm on a short list based on the information found on the firm’s site.
- Specific-industry experience tops the list of things executives find important on sites, with 78% saying it is must-have information.
While these and other study findings clearly require professional service firm marketers to adjust and refine their interactive branding and marketing strategies, executive buyers were also clear about the need to balance online with offline efforts.