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What do business people want? Detail, not pictures

The devil is in the detail, so goes the age-old saying. It suggests that there is some hidden catch, or a potential problem if you do not read all the information presented. It would appear that business people spend much of their time with this idiom in the back of their mind. They concentrate on detail – a lot..!

That is demonstrated in a new study which investigates what makes business people buy things online. This research showed that what business people want is lots of written, detailed information to help them make purchasing decisions.

In stark contrast to what many Internet Marketing “gurus” might tell you, here’s what the 1,200 business buyers in the study revealed.

  • 76% DO NOT really care about the presentation of the website; only 24% said a professional website was one of their top 3 priorities;
  • 88% ARE NOT bothered about pictures; only 12% said pictures were essential;
  • 89% DO NOT rate testimonials as important; only 11% wanted them as a priority.

Yet, advice to businesses is that your website must look professional, you need it crammed with pictures and if you want to get people to buy from you, then you need testimonials. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Here’s what the top priorities of business buyers are, according to this study.

  • The web page “speaks to my specific needs” (in other words it provides exactly what the visitor wants, nothing more, nothing less);
  • The information is detailed with full product or service specifications;
  • The content is educational, not promotional.

Yet the advice to businesses is often to provide short, promotional material because business people are busy and don’t want to dig into the details, wasting their time. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

This confirms a further recent study which showed that executives want lengthy material; forget videos and blogs for business people. And it’s not the first time that the lengthy content notion has won. Studies from four years ago found the same thing. Business people prefer long form content.

What is interesting about this new study is that it showed that business buyers are really seeking information which helps them make a decision. They want educational material, which is in-depth and analytical. The study showed that for most buyers the source of that information is not relevant; what matters is that it is detailed and highly relevant to the buyer.

This is not news, of course. Study after study for decades shows consistently that the number-one way of getting a business sale is to provide the potential customer with piles of information and to avoid any attempt at promotion. That’s not what Sales Directors want to hear of course, nor marketers. But it is the common factor in studies of buyer behaviour.

The psychology behind this issue

There is a good reason why this focus on the detail is so important. Business people are generally not spending their own money when they buy something. As a result, they feel they need to justify their purchasing decision. Indeed, in many businesses employees have to provide a written justification for what they buy.

Ultimately, the business buyer is seeking to reduce the risk of their decision to buy something. They don’t want to look stupid or get told off. So, they seek as much information as possible to provide the justification they need and thereby minimise the risk they are taking. The more detail a seller provides, the less risky the buying decision becomes.

This is why this new study showed that one of the most influential aspects of the detailed information a business provides is “original research”. In other words, someone selling to a business has a greater chance of success if there is research to support their product or service.

Plus, the new study revealed that the main way business colleagues discuss their considerations in buying something is through email. That means if you want to sell something to a business you need shareable material that can easily be emailed. That cuts out videos for instance but makes white papers and PDF documents much more valuable.

Stick to long pieces of text and your business will sell more to other businesses.

Picture credit: Mar Newhall

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Graham Jones

I am an Internet Psychologist studying how people behave online, enabling businesses to find out more about customer and consumer behaviour. I am the author of "Click.ology: What Works in Online Shopping" and 28 other books.

Posted in Editor's Picks, Marketing, Public Relations
One comment on “What do business people want? Detail, not pictures
  1. Bridget Summers says:

    I like this!

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