B2B customer journeys that start on review sites are significantly shorter

The B2B customer journey can be long, especially when the purchase of expensive software subscriptions is contemplated.

“The average B2B customer journey takes 192 days from first anonymous contact to win,” according to Dreamdata in its 2022 B2B go-to-market benchmarks — a statistic described by co-founder and CMO Steffen Hedebrandt as “alarming.”

But the report also says that this journey can be dramatically accelerated – up to 63% – if accounts start their research on software review sites, gathering information and opinions from their peers. Journeys that come from a review site often lead to higher value offers.

Fragmented data on the customer journey. Dreamdata is a B2B go-to-market platform. In any B2B company, Hedebrandt explained, there are typically 10 or even 20 silos of data that contain fragments of the customer journey. Website visits, whitepaper downloads, social media interactions, webinar or meeting attendance, demos and, of course, intent data from review site visits – this data is usually only found not in the same place within an organization.

“We built an account-based data model because we believe there is an account journey, not an individual journey,” Hedebrandt said. “So if there are two, three, or five people representing an account, which is what you typically see in B2B, all of those keys are mapped into the same timeline.”

Among those many keys is the intent data from software review site G2. Dreamdata has integration with G2 and a G2 dashboard allowing visualization of intent data generated by G2. This includes filtering out prospects who are early in their journey, haven’t discovered the customer’s product yet, or who have discovered it but are still searching. This creates a basis for attributing pipelines, conversions, and revenue to activity.

“Strategically, our ideal customer profile is a B2B software-as-a-service company,” Hedenbrandt said. “B2B SaaS companies are especially ripe to understand this digital customer journey; their main investment is in digital marketing, they have a sales force that uses software tools to do this inside sales model; and they also deliver their product digitally. Additionally, it takes twice as long to close a SaaS deal as it does to close deals with B2B business and professional services companies.

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Benchmark results. The findings of the Benchmarks 2022 report are based on aggregated and anonymized data from over 400 Dreamdata user accounts. Focusing on first touch attribution (from their multi-touch model), Dreamdata found that customer journeys where a review site is the first touch are 63% shorter than average. In contrast, where the first touch channel is social, the journey is much longer than average (217%); the same is true when paid media is the first hit (155%).

As the Benchmarks report suggests, this could well mean that social is targeting leads that simply aren’t in the market. It makes sense that activity on a review site is a better predictor of intent.

Hedenbrandt emphasizes the importance of treating specific numbers with caution. “What we did isn’t completely scientific,” he admits, “but it’s real data from 400 accounts, so it won’t be completely wrong. You can only pass your time once, and at least from what we can see here, it’s better to spend your time collecting reviews than writing another Facebook update.

While Dreamdata highlights the use of G2, Hedenbrandt readily admits that competing software review sites could reasonably expect to show similar effects. “Certainly, I would expect it to be similar.”

Why we care. It is not news that B2B buyers looking for software purchases use review sites and that these sites collect and exchange the intent data generated. Software publishers encourage users to post reviews. There has been a general assumption that hopefully a large number of positive reviews is a good thing to have.

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What Dreamdata’s findings indicate is that the effect of review sites on the buyer’s journey – particularly as a first contact channel – can be quantified and assigned a value. “None of us questioned the value of reviews, but during this process you can actually map it into a customer journey where you can see the journey started from G2 and then continued into sales meetings, website visits, advertisements, etc. Then we can also attach the deal value to the intent that started from G2.”

This is probably another example of B2B learning from B2C. People considering high-consideration B2C purchases are now used to seeking advice from both friends and online reviews. The same goes for SaaS purchases, suggests Hedenbrandt: “More and more people are turning to sites like G2 to understand whether it’s a trusted vendor or not. The more expensive it is, the more validation you want to see.

About the Author

Kim Davis is MarTech’s Editorial Director. Born in London, but a New Yorker for more than two decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, urban planning driven by digital advertising data, and the applications of SaaS, digital technology and data in marketing. He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of The Hub at Haymarket, a dedicated marketing technology website, which later became a channel on established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as an editor, rising to editor, then editor, a position he held until January 2020. Prior to working in tech journalism, Kim was an editor deputy head of a hyper-local New York Times newspaper. site, The Local: East Village, and previously worked as an editor for an academic publication and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog and has been an occasional guest on Eater.