I read something this week that just "blows my mind": 95% of B2B purchases begin with the purchaser doing a web search and doing his or her own research. This means that the purchaser determines his or her requirements and narrows the field before ever contacting a company or speaking with a sales representative. They do this on their own, without any influence from the company, guidance from a third-party, or pressure to make a quick decision.
Couple this idea with the fact that topic-specific social media network sites exist for individuals to share their experiences with various companies and products, and you can clearly see that the manufacturer of a product is no longer in control of the message that defines their product. The internet and social media sites have clearly put the buyer in control more than ever before. This situation also makes it increasingly more difficult to access decision-makers: especially during the critical requirements definition phase of the process.
A company selling in today's marketplace really has two choices: (1) continue selling the old way while watching market share, revenues and profits decline, or (2) adapt to the new environment and implement Inbound/Outbound, Closed-Loop Marketing strategies and see profitability grow.
The concept behind, Inbound/Outbound, Closed-Loop Marketing is that your people are actively sharing their expertise online through Social Media sites and thereby defining themselves, and your company, as an expert in your field while the prospect is doing his or her due diligence. By doing so, you help shape the prospect's requirements even before they know they are looking for a new product. This also allows your company to differentiate your product and start the sales cycle on the prospect's short list -- which could be a single vendor.