By Ruth Stanat, SIS International

Business-to-Business markets often neglect the importance of opinion and perception among B2B stakeholders.  But, understanding perception is crucial as it impacts the decision to invest in certain areas, the willingness of supply chain links to work together and countless daily activities dependent on having appropriate perceptions.  In today’s B2B markets, perceptions are enhanced, developed and sustained through the following vehicles.

  • B2B News
  • Trips & conferences
  • B2B Blogs & Boards
  • B2B Social networking
  • Viral media
  • Conformity
  • Culture
  • Influencers, Key Opinion Leaders & Referential leaders

Referential leaders are people having significant relevance on an individual’s evaluations, aspirations or behavior. In B2B markets, this could consist of key opinion leaders, superiors at work, industry authors and others.  They have potent forms of persuasion and “power”, including

  • information power: a person who has access to elusive information can influence
  • expert power: an expert’s recommendation can influence
  • reward power: a person’s ability to reward (such as a promotion or social approval) can influence
  • referent power: a mere recommendation can influence

The referential leaders’ degree of influence varies along with those leaders’ impacts on stakeholders that influence perceptions on a brand. In determining the impact of influencers, SIS International typically explores the following:

  • Market Reach – the number of people an individual has the ability to connect with.
  • Quality of Impact – the esteem in which an individual’s view and opinions are held.
  • Frequency of Impact – the number of opportunities an individual has to influence buying decisions.
  • Closeness to Decision – how near an individual is to the decision-maker.
  • Source Credibility – how much doubt remains in the mind.

Ultimately, key opinion leaders who can shape perceptions would be expected to share the following qualities:

  • Involved
  • Connected
  • Influential
  • Trusted by others
  • Trendsetters

By understanding and harnessing these notions, marketers can better interact with their B2B stakeholders.