In B2B, Being Good Is Good for Business

By Georgia Bradley

The B2B buying process is dynamic and decision makers' needs shift from year to year. The last few years were perhaps more impactful than most, with the pandemic and social justice movements changing the way buyers explore and choose suppliers.

We've conducted annual research with more than 3,500 B2B buyers, the Merkle B2B Superpowers Index, for three years running to track those trends so brands can adapt accordingly. As such, I'm going to dig into one of the key findings: five decision drivers with a new, elevated level of importance to today's B2B buyers.
The extremely abbreviated summary of this trend is that B2B buyers want to do business with businesses that do good. Specifically, B2B buyers place an increased importance on working with an organization that:

  • Takes care of its suppliers, business partners, and communities
  • Is committed to reducing its environmental impact
  • Is known as being a good employer
  • Has a culture of diversity and inclusion
  • Is a brand that aligns with my personal values and ethics

The good news? B2B brands are already demonstrating more interest in these items, too. Intent data from Bombora's Market Insights show that, over the last 90 days, B2B brands across various sectors and of all sizes have increased interest in sustainability and sustainability programs.

There's also more interest in employee-focused initiatives, with policy and culture, diversity, and employee services topics all surging in the same period across these businesses.

You may assume that younger generations are driving this trend, but that's no longer the case. Our research found that generation X and older decision makers have become increasingly demanding in these areas as well. B2B buyers across generations want to work with brands that are forces for good.

The data shows that scoring highly on these decision drivers, in addition to two others unrelated to environmental, social, and governance (ESG), pays off. Brands who did so saw opportunities convert more quickly to sales, were more likely to be adopted for additional services, and received much higher Net Promoter Scores.

So, what's a brand to do? Most large organizations have some corporate responsibility and employee wellness initiatives in place, but none of them are perfect. Continue to seek new ways to improve how your business treats its employees, partners, and communities.

Most large organizations also have sustainability policies in place. Consider the relevance of your sustainability agenda to your partners and customers. Then, be sure to include information about those programs and policies as part of your B2B buyers' experiences, looking for opportunities to help them also achieve their own ESG goals. Remember, you can't simply rely on logic and performance promises to win over a decision maker – you must also appeal to their emotions and help them feel confident in you as a trustworthy, responsible partner.

In B2B, being good benefits your stakeholders, your prospects, and your bottom line. Make sure it's a priority in the months and years ahead.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Georgia Bradley is SVP of strategy at Merkle.