John, thanks for the props above.
What's being reported in that article and recent others shouldn't be a big surprise to anybody. For instance, back in 2007, I did a digital marketing presentation at ISC West and the research from even back then showed roughly 60% of buyers use Search as their first point of reference and 80% of that group used Google. So if you weren't ranking on Google, you were losing out, and now social media is gaining that first point of reference, etc. as you've discussed.
This trend is impacting buying decisions for every industry; obviously on the consumer side for a lot longer and now that it is being felt more and more in the B2B side, it has some experts declaring that the traditional B2B sales process is dead (see Forbes article).
My firm represents Pelco, owned by Schneider Electric ($32B), and the theme of "digitization" is being heavily promoted throughout all of Schneider for 2013. The latest stats I've read show a buyer today has 57% or more of their purchasing decision made up BEFORE the sales person ever reaches him. This is huge, and should be impacting how EVERY manufacturer in this industry goes to market, yet I haven't seen tangible evidence of a major shift - yet. Sure, as others stated above, people still do business with people, so some of the good old boy dinners and golf games are prevalent.
Questions to ask longterm, what impact will digitization have not only on the sales and marketing teams, but what impact will be felt by trade shows, conferences, road shows, demos etc.?? There's a lot of money spent here. Digitization could fuel faster change in our industry, especially since social media is word-of-mouth on steroids. For instance, there's no faster way to kill a bad product than with good marketing.
Loved to see you do an analysis of future financial trends and outlook of this industry, similar to an IMS kind of report. Honestly, from what I see my gut tells me, a lot of changes are coming for everyone as we continue into a new era of a post-9/11 world and how fast technology is changing. See this tweet from this morning.