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How to Influence SMB IT Buyer Decisions

In a recent market study of North American and European SMB IT decision makers, Forrester Research attempted to determine the sources of information used in the buying process. They asked the following questions:

When researching and comparing network and telecommunications products, how important is each of the following "digital media" as sources of information for informing your purchase decisions?

a) Vendor, industry/trade, or professional Web sites; b) blogs from vendors, peers, or industry commentators; c) email or electronic newsletters; d) Web-based events or Webinars; e) interactive media: podcasts, video, online demos, or rich Internet apps; f) discussion forums, online communities, or social network sites; and g) other (please specify).

They also asked which publications or sources of information do SMB decision makers refer to when making enterprise-wide network and telecom technology purchase decisions for their company. The results demonstrate the continued fragmentation in sources of influence, and the increasing role of the online channel.

Word-of-mouth and Web sites are seen as "most important" for purchase decisions.

Decision makers view their peers and colleagues -- and the information exchanged from traditional word of mouth -- as very important (38 percent) and somewhat important (51 percent) sources of information for informing purchasing decisions.

However, they also report that digital media sources -- specifically vendor, industry/trade, or professional Web sites -- are very important (33 percent) and somewhat important (54 percent) digital sources of information.

Sixty-one percent of SMBs view discussion forums, online communities, or social network sites as important or very important sources of information, along with blogs (55 percent).

My opinion: combining online collaboration methods -- that enable the propagation of word-of-mouth referrals -- is clearly where more emphasis should be applied to the technology marketing planning process. It's the most compelling forward-looking market development opportunity for technology product and service marketers.

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