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IT Buyer Best Practices at Small Businesses

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in the U.S. are using more diverse information sources to first learn about new IT products, services and suppliers.

Despite the growing use of the Internet as a source of information, a trend that will continue, peer group word of mouth still receives high mentions by SMBs, according to a new IDC study.

"A major challenge for providers of advanced technology products and services is how best to reach the 7.9 million SMBs in the United States," said Merle Sandler, research manager for SMB Programs at IDC.

SMBs use multiple information sources, so technology providers need to develop an effective promotional portfolio to ensure visibility in the places where SMBs turn for IT information -- bearing in mind that their preferences vary by business size, vertical industry, and attitude cluster.

Highlights of IDC's market study include:

- Word of mouth is most often cited by small businesses (SBs) and medium-sized businesses (MBs) as how they initially become aware of IT products, technology, and suppliers. However, vendor Web sites and word of mouth tie for first place as a source of more detailed information for both small and medium businesses.

- SMBs differ far more by vertical industry than they do by company size regarding places where they become aware of technology as well as sources for more detailed information. Communications firms cite the highest average number of sources, while banking/finance firms averaged the lowest.

- SMBs differ a great deal by cluster regarding the information sources that they utilize. A well above average share of SMB 2.0 firms mention online sources for both becoming aware of and gathering IT procurement information.

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