New research from integrated communications agency, Text100, has revealed the uphill struggle faced by technology companies as they seek to sell to an increasingly multifaceted and diverse audience.
The study – based on interviews with 1900 IT decision makers worldwide – reveals:
- On average six people are involved in the purchasing decision-making process in businesses globally.
- Although 55% of companies have the head of IT involved making the final decision, 42% require CEO/managing director sign off and 22% require Board of Directors sign off.
- At every stage of the purchasing process, from awareness through to taking action, decision-makers care about cost more than any other factor.
- Only half (53%) of decision makers worldwide would first turn to an existing supplier when faced with a business challenge.
This increasingly complex environment emphasises the critical need for suppliers to present a balance of relevant technical and business content when engaging with multiple decision-makers throughout the buyer’s journey.
The hands on CIO
The Text100 Influence Index: Paving the Path to Advocacy report also reveals, one in four chief information officers claim to do initial fact-finding themselves, illustrating the significance of hands-on C-suite executives that often do initial research ahead of making recommendations on technology procurement.
According to the research, before deciding which technology solution to buy:
- 34% of decision makers use a search engine to get more information on a product or brand.
- 43% look at information on the supplier’s website.
- 27% read online endorsements, reviews or recommendations.
- 28% cited e-mail newsletters as an information source.
Traffic – not trust
Supplier websites, despite being the most common source of information – with an average of 40% of decision-makers using them at all stages of their journey – are not deemed the most influential source. Websites were viewed up to 60% more frequently than social media channels and 50% more viewed than blogs. However, when it comes to the most trusted sources of information, supplier websites came further down the list. Colleagues and peers, blogs and forums, were all judged as being more important in making a decision.
When approaching a variety of business challenges, over two thirds (68%) of decision-makers first reach out to people they know such as colleagues and peers and suppliers for advice, emphasising the notion of trust and the importance placed on existing relationships and recommendations. Throughout all stages, respondents rated trusted advisors including colleagues and peers and professional experts as the most important sources of information, ahead of secondary sources, including supplier websites and analyst reports.
Forums trump Twitter
The study also reveals that over a quarter (27%) of enterprise decision makers looking for a new technology solution will consult forums – such as Quora and LinkedIn – and blogs in order to inform purchasing decisions, whereas Twitter is viewed as the least important social channel, with only 15% of respondents using it as a source of information.
Twitter becomes more significant as a platform for enterprise decision-makers to act as advocates. In fact, customers are 6% more likely to share a positive experience via Twitter or other social channels than they are to share a negative experience.
Throughout the journey from awareness to advocacy, Twitter does play a role in influencing decisions (particularly from a position of peer recommendations), but forums and blogs are cited as more frequently used and more influential.
“We know people no longer simply walk into a shop or visit a website to buy a product without first checking online reviews, social recommendations or price comparisons. This is no different with the B2B technology buyer,” says Aedhmar Hynes, CEO, Text100. “By truly understanding the stakeholder and their behaviour, objectives and sources of influence, technology suppliers will stand a better chance of making sure the decision goes their way.”
Buyers becoming influencers
The report also reveals that, assuming customers have a positive experience with a supplier, they are willing to share their experience either voluntarily or when asked by a supplier. Around the world, cultural factors come into play when it comes to advocating a particular supplier and preferred channels:
- Globally, respondents are most likely to tell a colleague if they have a positive experience with an IT product, followed by providing user reviews, references and testimonials.
- In China and India, if asked by a supplier, customers are more likely to act as advocates for a particular supplier compared to the global average, whereas in France, customers are less likely to be as engaged.
- If not initially asked by a supplier, customers in Germany and the UK are less likely to advocate a supplier in general; however in China, customers are just as likely to provide user reviews as well as telling colleagues or peers directly.
“Customers who have a positive purchase experience can become brand advocates and are not only more likely to make a repeat purchase, but can become third-party influencers who shape purchase preference for other buyers,” adds Hynes.
“Technology suppliers worldwide have a real opportunity to influence purchase decisions and drive a path to advocacy with buyers. They must aim to actively engage decision-makers at each stage of their journey, with the information they need, at the time they need it. If they get that right, it doesn’t just mean securing a sale. It means gaining a powerful advocate for future sales too.”
Source: Text100 Influence Index: Paving the Path to Advocacy, is the fifth in a series of Indexes developed by Text100, integrated communications agency. These Indexes are designed to investigate the change in how and where decision-makers are influenced. In particular they focus on sectors where there has been significant disruption caused by changes in technology and the resultant impact on communications. Previous indexes have provided insight in the automotive, consumer electronics, energy and travel and tourism sectors.