Wednesday, August 25, 2010

How Small Businesses Buy Technology -- Like You and I

Industrial buyers are people too!

I used to go crazy working in a manufacturing environment and hearing sales people or executives go on and on about how "our customers" were different.  They were "industrial buyers".  They were part of a buying center or committee -- as if they had no pulse or something.  (Well, that part was true for some of them).  But in most cases, buyers are actually people; living breathing human beings who had a cup of coffee that morning or took their kids to school.  They thought about what they would do with that bonus and how they might get a little something nice for their spouse.

PEOPLE Make Decisions - Not Titles or Committees

So,  you can imagine how happy I was to see this latest study come out of Ivy Worldwide,  an integrated social media marketing company.  The short skippy of the results is that even when they are buying technology, business buyers behave like regular consumers.  Yup.  They buy computers and servers much like you and I buy a laptop or TV.

First they search the internet looking for what criteria they should be considering.  The same way that I've been searching for the internet trying to figure out how to compare these new HDTV's; should I care about whether it's 60Hz or 120Hz?  What about WiFi?  Nothing in the results points to any behavior that's unlike standard purchasing behavior by the rest of us.

Next, they rely on word of mouth.  Once they understand what criteria they are looking for and which alternatives have that criteria, they are checking online reviews and  experiences by colleagues and friends.  The study also showed that most purchasers were not committed to a brand as they went through their purchasing process.

However, random conversations on Twitter and Facebook have little influence .

Buying technology for business is often an online purchase.  The study shows that 70% of their respondents purchase online.

And finally, the respondents said that large companies miss the mark when marketing to the small and medium sized business owner.  That's no surprise.  I remember needing to update my virus software and going to McAfee.  While the site was very nice looking,  it was completely targeted to the large industrial IT buyer.  I couldn't easily find the product I was looking for and quickly got frustrated and left.

What Can Provider's Do

While this particular survey focused on technology purchases, I think the results are extremely useful for every company selling into the small and medium sized business market.

Who's doing it well?  Hewlett Packard comes to mind (and was also mentioned in the survey) as a company that's really committed to connecting with the small business.

I have personal experience with their small business marketing and they consistently show their commitment to connecting with and understanding the particular nuances of their market.

Download the full technology buyer results here and tell us what YOUR feedback is.

What company do YOU think does a great job at selling to you and which one does the worst?

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