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SiriusDecisions survey finds senior execs rely on search, referrals

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Senior executives rely heavily on search and referrals from peers and analysts for IT purchase decisions, according to a new survey from SiriusDecisions Inc. The “2011 B-to-B Buyer's Journey” survey was based on an online survey of 304 senior executives, conducted during the last two weeks of February. The survey examined which research tactics senior executives use when making purchase decisions; which marketing tactics they view as most influential at providing ROI; and their perspective on what constitutes ROI. SiriusDecisions asked senior execs about their role in buying for IT purchases of more than $50,000 and came up with the following classifications: Champions, key sponsors of an IT purchase who shepherd the buying process; influencers, trusted sources playing a behind-the-scenes advisory role; negotiators, who negotiate and manage price, terms and conditions; users/evaluators, those impacted by the purchase on a day-to-day basis; and ratifiers, who actually purchase the products. According to the survey, 42% of executives surveyed are champions; 25%, ratifiers; 16%, influencers; 8%, negotiators; 3%, users/evaluators; and 4%, none of these, while 2% play some other role in purchases. “We found that senior decision-makers are doing more of their own research on the Web and much earlier in the typical buying process,” said John Neeson, managing director of SiriusDecisions. According to the survey, the most-used research techniques by champions while making an IT purchase decision are search (26%), industry peers (23%), industry analysts (20%), work colleagues (20%) and social media networks (11%). For ratifiers, the most popular research techniques when making an IT purchase are work colleagues (25%), search (22%), industry peers (21%), industry analysts (21%) and social media (11%). For influencers, the most-used research techniques are work colleagues (25%), search (24%), industry peers (20%), industry analysts (20%) and social media (11%). “This is very important for marketing and sales professionals,” Neeson said. “What a company makes available via the Web can have a major impact on senior decision-makers' perceptions about a potential vendor and its products and solutions.” “It was also very interesting to find that their definition of return on investment varies, as does their sense of the most effective ROI marketing tactics,” Neeson said. The survey asked executives which factors they consider most important in determining ROI on an IT purchase. For champions, the most important factors in calculating ROI on an IT purchase are money saved (45%), competitive impact (31%), time saved (10%), finding a solution everyone can agree on (6%), ease of use (4%) or other (4%). For influencers, the most important factors in calculating ROI on an IT purchase are money saved (34%), competitive impact (26%), time saved (14%), finding a solution everyone can agree on (10%), ease of use (2%) or other (14%). For users/evaluators, the most important ROI factors are competitive impact (50%), ease of use (20%), money saved (20%) and other (10%). “Marketing and sales professionals have to determine as soon as possible the title and role of the people they are interacting with and understand their definition of ROI to be able to align and provide the right content and information,” Neeson said. The SiriusDecisions survey also asked executives which ROI tactics they considered most influential when making IT purchases. (Multiple responses were accepted.) Published case studies were considered most influential by 46% of champions, 37% of ratifiers, 32% of influencers, 22% of negotiators and 20% of users/evaluators. Recommendations from peers were considered most influential in the purchase process by 40% of evaluators, 38% of influencers, 30% of negotiators, 28% of champions and 28% of ratifiers. Reference accounts were considered most influential by 43% of negotiators, 40% of evaluators, 32% of ratifiers, 26% of influencers and 24% of champions.
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