Though word-of-mouth (WOM) recommendations still have the greatest influence on purchasing decisions among small and medium-sized business (SMB) owners, online forums and blogs play a huge role in the process, too—and a more influential one than advertisements or consultations with salespeople, according to a new survey from Ivy Worldwide.

Asked to rate the importance of various factors on technology purchase decisions, surveyed SMB owners and purchasers cite recommendations from friends and colleagues as the most influential (rating it a 3.71 on a scale of 1 to 5), followed by blogs and online forums (3.52) and optional trial periods of products/services (3.38).

 

Among SMBs, consultations with salespeople (2.40) and advertising (2.26) are less influential to the purchase decision.

Below, additional findings from a survey of 1,000 SMBs worldwide, employing fewer than 500 people.

Top Triggers for Future Purchases

When considering future purchases, sales relationships, marketing messages, and green products are less important than reviews from trusted sources and enhanced features and quality.

Asked to rate the degree of influence that various factors would have on future decisions to purchase a product/service for their company, SMBs report the following top 3 triggers on a scale of 1 to 7:

  1. Stronger feature than current solution: 6.38 
  2. Level of quality promised greater than current solution: 6:31
  3. A detailed review from a trusted source illustrating pros and cons of product/service: 6.0

Surprisingly, stated ROI is only moderately influential to SMB buyers (4.80), while strong sales relationships and marketing messages are even less important, 4.70 and 3.67, respectively.


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Top Information Sources

When in the discovery phase of buying, SMB owners and purchasers tend to rely most on Web forums that detail other users' experience and comments, rating that channel a 5.10 (on a scale of 1 to 7), followed by recommendations from friends and family (4.90) and review websites (4.87).

 

SMB owners and buyers prefer information from independent bloggers (4.17) over traditional media sources (3.38) and advertising (2.79).

About the data: Findings are from a survey of 436 SMB decision-makers, primarily from the US (51%), Europe (29%), and Asia (21%), from B2B (47%) and B2C (53%) companies. Fully 99% of all independent enterprises in the country employ fewer than 500 people.

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