When making a major technology or security solution purchase, information technology decision-makers (ITDMs) download an average of nine content assets throughout the buying cycle, according to a report by IDG.

ITDMs rely on various types of content as they advance through the buying cycle:

  • Early in the purchase process, when determining business need and technical requirements, ITDMs rank content such as feature articles, technology news stories, how-to articles, and whitepapers as most important.
  • Midway through the process, when ITDMs are evaluating products and selecting vendors, content such as reviews/recommendations and third-party research (e.g., IDC, Gartner) plays a more important role.
  • In the latter part of the buying cycle, when ITDMs are focusing on getting internal buy-in and final approval, content such as assessment tools (e.g., ROI calculators), product demos, and demo literature becomes more important. 

Interestingly, case studies play a role throughout the decison-making process, as do how-to articles and stories.

Below, other findings from IDG's 2012 Enterprise Customer Engagement survey, issued on September 25, 2012.

Overall, ITDMs place more value on educational content (articles, reviews, and case studies) (24%) than they do transactional content such as brochures, FAQs, and documentation (21%), peer dialogue (19%), vendor dialogue (18%), or independent authority dialogue (18%).

However, despite a strong need for quality content, trusted information is hard to find, according to the ITDMs surveyed.

More than 8 in 10 ITDMs say it's extremely or very challenging (38%) or somewhat challenging (43%) to find "quality, trusted information on major enterprise IT/security products and services to make informed purchase decisions they are comfortable with."

Partnering with a trustworthy source to produce content can help offset that perception, IDG points out.

ITDMs use social media for professional networking, as well as to discover, share, and discuss tech information.

Among ITDMs surveyed, LinkedIn (72%) and Twitter (59%) are the most popular social channels for business purposes, followed by Google+ (59%), Facebook (50%), and YouTube (42%).

ITDMs tend to focus on career issues when using LinkedIn, whereas they look to Twitter and other social platforms for tech-related information, news, and advice.

Social networks also encourage relationships with vendors: 73% of ITDMs engage with tech vendors via social media and/or business networking sites.

Staying on top on industry trends (44%), as well as finding reviews/recommendations (38%) and information to help with decision-making (35%) are the top reasons ITDMs use social networks.

Roughly 3 in 10 ITDMs use social sites to interact with other people in communities (31%), or engage in dialogue with industry professionals (28%).

Only 19% of ITDMs use social sites to resolve customer services issues.

Other key findings:

  • Mobile access: 87% of ITDMS report impediments to viewing and accessing information via mobile devices; among them 49% say vendors' user interfaces are not optimized for mobile devices.
  • Info sharing: Information is actively shared with peers, primarily via email, phone, in-person, and LinkedIn.
  • Sales follow-up: 34% of ITDMs say they are ready to be contacted by a salesperson after consuming 2-4 pieces of content; most prefer contact within 6 days of downloading and consuming their desired amount of content.

About the data: IDG Enterprise's 2012 Customer Engagement survey was conducted online among the audience of six IDG Enterprise brands—CIO, Computerworld, Network World, CSO, InfoWorld and ITworld—via Web pop-up and email invitations, from April 9, 2012 to May 18, 2012. Results are based on 1,025 respondents in IT and security roles from a range of industries.

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Content Plays Critical Role Throughout Tech-Buying Cycle

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image of Lenna Garibian
Lenna Garibian is a MarketingProfs research writer and a marketing consultant in the tech industry, where she develops engaging content that builds thought leadership and revenue opportunities for clients. She's held marketing and research positions at eRPortal Software, GAP Inc., Stanford University, and the IMF. Reach Lenna via Twitter @LennaAnahid and LinkedIn.