Welcome back to another weekly installment of Whitepaper Wednesday here on the Purchasing Certification Blog. This week, I’m going to focus on a topic that is actually discussed in two separate, unrelated whitepapers – the factors that influence buyers. Those whitepapers are:

  • “Research Excerpt: How Clients Buy: 2009 Benchmark Report” from RainToday
  • “Marketing To A B2B Technical Buyer” from Enquiro Research

Unlike most whitepapers that I review, these whitepapers are targeted at marketers, not purchasing professionals. But I have always found it fascinating when marketers research corporate purchasing behavior. I think it is valuable to understand how marketing and sales views you as a purchaser and the techniques that they try to use to earn your favor.

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The “How Clients Buy” whitepaper studies buyers of professional services such as accounting and financial consulting, architecture, engineering, and construction services, human resources consulting, IT consulting and services, legal services, management consulting, marketing, advertising, and PR, and training services. The whitepaper is based on a survey of over 200 buyers of these services who, collectively, are responsible for $1.7 billion in annual spend.

The whitepaper lists the top five methods that professional services buyers use to initially identify and learn more about professional service providers. Those methods were:

  1. Referrals from colleagues
  2. Referrals from other service providers
  3. Personal recognition or awareness
  4. In-person seminar
  5. Presentation at a conference or event

I found it personally interested that the Internet or search engines did not make it to the top 5!

The “Technical Buyer” whitepaper had similar statistics. First, it broke down the technical purchase cycle into four phases: Awareness, Research/Consideration, Negotiation/Vendor Finalization, and Purchase. Then, it specified what influences technical buyers in each phase. Unfortunately, it breaks it down into online and offline influences, but does not present combined influence statistics.

For the Awareness phase, which corresponds to the “initially identify” section of the “How Clients Buy” whitepaper, it lists search engines and the supplier’s Web site as tied for the top two online influences and word of mouth from a colleague or peer and word of mouth from a friend or relative as the top offline influences.

With regard to all phases of the purchase cycle, the whitepaper states “When we asked technical buyers to rank influencers on a scale of 1-7, online influencers like vendor websites and search
engines outperformed offline influencers like trade shows and even paid consultant’s word of mouth…What was most interesting, was that technical buyers actually placed a higher value
on a vendor’s website than a colleague’s suggestion – clearly, there is a need for technical buyers to get the information directly from the ‘horse’s mouth.’”

The whitepaper goes on to indicate that 95% of technical buyers would use online methods in the Awareness phase and that “86.5% of technical buyers first interaction with a vendor is online – this is where vendors are found.”

So based on these two pieces of research, there are extreme differences in the way that professional services buyers and technical buyers find suppliers.

Or is there?

I’d like to use this blog post as a discussion of this topic. Is the research right? Or is one wrong? Or both wrong? What do you buy and where do you find your suppliers?

Click on the comment link below to share your experience.

If you’re interested in getting your own copies of the whitepapers, you can download “Research Excerpt: How Clients Buy: 2009 Benchmark Report” here and “Marketing To A B2B Technical Buyer” here. Registration is required for both. And here’s a couple of caveats: the “How Clients Buy” whitepaper is a free excerpt from the full benchmark report for which RainToday charges $345 and the “Technical Buyer” whitepaper is a whopping 63 pages long!

Once again, please use the comment link below to share your experience.

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Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3 is an internationally-recognized business expert, legendary procurement thought leader, award-winning entrepreneur, and provocative blogger. Charles founded the Next Level Purchasing Association in 2000, oversaw its incredible growth, and successfully led the organization to its acquisition by the Certitrek Group in 2016. He continues to blog and provide advisory services for the NLPA on a part-time basis as he incubates his upcoming business innovations. Charles is also the co-author of the wildly popular, groundbreaking book, "The Procurement Game Plan: Winning Strategies & Techniques For Supply Management Professionals."

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