27 January 2009
In an age where credibility and reputation count for so much, the impact and influence of the digital channel, and consumer-generated media in particular, as a source of 3rd party information is now virtually comparable to that of traditional media and industry analysts. This is just one of the findings of H&K’s fourth annual survey of technology decision makers (TDMs) released earlier today.
Not surprisingly, superior products and services and superior customer service and support were identified as critical drivers of purchasing decisions, particularly at the final stages of the buying cycle. More surprising, however, is that even in today’s increasingly price-sensitive market, corporate reputation has not fallen by the wayside. Rather, the survey findings only serve to reinforce the importance of corporate reputation and the factors that are increasingly influencing reputation in the early stages of the sales process, in particular, the power of word of mouth (WOM) to affect TDMs decisions.
As digital tools accelerate and enhance the reach and visibility of these newly-empowered influencers, so too does the power of word of mouth to influence buying decisions also increase. And yet this has really only made the job of the communications and marketing departments that much harder, and forced us all to be more strategic and integrated.
As the study shows, where once TDMs relied predominantly on a few select sources, today they are influenced by a wide mix of sources ranging from the more traditional, such as technology and business publications and industry analysts, to the new WOM enablers, including blogs, social networks, discussion forums and other digital channels. Consider:
- 44% of respondents in Canada say industry blogs have a very strong influence on their perceptions of a technology company, its products or services
- Approximately one-third of Canadian respondents either always (4%) or frequently (27%) turned to blogs when making purchasing decisions
What this means is that vendors must ensure these sources (and the appropriate strategies to reach them) are fully integrated into their communications programs – and yet included in ways that are both credible and transparent. As vendors increasingly share control of their brands with this growing community of influencers, so too must they become adept at two-way stakeholder communications, and be able to identify those influencers who are viewed most credibly in the eyes of decision makers.