A study from research firm IDC says, due to the tight economic situation, small to medium-size businesses in the United States are using more diverse information sources to first learn about IT products, technologies and suppliers and, once aware, gather more information.
Despite the growing use of the Internet as a source of information, a trend that will continue, word of mouth, still receives high mentions by SMBs, according to the report.
IDC found word of mouth is most often cited by small businesses and medium-sized businesses as how they initially become aware of IT products, technology and suppliers. However, vendor Websites and word of mouth tie for first place as a source of more detailed information for both small and medium-size businesses. The U.S.-based online survey received responses from 603 small businesses and 400 midsize businesses.
Merle Sandler, IDC's research manager for SMB programs, said SMBs differ far more by vertical industry than they do by company size regarding places where they become aware of technology as well as sources for more detailed information. Communications firms cite the highest average number of sources, while banking or finance firms averaged the lowest.
"A major challenge for providers of advanced technology products and services is how best to reach the 7.9 million SMBs in the United States," Sandler said. "SMBs use multiple information sources, so technology providers need to develop an effective promotional portfolio to ensure visibility in the places where SMBs turn for IT information, bearing in mind that their preferences vary by business size, vertical industry and attitude cluster."
SMBs also differ a great deal by cluster regarding the information sources that they utilize, the report found. It appears an above average share of SMB 2.0 firms mentioned online sources for both becoming aware of and gathering IT information. Sandler said although word of mouth remains strong when gathering information and becoming aware of information, the Websites of vendors and manufactures are becoming more popular.
Sandler said companies are first divided into the small business or midsize business categories, with a small business classified as having less than 100 employees and a midsize business employing between 100 and 999 people. For gaining awareness, 60 percent of small businesses said word of mouth, while 34.3 percent gained awareness through the vendor's Website. For midsize businesses, 47.1 percent said word of mouth and 34.9 said vendors' Websites.
However, Sandler noted that some vendor sites need a lot more work to offer SMBs the best experience. "Some of them have a long way to go," she said. "Some Websites you really have to scratch around before you find anything."