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We’ve all heard the stats about how much of the buying process is complete before a vendor representative is ever contacted. And new data from Target Marketing and IBM [download page] confirms that buyers feel that their self-driven online research is very valuable. But what happens before the research process starts?

In its survey of 315 corporate B2B and B2C marketers, Target Marketing asked them which steps they take prior to beginning the research and procurement process for a significant marketing technology investment.

The top response? Knowing how much money they have to work with, as roughly three-quarters (74%) said that they determine their budget first.

Notably, respondents were far more likely to take an informal than formal approach to assessing requirements. Whereas 7 in 10 said they undertake an informal requirements assessment based on their own understanding or informal discussion, fewer than half (47%) reported conducting a formal requirements assessment within their company.

Also, it’s about twice as popular to estimate ongoing costs and ROI of the technology (61%) than it is to set internal KPIs or other success metrics (31%), per the report.

1 in 4 Say the Selection Criteria Rests on One Person’s Shoulders

Although vendors typically have to navigate several departments involved in a buying decision, it’s often just a single person or department setting the buying criteria.

In fact, only 36% of respondents said that multiple teams or a cross-functional team typically defines the requirements and technology selection criteria. Most commonly, this is done by a single team (40%), although 1 in 4 (24%) rely on a single person.

When it comes to the departments involved or consulted in the buying process, it’s no surprise that marketing (78%) is the most heavily represented. Close behind, 70% said that the executive team is involved, while a majority (53%) also reported IT’s involvement.

(This chart shows the departments with the largest influence on B2B buying decisions, sorted by industry.)

Vendor Emails and Phone Conversations Preferred

Research from SiriusDecisions has found that buyers’ most important content asset is a sales presentation. But vendors may not always have the opportunity to present, according to Target Marketing’s survey results.

In fact, 1 in 5 respondents said that they don’t meet in-person with vendors, while half meet only 1 or 2 times.

Moreover, when thinking about how they manage vendor interactions during the purchase process, marketers said that they get the best results for decision-making through email (73%) and phone conversations (72%), with fewer pointing to face-to-face meetings (44%).

Nevertheless, with 8 in 10 meeting with vendors at least once, there is an opportunity for sales to influence to process. Now if they could only find the content they need…

About the Data: The results are based on a survey fielded by Target Marketing to its audience as well as to marketers subscribed to Total Retail and NonProfit Pro. List services firms and creative services/advertising agencies were suppressed. The data is derived from 315 respondents, 45% of whom are B2B, 18% B2C, and 37% both B2B and B2C. Roughly half come from companies with at least $5 million in revenues.

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