The chart on the right shows how strongly different influencers affect big-business purchasing. For a larger version, click here. The data come from an international survey of technology buyers conducted by SageCircle.
SageCircle closed shortly after they shared this data with us in 2003, so I don’t know how they defined their categories. However, if we convert these scores into numbers (by turning each score into 4, 3, 2, 1 or zero) we get an interesting picture of how we might quantify this approach.
Ranking these influencers from most influential to least, we get this order:
- Personal Network 24%
- Industry Analysts 23%
- Consultants 18%
- Vendor domain experts 11%
- Vendor Reference Accounts 10%
- Press/Media 9%
- Financial Analysts 4%
What’s interesting with this list is to see which of these influencers are seen as more, or less, reliable. Independent, third party, advisors without a commercial stake in the outcome of a sale are often seen as having more weight on a buyer. That’s why in the crucial stage, vendor selection, the three influencers with the most impact are analysts, the buyer’s personal network and reference accounts.
Of course, it’s also important to map which influencers set the framework for the others. Consultancies, vendors, enterprises, the media and equity analysts as all massive users of industry analysts. Time series analysis has shown that industry analysts’ opinions anticipate trends that appear in the media and in equity research.
This means that we need to look both at analysts direct influence on buyers (and remember that not all firms are using analysts directly) and the indirect influence that analysts have on the industry as a whole.
Furthermore, analysts are concentrated and consistent AR tactics have a powerful effect on analysts’ opinions. In contrast, the media, end-users and the consulting firms are much larger and diffuse communities, which are harder to map both because of greater size and the more diffuse distribution of influence within them.