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The Buyer's Journey: Where to Do Your Due Diligence

Communications and information technology vendors are trying to influence the buyer’s journey with more and better content.

Communications and information technology, or CIT, vendors understand 70% of buying decisions in our industry are made before engaging with them or their channel partners, so they are changing the way they provide sales and marketing information. The early movers have enjoyed good results, and those behind are working hard to catch up. This is all good news for enterprises of all sizes as they migrate to new technologies. Companies looking to make purchase decisions need to do their research, and there are many sources of information.

Online communities
Look for online communities through which you can engage with your peers. While vendor participation may appear to be biased, this is not always a bad thing. Sometimes the vendor participant can provide a quick answer to a question or provide important information.

Case studies
Case studies are often interesting from a high level but fall short when it comes to lessons learned. Try and find your counterpart at a company that has gone through an implementation you are considering. That insight may help you with your decision process and help you better plan your deployment.

Editorial Web sites
To help cut through all the marketing hype, spend time on editorial Web sites like No Jitter and Unified Communications Strategies, which provide content written by industry experts. Both sites have a lot of content and can be a valuable source for information.

White papers
Many progressive CIT vendors are investing in vendor-neutral white papers to help prospects with their journeys. While vendors may sponsor white papers and have the company names mentioned in them, they do work to ensure objectivity in the reports so as not to come off as obviously self-promotional. However, as you do more research, you will find more vendor-specific and increasingly promotional information. This type of information helps differentiate among vendor products.

Channel partner Web site
You probably already have a trusted advisor in the form of your existing vendor reseller. It's important to visit the reseller's Web site to gather information. Most resellers have added new vendors to their product offerings and may now support new platforms and cloud offerings. It may be time to switch this trusted advisor for one that is more progressive -- thinking long term when considering a reseller is a wise idea. It's also important to check managed services capabilities when evaluating resellers.

Trade shows
Attend local and virtual trade shows. Many vendors have regional events that can help you on your journey. Try and attend next year's Enterprise Connect, which will take place March 16 to 19, 2015, in Orlando. The leading vendors in the voice and real-time communications industries will be there.

Look for webinars that include an independent industry consultant or analyst. The material presented in vendor-sponsored webinars may be somewhat biased, but the independent analysts will provide some straight talk. Make sure to ask questions -- the sponsors will have experts available and will get back to you if they don't have time for your question during the webinar.

Vendor's Web site
Vendors have a lot of information on their Web sites, and many are trying to shift that material from being mostly promotional to primarily educational. You'll be able to tell easily whether a vendor is doing so by looking at the home page content -- is it helping you or confusing you? Many vendors have added a chat capability to their Web sites, which can be helpful if you have a question or two. However, this can be a challenge if you are still doing research and don't want the vendor's sales team to contact you.

Today's solutions are complicated and can be confusing. Consultants can help, and engaging one may be the best investment you can make on your journey. A third-party expert can add a lot of experience-based guidance as well as potentially help you negotiate a much better deal including on functionality, pricing and terms.

As you can see, many resources are available to help you in your research and evaluations. Knowing which resources to leverage can help make your journey go a bit smoother.