For the last 3 years I have been beating the drum of the new buyer’s journey. It isn’t speculation or even an educated guess, rather a trend rooted in hard data. In short, consumers are looking for ways to buy more of what they need with less interaction from sales.
In one Forrester study they found that the average consumer is more than 70% of the way through the purchasing journey prior to contacting a vendor. Furthermore, according to the AYTM Market Research study it was found that more than 74% of consumers use search as their primary way of gaining information for a potential purchase.
If the new “Trusted Advisor” is online search and the new buyer is looking to try and buy with limited interference, then companies need to head in this direction or they may find themselves missing out on opportunities to connect with this buyer.
Today, at IBM Impact 2014 at the Venetian in Las Vegas, IBM announced the launch of their very own Cloud Marketplace. Taking the lead from a number of other platform developers such as Google and Apple, IBM felt it was time to provide a more self-service friendly platform for its consumers and channel partners.
Connecting IBM To Small Business
While there are so many reasons that IBM needed to go this route, perhaps the most interesting are how this is shifting IBM’s go to market strategy and therefore leading to a newfound relevance to the small and medium business channel.
When I first learned that IBM offered more than 100 Software as a Service products I was shocked to find out that these products could not be tried or purchased online.
It wasn’t until the acquisition of SoftLayer, a leading provider of cloud and platform services that had its own point of sale (POS) capability, that a buyer could go online and research an IBM product and ultimately purchase it.
With offerings for mobility, e-commerce, social and data visualization, IBM has a plethora of cloud solutions that can benefit a small of medium business. However, with no easy way to learn, try and buy the products IBM has long left the self-service customer out of mix. The IBM “Cloud Marketplace” will provide a tremendous opportunity for IBM to connect to the small and midsize company that may have seen IBM as too big or too expensive and connect with them to drive the solutions that they need to drive their technology and businesses forward.
What Is Still Unknown
With the trend over the past several years of having everything from CRM to ERP to Data Analytics easily available to consumers to try and then buy, the biggest unknown about something like IBM’s “Cloud Marketplace” is whether or not it will work for them the way it has for not only Apple and Google, but companies like SalesForce as well.
Ultimately, it is going to come down to IBM being able to engage the small business community and drive those business leaders to overcome any long held perception that IBM is for big business and enterprise. This will need to be approached through strong content marketing and campaign work that shows IBM as a company that understands small business and has solutions that are easy to try and can legitimately help their business.
From what I can tell the IBM team is off to a good start and the “Cloud Marketplace” will be a gateway for the new consumer to see IBM in a new light.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.