2,909 crowdsourcing and crowdfunding sites
Editor's Note: The following is a guest post by Russell Rothstein, CEO of IT Central Station. He explains how crowdsourcing reviews from validated buyers can help fill a need in enterprise technology market. He also touches upon a larger theme – that crowdsourcing (and better access to information in general) is pushing companies to become more transparent. You can follow Russell on Twitter @RussRothsteinIT.
The market for IT products and services is a huge one – expected to reach $3.6 trillion in 2013 – so it’s no surprise that the market is a highly competitive with many vendors offering similar solutions. If you’ve participated in the buying end of the process, then you’ve most likely spent huge chunks of time trying to compare the competition out there to find the best solutions that fit into the budget.
Differentiating among the plethora of vendors is no easy task. Buyers are cautious about marketing materials such as white papers, presentations, and case studies which are generally written by company staff or “showcase customers” and that put particular products or services on a pedestal, and therefore have trouble determining which services are truly best suited to their particular needs.
What enterprise technology buyers need is a buying process based on crowdsourced material. To easily and efficiently compile a vendor short list, IT buyers need direct access to others who have already completed the buying process. The showcase customers are unable to provide reviews freely and honestly about enterprise IT products and services; to purchase wisely, buyers need unbiased information from real users.
The IT professional community needs a business-to-business (B2B) crowdsourced IT review site that will allow buyers to research and share information about enterprise IT products and services.
Nobody wants to read a review of one. To receive the most accurate picture of a product or service, buyers need to read as many quality, relevant, and unbiased reviews as possible. This doesn’t just apply to IT buying (B2B), but to planning a trip (TripAdvisor), choosing a restaurant (Yelp), buying electronics (Google Shopping), and other business-to-consumer (B2C) areas. The more contributions there are to the communal base of reviews, the more helpful those reviews will be.
B2B crowdsourcing is different in that it's much more important for B2B sites to collect high quality reviews from people that have been validated to be real users, as opposed to B2C sites that focus more on collecting a large quantity of reviews.
According to Forrester Research, tech buyers use online and community resources to complete almost 70% of the buying process before engaging with a sales representative. If vendors wish to become a part of that 70%, then they’ll need to accept the value of their third-party sources and invite their customers to leave reviews for their products and services. To receive top-rated reviews, these vendors will need to become top-rated companies – a customer testimonial tells all! In this way, the company is crowdsourcing their PR and marketing to their customers while IT buyers simultaneously crowdsource their research to that same group.