Vendor reputation and high quality products are the factors most likely to influence the technology purchases of senior information officers, according to Inside the Mind of the CIO, a survey of 300 CIOs conducted by Penn Schoen Berland on behalf of Burson-Marsteller. The study also found that innovation is the defining characteristic of tech market leadership and reputation.

The research found high levels of trust in the IT community. Technology companies are highly trusted by IT decision-makers, with between 51 percent claiming to trust vendors a lot. This is reflected in the finding that 34 percent cite corporate websites as very influential in their purchasing decisions, versus 39 percent citing trade press as very influential.

Traditional media is still trusted by IT decision-makers more than social media, but trust in social media is rising, with approximately one in five trusting Twitter across UK, France and Italy, almost the same level of trust as radio.

The study also sought to analyze the most influential factors in any technology purchase. Quality of products was cited by an average of 60 percent and 57 percent cited a technology vendor’s brand or reputation as key (67 percent in the UK said this was key). 56 percent said value for money was influential.

According to Chris Cartwright, chair of Burson-Marsteller’s technology practice in EMEA, “CIOs are a pragmatic group. In these tough economic times, CIOs are focused on product quality and value for money as key purchasing criteria, far more than “softer” factors such as CSR, leadership of the vendor company, or its financial performance. The insight that reputation is a key decision driver suggests that technology communicators need to really focus on what drives their own reputation and builds the brand.”

In order to probe further, the study asked IT decision-makers what they thought the key ingredients of market leadership were for technology vendors. Overwhelmingly, respondents said: innovation, quality, reliability.

In spite of the trust engendered by traditional media, trust in social media is rising, with around 70 percent of IT decision makers citing social media as very or somewhat valuable. Among social media properties, YouTube is identified as important in the decision-making process. One in three IT decision-makers said that they use YouTube as part of their purchase decision making process. This combined with the use of corporate websites noted above suggests that video is a powerful tool that should be leveraged both on corporate web sites and corporate social media properties.

Looking at how IT decision-makers feel about their roles, the study found that they constantly battle stereotypes which they feel underestimate their value. They are passionate about innovation, which they see as vital to their organization’s business strategy. According to the research, 75 percent feel that innovation is central to their organization’s business strategy and 67 percent see themselves as the primary source of innovation in their organizations. Over two-thirds think that the IT department is central to their company’s business strategy:  rising to 79 percent in the UK.

Other key findings:
• Brand and Reputation is important. There is a critical need for technology vendors to spend more time and effort working out what they stand for, what their mission, purpose, values and messages are, and what makes them different, because it really does make a difference to the IT decision maker.
• Innovation is the defining characteristic of market leadership. Although many factors contribute to enhancing brand and reputation, the evidence suggests that if you want to build reputation enhancing programs that will actually resonate with IT decision makers, they should focus on innovation as a key theme.
• Products, Quality, Value: IT decision makers are most influenced by the quality of products, reputation and value for money. Placing these three factors at the heart of a campaign may seem like a back to basics approach, but the research suggests its effectiveness.
• Make better use of owned media: At a time when many different departments and agencies are claiming ownership of these channels communications directors need to take more interest in the content of their web sites and social media properties. Producing quality videos as a way of conveying and controlling messages, either on the corporate site, or via YouTube is certainly something that technology brands should be investigating.
• The Five Key Communications Channels: Focus communications on the five key communications channels IT decision makers pay most attention to and are influenced by the corporate web site, using video; technology and trade media ; sector specific press; industry analysts; industry conferences.