Product Quality Is No. 1

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print

A new Forrester Research study also found that SMBs plan to increase their IT spending for PCs this year by 7 percent.

PC buyers at SMBs said product quality comes first, but price and post-sales service and support follow behind those, according to the Forrester survey.

"It shows that SMBs are willing to pay a premium for PCs that are more reliable, built more durably, smaller, lighter, run quieter, run cooler, are more expandable, or last longer than the competition's," Gray wrote in his report. "In other words, many SMBs think and behave like consumers. But if there's little differentiation between product quality and pricing, then post-sales service and support will ultimately prove to be the tipping point for many SMBs."

The Forrester survey also found that SMBs rely heavily on independent trusted advisers when choosing a PC vendor—IT peers or colleagues, followed by business contacts, publications and consultants.  And while VARs, systems integrators and vendor salespeople also influence the choice of vendor, they don't influence it as much, according to Gray.

More than half of SMBs prefer to buy from a VAR or systems integrator rather than directly from the manufacturer, the survey found. That preference is a positive for Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo, "whose partners rave about their willingness to come out for in-person demos, deliver consistent communications and assist with marketing support," Gray wrote. About a third of SMBs turn to local or regional resellers, and 19 percent to a large or national reseller, according to Forrester.

But 38 percent of SMBs prefer to purchase their PCs directly from PC makers such as Dell, the survey revealed.

Indeed, the survey also found that Dell has a big lead over HP and Lenovo, its closest competitors in the SMB space.  More than half of SMBs bought desktops from Dell, and 45 percent bought laptops from Dell.  HP came next with 24 percent of desktops and 21 percent of laptops.

In Europe, it's more of a horserace, with Dell leading HP by just 3 percentage points on desktops and tied with HP on laptops. "It's important for tech marketers to understand the underlying cause for these regional discrepancies to further exploit channel strengths," Gray wrote.

Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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