As we study buying behavior, we've discovered a consistent pattern across several studies (that regular blog readers should know)--organizations that are categorized as strict planners or flexible and dynamic using Gartner's Enterprise Technology Adoption (ETA) profile algorithm are more likely to be happy with their purchase and confident in their ability to achieve value Given this, I'm constantly looking for insights that help both buying organization and the technology community understand and adapt to improve their behaviors. For years, we've been asking members of enterprise buying teams where they go for information about the products and services they are considering. We've seen that the majority of buying time is spent with people other than the vendors that are being considered. But we've also seen that many buying teams look for experts inside the company for guidance. In our latest study we dug a bit deeper to try to understand who these experts are and how they get their knowledge. At a macro level, the answers are that the experts are diverse---many, many different roles may emerge as an advisor. The path to knowledge comes from using the product somewhere else, personal research, participating on other buying efforts, or from working for vendors and partners. [caption id="attachment_2736" align="aligncenter" width="889"] Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels[/caption] This all seemed fine, but then we decided to look at things using our ETA groupings. Some things jumped out. Our more successful ETA groups: Were more likely to seek advice from internal experts, for both new and replacement purchases, than the other groups Had more diverse roles that acted as experts Additionally, those experts: Were more likely to gain their knowledge through actual use of the products and services being considered Were less likely to rely on experts who had worked at the vendor Were more likely to gain knowledge through personal research Effectively, the experts relied upon by our better buying groups have worked to gain deeper, unbiased knowledge. As I shared recently, better buyers put in the work and rely on more information sources, while not feeling overwhelmed. This is also shown with the internal experts in those companies. Given this, what do we do with it. For buyers, I think the message is clear---look for experts with deeper knowledge. For vendors, this is all about ABM, advocacy, and community. ABM programs need to reach far and wide. When interest arises, don't just rely on the immediate opportunity being present to determine if you should continue to engage with a contact. Assess if they have the potential to be viewed as an internal expert. If so, feed them more--as much as they want. For advocacy programs and communities, a participant should be viewed as "forever." Make it easy for them to stay in the program/community even as they change jobs. Promote that fact visibly so that folks that transition know they are still welcome. If they do stay involved, explore opportunities in their new company with a bit of caution. Don't get aggressive, but cultivate the advocate as a source to explore value opportunities you can present with them to their new employers. This type of opportunity is not uncommon--in my earlier career I hired the same PR firm 4 or 5 times as I moved around. What seems uncommon is a systematic way to cultivate that opportunity--the way advocacy programs systemize "word of mouth" marketing. Are those that are experts about your technology or services your next big marketing opportunity? Probably.