What’s New About the Way We Buy Technology?
How has the buying process changed?
Once upon a time, B2B marketing in the tech sector was simple. Target the right C-level executive with specific content on a specific channel and watch the pipeline swell. But, as technology changes, so does buying dynamics. Those halcyon days are gone, and now things are an incy wincy bit more complicated.
Modern procurement is a very different animal, particularly in the IT world. So, what’s new about the way we buy technology? Decision making process are lengthy and involve many more people, each of whom are key stakeholders and have specific roles, agendas (and preferences) in the procurement process. This makes the marketing process similarly complex and, with constraints on budgets, it can be difficult to target and influence everyone involved equally.
As with any complex process, there are ways to simplify it and the key to successful B2B marketing in this new era is to understand where the real power lies and how to reach the key stakeholders who hold this power.
Who holds the power?
Where should you be targeting your efforts? Should it be the C-suite suite? Back in the day, yes. But nowadays the due diligence supplier research phase is largely led by those at IT manager or head of department level and the C-suite only tends to get involved in the final decision making. Similar to the civil service when advising government ministers, it is the IT managers and department heads that make the initial selections and then present the preferred options to the CEO/CIO for final decision and budget sign off.
How are decisions made?
Initial research is impacted by brand awareness and company reputation. But there is another level of research where decision makers are now looking for different types of supplier recommendations. It’s now common to refer to industry analysts, trade media and search engines as well as to content such as case studies, white papers, webinars, analyst reports, independent blogs and the press.
A huge amount of suppler research is done online. In fact, according to a report by Forrester, 68% of B2B customers prefer to research independently online, meaning that having a top sales team doesn’t mean you’ll get the business – they may never actually get face-to-face in front of the client.
And don’t forget, supplier researchers are likely to be millennials and the way they consume information is different again. Can you readily be found on Google? Have you included video assets in your marketing? Do your beautiful pdfs convert well to being viewed on mobile devices? These days you must consider how millennials consume information and whether you are pressing their buttons.
Paid vs earned media
One of the key points here is that, nowadays, your buying audience understands that media coverage can be paid for. Anyone can buy a spot in the media. However, buyers prefer to ingest content whose presence has been earnt. According to recent research, 80% of this audience expect media presence to be earned and 80% place high value on suppliers achieving ‘thought leadership’ status (CC Group, 2018).
What else matters?
There are several other elements that make a difference to how consumers buy technology and how you will need to handle your audience.
- Buying cycles are getting longer: With the abundance of choice and a never-ending stream of content to consume, tech buyers have got a lot more to think about. Consequently, internal decision making is becoming more complex and taking longer to complete. Ensure your nurturing process is fir for purpose and you’ll reap the onboarding rewards.
- As well as choice, you must supply context: Buyers need to understand exactly what the features and benefits of a new product/service are. Buzzwords won’t cut it, you need to provide proof and context.
- Are your solutions clever enough? These days buyers want intelligent and future-proof solutions. They are happy to buy off the shelf rather than develop I house but want reassurance that the product they choose has longevity.
What the numbers say …
What’s New About the Way We Buy Technology?
To sum up, if you are struggling to keep customer interested and active it’s time to pay attention to the new rules. Embrace the fact that the B2B buying process has changed; learn how to take advantage of it by focussing on who you should be targeting and how!