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Rethink your Marketing for 2011

By April 28, 2010Article

Technology marketers are challenged today with handling proliferating marketing channels to reach and engage more overloaded, skeptical and frugal buyers than ever before.
A recent survey from Harte-Hanks reveals some vital metrics to marketers seeking insight on technology buyers and purchase decisions. Surveying 500 decision makers, the survey reveals that technology marketers may want to reconsider their investments and strategies for 2011.
Generating awareness
In order to start the engagement process with prospects, awareness needs to be created. In researching technology buyer trends, it is important to know how technology buyers become aware in new solutions.
According to the Harte-Hanks survey results, technology buyers become aware of new technology solutions most often through peers/colleague interactions, magazines and trade journals, product review websites, search engines and industry analyst reports. From these results, it appears that buyers are looking for a “trusted source” recommendation, and third-party references, even during the early awareness building phase of the marketing cycle.
Survey participants indicated that although prevalent, promotional emails, direct mail, sales representatives and general advertising were less effective at raising awareness of new solutions. The research implies growing skepticism over sales pitches and marketing fatigue make these once effective channels less so at raising awareness.
Surprisingly least effective, considering the growing budgets and efforts put forth in new channels, awareness is less often generated via social media, blogs and banner advertising.
Although some channels are more effective than others, the survey results and advice from Harte-Hanks reveals that connecting through all of these channels are required, however allocations should be adjusted to reflect the effectiveness early in the sales cycle.

Source: Mapping the Technology Buyer’s Journey, Harte-Hanks

Making a connection
Once you have the buyer’s attention, how do you make a connection with them to raise interest and continue the engagement?
According to Harte-Hanks, technology buyers are serious about their decisions, and are most engaged by factual content, and content focused on cost / value / benefits and bottom-line impact.
With two downturns in the past decade, most technology buyers have been asked to do-more-with-less, and as a result, need to find solutions to drive cost savings, productivity and bottom-line improvements. This trend is called “Frugalnomics” and represents a fundamental and permanent shift in buyer sentiment. Finding ways to help buyers fight Frugalnomics is essential to attracting attention and engaging frugal buyers.
Going overboard on humorous content, or spending a ton on creative to create edgy/cool programs may not have the desired impact, and fall flat with the serious business of technology buyers.
Technology buyers are seeking partners who can provide tangible advice and recommendations to drive bottom-line impact, not entertainment.

Source: Mapping the Technology Buyer’s Journey, Harte-Hanks

Frugalnomics reigns
According to survey results, when looking at what is important to making the final purchased decision, technology buyers focus first on ensuring their purchases meet their requirements. After all, if the solution does not do what it is purchased to accomplish, all will be lost.
Next as a criterion, with Frugalnomics in full effect, cost of the solution is a close second, followed by return on investment (ROI). Buyers clearly want a solution that represents a high value, and will help drive bottom-line impact to the business — helping to drive revenue, reduce costs, streamline business processes or improve productivity.
According to Harte-Hanks researchers, “While ROI ranks high, it is interesting to note that its score drops slightly with the level of the decision-maker. For example, in organizations where the CEO/President is the final decision-maker, ROI is “extremely” or “very important” among 92 percent of respondents, but that number drops to 86 percent in organizations where Staff makes purchase decisions.”
Overall, the focus of technology buyers is on value — and much less on where marketing often focuses, such as on building vendor-buyer relationships and on brand-building campaigns.

Source: Mapping the Technology Buyer’s Journey, Harte-Hanks

From initial awareness and research through to the purchase decision, research by IDC and SiriusDecisions has revealed that more stakeholders are involved in decision making than ever before.
The Harte-Hanks research survey looked currently at how many decision makers were involved at each phase, revealing that the most stakeholders involved early in the purchase cycle, with research and information gathering, at 3.3 people on average, and in the evaluation of particular solutions, at 4.3 (with nearly 20 percent of organizations report that six or more are involved in the evaluation part of the cycle).
When the actual final purchase decision occurs, not surprisingly, fewer stakeholders are involved in the final decision.
According to Harte-Hanks, “The key for marketers and sales people, of course, is to stake out a strong position early in the process, maximize influence through effective targeting and message delivery, and make an impact on the decision-makers before it is too late.”
Unfortunately, most sales professionals are being engaged later and later in the cycle by buyers, often after key decisions have been made. Sales enablement must be a key focus, to provide sales professionals with the tools to engage and add value earlier in the cycle, providing a reason for buyers to engage sales earlier. This can include executive assessments, to help buyers diagnose issues they might not even know they have, ROI tools to help quantify the net benefits of solutions, and TCO comparison tools, to help assure that selected solutions during evaluation represent the lowest cost overall, and best value.
The bottom line
From this important Harte-Hanks technology buyer survey, several significant and often radical trends need to be considered when establishing marketing budgets for 2011, understanding that technology buying decision making has fundamentally changed:

  • Awareness and social media — Technology buyers rely on trusted third-party peers, news sources and advisors for recommendations and guidance, relying the least on tweets, blogs and banner advertising for awareness.
  • Advice — Marketers should adjust awareness building budgets on the most effective sources for buyers vs. what is trendy / cool.
  • Connection with content — Technology buyers are seeking partners who can provide tangible advice and recommendations to drive bottom-line impact, not entertainment.
  • Advice — Relevant, engaging and important decision-making content is the most important element of marketing campaigns, and although creative can help get a message across, content is still king.
  • Value selling — Technology buyers are focused on the value a solution can provide, seeking the highest bottom-line impact / lowest cost solution, not on vendor relationships or brand connections.
  • Advice — Marketers should focus more spending on communicating the value of solutions, and less on brand development and building.
  • More stakeholders early in cycle — Technology buyers involve the most stakeholders early in the sales cycle, where direct sales is often not engaged in the process.
  • Advice — A sales enablement focus is required to arm sales professionals with tools to engage much earlier in the decision making cycle, such as with diagnostic executive assessment, benchmarking or business case ROI / TCO tools.

Tom Pisello is chairman and founder of Alinean.

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