Research companies such as Forrester and Gartner are shedding light on the growing shift of technology spend. Increasingly, CMOs, COOs, line managers and others in senior management are becoming the lead decision-makers for IT purchases.
Why are CMO and other business executives expanding their responsibilities to this area? Isn’t that the CIO’s job?
In order to engage as marketers with a buyer of less technical experience, it’s important to understand why this shift is happening. Here are three key drivers of this trend:
1. Technology Drives Business Results
A study from MIT Sloan Management Review shared that most company leaders believe technology is the key to business transformation. Increasingly, it’s believed that technology can have a direct, and often immediate, impact on the bottom line by helping brands:
How strong is their faith in technology meeting business goals? Apparently, strong enough they’re spending their own resources. Of the 891 business executives from Forrester’s study, approximately 24 percent reported spending their own budget. Not just a small portion either, but a whopping 21 percent of the unit’s budget was spent on acquiring IT. To give you an idea, that accounts for over $31 billion in expenditures.
Senior management in sales and marketing were the top spending business functions. The use of social media, analytics, mobile and embedded devices have contributed to the increase in spending in these business units.
2. Business Leaders Understand Their Needs
Who better understands a business unit’s pain points than the respective manager? Senior management in marketing, sales and operations are conducting research and participating in vendor selection because, frankly, they don’t see it as being IT’s strong point.
CIOs and their teams have enough on their plate. If a CMO can either conduct or assign the vendor research and selection, this will save time and be more likely to produce the desired outcome. Business leaders have become increasingly impatient with what they perceive as longer buying cycles when purchases are led by IT.
3. Technology Is No Longer Intimidating
The rise of smartphone, tablets, and everything else the average consumer uses on a daily basis is contributing to the way we’re using technology in business.
John McCarthy, the author of Forrester’s study on tech spend, shared that 33 percent of high spenders say their technology IQ has increased and they’re more comfortable working with IT. Another 20 percent say that their use of consumer technology has changed their expectations of how technology can be used.
How IT Departments Fit into the Tech Spend Picture
CIOs may not be making the initial decision as to which tech vendors make it into the final consideration set. But they are still held responsible for ensuring all the web platforms and technology services work together.
Companies are starting to view CIOs and IT departments as a kind of business consultant when it comes to tech spend decisions. For example, it may make sense for a business unit to use Salesforce. But IT may identify a benefit to purchasing the enterprise license for use by the entire company rather than a single unit. CIOs ensure the company’s big picture is taken into account so that all technology is compatible.
As analyst Andrew Bartels puts it:
The ideal tech-buying process is one in which the business and the CIO’s team work together to identify a need, find and fund a solution, choose the right vendors, implement it and manage it.
On Monday, we’ll discuss how to reach today’s tech buyer by crafting a buyer’s journey for sales conversion.
For the past few years, B2B technology companies have seen an unprecedented shift in buying responsibility among their customers. Today, it’s often no longer the CIO, but instead the CMO, line manager or other business buyer who has emerged as the decision-maker on technology purchases.
The rise of this new buyer — typically senior management in marketing, sales and operations — has presented enterprise tech companies with new challenges. One of these challenges is how to create content to engage a buyer with less technological expertise and perhaps more focus on cut-to-the-chase results than IT buyers of the past.
Business buyers don’t conduct research and reach conclusions in the same ways as CIOs. They often start by seeking out high-level information to give them a grounding in a technology or industry niche, and then create a short list of prospective vendors based on a combination of third-party endorsement (such as via analysts, the news media, and social media influencers) and persuasive vendor content.
If you are looking to get your enterprise technology into the consideration set of more business buyers, here are some things to remember about this new spender.1. Heavier Reliance on Social Media
Buyer Behavior: A report from IDG Connect showed that a majority (57 percent) of B2B technology buyers are using social media as part of the decision-making process. If you think about it, this makes complete sense. Social media is easy to navigate and provides relevant information from hundreds and thousands of sources. Technology users are sharing experiences, setbacks and general opinions about particular vendors and products.
Vendor Solution: When was the last time shouting facts about your service offerings on a street corner secured you new business? You’ve probably never even tried it. You know that to be successful, you have to be strategic in your conversations. You have to network with potential buyers and people with influence in the industry. This purposeful approach is exactly what B2B technology companies need to replicate online via social media. Initiate conversations with people who have the authority to influence buyers’ decisions. Ask current customers to give testimonials and reviews. Share educational content to online groups and circles where this new buyer mingles.2. Preference for Simple Language
Buyer Behavior: Research shows that 33 percent of high-tech spenders say their technology IQ has increased and they’re more comfortable working with IT. While this may be true, it doesn’t mean that they understand or want to consume technology jargon. What business buyers are browsing the Internet for are solutions explained in simple, clear language. From the buyer’s perspective, if a vendor can take a complex topic and make it easy to understand, perhaps the vendor’s solution can address the buyer’s challenges simply and elegantly as well. Tech speak isn’t going to be effective with business leaders. They need something they can digest quickly and easily.
Vendor Solution: Provide content that’s straightforward and compelling. Technology companies should work with marketing writers who can understand their complicated products and services and can translate the information in simple, direct language. A qualified writer will interview a vendor’s subject matter experts, such as company executives, and create content that relays the message in ways business leaders understand. The right writer will even convey the same excitement and urgency a president or CEO feels toward the offerings his company provides. Tech spenders pick up on this and in turn get excited about the solutions, too.3. Research Conducted During All Times of The Day
Buyer Behavior: Just because a CMO has expanded her responsibilities to include tech spend doesn’t mean other obligations have fallen off her plate. This has her conducting research at all times of the day. Early mornings, lunch hours, and late night commuter flights become prime times for researching new technology. (Another reason we see social media being a popular source for purchasing decisions.) She wants the needed information when she wants it. If she has to wait to receive it, she’s going to bounce to the next source. More times than not that source is a competitor.
Vendor Solution: Break down the barriers to retrieving desired information. Tech companies need to focus on how to provide the right content at the right time. This means embracing marketing automation and other software that helps capture, segment and nurture potential buyers into customers. What’s great about email and other automated communications is it 1) puts a website visitor on the right path to obtaining the information needed to make a decision and 2) makes information available regardless of the time of day.
For B2B technology vendors, marketing automation delivers the invaluable benefit of enabling you to track the behavior and actions of people coming to your website. This means marketers can test and optimize the delivery of content in efforts to improve a potential buyer’s online journey.Embrace The New Tech Buyer
B2B technology companies that traditionally have made a living selling into IT departments may find the shift to a non-tech buyer audience a bit unnerving. Fortunately, however, a targeted inbound PR and marketing program can be an excellent solution for embracing this important emerging buyer.