How do you influence enterprise IT procurement decisions?
According to the CIO Tech Poll: Tech Priorities 2019 survey, 57% of CIOs expect their technology budgets to increase over the next 12 months, a growth that is pretty consistent with the last 6 or7 years. Last year saw 15% of total enterprise technology budgets spent on new tech companies, meaning 85% of budgets likely remain allocated to tried and trusted partners and suppliers. CIO magazine’s 2019 State of the CIO report found that growth-related goals like improving profitability and facilitating new product development, as well as digital-focused efforts such as transforming business processes and introducing new digital revenues are among CIOs’ top 10 priorities for 2019 and beyond.
But with technology priorities constantly changing based on the tools organisations have implemented to address current business needs and consumer demands, how do you as a vendor go about understanding the enterprise IT buying process and define your tactics for having an impact on it and making your voice heard?
How CIOs and IT directors think about spending
As an IT vendor, it is crucial that you understand IT buyers, their ways of thinking, the methods they use and the always-evolving IT buying process. Only then are you informed enough to plan appropriate strategies and tactics to attract them and convert them into customers.
To begin with, it helps to understand your buyer, the decision-maker themselves, and who are they?
Traditionally it was always the CIO or IT director, but today it could be other C-level executives like chief data officer or chief digital officer (both shortened to CDO), chief marketing officer (CMO) or you could be pitching to a meeting including people from finance and HR as well. Decision-making on IT in enterprises has become a more collaborative process, a trait central to digital transformation itself, so it makes sense really.
A couple of years ago CompTIA surveyed IT buyers and their buying habits and found that CEOs, presidents and company owners are now “very involved” in the IT buying process, and 1 in 3 marketing execs say they are also “very involved”. Basically, enterprise employees of all levels are now more technology-savvy than ever, so again it makes sense that more people will be involved.
The evolving buying process
The buying process has evolved because business and technology have evolved and, frankly, given it no choice. Alongside that, the ultimate objective for technology purchasing has changed, and outcomes are now more business-focused than purely technology-driven. The CIO or IT director no longer sets the buying agenda alone, but fields and analyses ideas from many different areas of their organisation, and there are different criteria being used for evaluating IT solutions and technology before making a decision.
That decision-making process looks nothing like its traditional ancestor either, with the same CompTIA report finding that 54% of enterprise IT buyers now consult with multiple vendors or third parties before buying, and 39% of buyers actively research and finalise their decision by themselves before they engage with the seller. This is a significant shift in habits. The traditional sales cycle length has changed as a result, and a short list is now decided upon for different reasons and through different influences.
What does this mean?
It means that content marketing has a bigger role to play than ever before. Your message needs to be impactful, clearly-communicated, targeted and well-distributed to be effective.
How are IT buyers researching? The IT buyers’ journey now starts with them researching on social networks, either via personal connections or wider social media, or by searching Google. Today’s typical IT buyers will read blogs, white papers and case studies, and watch videos and webinars. They’ll consume, on average, 10 items of marketing and press content to inform themselves before making a decision.
This is how content and marketing can support your sales teams: but you must do it correctly. Converting content to a sale ties value to your content, because content marketing alone will not revolutionise your organisation and transform your brand. Having understood your target audience of CIOs, IT directors and other executives, you only create value for your business by turning that target, that reader of your content, into a valuable asset for your business by getting them to buy from you.
What other things do you need to know?
In 2018, 71% of enterprise B2B buyers said they consumed blog content along their buyer’s journey, up 5% on 2017. In the face of that however, the Economist Group’s Missing the Mark report found that 71% of buyers/readers were turned off by content that came across as too much of a sales pitch. Tone of voice, style and how your products/services are communicated all count more than ever.
As an IT vendor, you want to know that your content marketing is being effective and you’re spending your budget wisely on it. According to the Demand Gen Report 2018 Content Preferences Survey Report, 52% of enterprise buyers strongly agree that if brands package relevant content together, it helps them expedite their research phases and come to informed decisions about a supplier more quickly.
Your content marketing strategy matters: according to the Content Marketing Institute, in 2018, just 39% of content marketers said that they had in place a documented content marketing strategy. That figure jumped to 65% among the top performing enterprise B2B organisations however. Content marketing counts.