What drives the sales process for many IT decision makers (ITDMs) can be difficult to interpret. The recent Customer Engagement Research Report by IDG on IT Decision Makers, combined with the broader market trends identified by Andrew Home of CEB, gives marketers a blueprint on how to market to IT now and in the future.
- Continue to utilize content, but beware the temptation of automation
- Focus on developing curiosity in your prospects
- Events, events, and more events
- IT decision makers want to self-educate; help them
Content Remains King but Automation is a Demanding Master
When it comes to getting IT decision makers to find you, content is a powerful tool in the sales process. 96% of all ITDM’s rely on content when making the decision to buy and 79% of the ITDMs studied have registered to receive tech-related articles in the last 6 months.
While content remains king, we should be clear not just any content will suffice. Increased simplicity and a lack of intrusiveness are valued by decision makers. Today’s and Tomorrow’s customers are more interested in services aligning with their personal values rather than a broader view of them as an industry segment. More and more prospects are pushing back on salespeople and marketers that don’t use customized outreach.
“For many people the first interaction they have with a company is via a sterile, lifeless lead gen ad that takes you to a prison landing page where you are forced to enter in your life’s information (and you know you will get immediately called by an overbearing sales rep before you are ready to have that conversation” – Bill Macaitis, CMO of Slack
Digital channels, where marketers have extensive data on their prospects and customers, provide incredible capabilities to create this required personalization and lend themselves to being less intrusive, less sterile and lifeless. Real-time website personalization, account-based marketing, and behavioral/audience targeting all provide an opportunity for marketers to hone their targeting. While prospects demand personalization, continued pressure from advanced automation is changing the fundamentals of how we market. You will need to adapt how you deliver value to your organization as expectations increase, while also providing value to your target customer.
The best approach here may be counter-intuitive. While many companies invest in their marketing stack to increase the productivity of their short-staffed marketing department, you should consider investing in labor first and tools second. For any given wave of marketing technology, it takes a marketing team years to adopt and master, and marketing technology waves are accelerating. Structuring your team so you have all the pieces in place before adopting new technology may actually allow you to reap some of the productivity benefits automation promises.
Figure 1: Accelerating Waves of Marketing Technology. Source: Chief Marketing Technologist
The IDG study found the most valuable content to ITDMs inspires further research and thus moves them through the funnel. In response to the question, “Which actions have you taken as a result of finding content valuable,” 72% of respondents went on to research the product of the content provider.
Compelling, educational content is key to running successful content marketing activities. ITDMs are innately curious, and you should appeal to their curiosity during every stage of the buying cycle. The benefit of marketing automation and sales enablement software is we are getting a better idea of what prospect customers find interesting.
Not only do we need to use data in our marketing activities, we need to share data during the marketing and sales process. According to Home, by the year 2020, the number of companies who focus on providing information-rich services will have expanded greatly. As data increases in availability and quality decision makers at all organizational levels are more dependent upon it, data will continue to drive decision-makers’ behavior and as such will be continually important in the sales process.
We will have great access to data, and so prospects will expect to see this data. How has your product helped other similar companies? Based on current performance, what do you extrapolate to be the net benefit to the prospect? Providing prospects with quality data about your offering helps build trust and establishes a solid framework on which to build a relationship. Well-reported data can help manage prospects objections before they even reach a salesperson.
Events Provide Significant Value
According to the IDG study, 93% of ITDMs attended a regional event in the past year, and 52% of respondents prefer in-person communications for receiving strategic advice. Seeing a vendor at an event can make a major impact on sales.
Now and in the future, events are going to be a significant source of education for IT prospects. You need to take advantage of the increasing importance of events in educating prospects. Taking advantage of events includes preparation and promotion before the event. Promoting your event through multiple digital channels including SEO, paid search, display, paid social in addition to your email list will significantly impact the number of meeting opportunities.
Events offer an opportunity for face to face interaction that is becoming rarer in our digital-led world and can mean the difference between a sale or another lost opportunity. Additionally, events provide an environment where individuals are prepared to discuss their industry and seek out new technology and solutions to improve their workplace. Because in-person interaction is so valuable in selling to ITDMs, you should work hard to mimic the feeling of being in the same room as their prospects. Startups including Personify, whose tagline “Teleportation: The Future of Video Communication” captures the essence of sharing a physical space. As you update your marketing collateral and sales process, consider how you can create more human interaction.
Lead Nurturing and Self-Education Is Imperative
ITDMs want relevant follow-up information to accompany their content. With 62% preferring additional information on the specific topic of the content they interacted with. The lowest desired outcome after interacting with content is to receive a sales pitch regarding the content they registered for.
Figure 2: Most Prospects Do Not Receive Enough Touches Before Moving to Sales
In order to provide relevant content as follow-up, you need to create a series of interrelated content offerings. One large white paper meant to fully educate the prospect will not suffice. Rather than creating one massive guide, consider breaking the guide up into digestible bits for the prospect.
Decision makers would like to do the research on their own; therefore, it is necessary to provide them information through a robust content strategy. Content is powerful because it can be built to target throughout the funnel. Content that addresses someone at the top of funnel vs. someone at the bottom is different but both contribute to the overall process and ultimately help turn prospects into sales.
As digital marketing evolves, Home notes companies are having trouble adapting to the changes in demand and the habits of digitally native competitors. Customers, however, have taken advantage of digital disruption. They want convenient, accessible data. You will need to embrace digitization or be outpaced by the competition.
Embracing the new digital marketing rules includes using ungated content. Prospects are growing tired of forms, and you are going to need to be more selective when gating content. Determining where you have to get out of the way and let a prospect consume content can be a challenge, but marketers who begin testing and incorporating non-gated content, even from paid campaigns, will win out.
Closing a customer requires a lot of touches, and sales people often give up too early. While Microsoft studies have shown 89% of sales people give up after 4 touches, sales people need to contact a prospect 9 times to reach a high likelihood of consideration when the prospect is ready for your solution. Sales people may give up too early due to lack of reasons to reach out to prospects. As an IT marketer, you can provide the content your sales team needs for outreach. Lead nurturing combined with consultative sales efforts provide the touch opportunities required to earn a customer.
Figure 3: Prospect Contact Study by Microsoft
When understanding how IT decision makers decide to purchase from a vendor, now and in the future, you need a strong content marketing plan that ignites curiosity, incorporates events, and provides the self-education ITDMs expect.