BY MEL JOHNSTONE, STRATEGY DIRECTOR
As a staunch believer of a customer-centric approach in every circumstance, I remember the definite moment when the tech industry had that shift in mindset.
It felt like overnight, we went from digging deeper and deeper into the features and benefits of a solution to find that little gold nugget of marketable truth—to a much better place of understanding the needs and pain facing prospective buyers. We could do this by tapping into the actual experiences of customers, and technology and sales experts with rich knowledge.
Armed with this audience insight, we could fast-forward marketing effectiveness by serving up the technology solution, at the right time, in the right way to the right buyer.
For us at Splendid Suggestions it was to be our first hallelujah moment!
The shift from seller to expert technology partner
This new customer-centric approach to B2B marketing meant we could bring all our combined customer-centric expertise learnt from decades (and decades) in B2C marketing to the tech B2B industry, which finally had a real appetite for it.
And with this new customer insight, technology providers, with the help of more targeted and engaging content, started shifting their relationship from seller to expert technology partner.
Yet although this approach created a gap between those still talking about their own products and services - and those focused more on their buyer’s needs— the ‘partnership’ approach didn’t go far enough.
That’s because tech partners, are more often than not, part of the end conversation, rather than the beginning. The conversation that is centred on capabilities, implementation and that one place we don’t want to play, price—leading to a commodity game where even the winner doesn’t win.
But unfortunately, being part of that end conversation is still a reality for most with numerous reports stating that business customers don’t want to bring the technology sales rep into the room until they really have to. Some go so far as to say that if business customers could go through the entire buying journey without any sales support, they would!
So how can we fix this?
The nuances of modern B2B marketing that spark a re-think
Whilst it’s generally appreciated that technology is a critical component for enabling and accelerating strategic growth and commercial outcomes, it’s also well known that it tends to come with a hefty budget, resource and change management component. This inevitably attracts more decision makers in the buying process—usually five or more.
For technology providers, customers ‘buying by committee’ means:
- More perspectives in the room asking, ‘what’s in it for me?’.
- Different definitions of pain based on their own experiences.
- If they’re not aligned on the problem, it’s even harder to be aligned on a solution.
- By the time it reaches the technology provider, there’s little consensus leading to a buying problem for sellers—and you guessed it, we’re back in the commodity game.
By appreciating that decisions are made by committees – not single stakeholders – we can re-think the way our clients position their expertise and solutions.
Shift from expert technology partner to trusted teacher
It may seem like we’re up against a brick wall, but in our favour is the recent Edelman Report which delves into the current mistrust in our society caused by broken political promises, fake news and ongoing ignorance to face up to climate change. It suggests that in response to this lack of trust, organisations and employees have refocused within; building their own trusted communities. Importantly, it suggests that within these communities, it’s the technical expert who is the most trusted of all.
This is the opportunity for B2B technology providers to make another move—from expert partner to trusted teacher.
This brings us to our second hallelujah moment!
It involves a shift from focusing on individual buyers and their different perspectives (which has a high chance of fuelling even more dysfunction within a group with already diverse perspectives) to the much better place of helping a buying committee to align their viewpoints so they can move forward holistically and effectively.
What does this mean in terms of Splendid's approach?
Right now, at Splendid Suggestions, we’re helping our clients to:
- Package up their extensive commercial and technological expertise in ways that supports organisations earlier in the buying journey.
- Start at the place where their audience buying committees are still defining their pain by facilitating the conversations needed to understand all relevant perspectives.
- Teach them about how and why this pain is happening, along with all the possible solutions and why it’s necessary to go through this change.
- Reach a common consensus of how to move forward in a way that offers the most benefit to the stakeholder committee.
- Lead buyers back to the unique and sustainable strengths of their product, solution or service offering.
From here, our clients can step out of the commodity race – and focus on potentially fewer but higher quality leads with the potential for deeper, more trusted and continuous relationships – the kind that reach into more and more areas of the business and their networks and unlock greater revenue overtime.
Want to find out more?