The advent of cloud-based services and solutions, in particular software-as-a-service (SaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS), are heralding a new age of technology purchasing. The shift from capital to operational funding together with the growing volume of applications targeted directly at business users (e.g. salesforce.com, marketing automation, mobile apps) is moving the center of purchase decision making from IT to functional and line-of-business (LoB) managers. IDC estimates that 80% of technology decisions will be made by line-of-business management by 2016*.
This shift often creates significant challenges for technology marketers and sales people alike. When marketing to technically-savvy IT staff attributes such as:
- Total cost of ownership (TCO)
- Ease of use and integration
- Processor and storage requirements
- Maintenance and servicing, and
- Application features and benefits
have been important considerations. Sales learned how to take their IT prospects through the purchase process by bringing in technical experts and creating proof-of-concept demos. Good sales and marketing people leveraged their strong product knowledge to educate IT customers about the technology benefits.
The new business-oriented buyers have little interest in such information. Rather the LoB buyer speaks in terms of business needs, and how the considered solution can help them overcome business challenges, discover new market opportunities, better serve customers, and grow their bottom line. And they shun complex integrations – they want speedy solutions which meet their immediate needs and that can be used by non-technical, business staff members.
For companies moving from a licensed software business model to a subscription-based model changing from an IT focus to a line-of-business focus is difficult. Aside from the fact that both financial models need to run simultaneously while products in each category continue to be marketed, sales and marketing both need to develop radically different approaches. Marketing must revise the solution value proposition based on a monthly subscription and expected business impact vs. the IT-focused attributes listed above. Sales will need to develop an entirely new sales process to engage and convert business managers, along with a new understanding of how their products impact customers’ businesses.
Cisco confronted the problem when they realized that their sales teams were increasingly meeting with CIOs and CMOs, rather than their traditional buyers (i.e. IT Managers and Directors of IT), but were ill-equipped to engage these new prospects. “The average Cisco sales person was unable to have such conversations. They knew how to sell router technology, but couldn’t sit down with a hospital and show them how to decrease time-to-patient care.”** Consequently, Cisco’s marketing team developed a new content strategy targeted for the C-suite and focused on business needs. Sales teams had to be effectively retrained to speak the language of business, rather than miring prospects in now irrelevant technical details.
Cisco and other technology vendors are having to rethink and redefine who their customers are, what their challenges and needs are, and how best to speak their vernacular. These new business buyers have very different expectations than their IT partners. Understanding their needs, goals, and challenges is critical to remaining relevant in today’s shifting technology-marketing landscape.
Maintaining message relevancy is also a challenge for marketing when addressing business needs. Whereas IT needs and interests change with technology advances, business needs change more frequently and less predictability. Financial performance, government regulation, competitive advances, population or workforce changes and many other factors can impact the immediate needs of business managers.
Marketers then must keep abreast of change and adjust messaging to not only take account but also to take advantage; tougher economic conditions benefit those with lower costs, rapid growth those who are more nimble etc. Business conditions change frequently and marketing must work to understand their impact on prospects, adjusting messaging accordingly and providing sales with the updated intelligence needed to engage, convert and close.
A great way to develop a detailed understanding of your prospects challenges and issues is to sponsor a prospect survey. Surveys can help identify prospects most burning issues as well as provide actionable lead intelligence that your sales team can use to engage them. To find out more click the button below and download our Buyer’s Guide to Survey-based Lead Generation.
Are you migrating from selling to IT to selling to LoB managers? What steps are you taking?
* November 2012, IDC #238044, TOP 10 PREDICTIONS. IDC Predictions 2013
** How Cisco is focusing more on business to better serve its B2B clients, August 20, 2013. http://blog.merkadoservices.com/2013/08/20/how-cisco-is-focusing-more-on-business-to-better-serve-its-b2b-clients/