Tuesday, February 12, 2008

An Inconvenient Truth for Marketers: The Role and Value of Information

An inconvenient truth for IT vendors: The factors least considered by vendors in go-to-market programs are those most valued by technology buyers:
  • IT vendors focus on the ROI of their marketing programs and their sales programs. They might also talk about the ROI a buyer can expect to achieve with their product (i.e., product ROI). Few sufficiently consider the ROI a buyer expects to achieve by spending time with a vendor’s information and people -- the relationship ROI.
  • Technology marketers build marketing mix plans based on format (e.g., advertisement versus conference versus blog) and communications channel (e.g., TV versus Web versus print). But, in making IT purchase decisions, corporate buyers value content relevance and credibility over format and channel.
  • When it comes to mobilizing a sales force, most tech vendors subscribe to one sales methodology or another and institute a sequence of selling stages. Meanwhile, the buying process is far from standard.

According to a recent IDC study, buyers spend up to 4.8 hours per week, on average, with third-party information to support current or future IT purchase decisions. Of this, about three hours per week are spent on information related to new purchases or general education that can lead to new purchases.

Meanwhile, IT vendors invested over $174 billion in marketing and sales in 2007 to reach and influence technology buyers. This investment creates a lot of competition for that three hours per week per IT buyer. To engage and deepen relationships with buyers, vendors must strengthen a buyer’s return on time spent with their information, whether delivered online, at events, or through their sales teams.

I expect to see a more pronounced industrywide shift within IT sales and marketing driven by these buyer priorities. Relevance, content, and credibility will become the increasing focus of marketing mix planning and sales enablement. The catalysts of the change are rising sales and marketing costs that outpace the growth in IT spending, the commoditization of IT solutions, and the fact that savvy buyers are becoming more protective of their time. The implementers of change are many: IT marketing and sales, channel partners, content providers, content management vendors, marketing and sales consultants, media partners, and other participants
along the vendor’s go-to-market chain.

By Clare Gillan, SVP, IDC Executive and Go-To-Market Programs