As an MSP, VAR, telecom agent, or telecom carrier, it’s vital for you to understand IT buyers and the ever-evolving IT buying process. Only when you understand the behaviors of IT buyers can you plan appropriate strategies and tactics to attract them and turn them into customers.
We are also including “homework assignments” along the way to help you create an effective strategy for attracting and nurturing these buyers through your sales funnel.
Who is the IT Buyer?
Great question! The short answer: what used to be simple, is now more complex.
In the past, IT decision makers exclusively carried the title of CIO or IT Director. But today, we’re seeing that decision makers come from many departments within the company, including C-level, finance, marketing and sales, and even HR.
Collaboration on the decision is on the rise and showing no sign of slowing down. So yeah, more cooks in the kitchen.
CompTIA conducted a study involving IT Buyers and their buying habits in 2017. If you have not read this report yet, add it to your must read list. Seriously, there is a wealth of great info here.
Here are some of the highlights:
Do all IT Buyers have IT titles? Not necessarily.
- CEOs, presidents, and owners: “very involved” in the IT buying process
- CFOs: the next highest — 6 in 10 are “very involved”
- Marketing people: 1/3 are “very involved”
Why are more people involved? Several reasons.
- People are more tech-savvy than ever. As such, they don’t feel a need to involve the IT department with every decision.
- Each business unit has its own budget and the leeway to make decisions that will positively impact that unit. No need to ask IT for permission.
- SaaS solutions can seem simple to deploy, resulting in business unit leaders not consulting IT to implement new services.
To support this idea, CompTIA states:
“Many business unit employees are doing their own research into the latest technology solutions to address their specific initiatives and projects. And the resources for them to do so abound.”
(Emphasis added, remember this for later.)
CompTIA’s advice for dealing with evolving IT buyers?
“[You] need to speak the vernacular. Business is the primary language to speak, but exhibiting fluency in the unique dialects for marketing, sales, logistics, HR or finance ups your game even more.“
(Emphasis added, we’ll get to this later.)
Hmmm…this advice sounds familiar. You may have seen it before here.
Homework assignment #1: Define your buyer personas. Go wide AND deep. Meaning, include all the potential titles you may encounter (wide) and get to know as many details about their behavior as possible (deep).
You can no longer only consider the IT staff if you want to grow substantially.
The Buying Process of IT Buyers
Now that we understand the buyer, let’s take a look at the process. Here are two significant findings:
How the IT Purchase Process Has Changed in the Last Two Years
49% – Ultimate objective for technology is now more business focused
45% – Ideas come from different areas of the organization
36% – More business executives are now involved in decision-making
28% – There are different criteria being used for evaluating technology
27% – Final decision is now made by a different group than the IT department
Again, more collaboration, more departments involved, less focus on the technology itself, and more focus on business outcomes.
Perhaps the biggest shocker for me in the report was this one:
IT Decision Process
54% – Consult with multiple vendors / third parties before buying
39% – Research and finalize decision on own — before dealing with seller
3% – Rely on third parties
Let’s repeat this one: 39% of IT buyers RESEARCH AND FINALIZE DECISIONS ON THEIR OWN — BEFORE DEALING WITH THE SELLER.
I knew research was a HUGE piece of the puzzle, and has given rise to the content marketing trend, but FINALIZING the decision before contacting sales? This is a BIG DEAL.
How are they researching? This is where we get into…
The IT Buyers’ Journey
Research typically begins in one of two ways:
- Ask your social network (either through personal connections or social media)
- Ask Google through a series of searches
A typical B2B buyer:
- Reads blogs, whitepapers, and case studies
- Watches videos and webinars
- Posts questions to forums
- Looks for comparison guides and total cost of ownership (TCO) calculators
- Or a combination of the above
Homework assignment #2: Retrace your steps through your last major business purchase. How did you begin your research? What did you search for? To whom did you turn? What types of content did you like and dislike?
While you are not your target audience (and shouldn’t get too caught up in your own buying habits), this exercise should help you identify the different stages of the buyer’s journey.
Throughout the process, you were (perhaps unconsciously) attempting to do the following:
- Educate yourself enough on the topic to make an informed purchasing decision
- Find a company, or companies, you can trust to provide the best service
A typical buyer’s journey follows the sales funnel steps and looks something like this:
- Epiphany. “I’m going to need X at some point.”
- Attraction / Awareness. “I’m researching my questions about X so I can make an informed decision.”
- Consideration / Interest. “I’m considering this list of companies that provide X.”
- Preference. “I really like company A and company B.”
- Decision. “I’m going with company A.”
- Loyalty. “I’m proud to be a customer of company A.”
What does this all mean for your telecom marketing?
A few things:
- You need more (and more specific) buyer personas. You are no longer talking to just IT people, so it’s time to consider the other people involved in making decisions.
- You need to dedicate specific content to each persona. Remember that CompTIA quote above that talks about exhibiting fluency in various business dialects? Here’s where you do that. Tailor the content to the persona, and you’ll attract so many more of them.
- Develop different content for each stage of the buyer’s journey. And make sure that content is properly written and optimized for search. Remember, 39% of buyers are FINALIZING their decisions based on research, so I hope they find you when they turn to Google or social media.
We know this is a lot of info and can seem overwhelming. To simplify, start with the persona you encounter the most, then second most, and so on. Build a content plan for one persona, implement it, and then start on the next one. In no time, your marketing will be attracting all the various decision makers that make up the IT buying process.
We can help support you in these efforts, so give us a shout if you’d like to learn more.
This blog post was originally posted on July 10, 2017 and was updated on December 11, 2018 to reflect new findings.