IDC’s annual IT Buyer Experience Survey (August 2018) turned up interesting results. 350 enterprise IT buyers in the US and Canada assessed IT vendors’ helpfulness in the buying process, especially vendor sales and marketing practices. The respondents authorized IT purchase values of $25,000 to $5M+ per year. Three key areas were evaluated: vendor trust, vendor loyalty, and vendor areas to improve.
Vendor trust is still largely based on the practical ‘brilliant basics’ of product reliability, pricing transparency, and service and support. Vendors should consider these 3 aspects ‘table stakes’ for competing. However, there is a rising tide of wider stakeholder communications that are important to IT buyers. These include how vendors treat their employees and corporate social responsibility. Hence the ‘brilliant basics’ need to be backed up a more holistic brand promise and messaging that includes ethics, environmental awareness, and being a good all-round corporate citizen.
Vendor sales and marketing are key loyalty-winning or loyalty-breaking interfaces for IT buyers. 93% of IT buyers are ‘somewhat willing’ to ‘very willing’ to switch vendors, even if they like their solution, if they are dissatisfied with the vendor’s marketing and sales. Wow. One reason for this is that whether tech brands like it or not, customers are highly dependent on marketing-related information, as without it, they feel they cannot make informed decisions. The power of good marketing communications in IT buyers’ eyes should not be under-estimated.
Areas to improve
So, what do IT buyers want more of from their vendors in the future? In 1st place was ‘thought leadership about my challenges’ – innovation within the IT buyers’ relevant purchasing context. In 2nd place was ‘data privacy’, and in 3rd place was improving the overall customer experience (CX). To be fair, some vendors are already responding to these customer needs. In an IDC survey of 71 tech companies earlier in 2018, 35% had employed customer-oriented marketing staff in at least 6 of the 8 customer-oriented marketing job categories identified by IDC.
This survey shows that vendor marketing and sales operations are perhaps even more important to IT buyers than they ever have been before. But vendor sales and marketing need to pivot towards providing more customer stewardship and governance rather than hard closing and conversion to stay truly relevant to IT buyers.
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