The Changing Profile of the B2B Technology Buyer

As buying power shifts away from the CIO, technology brands must resonate with a broader set of stakeholders.

There’s growing consensus that buying power is shifting away from the CIO.

Recently, there’s been a lot of attention given to the changing profile of the B2B technology buyer. According to new survey results from Forrester Research, more than 40 percent of companies expect their CFOs to have more influence over IT services spending over the next year – a five percent increase over the previous year’s data. Still others point to the CMO as the new driving force in enterprise technology decisions.

According to a recent article in CIO.com, “the balance of power in IT spending has always existed, but the current economic uncertainty has hastened a growing shift of influence away from enterprise IT towards other business stakeholders.”

This changing dynamic has important implications for B2B technology companies. As buying power is dispersed throughout the C-Suite, tech marketers will need to reconsider how they market and sell their products and services. It also creates a unique branding conundrum: at the corporate level, you can only have one brand, yet that brand has to straddle many messages – the technological, the financial, the strategic – speaking to very different audiences.

We saw this first hand when we rebranded a technology firm whose tablet-based application boasted high level security, platform compatibility and the latest feature-rich mobile functionality. For years they had focused on communicating these highly technical features, something that resonated with the CIO but did little to engage the increasingly influential CMO. Through research, including interviews with existing clients to better understand their perspective on the product and the firm, we were able to uncover a much more compelling benefit of the product that provided the foundation for a truly unique value proposition: the use of this product gave CMOs eyes into the customer experience during every step of the sales process. This is a strong differentiator to build a brand around. It turned out that while the functionality of the product was valued by CMOs, it was the empowering tracking and analytics that resonated most. We helped them recraft their core messaging to reflect this higher level benefit, developing a specific set of messages for each of the stakeholders in the buying process, including the CIO and CMO, that addressed their key concerns.

Clearly, a well-crafted brand can play a powerful role in connecting with all key stakeholders and communicating the right value proposition. To realize a brand’s full potential, though, firms must deepen their understanding of all business buyers – their priorities, challenges, needs and evolving role in the decision making process – and evaluate if their brands (still) resonate with the audiences most critical to their success. The outcomes will be different for each firm. Some, like our client, may discover they need to completely rethink their position in the market, others will find they only need to adjust certain messages.

In an increasingly complex and competitive buying environment, the companies that communicate the right messages to the right audiences in a synchronized fashion through the right channels will form the strongest connections with prospects and move ahead in the consideration set.

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