As more non-IT buyers become responsible for actually buying the IT, they want complete transparency of price, limited or no contractual tie-ins and instant fulfilment. In other words – the same consumer-like experience they get when buying apps. Welcome to the new normal of SaaSonomics.
Channel partners are coming to terms with huge changes in customer behavior, or are they? Putting aside the payment aspects of IT consumption for further examination in other blog posts, it’s clear that decision makers’ new preferences for marketing and sales engagement are having one of the largest effects. What are the SaaSonomics of sales and marketing? Is it pay per click, LinkedIn type marketing where you set a limit of expenditure for your campaign, or some other pay-as-you-go marketing sales techniques that change the way we spend or get value for money?
We now live in an application age where IT decisions are executed by consumers as part of everyday life, and these consumer-orientated expectations transcend into the B2B environment. Indeed, there are signs that what buyers expect from a work related IT purchase has as much to do with the simplicity and efficiency of consumer IT propositions as other factors. The rules of the market have changed, so we need to change as well or risk becoming the obsolete ‘Polaroids’ of the IT world.
Consumer IT typically offers complete transparency of price, limited contractual tie-ins and instant fulfilment. Enterprise IT solutions that fail to address the value of these experiences are at risk of alienating their current and prospective customers.
Internal customer demographics are changing too, with greater instances of non-IT line of business (LOB) executives bypassing their IT departments to procure and implement solutions. As well as compounding the IT consumerisation effect, this new state-of-affairs raises the troubling spectre of ‘shadow IT’ where organisations lose control of their IT operations, opening up budgetary black holes and potential security hazards.
I’ve always advocated a business message for business technology, but these changes are bigger than we’ve seen before. IT is now more important than ever to the value of an organisation – to its very future – and that hasn’t happened because the world’s business executives have all suddenly started getting their heads around bits and bytes. Rather, it’s the simplification of IT that organisations are focused on, even though – ironically – IT solutions themselves are, if anything, getting more complex. It’s critically important that channel partners fulfil the need to execute this ‘simplexity’ on their customers’ behalf.
Every good sales process needs effective marketing to tee it up, and this integration is vital now that customers increasingly ‘self-serve’ on the web, conducting research and making crucial judgements about technology strategy without any consultation with suppliers.
In fact, this trend shows that, even by the most conservative reckoning, the average customer collates more than 50% of the data necessary to make their decisions before contacting partners or issuing ITTs.
So here are four immediate actions you can use to tune up your sales and marketing for the SaaSonomics revolution:
Put Digital First
What is your digital and social persona? Best practice is to develop a digital and social marketing strategy that informs, entertains and creates trust, but go one stage further and inject humour and personality. A friend of mine in the estate agency business recently created a character that makes fun of what life is like as a real estate agent. He’s quickly built up 10,000 followers and regularly gets 3,000+ views on his social updates and weekly blogs. Many followers link back to his website, which has created partnership opportunities plus incremental advertising revenues from recruitment companies.
Track Your Prospects
We all leave signatures and footprints in the digital world, thanks to cookies and other ‘magical’ techniques that watch where we visit, how many times we view content or when we use an app. This not only allows you to track the content you push to prospects and customers, and judge how positive they are towards you, but it also allows you to proposition them again with another ad on a totally unrelated web site. This is ’remarketing’, and it explains the mystery of why – when visiting your fashion site – an ad all about the latest firewall or data analytics tool appears…
Data is Gold (or coal if, like me, you come from Wales)
Your data is very powerful and can provide incredible insights into your customers’ buying patterns, behaviours and trends. These insights aren’t always as obvious or easy to recognise as an Amazon-like “people who bought a DDoS service also purchased an IPS” tip. However, look closely and it could easily tell you the optimum time to approach customers for renewals, and what sectors are more prone to adopt new releases or take calls for attaching additional features or services. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but data really is exciting. And if you’re not using the most obvious data you have to hand, then I guarantee you are missing out on a golden opportunity.
Automate, Automate, Automate
Delivering a more personalised call to action or message at the optimum time – leveraging many of the tactics and techniques above – means more work for marketing and demand generation people. Or does it? New cloud-driven marketing tools are here that automate and accelerate the sales cycle process. It used to be that marketing represented around 25% of the sales lead gen process and 75% was taken up with the selling cycle, but this is now the other way around. If you are doing just some of the above in a mildly successful way, you will undoubtedly be getting access to higher value prospect leads that are more advanced along the sales cycle. The beauty of marketing being 75% of the sales cycle process and selling just 25%, is that sales can be focused on hotter leads that have been properly nurtured. And, by the way, make sure you integrate your Marketing Automation stuff with your CRM. This is what helps you automate the ROI figures, which in turn justifies your next marketing request.
What matters is what works. This is all about moving with the times so, if old sales and marketing approaches mean you’re showing up too late to make a difference, you need to stop living in the past, today!