Let's Talk About Shortlists: How to Win Over the Hearts and Minds of Today’s Tech Buyers

May 17, 2019

Enlightened Tech Buyer

Earning a top spot when it comes to vendor consideration is no easy task — especially when less than 20% of decision-makers will consider a new technology vendor this year, as revealed in our 2019 “Enlightened Tech Buyer” report. However, even with limited space on a company shortlist, we see the number of IT projects expanding, with new business technology investments expected to increase 9% this year.

With most businesses poised to spend more money on new technology this year, pressure to succeed is felt across the organization. This paints an interesting backdrop for marketers in the technology sector, as many face greater and more nuanced demand for technology solutions coupled with heightened customer expectations. Technology marketers who truly understand today’s Enlightened Tech Buyer, the unique roles of the buying committee and the landscape in which these players operate has immense opportunity to improve processes, better engagement and ultimately make the coveted shortlist to drive business forward.

Meet the Enlightened Buyer

Most of today’s technology buying teams are led by an IT leader, 6 million of whom we see active on LinkedIn. The average buying committee continues to expand, and the total universe of decision-makers and end users who impact these investments comprises 86% of an enterprise. Digitally enabled and quality obsessed, these individuals are actively shaping their organization’s future with technology investments. Four key types of individuals are involved – Decision-Makers, Influencers, Implementers and End Users.

But the decision-making process isn’t confined to the walls of the organization. Buyers are seeking to make rational, well-informed decisions as part of a community. In fact, 9 in 10 buyers look outside the already expansive technology buying committee for information and counsel on B2B solutions — with reviews, surveys and usage stats from fellow technology users making up 51% of these trusted educational sources consulted throughout the buying cycle.

Meeting the Prerequisites That Lead to a Shortlist

When selecting a vendor, the most important criteria cited was overall product or service quality, followed by the ability to consistently meet a client’s needs. There’s a wealth of opportunity for marketers within those two criteria, starting with building a consistent brand that tells your unique story in a memorable way and communicates product and service quality.

It’s no surprise that prospective customers will seek out your website as one of their first steps along the purchase path. However, did you know your site or mobile app is also the most impactful to buyers when they ultimately make a decision?

From there, buyers turn to online communities where vetted opinions are shared by credible peers or to published reviews, evaluations or examples from other customers’ success.

Marketers need to think about customer service and quality education when considering the strategy: How are you helping buyers beyond their initial research phase so your project doesn’t join that 71% of failures? Make sure you’re actively answering these five questions to appeal to today’s Enlightened Buyer:

1. Is branding priority one?

Given that new influencers and decision-makers on the technology buying committee may not know your solution or your brand, branding must be front and center in your efforts, particularly on your website, which is the top resource used by potential buyers. Design the online experience to be more interactive and to provide more information about your products.

The key is to tell a story that sticks. Your holistic, human story is important and should resonate broadly across the tech industry so your brand is memorable and reinforces your reputation over time. Your branding campaigns and thought leadership efforts should reach all the individuals who contribute to, shape and make decisions for new technology investments, as well as their professional peers.

2. Are you tapping in to your existing customers for authentic reviews?

Utilize the resources that are already at your disposal by gathering firsthand insights from your existing customers. Unbiased, insider knowledge offers buyers unprecedented access to your brand, products and customer experience that you alone can’t provide.

These insights and reviews give the details needed for buyers to discern how your solutions solve their real-world challenges. Remember: in today’s marketplace authenticity wins, as buyers fully embrace the transparency provided by real user reviews.

3. Have you analyzed your high customer lifetime value (CLTV) clients for key attributes?

Take this analysis to partners to create lookalike models to identify potential customers like them. Getting on the shortlist is hard enough without rewriting the playbook. Really dive into your past client base to distill the DNA of those customers that were most successful and target their clones. Broaden your awareness and reach to win over new influencers before your competitors do.

4. Are you actively investing in your customer experience?

Anecdotally, it costs anywhere from 5 to 25 times as much money to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one, the Harvard Business Review writes. As an incredibly valuable bonus, reducing customer churn by 5% could increase your company’s profits to 25% or more, according to research from Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company (the inventor of the Net Promoter Score).

Determine how you can better educate your clients’ IT, operations teams and implementation end users so your customer’s questions will be answered more efficiently — improving their customer experience, both before, during and after a sale. There’s a lot on the line during an implementation, including your inclusion on future shortlists, so invest in end user customer service tools and functionality as well as implementation and education resources and tools, and place special emphasis on “How-To” videos to make it easy to self-solve.

5. Do your sales and marketing efforts align?

Finally, if you are doing your job to create content engagement through your branding campaigns, thought leadership and authentic reviews, that awareness creates fertile ground for your sales team to drive one-to-one conversations that ultimately garner your company’s consideration for the shortlist.

But all these efforts must be aligned: according to our 2018 LinkedIn State of Sales Report, 48% of decision-makers say they often or always experience different messaging from marketing and sales when learning about a new solution, and 89% say consistent marketing and sales language about a product is critical.

Filling those types of gaps are what give you a competitive edge, and it all points back to a strong overall customer strategy. These little touches and evidence of synergy (or the lack thereof) add up to a meaningful customer experience. Anyone in your organization who has a customer touchpoint, from marketing to sales to customer service, should be tapping into a cohesive strategy and should be thinking from a customer’s perspective instead of a departmental silo.

Companies that design their operations around a customer journey, rather than forcing customers through cumbersome gates serving each department’s individual ends, create natural alignment and better serve customers.

For even greater insights into the mind of The Enlightened Buyer, the buying committee and the knowledge ecosystem in which these players make purchase decisions, as well as deeper analysis on how to make the shortlist, read the full report here.