How Technology Marketers Can Work Smarter in the Age of Agility

LinkedIn’s annual report on B2B technology purchasing reveals 5 key trends for marketers to succeed in the decade ahead

December 7, 2020

The Age of Agility illustration of people doing innovative things in society

The events of 2020 accelerated today’s evolving world of work into a new era defined by innovation, resilience and adaptability. In a matter of months, businesses across the globe embarked on a journey to redefine their pathway toward productivity and success — brought on by emerging workplace trends, increased dependency on cloud-based solutions and the intersection of online engagement and digital transformation.

At LinkedIn, we view technology as a catalyst for change, a powerful tool that can accelerate how businesses differentiate from competitors, adapt to customer needs, and remain resilient in the face of global disruption. And each year, LinkedIn conducts one of the world’s largest surveys on B2B technology purchasing and decision-making, bringing with it new trends and insights for technology marketers. In our seventh year fielding this research, we anticipated significant change in the decade ahead, and we were proved right. 

Welcome to the Age of Agility

In recent conversations with technology brands and marketing leaders from around the world, one single word was used most frequently to describe the future-state of tomorrow’s B2B technology buying landscape: agility. Whether in reference to rapid customer and employee behavior shifts shaping the future of work in nearly every industry, or the B2B technology marketing practice itself, we are navigating a dynamic new normal.

Now, to the data. 

LinkedIn’s 2020 B2B technology buying survey synthesized purchasing insights from a vast array of global technology decision-makers. One underlying trendline was that COVID-19 impacted global technology budgets, and will continue to do so for the next 12 months. This is evidently due to the pandemic catalyzing shifts in both business and consumer spending activity, which has prompted companies to reassess both short and long-term priorities for driving growth.  

Another set of findings has to do with the breadth and complexity of the buying journey itself, described further in our latest report. Overall, greater numbers of revenue-generating functions are gaining seats at the table, reinforcing a bigger pattern of democratized and distributed decision-making taking place in the 2020s. In fact, 63% of technology purchasing decisions are now influenced by functions outside of IT — nearly a 40% decrease in IT’s influence since our first survey in 2013. Additional data from our survey also uncovers how much social proof influences buyer preference and behavior — with peer validation, opinion, and input now the largest driver of awareness, knowledge, and trust in a new B2B technology product. And finally, as more needs and requirements exist across an ever-diverse buying committee, decision-makers and influencers are investing more time and effort in upfront purchasing stages such as research and evaluation. 

Key insights for technology marketers

What does the changing B2B technology landscape mean for marketers? With many more insights now available to explore in The Age of Agility, we identified five key recommendations for technology marketers looking to build a foundation of growth and capture market share in the year ahead. 

  • Empower IT’s evolving role as a guide. There is a wide range (63%) of non-IT functions now collaborating throughout the B2B technology purchase process, and IT must guide this increasingly diverse group toward consensus. In fact, IT still remains the function most collaborated with during the technology buying journey, with 52% of stakeholders partnering with IT throughout one or more stages. This means that marketing’s role in building recognition among a broad range of business stakeholders is crucial to efficiently winning over new customers. 
  • Aim for fame in the customer journey. The proliferation of new technology solutions in today’s market equates to greater competition than ever for buyer attention. In fact a majority of decision-makers (54%) are now responsible for identifying, researching, and evaluating new problems that can be solved by technology. Because these important committee members are conducting more independent research and engaging throughout multiple stages, technology marketers must work to build strong awareness and familiarity of their unique brand and offering — then work to keep consideration and familiarity strong throughout the buying  journey. 
  • Address the committee’s paradox of needs. In the decade ahead, buyers will navigate more options, requirements, and stakeholders than ever before. And while 1 in 2 technology decision-makers are favorable toward innovative, challenger brands, 2 in 3 remain hesitant to award business to a new vendor. This means that differentiation must convey not only superior products and service, but —most importantly — unparalleled value and experience. 
  • Spark the virtual watercooler. Today’s uncertain times are redefining traditional methods of communication and information exchange. Over half of technology decision-makers shared with us that professional peer input and validation drive the most overall influence in the purchasing process. To this end,marketers must work hard to ensure they are giving existing users and potential customers something worth talking about.
  • Seize the post-sale frontier. Enhanced budget scrutiny has placed even more importance on post-sale support. According to our survey, nearly half of buyers select a vendor based on whether they understand their business and needs — and over half of buyers cite post-sale support as a major factor when evaluating technology solutions. To generate healthy growth, more marketers must work in tandem with sales and other customer-facing functions to boost cross sell, upsell, and renewals through superior customer experience. 

What now?

Without question, these past several months have impacted our business landscape and elevated marketing’s role in defining and capturing new pathways toward recovery and growth. As we continue to evolve in the 2020s, technology marketers must adapt to new methods and strategies to win the hearts and minds of digitally empowered buyers. Over the coming weeks, we will be diving into actionable recommendations to succeed in the Age of Agility and we encourage you to leverage our latest research and insights. View our latest report or download the global Infographic today. 

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