How to Win Over a New Generation of Technology Buyers

With more investment decisions driven by stakeholders outside the IT department, marketers must expand their reach and relevance

February 3, 2021

Woman in office standing in front of a window looking down at her phone

As digital transformation modernizes business at scale, technology has formed the bedrock of how companies navigate today’s evolving world of work. And with technology adoption now occurring at unparalleled levels, every player in the space will depend heavily on marketing to chart a path toward long-term growth. 

However, as with many trends of the 2010s, the traditional B2B blueprint for acquiring new customers is due for a refresh. Today, an evolved dynamic exists within the modern B2B buying landscape — a dynamic characterized by more apparent cross-functional collaboration and IT’s post-pandemic role as a transformational guide. As many executives have noted, successful teamwork across many functional leaders and technologists is crucial for companies to create more value for customers and differentiate from competitors through the use of technology. For marketers: there has never been a more important time to target and engage with an expanded cohort of technology buyers, end users, implementers and influencers. 

Key Marketing Audiences in the Age of Agility

At the start of 2021, LinkedIn published new research on B2B technology buying, bringing with it five trends for technology marketers to leverage when deploying a successful go-to-market in the decade ahead. Our first trend, “Empower the next generation of IT guides” is what we’ll focus on today, shedding light on the importance of broadening marketing’s reach in our new B2B paradigm. 

With the pandemic accelerating the importance of technology, more than 13% of buyers intend to increase technology spend in 2021, and many others are recalibrating and moving spend to fund technology-driven activities from other parts of the business. Behind this change, we are seeing a resurgence of collaboration between IT and other functional departments such as marketing, sales, business development, operations, and procurement when it comes to purchasing new technology. This is because use cases for leveraging new technology can arise from anywhere within an organization. In fact, according to LinkedIn’s latest research, more than 63% of technology purchases are now driven by functions outside of IT — and the number jumps to 73% for SaaS solutions. If you’ve been following our research for the last seven years, note that this is a 43% drop in IT influence since our first survey in 2014!

So which functional departments collaborate most often throughout the buying journey? To start, we are seeing more revenue-generating, customer facing functions bring their voices to the table. Top functions represented in the average B2B technology purchase include: 

  • Business Development (16%)
  • Finance (15%)
  • Sales (13%)
  • IT (13%)
  • Marketing (12%)

However, when looking at functions who are most frequently included during the average B2B technology purchase, IT jumps back to the top. In fact, IT is still included 54% of the time throughout the lifecycle of a new technology purchase. This elevates IT’s transitioning role from traditional ‘gatekeeper’ to ‘guide’ — a distinguishing factor of the next decade of buying decisions. 

Because IT must closely partner with and align many varied stakeholders across the business, for marketers it is critical to build awareness and credibility amongst diverse stakeholders who are working together to achieve shared goals. Such inter-departmental connectedness will be key to successful adoption and implementation of the next wave of technology purchases.

A Multi-Threaded Marketing Approach is Crucial in the Era of Distributed Decision-Making

We often see customers plan and execute large campaigns based on singular audiences or objectives, which is likely not enough to build deep awareness with those who matter most. The truth is, marketers increase likelihood of long-term success by achieving relevance at scale and by increasing awareness among diverse audiences who influence business decisions — from functional leaders to implementers, champions, and end users. Marketers can increase the strength of consideration for a new technology product by both increasing reach and helping these functions to have a shared perspective on a particular vendor or solution. 

One example of a company who has successfully leveraged the role of marketing to help win over the hearts and minds of a broad array of decision-makers, all while selling an IT-focused solution, is  ServiceNow. Their recent brand campaign featuring ‘The smarter way to workflow’ is a sterling example of how strong creative can build awareness and help to define a company with non-IT audiences. In a December interview with LinkedIn’s B2B Institute, ServiceNow’s CMO Alan Marks shared:

“In B2B, a customer is making a big bet and often it's a multi-million-dollar, multi-year bet. Unlike buying a beverage or any kind of consumer product. And so, the emotional strategy of this campaign is to make sure that ServiceNow is seen as a trusted partner. We understand what you're trying to do, that we have a shared purpose, we have a shared vision. We’re building a deep relationship with you that's emotionally-based, in addition to the technology and business relationship.”

Building off Marks’ point, to grab the attention of a wide range of buyers, marketers need to demonstrate how their offering can help those individuals and their teams perform at their peak. The content and campaigns marketers produce are a vital source of influence across the entire decision-making process, not just during the initial research phase. And they won’t be able to do this using specialist language that only IT professionals can understand.

ServiceNow has anchored the messaging of all of their recent brand campaigns with the end goals of their customers, Marks said: 

“One of our insights as we were doing research was that we're very much in digital transformation. That's what we're selling to companies. How do we as a cloud-based solution help you drive your digital transformation? But when you really go deeper with C-suite executives, you get to the notion that digital transformation is a means to an end. And what CEOs and C-suite executives are really trying to deliver are great experiences – great experiences for their employees, and great experiences for their customers. And so, that's not only a rational technical discussion, that's an emotional discussion.”

Ultimately, in today’s era of distributed decision-making, marketers should be connecting with a broad range of decision-makers from all business functions at multiple touchpoints. IT is no longer a siloed function, an integrated part of vast technology decisions and use cases in today’s evolving world of work. 

To learn more about how technology marketers can succeed in the Age of Agility, view our latest report here.