You’ve Been Leaving Tech Buyers Hanging Halfway Through the Journey
Read on for tips on how to get ahead post-sale
November 4, 2015
Most technology marketers focus intently on the pre-sales process. They provide prospective purchasers with great information on their technology products, explain how their company can meet specifications, and show how the purchase can be cost-justified. And once the deal is done, the hard work is over and there’s little need for additional marketing outreach, right?
Wrong. LinkedIn recently researched the tech purchase journey, digging deeper than ever before, and found that the back half of the technology purchasing process—i.e. implementation, management and renewals—is oftentimes neglected by modern tech marketers.
As a quick overview, here are the six key stages behind major tech purchases, adapted from Forrester1
- Needs Analysis: Identifying and defining the internal need for a tech product or service
- Defining Specifications/Determining Funding: Prioritizing specific features and requirements and defining a budget for the purchase
- Vendor Selection: Identifying a shortlist of possible vendors and selecting the best one for the needs of those represented by the buying committee
- Implementation: Purchasing the technology and implementing it as planned among all users
- Management: Managing usage of the technology throughout the enterprise, including adoption among users, customization for the application, maintenance and support
- Renewal: Replacing outdated or obsolete technology, thus initiating the buying process again
What we found through our research was that too many tech marketers lack the necessary (and beneficial) focus on post-sale content and support. And this exposes companies to huge risk. If these later stages go badly, you can lose customers—and it can be incredibly difficult to win them back.
The Dangers of Falling Short on Content Needs
While all tech purchase stages are critical, focusing marketing efforts only on the first three is a mistake. Here’s why:
- It’s like leaving a movie in the middle. The second three tech purchase stages can last as long as 14 months (Implement: 4-6; Manage: 4-6; Renew: 1-2). That’s a long time to go without connecting with tech buyers – don’t you want to see how the “movie” ends? That’s why marketers must commit to being a constant part of the conversation throughout the purchase process. Don’t abandon your customers, and they won’t abandon you. You’ll get your happy ending.
- Stages often overlap. Brands that deliver content and resources to committee members at every stage, regardless of whether or not their colleagues are ahead of or behind them in the process, are likely to see more success than those that overlook this important reality.
So How Do You Get Ahead Post-Sale?
Here are key content considerations for those crucial last stages…
At Stage 4: Implementation
It’s all about the end user and your main concerns are whether they like the product. Now’s the time to make sure tech buyers feel supported and secure. And to know their vendor has their back. Delivering educational content during this stage is key to a smooth implementation. Just as important, ask yourself: are you informing and educating end users?
At Stage 5: Management
Here, buyers are most concerned about reliability, support, functionality, management and compatibility. Content at this stage centers on delivering the information, communication and support end users and buying committees need to successfully manage their technology purchase.
Questions to ask here:
- Are your team members who are responsible for service and support after the sale equipped with the right content to ensure smooth management?
- Are your Sales, Marketing and Support teams aligned throughout the process, but especially in the Implementation and Management stages in order to deliver customers happily and successfully to the Renewal stage?
At Stage 6: Renewal
At this point, the buying committee is doing a lot of evaluation. Was the purchase worth the cost? Did it live up to expectations? Did the organization get what it needed - both from the technology and from the vendor? Even if the product performed well, if the incumbent brand has failed to deliver on content, communication, and support, customers might return to the Needs Analysis stage and already begin evaluating other options.
Price becomes important again in this stage, as buyers decide whether or not to renew with a purchase from the existing vendor or to look elsewhere. Tech buyers have an overwhelming tendency to stay loyal to their existing suppliers, if they haven’t been ignored post-sale. So if communication has remained constant, at this stage content should focus on brand loyalty and what’s best for the tech buyer as the cycle begins again.
Here’s the bottom line…
When it comes to technology purchases, there is no beginning and no end — just an infinite loop. This loop runs beyond initial engagement, continues long after the sale, and repeats when the customer is due to renew a contract. There are weeks and months worth of conversations taking place in the stages that follow vendor selection. Ignoring these valuable marketing opportunities could be a terrible mistake.
Savvy tech marketers must build a smarter, better content strategy that continues well after the sale, targeting committee members and end users whenever and wherever they engage in the process. And that includes providing more than just vendor content. While the vendor’s web site is a crucial information channel, the buying committee and end users also need access to white papers, technology media, blogs, forums and boards, events/conferences and ROI tools and calculators during the crucial second half of the tech purchase journey. It’s your job to make sure they fully engage with those key information resources.
For more details on how to support your customers during every stage of the tech buying journey and to build your own content map, tailored to your tech sub-vertical, download Beneath the Surface: Taking a Deeper Look at Today’s Empowered Tech Buying Process.
1Andy Bartels. February 2014, Forrester, “Understanding Shifting Technology Acquisition Patterns.”