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Finding the influencer needle in the tech-buying haystack

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One of the many challenges marketers face in reaching technology buyers is adequately identifying influencers and decision-makers. According to Forrester Research, no one influencer has more than 30% of total power through the technology purchase process. For marketers targeting b-to-b technology buyers, this can present a significant hurdle, both in identifying multiple stakeholders and in effectively targeting them with relevant content and messages based on their specific needs. “Technology is a high-consideration type of purchase,” said Tyler McDaniel, Forrester principal adviser responsible for the company's Tech Marketing Navigator tool that is used to analyze the b-to-b technology buying process. “Traditionally, IT has been driving decisions around this, but it's becoming more complex for marketers. Information workers, such as end users and managers who understand tech and are purchasing them, are more actively involved in influencing and engaging in the process.” The result, McDaniel said, is that more people are sitting at the decision-making table with strong, well-informed voices. “The challenge is marketing to network admins plus this whole set of users in a cost-effective way,” McDaniel said. Marketers have their own technology ready to help. Among those is a new intelligence service introduced last month by list-building company NetProspex Inc. The service, called TechProspex, identifies the technology used by b-to-b companies and contacts down to the specific model or version. “The buying decisions usually start with the technology the prospect company already has,” said Michael Bird, NetProspex president. “And it's almost universally a group decision, which means you have to apply common, old-school tactics—go four wide and four deep into a company to reach multiple decision-makers and influencers.” Bird said marketers must match their own products with what a company already deploys, because all technology is, or is becoming, interconnected. “Marketing automation is integrated with customer relationship management, which syncs with financial management systems,” he said. “And these are synced as well with website development and SEO.” Bird confirmed the belief that marketers are quickly become greater buyers of technology than IT. “The VP of sales has more understanding of technology than people give him credit for,” Bird said. “Don't downplay this; speak to his high level of understanding.” When selling to marketers, Bird recommended speaking not only to their understanding of technology but also to product benefits. “Marketers' reasons for using technology are different than IT's,” he said. “You have to communicate how your technology can make a difference to the marketer.” Forrester has identified other challenges unique to the technology marketing process, including the optimum number of marketing channels to use. Among the 35 marketing vehicles examined by the company, including email, trade shows, search, display ads and websites, Forrester recommended using seven or eight. The reason: That's the average number that tech decision-makers and influencers access in educating themselves about a pending technology purchase. This amount provides both good coverage as well as the opportunity to reinforce mutual opinions between these two target segments. Another Forrester finding: Buyers and influencers of high-consideration b-to-b technology solutions typically use about three distinct content types during each of the awareness, consideration and purchase phases of the buying process—a total of nine pieces. “All too often, companies have flat, plain content strategies, a punch list of assets that they throw far and wide,” Forrester's McDaniel said. “But content isn't just for awareness, filling the top of the pipeline. Some buyers need the basic specs and others want thought leadership.” “I think we need to understand the value of providing customers who are close to a decision point with a vision for the future,” he said. That also will help identify particular influencers—”champions within the organization,” McDaniel said—as influencing bridges to other decision-makers.
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