Realizing the Value of Favorable Customer Relationships
As an IT marketer, you must reach several people, in a variety of functional areas, across key channels to get your message heard, according to IDG Enterprise’s annual Role & Influence study. The number of influencers for major technology purchases has increased year over year by nearly half (48%) in enterprise companies (17 in 2012 vs. 11.5 in 2011); and the influence of IT executives, management, and staff fluctuates at each stage of the purchase process – an indication that all levels of IT play an active role in the process. For the first time, respondents indicated technology content sites (i.e. CIO.com, Computerworld.com) as their top resource (73%), followed closely by peers (72%). However, many other sources were also identified as key resources throughout the purchase process.
While IT continues to own the majority of the technology purchase process, their influence extends far beyond traditional boundaries, with increased involvement in business strategy. For this reason, it is crucial that vendors partner with IT decision-makers in positioning solutions to meet overall business goals. The ability to understand goals and objectives was identified by enterprise organizations as the most critical attribute in the decision-making process.
The study also unveiled clear benefits to maintaining favorable relationships with customers. IT departments spend an average of 3 hours more per week meeting with current vendors (5 hours vs. 2) and familiarity cuts the purchase cycle in half (3.3 months vs. 6.6 months). Although companies rely on a multitude of vendors (35 for Enterprises and 12 for SMBs), few reach strategic partner status (7 and 3 respectively). In order to strengthen relationships with customers and become a strategic partner, vendors must meet several criteria including the ability to understand goals and objectives (75%), customer service/response time (74%), post-sales support and service (66%) and insight & expertise on technology trends and directions (61%).
The results of this study clearly emphasize that being selected as a vendor is only half the battle. IT vendors must then switch focus to building and strengthening their customer relationships. Only through quality customer service and support, clear communications, and technology thought leadership, will vendors demonstrate their ability to become a valued strategic partner. Once those criteria are met, you could be in it for the long haul.
What steps are you taking to establish your company as a strategic partner?
Source: Role & Influence of the technology Decision-Maker, IDG Enterprise, January 2012