The technology buying process and your videos

Linked-In has updated their research into the technology buying process, who’s on the buying committee, and how the technology buying committee proceeds along on their buyer’s journey. (I previously wrote about the earlier study here). The takeaway is this: thinking about  journeys, or even committee meetings, is not helpful. Marketers need to envision  random walks through their content. As they amble along toward a purchase decision (or non-decision), buyers choose their own paths because they have their own goals. There are occasional contacts with sales and sales support.

The new survey canvassed more than 8,000 professionals, nearly half of whom said they had purchased, implemented or managed business technology solutions within the previous three months. That’s a lot of expertise and experience to draw on, so I set out to extract the findings that might guide us in producing more effective explainer videos.

The buying committee and technology buying process

The study looked at four kinds of buying decisions: hardware for end-users, software for end-users, hardware for data-centers and software for data-centers. Not surprisingly, data-center buying committees are slow to come to decisions (up to 35 months) — but there is a great deal of overlap in committee membership.  The buying stages (taken from a Forrester study) and who gets involved are summarized here.

Stages in the technology buying process are shown on the horizontal axis. Up to four items of content are consumed by each buyer at each stage. Source: "Beneath the Surface: Taking a Deeper Look at Today’s Empowered Tech Buying Process" p. 30) (LinkedIn, 2016)

Stages in the technology buying process are shown on the horizontal axis. The vertical axis shows who gets involved at each stage. Involvment peaks in the vendor selection and management phases. Up to four items of content are consumed by each buyer at each stage. Source: “Beneath the Surface: Taking a Deeper Look at Today’s Empowered Tech Buying Process” p. 30. (LinkedIn, 2016)

Opportunity for new vendors in the needs analysis phase

The more complex the decision, the smaller the chance of a new vendor getting any consideration in the technology buying process at all. But buyers reported that they are most open to new vendors in the early “Needs Analysis” phase. This has implications for explainer videos, since explainer videos are often used for product introductions. According to the LinkedIn report, building trust is what matters most. With this in mind, we should be making videos that respect the viewer’s professional knowledge and are not too sales-y.

Repackaging content for different team members

The most influential players on the buying team come from IT, Engineering, and Operations. But Project Management, Finance, Purchasing, Sales and Business Development also get in on the action.

The study found that team members consume 2-4 pieces of content at each stage. That’s a lot of content when you multiply it by the number of individuals and points-of-view represented at different times in the buying process.

Typical job titles in the technology buying process

CIO

System Administrator

System Analyst

Technical Consultant

Network Engineer

IT Analyst

Software Engineer

System Engineer

Solutions Architect

System Architect

Project Manager

Program Manager

Project Administrator

Web Development

Certification Manager

Operations Manager

Director of Infrastructure Services

Finance Officer

Risk Analyst

Insurance Advisor

Financial Analyst

Planning Coordinator

Business Development Manager

Customer Service Manager

Tech Services

Support Analyst

Fortunately, repackaging content for different points of view — even video content — is mostly a matter of editorial imagination and skill. It’s a matter of where you place the emphasis. In the case of videos, the opening scene is critical because it’s so tempting to abandon a video when you’re not sure if its content is worth watching.

You can “repackage” long form videos like webinars by chapterizing them with clearly defined clickable links, so different team members can get right to the segment that most concerns them, without having to wait (or fast-forward) through a lot of material they don’t care about.

Vendor selection: differentiation is crucial

Only 19% –36% of buying committee members reported putting new vendors on their short list during the vendor selection phase. Not surprisingly,  buyers evaluating data center software are least likely to consider new vendors.

So what do buyers want at this stage? The want to learn. They want vendors to educate them. (They also rely extensively on their own communities and networks.)

If you’re on a list of pretty well-known vendors, what matters most is differentiation. Your content, including videos, needs to be entertaining and engaging, It also needs to be definitive and memorable about what makes yours the standout solution.

Since buyers are looking to educate themselves, make sure that your videos encourage them to take action to seek additional information (from your white papers, for example). You can also use video to perk up other content. If your white papers describe processes and use cases, they may be better explained with animation than with static diagrams.

Don’t “gate” your introductory videos

Video is a great way to provide an introduction to your solution, and of course you’re going to want to collect contact information from people who show an interest in it. But 37% of tech buyers said that  they are less likely to consider a vendor that gates the first piece of content. 75% said they are less likely to consider a vendor that gates all content.

Don’t be afraid to get down in the weeds

Marketers tend to make sure content — especially video — doesn’t get “too technical.” But when you consider the job titles of these buying team members, I think superficiality is the big danger. You need to make sure your content respects what these viewers know — and clearly explain some relevant facts and concepts they don’t know.

BTW, we’ve made a specialty of creating videos for buying teams. You can read about it here.

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