26 Feb 2015

Understand, influence, engage – market research to the power of three

VB-8800Graham Opie – Director at Vanson Bourne

If marketing was ever really an art, in the tech sector at least, it’s definitely a science. Vanson Bourne researches what’s going on in technology marketing and recent outcomes are arresting. Only 10 per cent of tech marketers see creativity as the most valuable marketing skill. We’ll see what occupies the top spot later, as we look at why the science bit has come to dominate and what market research’s role is.

To understand the tech marketer’s challenge, let’s look at business tech buyers for a moment. They now behave more like consumers when investigating markets and potential suppliers, seeking out trustworthy information from wherever and whomever they choose. They have wrestled the communications initiative away from vendors and the latest thinking is that the buyer has passed most of the traditionally recognised buying process milestones well before a potential supplier is aware that an opportunity exists.

How are technology marketers reacting? Our research makes this very clear. “Driving sales” is now overtly the prime goal for marketing; 93 per cent of our survey respondents say “sales leads” are a key measure of a campaign’s success, compared with only a quarter saying “improved brand perception”.

Where market research fits in this new tech marketing model

First base for tech marketers is to understand the buyer. That’s the foundation for empathetic marketing that aligns the vendor with the market’s mind set. Tech marketers already recognise this – nearly three times as many see “the generation of relevant audience insight” as the most valuable marketing skill, compared to “creativity”. But there is an issue. When we asked about their skill gaps, the top three were “data analysis”, “trend analysis” and “making sense of different data sources”. The perfect storm, where the need for audience insight collides with the inability to execute and understand it. Better call in the professionals.

Second base; vendors need to plug into buyers’ conversations. One great way is to repurpose the audience insight the market research professionals provide; it’s rich in the ingredients you need to influence those elusive buyers. Tell the market what it’s thinking, what its challenges are and why your solution has been designed with exactly them in mind – that’s compelling thought leadership, based on reliable third-party research, not a rehashed sales play-book.

Third base, and this plays directly to marketing’s need to generate demand. Extend the research’s life-cycle by letting buyers benchmark themselves against peers in similar organisations who’ve already done the research. It’s easy to let the buyer map their status against the rest, followed up by a set of tailored recommendations. Research as an engagement device.

The power shift in buying cycles means vendors have to attract buyers into their orbit of influence. The three-stage market research process explained here – understand, influence and engage – emerges from the technology marketers self-proclaimed need to achieve and exploit audience insight; it’s the application of marketing science and delivers benefit to the power of three.