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After more than a year of managing through a crisis and tending to workforce concerns, executives have turned their attention back to growing the business. They are investing in new ideas and innovation to improve profitability, customer experience, and growth, according to the How Executives Engage Survey 2021, Part 2: Return of the Growth Imperative.
Based on a survey in September 2021 with 417 senior business and IT executives, this report digs into executives’ business and technology priorities as well as their expectations of and preferences for engaging with solution providers.
Both the business priorities and the technology priorities of the executives we surveyed shifted from Wave 1 (April 2021) to Wave 2 (September 2021). The top business priority now is improving productivity and profitability, compared to transforming to enable digital business, which is still important but dropped to the #3 position, alongside growing revenue.
Interestingly, enabling remote work is no longer a business priority for executives; it has been replaced by improving customer experience/loyalty and investing in innovation.
In addition to business and technology priorities, Wave 2 of the 2021 study points to buyers seeking digital solutions with a human touch to enable growth. The survey assessed:
- The importance of digital business transformation
- How executives are engaging with solution providers
- What executives want from solution provider content and thought leadership
- How solution providers can meet the evolving expectations of buyers
- The role of sales in a flexible work environment
Based on the data, there is an enormous opportunity for solution providers to partner with clients in driving innovation and growth. Marketing can play a key role in seizing this opportunity if they build skills to provide:
- Relevant, personalized engagement based on insight. Nearly three quarters of executives surveyed (74%) view personalized sales and marketing as a valuable service and a signal that the solution will be a better fit for their business needs. Personalization also demonstrates the solution provider’s commitment to do business with them.
- High-quality content that meets the rising expectations of executives who face digital saturation. This is critical: 82% of executives responded that high-quality, relevant, solution provider thought leadership content shapes perception of the solution provider.
- Engagement where and how executives want it. The difference in responses from Wave 1 and Wave 2 illustrates the need for marketers to build flexibility into their executive engagement activities. For example, in-person meetings are making a cautious comeback, with 22% reporting that they attended an in-person event over the last three months, compared to just 6% in Wave 1. In addition, executive preferences for engagement have shifted dramatically in a short period of time.
- An integrated sales and marketing experience. Executives want salespeople to help them navigate among alternative solutions, build the business case, and make the right decisions and avoid land mines. Thus, sales enablement is more important than ever, and marketing needs to move out of the sales support role and add value by providing data and insight, personalized content, targeted value propositions, and training to sales.
This is the second of a two-part study; part one was conducted in April 2021. The full report, How Executives Engage Survey 2021, Part 2: Return of the Growth Imperative, is available to download at no cost for ITSMA members and $795 for non-members. Want to learn more? Watch the webcast replay of Engaging Executives Amid Constant Uncertainty: How Executives Engage (Part 2), where ITSMA’s Julie Schwartz and Donna Thach present highlights from the research.
After more than a year of managing through a crisis and tending to workforce concerns, executives have turned their attention back to growing the business.