What the latest client buying research means for partner marketing teams

  • 07 Sep 2023

Momentum ITSMA’s latest Client Buying Index (CBX) research reveals some fascinating insights about how the B2B buying landscape is evolving, with cautious buyers demanding more innovation and greater collaboration from their suppliers.

Momentum ITSMA’s latest Client Buying Index (CBX) research has plenty of lessons for partner marketing teams; revealing what partners will need from vendors to be successful.

Here are some of the key insights and their implications for partner marketing.

Cautious buyers focused on ROI

A key finding is that B2B buyers are feeling more cautious about making big purchase decisions this year. Roughly two-thirds (68%) believe that the potential for making a poor decision has increased as solutions have become more complex and costly. And more than half (55%) are looking to make only incremental improvements this year instead of radical modifications in their organization. This caution perhaps explains why buyers are more likely to favor incumbents. 83% say they shortlisted the incumbent for a recent major purchase and 74% of those decided to buy from the incumbent.

Where new providers win, it’s down to factors such as greater agility, access to newer capabilities, wider portfolio of services, and demonstrating a better understanding of the buyer’s business. Unsurprisingly – especially given buyers’ fear of making a bad decision – return on investment is top of the agenda. “Deliver in 12 months or less and we’ll more likely give your solutions the go-ahead,” says a whopping 87% of enterprise buyers.

For vendors, these findings offer some clear pointers in terms of the areas where partners will need support. Key questions vendors should be considering include:

• Are we doing enough to help partners build confidence around the solutions they’re proposing to overcome buyer caution? That may be through access to relevant case studies, greater transparency over costs, and sufficient detail around service levels or product functionality • Are we helping partners build a compelling business case for our solutions, for example by providing ROI frameworks and benchmark performance metrics? • Are we equipping partners with the right messaging, resources, and tools to help them acquire new logos? For example, by sharing insights on typical needs and challenges in key verticals, or by sharing innovative use cases?

Collaboration and innovation high on buyers’ agendas

One of the messages that came through loud and clear from the research is that buyers increasingly want to collaborate with their solution providers, and that they are looking to those providers as an important source of innovation. Almost nine in 10 (86%) enterprise buyers we surveyed said they’re more interested in collaborating with solution providers for joint innovation – an increase of 14% since 2021 – while three-quarters (76%) said they receive valuable innovation recommendations from providers’ account managers.

For B2B providers, these findings have several implications in terms of how they’re working with their partners and whether they’re equipping partners to be the agents of innovation that customers want. Key questions to consider for vendors include:

• Are you facilitating co-creation with partners to deliver innovative solutions to customer problems? Or if partners want to do anything novel, is it like wading through treacle to get anything done? That’s about having the right processes, mindset, access to resources, and (at times) funding • Are you educating partners on the innovative use cases for your solutions that they can take into their customers? And when partners themselves identify those innovative use cases are you providing support to help them scale? • Are you making it easy for partners to collaborate with their customers, by being collaborative in the way you work with them? Are your Subject Matter Experts available to attend meetings and workshops? Are you actively listening to partners to understand where they need support and resource to unlock new opportunities?

Executive briefings provide opportunity to add real value

When it comes to collaboration and innovation, Momentum ITSMA’s CBX research highlighted the invaluable role of the executive briefing center (EBC). Of the respondents who attended an EBC during their last technology purchase, 65% said the strength of their relationship with the solution provider improved and nearly three-quarters (72%) said their understanding of the latest trends and developments improved.

The EBC is an area where vendors have an opportunity to add huge value to partners, many of whom will lack the resources to deliver high-quality EBC experiences, and by extension their customers.

ESG becoming a key factor in purchase decisions

The research also revealed that we may be at a tipping point in terms of the importance of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues when it comes to buying decisions. Eighty percent of respondents to our survey said ESG is important when evaluating the solution providers on their shortlist and making the final decision. Over a third of our respondents (36%) said it was a deciding factor for which solution providers they included on their shortlist.

This is an area where solution providers will need effective support from the vendors and service providers who are part of their supply chain. Vendors need to ensure that partners understand the importance of ESG as part of the overall proposition to the end customer, and that their partners are equipped to tell a compelling story around ESG.

Partners will need to be armed with the ESG benefits of the specific products and services they’re reselling, but also the credentials of the vendor organization. This will become increasingly important when selling into large enterprises, who have dedicated compliance teams to ensure that solutions being purchased meet their strict ESG standards.

Post-sales experience a key buying criteria

A final area to highlight is that buyers are increasingly focused on what the post-sales experience will be. 85% say the solution provider’s promise, plan, and capabilities for post-implementation adoption factor into their purchase decision. As part of this, buyers want suppliers to be heavily involved in ensuring the value of the new solution is realized across the organization: over 78% said they want their solution provider to help with marketing to drive adoption of the solution post-purchase.

It’s therefore essential that vendors are equipping their partners to be able to communicate and deliver a vision for customer success. Some partner programs are heavily focused on driving customer acquisition, but it’s equally as important that partners have the support they need to ensure successful implementation, adoption, and optimization. For some partners, this will be an area they excel in anyway, but others will need more support, for example by providing sample project plans, implementation frameworks, and marketing resources to drive adoption.

Partner marketing teams inevitably spend a significant chunk of their time focusing on the immediate needs of their partners and their internal KPIs. But it’s vital that they’re also paying attention to how customer buying behaviours and preferences are evolving and shape their strategies and programs accordingly.

For more key highlights from Momentum ITSMA’s annual Client Buying Index, watch our on-demand webcast here.

Visit Momentum ITSMA membership community to continue the conversation with your peers and industry experts. Not a member? Get in touch to find out more about joining the world’s most dynamic community of B2B marketers.

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