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The Five Types of Users From an “Exert Influence” Perspective

By Hank Barnes | December 07, 2021 | 0 Comments

tech buying behavioral insightsSales Effectiveness and EnablementNew Customer Acquisitiongo-to-market

In an earlier post, I mentioned the work the Gartner team has been doing to understand the voice of the user–basically the role users play in software selection and adoption.  Since then, we’ve (mostly my colleagues Craig Roth and Jeff Chamberlain) have published quite a bit of research and conducted Webinars (here is a link to one that is open to the public).  Today I want to highlight the part of the study that I found most interesting—an analysis of behaviors that created 5 clusters of users.  Craig and Jeff have published research, for clients, that dives deeper than I will go today for those that have access and are interested.

The five clusters are shown in the graphic below.   I’ll share what I found most interesting about each.

Sources: Gartner, Inc. (2021)

There are two clusters that don’t exert much influence at all:

Acceptors – Think of this group as users who take whatever software is given to them and rarely complain.  More than any other cluster, they feel that new software rarely, or never, disrupts their work or requires too much time and effort to learn.  They don’t have interest in freemium products or free trials and don’t really have an interest in participating in technology decisions for their company.  If they do have issues, they might raise them with IT, but  they won’t make a big deal of it.

Venters – Venters are a bit different.  They are the most likely cluster to complain about software to their peers, but they never comment publicly (i.e. on social media).  They feel strongest that new software occasionally disrupts their work, frustrates them, or requires too much time and effort, but they don’t do much about this.  They are a little more likely than acceptors to pursue free trials, but have low interest in freemium products.

Given these behaviors, it is unlikely that these users would respond to marketing efforts or have much of an influence on how software gets adopted within the organization.

But it is quite different for the other three groups:

Drivers – Drivers are the ideal internal champion for software vendors.  if they aren’t happy, they work with IT to get issues addressed and they are quite willing, when happy with software, to invest more time in learning advanced features.  The also will customize and tailor software to their liking.  Like Acceptors, new software rarely presents issues or challenges for them.  A small set of drivers will take advantage of free trials and freemium products, but their real preference is to be part of my traditional decision teams, getting more involved in tech decisions.

Doubters – Doubters are similar to Venters, but more vocal and visible.   They complain to peers more than IT, but also are the second most likely to share issues (both positive and negative) on social media or review sites.   Doubters generally have a negative mindset toward new software, being the most likely group to say that new software frequently disrupts work, frustrates them, and requires too much time and effort. Doubters pursue free trials and freemium at a similar rate to Drivers, but also will use their own credit card to buy software.  They do have interest in being involved in technology decisions, but this seems that they might be inclined, if invited to participate, to lean toward blocking purchases and the changes being explored.    Vendors needs to be aware of doubters and the risks they bring to spread their negativity broadly across the organization.

Lobbyists – Lobbyists are the key target for free offer programs.   This group is, by far, the most likely to pursue free trials, freemium products, or to buy products with their own credit card.  They are less interested in being involved in technology decisions at a corporate level (but seem to want to “rage against the machine” to drive grass roots change).  If these folks aren’t happy with software they are the most likely to do everything they can to derail it, both internally and externally.  But, they are also the most focal internally and externally when they are happy, including encouraging vendors to pursue opportunities within their company. Lobbyists feel new software occasionally impacts them negatively, but are not predisposed to that (like Doubters).  For vendors with software that delivers a great experience and are pursuing product led growth strategies, Lobbyists are the ideal target.

Thinking about these clusters and the associated behaviors can help vendors in both their marketing and customer success efforts.

One final note, in this study we did ask respondents our ETA questions.  Not every respondent could answer them all, but those who could we then assigned to our ETA groups for their organizations. When looking at these user clusters against ETAs, the distributions look like this:

Source: Gartner, Inc.

The blue cells are where the percentages are higher than for the total sample and yellow are where they are lower (both my more than a few percentage points).   This mapping might help understand where the risks and challenges will be for their opportunities and deployments.

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