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Breaking Down Buying Behavior (for Enterprise Technology)

By Hank Barnes | February 07, 2023 | 0 Comments

tech buying behavioral insights

One of highest value things our vendor clients can received from Gartner is insights into their buyers.  Analysts take hundreds of thousands of inquiries every year with clients asking for help in addressing problems, choosing technologies, and implementing effectively.   We produce forecasts that predict spending across categories.    And, we study how organizations buy.

This last part is my focus area, and we broadly call it “Buying Behavior.” (that is even in my title–Chief of Research, Tech Buying Behavior).  But, the more work I do here and the more I work with clients, the more I realize that we need to breakdown buying behavior to help clients engage with the right content and resources for their situation.

At it’s simplest I break buying behavior down into 4 components: What, Why, Who, and How.

Traditionally for tech, 3 things mattered:

  • What people are buying and why
  • Who is buying-at a segment level

How was less important because it was often an IT driven decision with limited direct business involvement.   These insights have long been offered by analysts who follow markets and work with clients making purchases in these categories.    These insights help refine product strategies, develop segmentation, and plan go-to-market efforts broadly.

But today, the wave of change in buying is driven by more and more direct business involvement in buying and what we view as a federated buying model that we described in one of our Top TSP Trend Notes (clients can view that note here).   This is doing two things.  First, it has dramatically changed the answer to the question of How people buy and it is also adding another layer to the Who question..

Let’s start with who.  Now, this isn’t solely about what companies, industries, geographies are buying, but it is about who is involved in the process within those segments.  IT  is still involved in many cases (but not all), but they are rarely solely involved.   The decision team is quite diverse (it is more diverse for more effective buyers) and the exact mix of decision makers is hard to predict.   In particular, the category you compete in no longer defines the decision makers.   The decision makers will change based on the use  case (or value scenario as we like to call it) targeted and the organizational approach to decisions.

This challenge of diverse and difficult to predict decision makers is integral to the last component of buying behavior – how buying is done.   In the federated model, there are more people involved who are less frequent buyers and less familiar with making enterprise tech decisions.    This is creating delays and frustrations for buyers and vendors alike.    It is the biggest change and the least understood.

These last two elements is where the bulk of our focused buying behavior research is oriented.  We do some work on what and why—but that is more about context for the primary focus on how.   I contend that without a foundational understanding of these changes, traditional buying insights (what and why in particular) are less valuable.     But, if you build foundational knowledges of these changes that impact every market, the traditional insights will be even more useful.   There are connections between traditional and new buyer insights, but some initial separation is useful for learning.

For clients, and generally, when you think about buying behavior and the quest for insights, it will be helpful to break down what you are trying to discover into What, Why, Who, and How.

The team I work with is continuing to dig deeper and deeper into the changes in how buying is done.    Very soon, we’ll be introducing some new research that reflects this deep focus with some fascinating (and as always surprising) insights that will challenge conventional wisdom and logical thinking.

Build the foundational knowledge of how and who,  adapt strategies to deal with it, integrate what and why insights, and reap rewards.

Over the past year, I think I’ve probably spoken to companies in every major market category–products and services.   I’ve yet to have one indicate the insights aren’t valuable–despite not being focused solely on their market.   If you haven’t engaged with me or colleagues on this, it would be a good idea to do so.  You can read the research, watch some on demand Webinars, or request an inquiry.  I’m confident you’ll be glad you did.

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