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Author's profile photo Ethan Hall

Partners & The New Buyer Journey Part One

Partners & The New Buyer Journey

Andrew Kisslo, Global Head of Partner Marketing, outlines the all-new buyer journey; how it differs from what’s gone before, and how partners can adapt to fit into it.

There’s been a dramatic shift across the industry at large in how the buyer/customer collects information from exploration and evaluation towards a purchase. Purchase decisions are often made by larger groups of different personas across several departments. In a recent IDC study, business-to-business (B2B), buyers were asked about how they would work with vendor companies in 2024: 72% said they’d work less with sales to move towards a purchase versus 50% when the same study was done four years ago. Buying is shifting rapidly towards a non-linear approach with many meaningful interactions across different touchpoints outside a sales team. 

How does that differ from what’s gone before?

Most of today’s buyers are a much younger demographic, in fact, half of B2B decision-makers today are made up of Millennials. This group of digital natives grew up online and are more demanding than their older counterparts, more likely to engage electronically, use self-service tools, and purchase online. The classic playbook focused on limited information to lead each customer to directly engage with sales is no longer effective. A recent study showed that 75% of a buyers’ solution research is completed before initial contact with a sales representative and it typically comes from your marketing materials. 

The new playbook calls for helping a customer self-service early in the engagement. Partners that focus on more immersive, interactive content such as return-on-investment (ROI) calculators, interactive e-books, and shorter-form content will do well. Helping every buyer, knowing that they may or may not call you directly, have all the information to move forward increases the chance they will engage with you. These shifts create a new opportunity for sales teams to spend more time discussing strategy and solution fit which is where your salesforce can really add the best value. It can be scary to feel like you are losing control of the customer early but if you do it well, you actually are lowering your cost of acquisition which creates higher margin opportunities over the lifecycle of each customer. 

Partners play a key role:

The role of partners is more critical in a couple of ways. First, several studies show that, especially within the midmarket, 35% of buyers trust the reseller as their preferred source of information. SAP partners have the best expertise to advise customers on the best solution to meet their strategic needs. Second, in a shift to the cloud, partners play an extended role in the lifecycle beyond the sale and implementation. Partners are increasingly going to be the initial, if not only touch point with SAP for some customer segments. This is why our workshops are focused on helping each partner adapt to the changing reality of customer decision-making. 

Where to invest:

Some SAP partners have gone a long time without needing a marketing department but I believe in the years ahead the partners who have at least one marketer in their team will significantly outperform their peers who don’t. You don’t need a chief marketing officer (CMO), or a large marketing spend, but you should have at least someone dedicated to thinking and shaping how you’re going to reach these new customers.

The foundation of all your marketing is having a really great value proposition. Partners need to be able to differentiate themselves quickly in the shift to digital. I would focus on asking yourself, ‘What is truly unique about my offerings and my approach with SAP?’. This will lead you to build the core basics of a great web presence and clear, actionable content to capture a customer’s interest. Less is always more if you are very clear and concise.  

I’d urge partners to look at the programmes that we offer in the benefits catalogue which help them focus the use of MDF, BDF, or their own money to create content and collateral with SAP-approved vendors who can help you stand out.

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