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Skeptical MarTech Buyers Look for Proven ROI

Emily Sue Tomac
May 7, 2018

Skeptical MarTech Buyers Look for Proven ROI

When the tables are turned and they’re the ones buying something, marketers turn to peers before making a decision.

As a marketer, you’re savvy to all the strategies that go into transforming leads into customers, and the tools you choose for your business are an essential part of your craft.

But your own expertise in attractive branding and slick messaging may give you pause when it comes to shopping for those tools. You know how to sell the benefits of your product or service effectively, which makes you hyper-aware of being sold to by other vendors.

So how do you go about researching the best marketing tech for your business? What sources do you trust? Where might your skepticism come in handy? Read on to learn how other marketers like you navigate their technology purchasing decisions.

In this recent post, we pointed out the key findings of our 2018 B2B Buying Disconnect Report and highlighted the gap between technology vendors tactics’ and their target customers’ preferences. In a nutshell, across the board people buying technology crave more transparency from vendors to win their business.

The full report contains the feedback of 438 buyers and 200 vendors, but we thought you might be interested in digging a bit deeper into the 21% of buyers in the study who bought marketing technology (aka MarTech). Zooming in on this data slice revealed several factors and purchasing behaviors that differentiate MarTech buyers from others in the overall study.

Type of Technology Purchased

On average, their buying groups were slightly smaller than those buying other types of software, though the most common number of people involved in the purchase was still 2-5.

Buying group size

However, the most compelling differences that emerged were centered around how buyers of marketing technology navigate the purchase process, including their relationship to vendors and different types of information sources they use to inform their buying decisions.

How do MarTech Buyers approach the purchase process?

ROI, integrations, budget & self-sufficiency are bigger priorities

We asked buyers who took the survey to choose the three most important factors they consider when selecting a product. The top three priorities for marketing technology buyers were finding a product that shows measurable results, can adapt to fit their processes, and integrates with their stack.

This was somewhat different than the results for all buyers in the study. Across technology purchase categories, the top buyer priorities were finding a product that can adapt to fit their processes, will scale as they grow, and shows measurable results. Given the pressure on marketers to measure and prove the value of their programs and spend, the increased focus on ROI compared to other buyers is understandable.

Besides ROI, integrating with their technology environment, staying within budget, and requiring little to no IT involvement were all more important for MarTech buyers than the average buyer. On the other hand, adaptability, scalability, customer support, and market share were all less important for MarTech buyers than the average buyer.

Stack rank of the most important factors

Like other buyers, they use 5 sources of information

On average, MarTech buyers use about 5 sources of information, which matches the behavior of buyers overall. However, they are more likely than the average buyer to consult user reviews, case studies, and vendor marketing collateral. They are also more likely to tap into referrals from friends, colleagues, or peers, compared to other buyers.

MarTech buyers are slightly less likely than the average buyer to consult reports from analysts, to work with consultants or agency recommendations, or to browse forums. They’re also less likely to sign up for a free trial account.

To some extent, these trends may be due to limited availability — especially for smaller niche players or products new on the scene, there may not be analyst coverage, consultants with prior experience, or dedicated forums out there, and vendors may not offer free trials.

With the MarTech space experiencing explosive growth, there are many new and niche products entering the market. Scott Brinker’s 2018 MarTech landscape charts 6,289 marketing technology solutions from 6,242 unique marketing tech vendors in 2018, which is up 27% from last year.

To put that in perspective, the size of the 2018 landscape is equivalent to those of 2011 through 2016 combined!

There’s also the fact that many marketers, especially those with a growth mindset, like to test out new technologies and strategies that can “fail fast” or “fail forward” before making a long-term commitment. They may prefer to pilot the full functionality of the product on their own and pay for a few months, rather than hiring a full-blown consultant or simply playing around with a free trial.

Information sources used

They are slightly less trusting of most information sources

MarTech buyers were more trusting of peer referrals than other buyers. However, in general, MarTech buyers gave lower trustworthiness scores to most sources of information.

The biggest margins of difference were in how much they trust analyst rankings & reports and vendor-controlled resources, including vendor reps, the vendor blog, and vendor-provided customer references. MarTech buyers were significantly less trusting of those sources than the average buyer in the study.

Trustworthiness of information

In particular, they are more skeptical about whether vendors are telling them the whole truth

33% of MarTech buyers said the vendor was very forthcoming about where the product works well and where it is not a good fit — 4 points below the average for all buyers.

Buyers who felt the vendor was very forthcoming

In their qualitative responses to the survey, MarTech buyers indicated that they were cognizant of spin as standard practice in sales and marketing, which caused them to be more dubious about whether vendors were giving them the full picture. The following quotes are directly from MarTech buyers, describing their view of vendor reps, websites, and other marketing materials:

“Talking with people in the industry using the product I felt were more trustworthy that those vendor-provided since they are most likely to give me the “good, bad & the ugly”.

“Sales guys never tell you the truth :)”

“It’s useful to hear from salespeople that work for the software application, but they’re just that – salespeople. You have to take everything they say with a grain of salt because it’s their JOB to talk up the product no matter what.”

“A company’s website and marketing collateral are less trustworthy because every company wants to represent themselves in the best way, and the content generated by that company might show more highlights vs. lowlights of product functionality.”

“The website and demo were both useful, but they tend to highlight the best features to overcome objections. With that layer of marketing speak, they’re not quite as trustworthy as our own experience with the product.”

How much influence do vendors have over MarTech buyers?

Fewer MarTech buyers said their vendor was very influential

Only 13% of MarTech buyers said the vendor was very influential in their purchase decision — 10 points below the average for all buyers.

Vendor influence over purchase decision

As marketers themselves, MarTech buyers are hyper-aware of marketing and sales spin

MarTech buyers are especially tuned in to marketing tactics, which makes them wary of collateral provided by vendors. Here are some of the ways MarTech buyers in our study expressed how their insider view frames their distrust of marketing materials:

“Being in Marketing myself, I don’t always trust marketing materials found on vendor websites. Ahem. :)”

“White papers and product demos are helpful, but any company selling a product will choose case studies that show them in a good light and will demo the most cutting edge functionality, whether or not it actually fits our use case.”

“Marketing language always overstates things.”

“It was tech marketing collateral, which I also make, so I understand it can be difficult to be technically accurate and specific in these materials.”

MarTech buyers are wary about integrations and measurable results

For some of the factors MarTech buyers care most about, buyers may have to press hard to get specific, clear information from vendors in these areas. For example, MarTech buyers said they felt the need to dig deeper around integration specs and customer proof points, and would have liked vendors to be more realistic forthcoming on these topics:

“Vendor sourced resources are not untrustworthy, but typically demonstrate a best case scenario for which you don’t want to set your level of expectations to.”

“[I’d like to see] More data and stats from other B2B companies.”

“Very important [to understand product limitations]. Looked at integrations with our existing processes, and metric tracking for hours worked.”

“The vendor could have been more knowledgeable about integrations.”

It helps when vendors define a realistic ROI and negotiate to keep things within budget

Less than 1/3 of MarTech buyers said the vendor they bought from helped them understand ROI and sell internally, even though this was a top priority.

While vendors can’t prove results for your specific business use case beforehand, they can take steps to set reasonable expectations based on other customers’ results, define what success will look like, and how you can realistically measure it.  MarTech buyers in our study shared some of the ways vendors created a positive buyer experience through more proactive and collaborative conversations:

“It was a great interaction. The best/most influential part was how proactive they were in showing how the tool can address our very specific goals.”

“Being able to see the end result ahead of time is most important.”

“The ability to see proven results through case studies and talk through use cases with staff/product demo were invaluable.”

“Seeing similar companies have success is very important.”

“The fact that they showed a clear workflow of the project, and had a good record for achieving results [contributed to the vendor’s influence]. The cases studies and references they had were a good fit in the overall picture.”

MarTech buyers appreciate it when vendors help address their budget concerns, by providing transparent pricing information and working with the buyer to form a deal that’s within budget. If your vendor works with you on this, it can make your decision much easier. Here’s what a couple of MarTech buyers in our study had to say about the importance of collaboration on pricing in their decision making process:

“The vendor was able to negotiate a good price reduction to make the decision financially viable.”

“They worked with us heavily on pricing, while that can show that they are overpricing us off the bat, it still went a long way.”

Like the broader community of B2B buyers, MarTech buyers are looking for more transparency from vendors–but as marketers themselves, there’s also a limit to what they realistically expect from salespeople and vendor marketing materials.

Instead, they’re turning to other sources to get the information they need to choose the right tools, while also looking to vendors to share concrete pricing information and ROI examples.

About the Author

Emily Sue Tomac
Emily Sue Tomac is Senior Research Manager at TrustRadius, where she studies reviews, the technology buying and selling process, and buyers and vendors themselves. Her research aims to arm people with the tools and information they need to work better, smarter, and easier. She's on a mission to tell their stories, and drive change in how business technology is bought and sold. Prior to joining TrustRadius, Emily Sue worked on research in linguistics and the digital humanities.

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