Those in the data center colocation business have been through dizzying changes in recent months. For many and their local competitors, this turbulence has included unprecedented mergers and acquisitions, increasing density, game-changing state tax incentives, system downtime threats, hyper-converged systems, and cloud threats and opportunities.
However for many that market and sell data center colocation services, it’s been some pretty unsettling times as well. Why?
The way in which IT professionals research and purchase services has changed more in the past five years than in the previous 25 years.
It’s Not Your Father’s Buyers Journey
10 years ago, if you were looking for an outsourced IT services partner, how did you go about developing your shortlist of credible alternatives?
You attended enterprise IT conferences. You read magazines and trade journals. You looked forward to reading your postal mail when it was reasonably targeted. You sifted through spam messages in your email inbox. And you spoke with lots of salespeople, early and often, to gather information.
Fast forward to today’s colocation buying process.
The conferences that have survived have become much more targeted. The printed trade publications have become largely obsolete and replaced by data center news websites that publish new content not just often, but several times a day.
Most spam messages -- thanks to innovations like Gmail’s Priority Inbox -- don’t even make it through a lot of the time.
And salespeople for colocation services are largely ignored during most of the early stages of the buyer’s journey.
The Empowerment of Buyers and the Revolt Against Interruption Marketing for Data Center Colocation
Both evaluators and decision-makers have gotten much better at blocking out annoying, interruptive marketing messages and instead do tons of research, on their own terms.
In a world where search engines, social media, and smartphones now dominate nearly every sector of our lives -- remember, there are now more mobile devices on the planet than toothbrushes (gross, but true), it’s no surprise that your buyers have taken back control over the first 60% to 90% of the buyer’s journey.
What does this mean?
Both during the early stages and middle stages of the sales process for colocation, the empowered evaluators, and decision-makers won’t be ready for a conversation with your sales team.
Why? Because they don’t need to. Buyers are much more in control today, doing all of their own research, at their own pace, without being influenced by traditional, interruption marketing and sales.
Sales Is Completely Out of the Loop During the First 60% to 90% of the Decision Making Process
Information is no longer a scarce commodity. Your sales team can no longer play that card to get prospects’ attention.
Prospects have all the information that they need.
What’s scarce now? Their attention. And you’d better have freaking amazing, helpful, hyper-relevant, educational content that earns you the right to their ever-shrinking distracted attention span.
Think about pretty much any major purchase decision that you’ve made in the past year.
What’s the first thing that you did?
Chances are, you did a search on Google, or perhaps if you’re in the small minority, you searched on Bing or Yahoo!
Or maybe your buyer’s journey began when you posted a question to your friends, followers, or connections on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.
And all of this research helped you refine your understanding of the business and IT problems that you were looking to solve.
Chances are, one or more potential vendors managed to capture your attention early on by providing helpful, educational content -- content that answered exactly the questions that you were going on in your mind.
Content that helped you better understand exactly what challenges you needed to address.
Content that helped you frame how you evaluated your viable alternatives and navigated the buyer’s journey.
And if you’re like most B2B buyers, by the time you reached out to a sales rep for a conversation, there’s an excellent chance that you’d already made up 60% to 90% of your mind -- purely from doing online research.
How the Modern Buyer’s Journey Works
Holy moley is that different than how things worked as recently as ten years ago!
Reading helpful blog posts. Devouring insightful white papers. Interacting with powerful planning tools. Watching educational videos. And perhaps attending educational webinars.
This is how the modern buyer’s journey works.
And unless your target decision makers -- your ideal buyers -- are technophobes who are repulsed by search engines, social media, and mobile devices, you’d better make sure that your data center colocation firm is getting found by the right ideal buyers, in the right places, in the right context, and most of all, as early as possible in the buyer’s journey.
So now that you know that 75%, on average, of the buyer’s journey is over before potential clients are ready to speak with you and your sales team, you begin to appreciate just how different the role of your sales professionals needs to be in these late stages.
Why the Order Taker That’s Living in the Past is On Borrowed Time
10 years ago, sales professionals needed to be hyper-aggressive closers. Super extraverted, cold calling machines. Massively invested in relationship building.
Today’s sales professionals need to reposition as trusted advisors, consultants, and industry experts, who know that prospects are incredibly well-educated on the issues at hand.
So who at your firm controls that first 75% of the buyer’s journey if your sales team isn’t getting a seat at the table early on?
Marketing. Seriously, it’s marketing. But it isn’t the marketing team from 10 years ago.
No. This isn’t about arts and crafts projects, company branding, or finding cooler schwag for the trade show booth.
It’s about understanding who your ideal buyers are. It’s about knowing their goals, plans, and challenges better than you know your own.
It’s about knowing these folks well enough to understand what they worry about. What keeps them up at 2:00 am? What could get them a promotion? What if they screw up could get them fired?
Where do they hang out online and offline? What kind of experience do they want from a colocation firm like yours? And what do they search for?
Rebalancing Your Data Center Colocation Sales and Marketing Engine
If your team for example has 10 sales reps that are largely only involved in conversations with prospects in the final 25% of the sales process, how much full-time equivalent headcount does marketing need to keep your competitive in the first 75% of the sales process?
Chances are, if your firm doesn’t yet have an effective Inbound strategy and it lacks sales and marketing alignment, there’s an excellent chance that your revenue growth is anywhere from stunted to handcuffed.
Moreover if your marketing folks aren’t in the revenue generation conversation, and they don’t have quotas, your strategy just may be living in the past.
Your ideal buyers are doing nearly all of their decision making before they’re ready to talk.
The question is: Will your colocation firm show up and have a seat at the table during the first 75% of the buyer’s journey? Or will it be as if your firm doesn’t even exist?
Is your colocation firm keeping up with how its best potential clients navigate the modern buyer’s journey? Or is it living in the past? Share your take in the Comments box below.
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