Buyer behavior in 2022 – think beyond the sale!
- Buyer beware! Or is it vendor beware?
There is a crisis of trust in the market today, according to the 2022 G2 Software Buyer Behaviour Report.
With so many software options to choose from, buyers are becoming picky about where and how they learn what the right choice is. For software vendors to reach customers and keep them satisfied, they must ensure those customers have the product and marketing information they need and trust throughout the entire customer lifecycle. And that means some things need to change.
The early post-purchase stage is critical
The key to a long-term relationship with a customer is how a vendor supports the customer in the early stages after they have purchased the product or service. This post-purchase stage is often overlooked, even though it can be one of the most challenging. Many software providers believe that the renewal process is influenced more by how much the software is used and how happy the customer is coming up to renewal - they don't consider the impacts that may be left behind after a difficult implementation process.
In this study, 93% of respondents said the implementation process is important or very important when making a renewal decision. It ranked ahead of seeing a return on investment in the first six months and ahead of ease of use. Out of the 12 options, pricing came in second to last.
Ensuring a successful implementation and a happy customer may require assisting with the implementation or having strong partners who can help. For example, Cordial provides a services team to support the onboarding experience of its customer engagement platform.
Product adoption comes next
Product adoption is also essential, especially at the beginning but also throughout. It can be hard to show a company that the product is being used and how if you aren't tracking that usage. SaaS software vendors can implement technology to track usage - not just to show the company but also to find the best ways to encourage use throughout the subscription period.
Tools like Heap.io can track how an application is used and provide insights that marketing and customer success can use to improve the use of an application. As per the report:
Point A is the homepage or product page, and point B is checkout complete. So if you're using Heap, you just tell it to look at point A to point B, and then Heap will look at every journey of every person who's ever tried to go from A to B successfully or unsuccessfully and over some interval. It's not just one journey; it can be over a minute, a week, or a year. We'll look at all of that and then go back to the marketer and say, 'OK, here are your hotspots. Here's where people are getting stuck; people are doubling back here. Here's a cohort of people who are flying through the experience'. And then you can start to understand better.
In the G2 report, only 13% of companies implement a tool to track usage.
Another interesting stat is that 16% of companies don't have formal training on their tools. This number is up from 5% the year before, and it presents an opportunity for software vendors to provide training to companies, whether in the form of online learning or on-site training. A vendor could go all out like HubSpot or stick with something smaller and very focused on their product and its use cases.
Supporting the entire buying committee
Software is bought by a committee, but every person on that committee has a different role and is looking for different information. So creating a one-size-fits-all content strategy won't work. To matter things more complex, 71% of companies said they add stakeholders to the committee throughout the process, and for 34%, the decision maker always changes during the buying cycle.
You need to think about the different roles (or personas) involved in the buying committee and ensure you build the content each one requires, making it available on the channels they typically look for it. Now, in this study, it's said that 22 distinct roles could be involved, and if it is the case that you have many different roles, I wouldn't suggest you develop a unique content strategy for each one. Instead, there may be a way to group roles, or you may need to determine which roles are critical to the purchase decision and focus most of your efforts on those roles.
Let's talk about information sources for a minute as we think about buying roles. This G2 study found that 60% of buyers agree or strongly agree that a vendor's sales team isn't involved in the research phase of the buying journey. However, there is an expectation that sales proactively engage early to help buyers. That would mean less "selling" and more "helping." Pushy sales drive the lack of trust many buyers feel, but a salesperson offering help can move the buyer in the right direction.
There's also a lack of trust in vendor information in this study. Only 10% said that vendor-supplied content was influential in the decision-making process. Others cited a lack of credible content, independent reports, and information specific to their industry as reasons not to trust vendor content.
Also, while 76% trust review websites like G2, TrustRadius, and others, some question whether they are influenced by vendors. I've seen the process for getting customers to review products from a vendor standpoint, and I think it's trustworthy. Yes, vendors offer customers a gift for leaving a review, but they don't influence the review, so you know they are valid. It's also good to have some reviews that are not positive - a product isn't suitable for everyone, and buyers need to see and understand who a product has worked well for.
Here's the stat that stood out to me in this study: 53% of buyers conduct research and consider alternatives towards the renewal date. We are no longer working in a time where it's difficult to switch vendors if we aren't getting the value we expect from a product.
Most software vendors have processes to help a company migrate its content and data from one application to another. Likewise, some vendors provide the ability to export a company's data from their application easily (they don't want them to, but it's often a key selling point).
SaaS and cloud-based systems give companies more control over why they stay with a particular vendor. It doesn't often take much for another vendor to swoop in and win a company over. Think about how many productivity tools your company has gone through. Well, it's the same for marketing and sales software.
Vendors that pay attention to customers after the sale and build the processes required to help customers implement and use their product successfully from the beginning have a much better chance of keeping those customer at renewal time.