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What Will 2021 Look Like for Software Marketing and Sales Teams?

It’s no exaggeration that 2020 has been a wild ride for both software vendors and buyers alike. Within a matter of months, global markets were thrown into chaos as pandemic-hit software buyers alternately hit the gas and slammed the brakes on planned purchases. Their goal? Optimize technology systems to deliver digital transformation – and survive the social and economic impacts of COVID-19.

We’ve spent much of the year gathering insights from business and technology decision makers and users, and our ongoing user reviews paint a troubling picture of declining satisfaction with the relationships buyers have with their software vendors. And the thing that keeps them up at night is whether the software they are using delivers business value.

Source: SoftwareReviews Data, 2020

Over 5,200 technology and business professionals contributed to the sample above. And from this seemingly simple plot that measures satisfaction versus importance for key software capabilities, the following jumps out: As far as employees are concerned, the success of any software solution now hinges on the quality of features and usability and the ease of implementation.

The rate of change is also worth noting. SoftwareReviews data from March 2020 shows so much change, in fact, that we have documented a clear psychological shift in users. Using Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs as a reference, we can explain the change from actualization to more basic needs of trust and belonging currently reflected in the market.

Source: "Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs" by Androidmarsexpress / CC BY-SA

Do emotions affect software buying habits?

Reviews that include emotional sentiments (SoftwareReviews Emotional Footprint methodology) from technology and business users show a marked shift away from esteem and self-actualization needs – delivered by the tools and vendors that support them – towards empathy and trust. The current market reflects buyers who are much more focused on the emotional aspects of the relationship. Success is based on trust that the solution will deliver the expected results. As such, vendors must support these changing priorities.

To address these changes in the longer term, software marketers must review their marketing strategy going into 2021 with particular focus on the following three areas:

  1. Is your solution relevant during and after COVID-19?
  2. Are you helping your customers – who are busy prioritizing their digital transformation efforts – with their employee needs to process, collaborate, and prioritize their activities using the technology at hand?
  3. Will you be prepared to support AI everywhere as suppliers increasingly integrate analytics into every process and platform?

What can Marketing, Sales, and Customer Support do to build better relationships with their customers?

Begin by reassessing how relevant your go-to-market efforts are during the current period of market uncertainty and change. Do this by using market data, internal sales/renewal insights, and user review-based or satisfaction survey data to rethink your fundamental marketing frameworks before it’s too late.

Questions you should be asking include:

  1. How does your marketing strategy need to change?
  2. Is product marketing aware of – and addressing – the changing psyche of your customers?
  3. Are your company values and brand still relevant to your audience?
  4. Are your sales teams equipped with tools for today's buying cycle?
  5. Does your customer experience or success team ask the right questions about what capabilities or features matter? And do they convey empathy to your customers' challenges?

You can address these questions by:

  1. Adapting the go-to-market frameworks you have (messaging, strategy, teams, tools) to make them more relevant to the current conditions.
  2. Identifying gaps (people, tools, programs, processes) that digital transformation hasn't fixed and where your software solution can make a difference.
  3. Understanding the emotional motivations of your buyers and how your products can improve satisfaction and business value.

My next article will be on addressing the needs of employees and looking at software and the cloud's role in supporting modernized Business to Employee (B2E) efforts. In the meantime, if you’re wrestling with your own challenges around flattening the rollercoaster ride through 2021, feel free to drop me a line on LinkedIn.

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