English: Visitors are checking the Laptops at ...

English: Visitors are checking the Laptops at ‘Infocom 2004′, the largest Information and Technology fair at Kolkata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The wave of digital technology and transformation continues to spread. Changing buying behavior in ways unimagined. Interactions between companies and their customers have changed forever. Buyers are empowered. And, now users are empowered with a powerful new voice of influence in purchase decisions.

The Rise Of The User

Digital technology is impacting how companies organize and operate. This includes the organizations where your customers live. Organizational behavior and structures are transforming. One result is the rise of the user. Users today are more empowered and increasingly an integral part of purchase decisions. I first took noticed when I heard this in a qualitative interview:

“We have a planning committee on technology that meets periodically. We invite different users from several departments. They help us look at systems and vendors. It is important to get their reaction and make suggestions.” Vice President, Business Technology Liaison

The above quote serves as an indication the voice of users is growing. They are participating more and more in research and evaluation.

Not Just One Aspect

The rise of the user is manifesting itself in more ways than just one. Here are a few ways user influence is increasing:

Procurement Purchase Cards: Supervisors of users are empowered with credit cards allowing them to make online purchases as needed.

Flatter Organizations: Digital technology is enabling flatter organizations whereby decisions are spread widely and users have more influence.

Digital Platforms: Many digital platforms intended for B2B now are designed for multiple parts of a company including frontline users as well as senior stakeholder personnel.

Virtual: the virtual workforce continues expand. More employers now provide multiple choices virtual personnel can make on technology and support purchases.

User and Buyer Lines Blur: We are seeing an increase in “consumerization” as a result of digital technology. Blurring the lines between our concepts of a buyer and a user. Many of today’s buyers are also users. Thinking about usage as well as how a product solution or service will help them to accomplish their goals.

Impact

These evolving trends will continue the march of the buyer revolution. Where our concepts of how we market, sell, and design products or solutions will need to adapt and evolve. Impact will be felt in many forms, these being a few:

Content Marketing: In the B2B space, much of content marketing is oriented towards the sale and the purchase. Learning how to develop a user audience, which advocates as well as influences will be a significant challenge.

Product Management and Product Marketing: Traditionally, we have seen product management make the handoff to product marketing as the product development process nears launch. This will need to be a handgrip now – where neither hand lets go.

Sales Enablement: Sales will need to expand their role of understanding the path-to- purchase within companies. Skipping over the paths, which include user participation, can lead them down a dead-end. Sales will need to understand not only the buyer’s perspective, but the user’s perspective as well.

Account-Based Marketing: While we are still early in the concept of ABM, it is primarily aimed at marketing to buyers and purchasers. Leaving out user advocacy and influence will result in ABM programs not reaching effectiveness.

Insight Research: In the context of marketing, insight research has been customer and buyer oriented. Insight research is a staple for developing buyer personas. Blending usage-based research as well as the development of user personas with buyer personas will soon become an important aspect of insight research.

When the area of personas first started, the focus was on users and informing design strategy for products or software. The lines of separation were pretty clear. This separation served as a catalyst for originating a movement towards buyer personas. In the last 15 years, these lines have been getting closer. The intersection of these two lines is beginning to happen.

B2B Marketing will no longer be able to pass off users as non-factors in procurement and purchasing. Their role in the purchase decision is expanding. Their influence is growing. At stake for B2B marketers and sellers is the ability to have brand and mindshare presence with users. Not having such presence may mean you will not have any presence.

What do you think? Is user marketing the next big thing?

(Need help with this new dynamic? Schedule time with me and a conversation to help you. I am very interested in getting your thoughts and perspectives on how this new trend will have impact. Please share widely – your peers and colleagues are trying to connect with users as well as buyers.)