I know you may be tired of all the trends round-up articles, but have you ever considered why so many journalists, analysts, and industry influencers take the time to share their thoughts? Trends can provide guidance to focus your business efforts on the things that are most likely to impact revenue growth. In other words, they’re a valuable shortcut to identify the strategies most likely to positively influence your business and to point out the threats you need to be prepared to avoid.
As the pandemic ebbs and flows, technology purchasing has changed from stopgap measures designed to support the rapid shift to remote working to now reflect a more considered and thoughtful approach to buying technologies that not only address today’s needs but also position the business to be successful over the longer term. For software resellers who support smart business information management, it’s become clear that the pandemic accelerated three existing tech trends that will affect sales opportunities and has triggered a fourth important trend to emerge.
Why is understanding trends important?
An awareness of buyer trends (in this case what’s happening with companies who buy new technologies like the ones you sell) can be a critical differentiator for business success, especially if you are an owner or leader who struggles with visionary or strategic thinking and the practice of looking five to 10 years ahead to guide today’s strategies. Trend information can be extremely helpful, because it rounds out your views with information from leading analysts as well as statistics about how buyers’ choices are already changing to reflect future needs. Think of the information as coming from your chief strategy officer when you sit down with your leadership team to create your next business plan.
While I think many resellers are aware of these market shifts and may already be executing plans to strategically adjust, others may downplay the significance of trends and consequently underestimate their own need to modify product lines and sales messaging in order to successfully close new opportunities going forward. How impactful can ignoring trends be? Consider the case of the video rental stores that were so pervasive in the 1990s but simply didn’t exist 10 years later. What happened? Their customers’ buying trends clearly signaled a preference for streaming content online, and companies that quickly adjusted their business models thrived, while those who insisted there would “always be a market for” video rentals ultimately didn’t survive.
As you read through this trend information, I encourage you to consider your own product and sales/marketing strategies in each area.
Three accelerating trends
Let’s take a look at the three most important accelerating trends likely to impact your revenue opportunities in 2022 and beyond.
1. Remote work is here to stay. Though only 10% of companies are likely to commit to a fully remote work future, Forrester estimates 60% of US businesses will attempt a hybrid work model. That means, flexibility in work location, sometimes called work-from-anywhere (WFX), will be the norm going forward. Just how important is it for you to leverage this trend in your marketing and sales messaging?
A record 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in November. Many families are adjusting their lifestyles to keep at least one parent at home, some older workers have decided to retire a little early rather than return to an office, and some are leaving jobs that don’t offer competitive pay or WFX.
If you don’t already, you should have full marketing campaigns built on a WFX message. This can and should include blog posts and other web content about how you helped existing customers shift to remote work when the pandemic began, email and hard copy pieces that detail how your offerings keep information secure when accessed remotely, additions to your product brochures and webpages, and more. Start by reaching out to existing customers who may not be leveraging the WFX capabilities in the products you’ve already provided. Then expand by using digital advertising and social media to get the word out to new buyers.
2. Seamless work-from-anywhere (WFX) is built on cloud. We’ve been talking about cloud for more than a decade, and it will continue to be the preferred delivery method for applications like enterprise content management (ECM) and process automation as we look ahead. It’s accelerating, because companies with cloud-based document management didn’t struggle to adjust when shifting employees to remote working environments at the onset of the pandemic. They simply did not need to change the ways they secured and accessed data in business processes.
Besides work-from-home advantages, why do customers prefer cloud? It is simpler to manage. Rather than paying internal IT resources to build extensive corporate networks, maintain one-off implementations of various technologies, and keep abreast of ever-shifting security concerns, businesses can outsource all that complexity and responsibility. For many companies, it’s also a better financial bet to spread the cost of purchase over many months rather than investing in a large capital expenditure up front. In Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Content Services Platforms, analysts noted, “Organizations are looking increasingly to modern, cloud-based solutions. Content services has been a traditionalist technology discipline for many organizations with on-premises or private hosted solutions being the most commonly deployed model. This is changing rapidly with a majority…now focused on cloud deployments … .”
Many of you may have shifted your core information management offerings to the cloud previously, so now is the time to find cloud-based products for related needs like process automation, AI, and capture services. As you vet potential technologies, make sure you’re clear on how seamlessly they integrate together. I always recommend looking for natively complementary tech — usually from the same manufacturer — to simplify implementation and support for both you and your customers. In addition, all of your marketing and sales materials should now lead with cloud options and benefits with a note that you can also provide software if a customer requires it.
3. Automating everything is the norm. In 2019, Gartner dubbed the 2020s the decade of “hyperautomation,” and the focus on workflow, RPA and other automation tools has increased ever since. In fact, the pandemic has significantly accelerated the need for businesses to automate every process they can, so that employees can be effective no matter where they’re working.
Integrating an automation message into your sales and marketing efforts requires a simple shift in language. Rather than talking about digitization, you’ll want to begin pitching and demonstrating how your solutions solve some of the challenges associated with slow or costly business processes. I recommend starting with accounts payable automation or HR onboarding as these are processes that are easy to understand even if they are not currently your area of expertise. Many resellers find that they can setup document management projects and indexes along with a best practices based workflow that can be used over and over as the starting point for new client implementations.
An emerging trend to consider: composable technology gains attention
Recently, analyst firms have started to discuss a shift in how companies buy technology. We’re moving away from buying licenses for products and toward paying for only the components or services that we actually use (estimated by software firm Pendo to be less than 20% of available features). Gartner calls it “composable technology” and Deloitte “flexible consumption.” Regardless of the term, it’s likely to catch on with both buyers and manufacturers. Why? Pendo estimates software companies invested $29.5 billion in features that are rarely or never used. Manufacturers will be able to better track feature usage and laser focus development spend on the features that customers really need. Customers benefit through the ability to “custom build” their technologies to focus spending on the capabilities they actually use.
Much like cloud changed the economics of the technology industry for everyone, this trend toward composable technology will begin to shift revenue patterns for technology resellers over the next few years. It’s an emerging trend to keep an eye on, so that you’re prepared and have already aligned your product offerings and business processes to accommodate this new revenue model.
Want to better reach potential customers? Want better revenue? Keep these buying trends in mind as you plan strategies, marketing and sales efforts in order to move where your customers are headed. You’ll position yourself as a valuable partner in their efforts to be successful now and in the years to come.