The Marketing Strategist:

So, You Want to be the Digital Transformation Partner of Choice?

December 7, 2017

  • Featured Article

The noise from top technology, communications, and B2B services firms proclaiming their leadership in digital transformation is nearly deafening. Every firm is jostling for position as the “digital transformation partner of choice” for their clients and prospects. Conversations with top marketers at ITSMA’s recent Marketing Vision 2017 conference suggest that the noise will only grow louder in 2018.

The good news for marketers is that the field remains surprisingly open. According to ITSMA’s recent How Buyers Choose survey, “I don’t know” is currently leading the pack. When we asked 417 buyers of high value technology and business solutions which firms they view as experts in digital transformation, nearly two thirds had no reply. Even IBM, standing at the top of the list, has garnered only 12.5% mindshare with this group of senior-level business decision makers.

experts digital transformation 

The more challenging news from the ITSMA study, however, is that building the desired reputation is a daunting task indeed.

The research suggests three issues in particular to consider as you move into 2018:

  • The status of digital transformation initiatives
  • One size does not fit all
  • Strategic rhetoric vs. purchasing reality


The status of digital transformation initiatives

 Even as buyers have difficulty naming experts in digital transformation, the vast majority claim to be well along in their own journey. Only 20% of survey respondents stated that they are just getting started or in the early testing stage. Rather, some 41% said they have executive sponsorship and are already making systematic investments, and the rest are even further along the journey.

digital transformation status

Connecting with an increasingly mature audience requires a credible, sophisticated, and differentiated story, with clear demonstration of expertise that supports further transformation.


One size does not fit all

At the same time, the status of digital transformation efforts varies by industry and by customer within industries. For example, consumer goods and retail companies are moving faster than manufacturing firms.

digital transformation status table

We see differences by country, too. One-size-fits-all marketing is not an option. Within the context of a compelling overarching story, marketers need to fine-tune their approach to different industries, regions, stages of transformation, and accounts.

Depending upon the evolution in each market, marketers will have to adjust their emphasis on education/thought leadership, lead generation, and account development. With different marketing goals, marketers will also need to adapt their metrics.


Strategic Rhetoric vs. Purchasing Reality

Finally, for all the attention on digital transformation, the reality is that the purchase of more traditional business and technology solutions vastly outweigh transformation solutions.

The three most often purchased services and solutions valued at $500K or greater, according to our How Buyers Choose survey, are IT security, cloud computing, and systems implementation/integration. Only 20 percent of the buyers report that they have recently purchased digital transformation consulting or solutions.

solution purchases

Likewise, only 20 percent of the survey respondents have purchased analytics and business intelligence solutions, including artificial intelligence. Another 12% have purchased robotic process automation (RPA) solutions. This leaves a lot of customers who are buying the more traditional services!

One could argue that cloud computing, purchased by 33% of the survey respondents is the underlying architecture for digital transformation. But IT buyers purchasing cloud solutions don’t necessarily have digital transformation on their minds. Aiming digital transformation messages at this audience will likely miss the mark.

As you pivot towards digital transformation solutions, be sure not to go too far and neglect everything else.

Want to go deeper into ITSMA’s latest How Buyers Choose data? Check out the full research report, Understanding Changing Buyer Behavior: Marketing Priorities for Improving Engagement. The report is available at no charge to anyone from an ITSMA member company and for sale to others. An Abbreviated Summary is available at no charge to all.


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