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Insightful research, flexible data, and deep analysis by a global SMB IT Market Research and Industry Analyst organization dedicated to tracking the Future of SMBs and Channels.

Techaisle study reveals four pillars of midmarket digital transformation

Operational efficiency, employee empowerment, customer intimacy and product innovation form the four pillars of digital transformation within US midmarket (100-999 employees) firms. Techaisle’s unique study, US Midmarket Digital Transformation Trends, provides readers with statistically-significant and current data on digital transformation. A sample of 876, outstanding for a single country, midmarket-specific research initiative, considered accurate at a 95% confidence level (19 times of 20) at a margin of error of +/- 3.3%. The study reveals details about the four foundational pillars of digital transformation along with drivers, motivations, challenges, inhibitors, and business outcomes.

The first step in understanding the potential of a technology trend is identifying the extent to which technology aligns with or supports executive ‘care-abouts’: technologies that connect directly to C-level objectives are most likely to obtain corporate support. Taken together, the size/robustness of the data makes it the most reliable source of information on digitalization adoption in the US midmarket (100-999 employees).

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SMB market is not a monolith – 32 percent are in Advanced IT sophistication segment

  • ‘The’ IT market is comprised of many segments: large enterprises act at a different pace than SMBs.
  • The ‘run rate’ revenue in the IT industry is attributable to products that are mature, accessible to buyers in all segments.
  • In many cases, the IT industry focuses on new product categories (e.g., IoT) appealing to sophisticated buyers as growth drivers.
  • For the most part, adoption begins in large accounts, and ‘filters down’ into SMBs over time.
  • Techaisle research demonstrates that the SMB market is not a monolith – and provides the insight needed to understand advanced IT adopters within the SMB community. And trend analysis serves as an important illustration of the impact that IT’s relentless progress has on different buying segments within SMBs

IT products are often described as having ‘a market’ – but ‘the’ IT market is comprised of many segments, each of which has its own approach to IT adoption. Some industry sectors (e.g., aerospace) tend to move faster than others (e.g., retail); large enterprises tend to adopt technology earlier than SMBs; and different countries and regions invest in new technologies at different rates.

Unless/until they are supplanted by new solutions, mature IT products (e.g., printers, desktop computers) are acquired at about the same rate by all buyers: large enterprises, SMBs, and various industries all have well-defined needs and acquisition patterns for these technologies. These technologies generate the majority of ‘run rate’ revenue in the IT industry.

When IT industry growth opportunities are discussed, the focus often turns to earlier-stage technologies – witness current enthusiasm over IoT, analytics/Big Data and cloud. Sellers of these technologies tend to focus on advanced segments (large accounts, particularly in leading-edge industries). SMBs are generally viewed as a secondary market. 

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Influencing the SMB non-IT C-level buyers requires careful marketing mix

Over the past decade, there has been an explosion in the number and types of information sources available to SMB IT and business decision makers. It is no longer the case that these ITDMs and BDMs can be moved predictably through a process that starts with an initial inquiry and progresses through education to qualification and to a sale. Instead, technology buyers are increasingly self-educated and make contact with a supplier, not with an initial inquiry, but with a fully-formed request.

Techaisle’s survey of 1120 US SMBs, 360 on Balance of Authority: decision cycle, shows that SMBs engage with IT supplier at 50% decision stage. In fact, worst still, the IT supplier’s and channel partner’s role begins in when price, deployment & support are the only points left to discuss.

Techaisle’s corresponding survey of 1246 US SMBs, Influencing the SMB buyers’ journey, shows that “Campaign marketing” has become a relic of an earlier age, replaced by a content marketing brew combining “thought leadership” (to engage new prospects) and ‘digital discovery’ (to ensure visibility for the thought leadership).

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Role of BDMs in SMB IT solution adoption

Typically, IT suppliers focus on product or service transactions – the point at which a buyer commits to a contract with a specific seller. IT vendor compensation plans are structured around the transaction, and lead funnels captured in CRM and marketing systems coalesce around this event. And because IT professionals are often engaged in signing contracts for IT products and services, vendor sales and marketing initiatives often key on the IT function.

From a buyer’s perspective, though, the solution adoption cycle is much longer, and commitment to a specific product or service is less important than establishing the business context that drives the need for investment, and the processes needed to ensure that the business obtains anticipated value from this investment. Before they commit to a contract, organizations need to identify the need for a new solution, align the need with strategic and operational plans, and identify and evaluate solution options. Once the product/service is acquired, the buyer’s process continues: the business still needs to deploy the new technology, train IT and business users on its features, evaluate the effectiveness of the solution in meeting current requirements, and optimize the solution over time to maximize returns.

Techaisle conducted a unique survey of SMB organizations. To understand the current state and implications of distributed IT influence and authority, Techaisle surveyed roughly equal numbers of business decision makers (BDMs) and IT decision makers (ITDMs) across seven employee size categories, and then analyzed results to create a unified view of the new decision authority realities.

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