Much of the news coming out of the technology sector these days is not good. Mass layoffs at many of the largest technology companies as they underperform in the marketplace, data breaches and other cybersecurity threats, and even failure to deliver on sustainability and customer experience promises are driving public trust down. Yet, a difficult economy typically pushes organizations to reduce their cost of doing business, which is best enabled by streamlining processes with technology.
As a technology provider, you’re likely feeling a little perplexed as you gaze ahead into 2023. How will you navigate this economic climate when your customer’s trust is historically low? Furthermore, as technology innovations march onward, which do you need to pay attention to? Which should impact your product lineup? And, which new products and services offer the best hope for growth and profitability over the next 12 months?
It can be tough to cut through the clutter to really clarify the best strategies for you. But you can do it! And, you can have your best year yet—when you thoughtfully match your core strengths to your customer’s current needs in a way that builds trust and partnership. Let’s dive deeper into what’s happening to customer trust, how to make money in any economic situation, and how three specific strategies can offer you hope for a strong performance in 2023.
Declining trust changes the tone of interactions
Last year, we hit a new low, and it’s an important one to consider in your business strategy. The Great Resignation, the highest inflation seen in more than 30 years and companies’ failure to grow wages alongside the increase, government infighting at the local and federal level, and even growing uncertainty related to international relations and global economic stability marked 2022 as a bit of a wild ride. It’s left most of us tired and frustrated, resulting in historically low levels of trust in business and government. Analysts forecast further declines, with Forrester expecting customer trust to fall an additional 15% in 2023.
How does low trust impact your opportunity? Customer trust is a measure that indicates how strongly your customers believe that you can actually help them with their problems. The decline indicates that technology is no longer seen as the “magic bullet” that helps companies reduce costs during tough economic times. This means that businesses who would have turned to your product offerings to help them in the past, won’t seek you out this year. And, conversations with potential buyers will require more reassurance and proof that you can actually do what you claim before you’re able to ink a deal.
But, an overall decline in customer trust doesn’t have to spill over into your existing customer base—or even your relationships with potential buyers—if you plan for it. You can prioritize strategies that build partnerships with customers and prospects and demonstrate that you’re able and willing to work closely with them to ensure profitable outcomes on both sides of the relationship.
You can make money in any economy
The news about hard financial times is everywhere. Whether you’re currently worried about appropriately compensating longtime employees for inflation-based wage erosion or you need to figure out how to find new revenue on a significantly smaller sales and marketing budget, 2023 comes with clear economic challenges. In fact, IDC now tells us that four out of five CEOs globally (79%) expect a recession.
If you’re tempted to panic every time you turn on the financial news these days, take a deep breath. It is possible to be profitable no matter what the overall market is doing, and I think it’s worth the reminder that economies are cyclical. As HK Bain, CEO at Digitech Systems recently stated, “Recessions are vitally important to healthy economies. Businesses can emerge from recessions stronger than they entered with an opportunity focus.”
So, how do you run counter to the downturn and make 2023 a profitable one? Focus on your strengths and do more of what is working to bring in new revenue and build customer trust.
Now is a great time to check in with yourself. The following questions can help.
- What are you really good at?
- Which of those capabilities are unique to you/your business?
- How can you package that benefit for consumers?
- Are there any underperforming or unprofitable product lines that should be eliminated?
- Where should you be upselling your existing customer base to protect revenue and revenue potential?
Armed with a better understanding of the value you bring to customer relationships, you can more effectively focus all of your employee efforts on ensuring that every customer interaction adds value for them and for you. It’s only when you consistently communicate and demonstrate your investment in a successful partnership that you’ll really earn the trust that is so necessary for a successful and profitable relationship with each of your customers.
Three strategies to focus on
Lest I leave you with empty reassurances, here are three specific business strategies that should be among your top priority focuses this year.
1. Build trust by selling to B2B customers where they are
The 2023 B2B customer doesn’t look like the customer of 2013 … or even 2018. Today’s buyers are more “autonomous, independent, and digitally driven” than ever before. In fact, leadership experts at Vistage now report B2B customers make 70% of a buying decision without ever talking to a human being, preferring instead to self-guide discovery and learning online. This leads to some specific actions you can take to better align the buying experience you offer with the one your prospects expect:
- Reset marketing to focus on providing digital support for the first 2/3 of your buying process online. This might include increasing multimedia content online (such as recorded product demos and customer testimonials), a more effective visitor journey on your website that leads prospects on a sensible trail from high-level to more in-depth materials, or even setting up e-commerce buying options where appropriate.
- Every conversation a prospect has with a salesperson before they get to that 70% mark could be seen as “interference” in the buyer’s preferred process. This year, focus your sales team on reducing buyer friction by eliminating unnecessary interactions wherever you can.
- Finally, to better serve the needs of today’s B2B tech buyer, laser focus sales efforts on customer-centric support. Individuals who specialize in high-level or introductory product demos should be retrained to evaluate and then dive into unique customer environments and explain how your products can be customized to meet specific needs.
2. Make automation your core message
As you consider your strengths, process automation should be among them, because automation helps businesses deal with the squeeze between increasing customer demands and tight resources due to the recession. As an organization offsets mundane tasks to technology, they increase the opportunities their human workforce has to take part in meaningful work, leading to better results from every person the company employs. It’s a compelling message that stands out in a crowded marketplace. Your automation strategies:
- If you don’t currently offer process automation technologies, prioritize adding workflow, artificial intelligence (AI), intelligent capture, and robotic process automation (RPA) to your product lineup in 2023. Best case scenario: get all of these additions through one technology vendor to streamline your own purchasing and vendor relationships.
- Adjust marketing messaging everywhere to associate your brand with process automation. In 2023, it’s a more important message than capture, digital transformation, cloud…pretty much everything else. This adjustment includes a thorough rewrite of all your online content, the focus of your social media and advertising efforts, and even the words coming out of your salespeople’s mouths as they speak with prospects. Link every product and service you offer to process automation.
3. Understand the role microservices will have in healing trust
Analysts have been talking about a fundamental shift in the way companies buy and pay for technology for the last few years. However, it may not yet be on your radar, because each analyst uses their own term to describe it: composable technology (Gartner), flexible consumption (Deloitte), consumption as a service (IDC), etc. Most of the developers I know call it microservices. What is everybody talking about?
Estimates indicate that the average business uses fewer than 20% of the available features in the technologies they buy and over time, software products have become stuffed with useful features. The challenge lies in the fact that the 20% getting used is a unique collection of features and capabilities at each company. In a year where tech spending will be under the microscope, the perception of money wasted on “overly complex” technologies is one we can’t afford.
Enter microservices. The idea is to architect software in a way that allows customers to activate and buy capabilities in much smaller bundles instead of paying for licenses to whole “products” as we do today. Called Packaged Business Components (PBCs), these small feature bundles can be activated as needed and grouped in virtually any combination. As this new architecture goes mainstream and starts to emerge in the information management products we sell, our customer will be able to ‘build their own products’ in the sense that they will pick and choose the features they need and be billed based on what was actually used.
Think it won’t catch on? Gartner disagrees. Their research indicates that at least 60% of businesses are interested in shifting at least some of their digital infrastructure to this consumption model.
Microservices offer us a chance to further increase trust with our customers. Our role, as technology providers, will shift from “closing deals” to working alongside customer businesses to help them identify and leverage the right feature combinations as they go along. When business goals change, so will their technology needs, and we need to be there to assist. It’ll also shift our revenue patterns. We need to spend some time now figuring out this emerging trend so we’re ready to profitably adjust our businesses to suit the future of technology buying.
When people ask me why I’ve been in this industry for so long (almost two decades), I typically say that one of the reasons I’ve stayed is that I believe we offer products and services that provide real value to our customers. Whether you sell basic scanning services and hardware or offer incredibly complex technology packages to meet intense customer needs, our offerings actually do help organizations to save money, improve efficiencies, reduce risk, and create better employee and customer experiences.
As you look ahead to 2023, the value you bring creates a solid foundation for outstanding customer relationships. Spend time this year re-focusing your marketing, sales, and implementation efforts on providing legendary customer service that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with your customers in working toward positive financial outcomes from their technology projects. When you do so, you’ll not only build more trusting partnerships, you’ll also find that your financial results take care of themselves no matter what’s happening in the overall economy.
Christina Robbins is Vice President of Communication Strategy and Marketing at Digitech Systems LLC, one of the most trusted choices for intelligent information management and business process automation worldwide. Celebrated by industry analysts and insiders as the best enterprise content management and workflow solutions on the market, Digitech Systems has an unsurpassed legacy of accelerating business performance by streamlining digital processes for organizations of any size. For more information visit www.digitechsystems.com.