Collaborative mindset now drives success in B2B tech

Complementary brands need to partner for mutual success

Erik Haroldson
SVP, Client Leadership
Kantar
Erik.Haroldson@kantar.com

Alexandre Momma
VP, Client Leadership
Kantar
Alexandre.Momma@kantar.com

Not that long ago, when the world was a little less connected, it was common to hear IT professionals say things like, “We are a Microsoft shop.” Or, “We are a Linux shop.” The motivation for a “pure play” was that everything would work well together if it came from the same brand while integration across “competitors” would be chaotic, at best. With the explosion of devices, cloud computing, and software-as-a service, the days of “pure play” environments are behind us. The new normal is an eclectic suite of solutions that customers expect to play well together.

Tech heterogeneity has been fueled heavily by broader buying points, facilitating the access to new services and technologies by business groups without necessarily requiring heavy input from IT. This is where SaaS (Software as a Service) shines. Activated with an online subscription, SaaS allows businesses to be faster, more agile and bolder in their innovation and transformational needs. IT teams are still relevant and often involved, but tech companies in the B2B space need to build meaningful relationships with multiple teams and audiences. This requires tackling different needs and speaking different business dialects to each stakeholder audience to maximize potential, making sure it all converges into a common business goal in the end.

Tech heterogeneity has also been driven by the consumerization of technology. The border between B2C and B2B is quite porous—as it is difficult to separate our work selves from our non-work selves—and we want it all to be available at our fingertips, on our mobile devices, instantly, with an experience that is seamless. In addition, our expectations travel quickly, as once we have enjoyed a solution, or level of service in one area, we immediately want and expect it everywhere else.

The fragmentation caused by tech heterogeneity is here to stay. Period. Technology brands can either do damage control by trying to extend the lifetime of their “pure play” offers, or they can embrace the change and focus on what they do best and establish partnerships that will complement what they don’t. Brands like Microsoft and Adobe have done this well and their collaborative strategies seem to be paying off. The brand from Redmond not only kept the leadership in the BrandZ™ B2B ranking in 2019, but it also grew its brand value by 25 percent, while the company from San Jose had the steepest climb in the B2B rankings, moving from No. 19 last year to No. 9 in our latest report. In fact, both brands have recently partnered together to challenge Salesforce in the CRM space. This is a very interesting space to watch in the coming years.

In such a tangled world, thriving in the new normal of heterogeneous B2B tech means that managing your brand is more important than ever. Customers expect a consistent brand experience across solutions, touchpoints, and channels. Customers also expect different brands to play well together. And, when defining the market more broadly to unlock growth, a strong brand has permission to play in new places, or partner in new ways—even if that brand no longer owns the device, platform, or entire ecosystem. The key is to understand and prioritize your investments in the areas you have the right to win—and own it.

1. MANAGE FRAGMENTED ENVIRONMENTS

They can be a huge challenge for businesses, and brands that deliver a seamless customer experience across multiple solutions will build stronger equity that is outcome focused in a product agnostic perspective.

2. EXPAND YOUR AUDIENCE RELATIONSHIPS

Expand relationships with business groups, as well as IT, and help them not only understand, but also translate the benefits your products can bring to the business.

3. PURSUE PARTNERSHIPS

They allow successful tech brands to prioritize and focus on areas where they can be strongest, and then build the right partnerships that will consolidate a simplified, relevant, and impactful solution.

4. BUILD YOUR BRAND

Create a consistent brand experience across touchpoints and omnichannels. A strong brand provides permission to play in new places, or partner in new ways, even if you don’t own the device or platform—a smart long-term investment for enabling growth.

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