Ruins of citadel in amman representing marketers left behindRecently I read an article called “Godless Barbarians at The Gates of IT” by Ryan Skinner from a UK-based agency called Velocity Partners.

In the article, Ryan talks about how consumerization, the cloud and the real-time needs of startups are creating such a high rate of new technology adoption that it is out-pacing our ability as marketers to react and respond, let alone get ahead with effective strategies.

The author proposes that “the Enterprise IT market may have left us Enterprise IT marketers behind…”

Here’s a review and my take but I would love to hear your thoughts…

The argument goes like this:

  • Companies have sprung up in just the last few years that allow users to buy software services over the cloud directly. One example cited is Dropbox, which I use on my personal PC to synchronize and backup photos, music I’ve licensed and other important documents across multiple devices. He cited another example of a company called Karmaspehere which allows users to by Business Intelligence to massive data sets and you can purchase access by the hour.
  • IT innovations like in-memory computing, cloud computing and the consumerization of IT are well documented, this is about a whole new buyer or new “persona” that most IT marketers ignore
  • The author calls these buyers the “Godless barbarians” who navigate the buying journey with significant differences than the traditional IT buyer.

The emergence of this new buyer has come to fruition in stages:

  1. The consumerization of IT has largely been a story about hardware and software vendors and subtle references to “consumer” wants and needs but little definition of the new buying paradigm
  2. The “Barbarians” are causing a groundswell because, the author says “they’re using Mailchimp. Basecamp. YouSendit. WordPress. Smallworlders. Workday. Wildfire. Because they work.And because you can buy them off the shelf and start using them tomorrow.”
  3. They consist of impatient, competitive, frustrated, skeptical, confident and liberated enter-preneurs who expect to see value from a service at the moment of purchase.
  4. Companies marketing to them are increasingly understanding the new “consumerprise era where consumer simplicity meets enterprise power.”
  5. The marketing formula includes social media and online tactics such as credits when you “sign up a friend” (this is how I found Dropbox) but the author also states that companies who gain IT’s approval may move more quickly to adoption.

The Call-To-Arms

The author concludes this first in a series of articles by advising us enterprise IT marketers to target the Godless Barbarians, not the traditional IT buyer. To allow the barbarians to pick up and use your cloud solutions easily, to make products that barbarians want to sneak into their companies, to develop for mobile and to focus on the Godless Barbarian persona in your marketing efforts.

My View…

covered Velocity over a year ago when they gave me access to their B2B Marketing Manifesto. And here they are again, stoking the provocative nerve of B2B Marketers.

I read this article last week and it’s taken me this long to process it. I told Doug Kessler, Velocity’s Creative Director that this article “scared me” when I first read it. Not because I disagree, but because I don’t believe most of us are ready for the implications.

But I intuitively agree with these conclusions and think we need to start getting ready… Today!

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About Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is the Vice President of Global Marketing for SAP where he leads content strategy and serves as the managing editor of the company’s award-winning Business Innovation thought leadership blog site. He is also the author of B2B Marketing Insider, a contributor to Forbes and a frequent speaker at industry events covering topics such as marketing strategy, social business, content marketing, digital marketing, social media and personal branding.  Follow Michael on Twitter (@BrennerMichael)LinkedInFacebook and Google+ and Subscribe to B2B Marketing Insider by Email

12 Comments

  1. Doug Kessler said…

    Great review — and thanks for adding to the debate.

    I do think it is scary for any company marketing technology to enterprises.

    If you don’t come up with some ways to get your tech into the actual users’ hands without IT mediation, someone else will. But IT people have probably been your most important prospects until now. SO you can’t just go around them without risking alienating an important influencer.

    Thanks again for this one, Michael. Thoughtful as ever.

  2. Tony Zambito said…

    Hi Michael,

    Another provocative post – I believe they have and in our work with high tech we’ve seen evidence that this new buyer – as your refer to – is operating independent of what we see as convention. At the risk of generalization, I see buyers becoming more and more like this in all industries in the future.

    Tony Zambito
    @tonyzambito

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Thanks Tony, I was hoping you would see this article. Only through the kind of research and expertise like you bring to the table, would businesses even know that this shift is occurring. More support for the need to map the buyer journey!

  3. Marketeers will NEVER be left behind ’cause the “markets” all chance so fast, along with tech, that the customers will ALWAYS need guidance and prefer to outsource that work!

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Hey Bruce, good point. Maybe I should have said, marketers risk losing touch with the consumer and buyer they are attempting to reach unless they pay attention to the changes in buyer behavior – no matter what industry you are in…

  4. Mark McClure said…

    The barbarians are already inside the gates and it will take more than an IT Praetorian guard to stop them…

    Business buyers of tech need IT to link together solutions and infra to make it cost-effective and secure (very important!), but there’s some doubt as to whether ‘IT’, per se, will remain in-house specialists or become an ‘off-the-shelf’ resource pulled in when demand necessitates.

    It makes for an increasingly diverse and fragmented buyer/influencer universe.

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Thanks Mark, you are absolutely right it makes for a diverse and fragmented buyer universe, keeping many of us marketers employed! Now let’s just hope we can get ahead of the curve (or at least stay with it) and actually meet the needs of these emerging types of buyers.

  5. Walter Adamson said…

    Yes I agree with Tony and Doug. The new buyers are not where most larger IT enterprise sellers have their connections and contacts. They have to be found by other means, predominantly social. Hence the rise of social selling strategies and processes, distinct from social media marketing flogging widgets on Facebook Pages. This is transformational, and will take real commitment from vendors, and some folks won’t be able to make the change.

    On the other hand. The socialisation of the major enterprise and workflow apps will still require the skills and organisation of the IT groups and vendors. All the tidbits taken up in the “unofficial” computing steams cannot be integrated by those by those groups. They key is how to work with them not against them.

    I like your comment that ” companies who gain IT’s approval may move more quickly to adoption”. Think Yammer, and the problems it causes itself by not following this edict.

    Walter @adamson
    @igo2 Group

  6. Ryan Skinner said…

    Roger Warner commented on our blog about the prosumer. Christian Vorace refers to the consumerprise. Doug said: the Godless Barbarians are us. Mark McClure said we’re already at a point of no return.

    What I think I’m seeing is this: A rapid and irreversible shift in the business technology market, towards a more consumer tech model. There’s a bridge to be crossed. Will existing enterprise tech companies cross it? Or will they be superseded by smaller, more consumer-friendly outfits who disintermediate them?

    I hope to talk to a couple of both. Thanks for this excellent summary, Michael, and I hope you’ll follow along with the story.

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Ryan, trust me I have subscribed so I know the moment you publish upcoming posts. I agree with the shift and I think we could have seen this coming with a real understanding of the trends in b2b buying behaviors, social interactivity, the democratization of information and the disintermediation of the media and other sources of information.

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