Ah, the good ol’ days, when technology customers just wanted smaller, faster, and cheaper.  Well, they still want that, but that’s not all they want. They want business outcomes: the differentiated business capabilities that technology makes possible realized with minimized risk.

Today’s business technology buyers are embedding technology deeper into their organizations. They’re using technology to not just record business, but to uniquely mediate customer interactions, stream offerings, and shape market futures.

These differentiated business capabilities are complex, requiring customers to effect a multitude of trade-offs, implementation choices, and organizational changes. The journeys businesses take to achieve differentiated capabilities are uncertain. Outcomes, therefore, often are unknown.

Business technologists have learned the hard way that happy outcomes are not achieved simply by purchasing the right stuff. The real challenge is to successfully transform technology investments into business capabilities, at the least cost, risk, and time.

Ultimately, business technologists have learned that outcomes are co-created by vendors and users.

But most vendors are still set up primarily to sell products. Product portfolios, marketing activities, and sales behaviors still presume that customers largely are passive in the value-creation process, as though the act of buying and achieving outcomes was one and the same.

Most vendors simply do not try to sustain engagement across a customer’s entire outcome lifecycle.

Forrester’s research shows that business technologists increasingly are basing purchases on whether or not a supplier demonstrates an understanding of an outcome: the desired capability and the challenges to achieving it. Traditional foci on executive relationships and product reputation, for example, are fading.

Tomorrow’s leaders in the business technology industry will be the first to evolve engagement models capable of sustaining commercial relations from problem to outcome. That doesn’t mean that outcome-oriented engagement will be entirely based on services; although services are becoming more important. It does mean that technology suppliers will have to put more of their business in service to customer outcomes, which will guide decisions about which products to build and how to market, sell, and deliver them.

How are tech marketers going to be affected? The transition to outcome-oriented engagement will mean that you’ll have to:

  • Put customer needs, not product offers, at the center of marketing strategies.
  • Market beyond the sale, all the way out to customer adoption.
  • Recognize that innovation is not something that takes place in labs or development groups, but occurs in customer locations through the work of real people in real roles.
  • Presume that customers increasingly are going to acquire information from peers, and not through controlled messaging.
  • Complement your technology brand with engagement commitments.

Are there other things? Of course. What are you doing to engage your customers differently?