Smart businesses that recognize the value of an outside-in perspective have long analyzed attributes like demographics and firmographics in an attempt to better understand their customer base. In particular, consumer marketers have tailored messaging around characteristics like age, gender, marital status, or household income. Business-to-business marketers on the other hand, logically focus their marketing messages on a different version of similar data for companies, like number of employees, industry, revenues, and growth rate.

While it’s still important for any business to comprehend the demographic and firmographic makeup of its customers, we’re now seeing marketers begin to adopt an invaluable new lens, called technography, that attempts to better understand a customer by analyzing their tech stack. By figuring out what a company’s technology stack says about them, managers can define technographic profiles and determine next-best actions that match each prospective customer. When they know which pain points their product(s) alleviate for which customers, they’ll be able to apply this data via deeper personalization.

Why does technography matter?

When it comes to consumers, you can glean valuable information from the dozens of technologies each individual uses. Are the people you’re trying to reach Apple or Android mobile users? Do they subscribe to Netflix or Amazon Prime? What apps or wearables do they use most? Retailers often leverage this technographic information to predict which customers are most likely to shop in store, online, or via mobile, and target messages accordingly.

It’s time now for business-to-business companies to take notice of this opportunity and look just as closely at their prospects’ and customers’ technology stacks. Everything from their office productivity and project management tools to their CRM and Marketing Automation systems can inform your go-to-market strategies and messages. You may even identify the next emerging role you should be selling to.

Technographic insight can be hugely valuable when you figure out what a company’s stack says about them. Do they prioritize scale over ease-of-use in their technology choices? We’ve seen some technographic signals act as an important proxy for things that are seemingly unrelated to the technology. For example, a financial tech firm noticed that Eloqua marketing automation was a predictive signal for its top prospects. The company is in a completely separate vertical, so it wouldn’t make sense to personalize messages about this platform, however it did help them deduce a few things. They recognized that companies running Eloqua tend to have a certain level of technical sophistication, and are usually big enough to be able to afford premium enterprise systems.

Of course, as business tools proliferate, understanding these nuances gets harder and harder. Artificial intelligence (AI) can help uncover clues that would be impossible to decipher with human brainpower alone. As Kevin Slavin pointed out in his TED talk about algorithms, there is so much data in our world today that we can’t possibly makes sense of it all without artful machine learning.

Putting technography to work

These technology signals are easier to track down than most people think. Data providers like The Big Willow, Social123, and Builtwith can build segments to reach companies that use particular web hosting, analytics, e-commerce, advertising, or content management platforms. And web crawlers like Ghostery offer simple Google Chrome extensions that let you easily see under the hood of a company’s web site to find out what technologies it is built on.

Once you have access to this information, it’s important to define technographic profiles and determine next-best actions that match each prospective customer. If you can figure out which pain points your product(s) alleviate for which customers, you’ll be able to share the right messages at the right times. For example, analytics company Looker builds out highly targeted campaigns focused on companies that use Amazon Web Services, including content specifically related to their key challenges. The more marketers take this personalized approach and focus on delivering a better customer experience, the more they’ll influence marketing to become a valued profession.

But it’s not just marketing campaigns that can leverage technographic data to their advantage, other exciting use cases for sales, business development, product management, and even human resources include:

  • Improving sales prospecting. When reps understand the technography of their leads, they can have informed conversations with more and more prospects. With the proliferation of “Shadow IT”, vendors are no longer just pitching CIOs; all kinds of business people are inundated with information about how various apps can help them do their jobs better. Wouldn’t it be great if those messages actually reflected a user’s true motivations and demonstrated how a particular offering would solve a true problem?
  • Identifying new markets. As companies reach the expansion stage, the first thing they want to know is where the ground is softest. By interpreting the stories told through customers’ technology choices, you’ll be able to spot new opportunities that can inform business development and product planning. For example, cloud-based learning platform Mindflash recognized potential demand for a Salesforce training program and, once it was ready, used technographic signals to easily identify which prospects to promote it to.
  • Informing decision-making throughout the business. Even beyond go-to-market opportunities, technographic insight can add real value in areas like cultural alignment. Knowing the individual technographic profiles of your employees and job candidates can tell you a lot about the technology disposition of your workforce and how well it aligns with that of the customers or partners you’re going after. If you identify areas where you need to do more training, you can avoid the productivity hiccups that often arise from technology disconnects between employees.

Technographic signals are under-utilized in most companies, but they represent a big opportunity to drive competitive advantage if leveraged properly. By looking at customers differently, businesses can develop a deeper understanding of them. Companies that use this insight can make a major impact on the customer experience, cultivating not only loyalty and retention but also bigger revenues and deal sizes.

Vik Singh is CEO of Infer. Prior to founding Infer, he was an Entrepreneur in Residence at Sutter Hill Ventures, and prior to that, he helped create and architect Yahoo BOSS, an open search platform that runs over 1 billion queries a month. In 2009, MIT’s Technology Review listed him as one of the Top 35 under 35 Innovators for his contributions to search.

Sean Zinsmeister is senior director of product marketing at Infer. He previously worked at Nitro where he developed and led a global marketing team.

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