When we think about what marketing does, B2B marketers have rightly focused on driving interest in their brand and producing content that matches a problem to their solution. The idea is that this makes it easier for prospects to identify their problem with the solution and begin the journey down the marketing funnel—usually some variation on Awareness, Research, Consideration, and Decision, otherwise known as ARCD.

In recent years, we’ve seen technologies crop up that help you take that same funnel and apply it to specific target accounts so that you’re focusing your limited marketing budget where you think you’ll get more from your investment. This adds precision to the way we market, but it doesn’t change the thinking that the goal of that content is to “drive leads down the funnel.” What if it’s not?

What if the single most important marketing-performance metric you should focus on isn’t closed-won deals but happy customers?

In our research into what buyers do and think throughout the technology-buying process, we found that technology buyers are different:

They’re highly aware and don’t flow through a traditional funnel: IT pros are always researching and consider themselves up on technologies that solve problems they anticipate their organization will have. That means that when they’re ready to solve a problem, they already know which tech they’re going to assess.

Advocates are the most trusted source of information at each stage of the buying lifecycle. And IT pros trust peer and third-party recommendations most, above case studies and customer testimonials, both of which rank above other marketing content.

Two different types of advocates exist: public and private. Public advocates are the ones you know about because they talk to you. They participate in your case studies and they give testimonials. You see their recommendations on social channels. Private advocates, who are far more common, fly under marketing’s radar.

We’ll publish more findings in the coming months. For now, I’ll share that these insights helped us arrive at the 5A Framework for the Technology Customer Lifecycle.

What’s the 5A Framework for the Technology Customer Lifecycle?

The 5As make up our model for marketing to customer experience across the technology-buying process, which is different from and more complex than the typical B2B buying journey.

The 5A Framework diagram

The first thing you’ll notice is that we make Advocacy foundational. That’s because Advocacy is the core component—both the most influential content and the fundamental question marketers must address across the four other stages of the model.

Advocacy is the point when a prospect or customer has enough experience with a technology to feel that they can talk about it privately or publicly, positively or negatively. That can occur at any stage, even before they have actually purchased or when they are no longer a customer.

The next thing that will likely jump out at you is that we included Attrition. That’s because we found a critical moment for marketing in the process of abandoning a technology, and because abandonment can occur at multiple points in the customer lifecycle. Attrition most often occurs when a product has run its course, but it also can occur because of poor engagement post-sale by the vendor. This is the second most common reason cited by IT pros for abandoning a technology.

Here’s a quick rundown of how we define the stages.

Awareness: the point when a prospect or customer knows about a product or service and understands what it does.

Assessment: the period when a prospect or customer actively gathers requirements for a potential solution to an agreed-upon problem and considers their alternatives.

Adoption: the period when a customer makes a final decision and begins deployment.

Attrition: when a customer reaches the point where they decide the technology no longer works for them.

To learn about how we validated the structure of the framework, download the 5As brief.

To find out more about what this means for your marketing, read about what “customer experience” really means.

Read about customer experience for B2B tech