Apart from the obviously – very good looking, fabulous in neutral colours, thick hair that on a hot day can be warn in two giant buns. The marketing crew in a B2B tech company seem to punch way, way above their weight. Given their numbers, resources and access to funding, they are efficient, fast and generally all over it. Pretty, pretty impressive.
However keeping the dark forces at bay, day in and day out means it can be hard to put down your light saber and take a little brain holiday on a nice beach somewhere in Alderaan to think strategically about what marketing initiatives would significantly boost the growth of their business.
And this is important because growth is what it is all about in B2B tech companies right?
In an article ‘Grow Fast or Die Slow’ McKinsey and Company points out that ‘Growth trumps all for software and internet services companies. First, growth yields greater returns. High-growth companies offer a return to shareholders five times greater than medium-growth companies. Second, growth predicts long-term success.’
1. A brand recalibration
If its one thing marketing people understand its that a business needs a solid branding strategy. However as companies grow and competitors go head to head with innovation, it is easy to lose sight about what makes you special. What is at the heart and soul of your business and what do your customer want from you. Your brand position is the foundation for every single piece of communication that a business delivers; so if like the Millennial Falcon your brand becomes worn over the years it can effect your performance. So sometimes your brand needs a bit of a rebuild and an upgrade of the hyper drive motivator to make your marketing go faster.
So how do you know if your brand needs a recalibration. Answer yes or no to the following 3 questions
- Is your brand positioning authentically at the heart and soul of what your company does best?
- Does your brand directly address your target customers and have a motivating customer benefit?
- Will it appeal emotionally to your customer?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, you may need to look at bringing in some nuts and bolts to tighten up the old ship.
So to get started put on your strategic planning tool belt and get ready to do some mechanical work on your brand strategy.
STEP 1 – Start with a strategic planning workshop
Bring out the butchers paper, bring into one room the people with the most insights, e.g. CEO’s, Sales People, Account Managers but limit it to 6 because too many people throw out the dynamic.
In one column put Brand insights, in another column put Customer Insights and put relevant points into the columns as they come up.
Get the room talking about your products and services.
- functionally what do you deliver?
- who do you deliver these services too (this answer can never be anyone) you are looking to narrow down the field to some target customers?
- how do your products and services help your customers lives both in a business sense and a personal sense?
- what problems do your products and services solve?
- what are your customers pain points?
- why was the business started in the first place?
- what was the niche or problem that the business was trying to address when it started?
- when do you feel the most happy about what you have delivered to your customers?
STEP 2 – Talk to your customers
- how they feel about you
- what you do best
- what you do badly
- what would enhance their business
- what would make their lives easier
- why did they buy you
Once you’ve got enough information to fill the ozone layer hole over Australia you are now looking to distill it down into something potent. The only way to do this is through hard work and toil. Finding a branding positioning can have me rolling around the floor in agony as my mind struggles to find to gold amongst the stone but give it enough time and it will come to you like a magic piece of mind mail!
2. Making your high tech company look high tech
3. Content in human language and driven by a customer benefit
In a world that competes on innovation, it is easy to get caught up in talking product and features. Unfortunately humans find facts hard going. We like content that directly speaks to the benefit for us rather than having to work it out for ourselves.
So slide off your shoes and firmly plant them in your customers. What are their pain points, what would help them, what would make their lives easier, what would make them look good to their bosses. Focus on how your product or service benefits your customers and talk about yourself in a way that makes them need what you are selling.
For example if a key proof point for your brand is ‘Fast access to your office in any location’, express it as ‘allows you to work from anywhere at the touch of a button, for total flexibility and increased productivity’ or ‘Tailored to your business’ as ‘We know, that every business is different and a one size fits all approach can lead to time consuming work arounds, decreasing productivity and staff motivation. That’s why we stop at nothing to adapt our software to your business and the way you work’. Easy!
4. Consistency across every customer touch point
Nothing drives people away like inconsistency and this applies to potential and also existing customers. As a customer I want everything to align up OCD style wherever and whenever I come into contact with you. Whether that be your advertising and content right through to your customer service and invoicing. Knowing what I can expect from you every time builds trust and loyalty. It makes me feel secure in my purchase decision and once I’m a customer makes me a lot easier to cross sell other products and services to. This is both ascetically and emotionally. For example if your brand is positioned as high quality, friendly and easy to business with, the customers need to feel it all the time, not just on your website.
It’s helpful to map out your customer’s journey and run through it with a fine tooth comb making sure it looks and feels like a family. This can include but is not limited to
- When they first become aware of you – the advertising and content marketing that is pulling them into the sales funnel.
- Where they land after their first encounter – for example website and landing pages.
- Follow up experience – the value ad information that they are served after they make contact with you and the type of phone call they receive or the speed at which their requests are delivered.
- One to one sales- this would include your sales collateral and content.
- Onboarding process- the written materials and service.
- Ongoing communications to existing customers – things like emails, information, promotions.
- Invoicing – the written materials and delivery.
- Problem and resolution management – the service and speed of resolution.
5. Create an inbound marketing strategy
This is a big one and I’m just going to lay it out on the table. There is no long term lead generation method out there for B2B tech marketers better than inbound marketing. Inbound marketing is where customers find you through there own research instead of you getting all up in their face with advertising messages. While I don’t think you drop outbound marketing, inbound needs to be part of your arsenal. Here’s why
- B2B Marketers that use blogs receive 67% more leads than those who do not (source Hubspot)
- Google loves blogs. Blogs are littered with key words that google spiders can crawl across and index pushing you up the rankings
- Companies who blog receive 97% more links to their website, again pushing you up the rankings (source Hubspot)
- Blogs hang around. I am still a great believer in ‘Push’ Advertising and think it should work hand in hand with ‘pull’ advertising. However once you have finished a campaign, its all over red rover. Blogs stay on your site working for you whenever someone is searching in your sector.
- Inbound automation gives you the opportunity to build a relationship. It means customers are more likely to call because you have given them heaps of helpful information. It also means that if you call them you will be greeted with a warm and friendly ‘Hellooooo’ rather than a cold and guarded ‘Hi’ because they already know you.
So how to go about Inbound marketing
You can go it alone or choose a software program, for our clients we use Hubspot. Software programs systemise the way your do inbound marketing making all the moving pieces easier to keep ordered.
Set up Personas – you need to be super clear about who you are writing your content for, what they will be interested in. As a Hubspot partner we base our personas around this template
Once you know who you are writing for you can create a campaign by creating a longer piece of content, such as a video, an ebook, a template or an infographic that are helpful to your target audience. Remember to focus on keywords that will make your work easier to find.
Attach the longer piece of content as a download to a series of blogs that you can seed through social media, paid social media and digital platforms.We also advertise the ebook as a stand alone.
As a rule an inbound campaign runs for two months and every campaign needs 8-12 blogs and one long content piece.
It ‘s a long term play. It takes about 6 months of systematic, consistent inbound marketing for the tap to turn on, so the rest of your advertising still needs to carry you short term.
6. Channels to market
B2B communication has always been tricky. One because budgets are usually quite tight and two because your target market is often quite narrow, so putting up a billboard blasting out your message is both costly and has a lot of eyeball wastage.
This is possibly why high tech companies stick to using low tech media channels like trade press and trade shows. As a general rule however these are becoming less and less effective channels to reach your target market and come at a high cost compared to the newer channels. In a perfect world where budgets were bulging you could cover all bases but rarely is this the case. Where budgets are limited money spent on old school methods now needs to be allocated to online marketing. This will not only increase the amount of people you can touch but also puts you in an environment where they are open to your content.
The channels that you need to be active in are:
Social Media (but only the sites that your target audience is watching) – paid Social media that works all year round to amplyify your content. The beauty of social media advertising is at how deliciously targeted you can be, which in the area of B2B tech avoids horrible fund wastage
Digital Ads where your customers are – Drop trade press, when was the last time you read a trade magazine? Exactly. The majority of people are reading online. Write a long list of sites where your target customers will be including trade site and general news sites for your industry. Swap media money from Trade press to here.
eDM’s from trusted industry sources – eDM’s land straight in your customers personal space. If you can align yourself to another business, service, industry body or news site that your potential target market trusts, eDM’s can be absolute gold.
Email campaigns – cross selling new services to existing customers can be very effective. Creating an on-going dialogue with them and keeping them informed of things of interest can be even better. Never underestimate your existing customers desire to buy from someone they already know and trust.
Blogger outreach – Popular bloggers are very influential. Track down bloggers in your field and see if they open to a commercial relationship. Most are quite open to reputable companies advertising or guest blogging for a fee.
7. Social Media
Most are quite open to reputable companies advertising or guest blogging for a fee. Most B2B tech companies have a social media presence. Most need to ramp it up. The majority will only need to be across two platforms for posting and that is LinkedIn and Twitter but if your using a Social Media manager like Buffer why not throw Facebook in to be safe.
Posting and listening needs to be happening daily and can come from a variety of sources
- Your own work – seed your current blog, your old blog, videos, infographics, ebooks and any other in house content that would be interesting to your target audience
- Curating content – become your own publisher and get busy publishing other people work. Find interesting stuff that would benefit your target audience. Again use the old parameters ‘Engage, entertain or educate’. Just make sure you stay within the bounds of your brand.
- Share other people’s content – connect up with people and companies relevant to your industry. When you see content that is relevant to your target audience pop up, share and re-tweet away.
- Event based photos – pepper your curated content and own work with photos of things going on in the office or events that you have attended.
Finally, become part of industry groups where your target market are active and participate helpfully to discussions. Never sell always help.
8. Interesting, informative video
Good video can not only cut through the noise out there but also is a quick way for someone to form an emotional attachment to your business. If people are umming and aahing about which software to buy video can often push them over the line. Video has much higher engagement rates than static display advertising. Video advertising attracts a 1.84 click through rate compared to standard static display advertising at 0.08 percent. That’s a big difference.
Videos are also gold for one to one sales. With complex technology a video can help your sales people cut to the chase about the benefit that your product or service delivers.
9. Talk to your customers
Content and advertising thrives on customer insights. It is very difficult to create rich marketing without knowing your customers wants, needs and pain points.
At least every 6 months make a point of getting to know these people. People love to give opinions, take them out for a coffee, send them a survey with the opportunity to win a prize. Find out what their biggest issues are, what they would like more information on, what they love about you, what annoys them about you. It provides a wealth of meaty information to create fresh, meaty marketing from.