Tech Marketers: Build Trust..Publish It At Least 3 Times

April 8, 2010

Trust is the foundation for all business relationships, I am pretty sure no one will argue this thought.

The most common and effective form of building trust is usually the one-on one meeting between your sales team and the customers and prospects. In fact, for those that remember, this is how the tech business really established itself. The tech buyers would meet with a variety of sales people from various technology companies. They would be handed brochures and reports, sometimes even case studies. Most of the collateral was real techy, but the sales team would establish the trust through conversation and their ability to demonstrate their expertise.

So why am I talking about this. Because this doesn’t happen as often as it used to. Tech buyers are doing their own research ( most of it on-line) to scope out providers that can deliver the solutions they seek. The tech buyers have taken more control over how the relationship can start, leaving your sales team limited opportunity to establish this trust. In fact, now we have business decision makers also in the process that need to trust your technology solutions as well as your company. Again, with limited opportunity to actually meet with them on-on-one doesn’t usually occur until they are half way down the decision-making process.

This is where Tech marketing folks come in to the picture. With limited opportunities to have ono-on-one interactions with tech buyers, the marketing department needs to create the conversations and build trust through their marketing efforts. This is not easy and requires a dedicated strategy to nurture the prospects and reaffirm the customers against buying decisions. Messaging must address the targets business issues and be delivered in a transparent tone. I have said it before and will say it agin, Content is King. Your messaging must be relevant and include proof ponts to build your credibility.

Most importantly, the frequency of your marketing needs to be ramped up. More frequency is critical to ensure your tech company has a commanding market presence and is easily accessable during the tech buyers search.

This point is further supported by A recently released Edelman the 2010 Barometer Report. Not that all of the information is geared towards B2B or even technology, but it does have something quite useful for tech marketers. Based on their annual survey, the report suggests that 60% of those surveyed need to receive a companies message 3-5 times in order for the message to become trusted. Those surveyed also suggested when asked which stakeholder should be most important to a CEO’s business decisions, 52 percent said that “all stakeholders are equally important”

So what does this tell us about building trust on how marketing teams can influence it.

First, beyond the relevance of your content, the types of messages you  build in your content need to come from different voices of your company, sales, marketing, your ceo, your tech experts etc..

Secondly, using multi-channel delivery can be very effective as long as you ensure you have frequency built into your plan.

Trust is something that is earned over time and common logic will tell you that frequent and consistent conversations with your prospects will allow you to build the trust you seek among your customer based.


Tech Marketers: Content Will Align Your Sales Teams

April 5, 2010

Well the first quarter has moved quickly in the technology sector and business has shown signs of renewal. But technology marketers still have many challenges ahead of them. The marketing budgets at technology companies still have not been fully restored and probably will not be for some time. The true challenge for tech marketers will be to transform your department to better serve and support your sales teams with strategies and tactics to nurture the tech buyers.

I have been meaning to share a quick summary of  ITSMA’s 2010 State of the Marketing Profession Address authored by President Dave Munn and Senior Vice President Julie Schwartz. Together these two share some great insight that identifies areas for improvement with tech marketers. Once again, it comes down to creating relevant content, a theme  I have been harping on for quite some time.

With tech marketers still strapped for budgets, all of us in the industry need to “do more with less”. I know it sounds cliché, but the CIO’s and tech buyers out there have provided the two authors with some actionable insights for all of us tech marketing folks to consider as we think through marketing strategies. For starters, below is a quick chart that summarizes top priorities of CIO’s in the 2010 year.

http://www.itsma.com/images/research/1003_strategistgraph.gif

It no surprise that enabling the sales force is in the top position. The discussion around aligning marketing and sales teams are becoming real corporate efforts at this point. Sales enablement allows the marketing teams to step towards this objective by supporting the sales departments with relevant marketing messages and tools so the sales force can generate and close leads. Isn’t this what the marketing team is supposed to be doing? In fact all three of the top priorities identified in this report can move an organization towards more sales and marketing alignment as these three focus areas tend to be shared goals of both departments.

Getting there will require marketing teams to alter their approach as tech buyers have become more savvy:

The Itsma report suggests that Tech Buyer behavior is changing .

The buyers have become, More powerful and knowledgeable, More selective, More Value conscious and seek insight and ideas
–Only 50% of buyers think the content and vehicles providers use to bring them new ideas are effective

For tech marketers to succeed, they will need to transform their approach by creating a content generation engine that:
–Integrate sales and marketing via the marriage of CRM and marketing automation

–Invest in marketing analytics to predict and improve results

By generating relevant content and integrated campaigns to generate leads you can support and enable your sales team to move your prospects towards the close. Reaching the shared goals of both departments and moving closer to alignment.


Tech marketers: The Only Expense Of Research Is Not Doing Any

March 29, 2010

I have seen this hundreds of times.

Tech marketers rushing to get their marketing programs out the door, developing programs because they need to present them to a board or senior management meeting. All focused on the creative, execution or tactical elements of a marketing program, perhaps,  with a touch of strategy. Listen up tech marketers, unless you understand your tech buying customers, you risk  painful marketing missteps. Slow down and do it right.

Because we know that effective marketing depends on a thorough understanding of your tech buying customers, regular research should be a core component of marketing strategy development.

In many organizations, research can be a very scary word drumming up thoughts of large budgets, elongated time lines and a contradiction to the “gut feel”. Of course, it’s possible to do way too much research.  That’s when you wind up with the paralysis by analysis situation.  But, many companies suffer from too little research and too much gut feel. That’s when some very bad decisions get made.

The good news is that high quality research that would have been affordable only for multimillion dollar enterprises just five or 10 years ago is accessible today.

Although it is possible to spend vast amounts of money on research conducted by high profile research organizations, it is much easier than you might think to conduct valuable research on your own.  Many tech marketers in both large and small organization can use these research gathering tactics to base  a new effort on or just tap into the customer base and double check your thinking. There are numerous online tools to create and deploy research studies.

Basics For Gathering Quick Customer Research

  1. Inexpensive e-mail- Most research has moved away from snail mail or even faxed questionnaires.  Each of these alternatives was relatively time-consuming; a mailed out study could easily take four to six weeks before results could be compiled.  You can have great results in just a few days.
  2. If you need to make a decision in a hurry and are worried that research will take much too long, not to worry.  Within a week or less you can create a questionnaire, deploy the survey, and analyze the results.
  3. Early online research tools were very difficult to use.  You now have several inexpensive and easy to use online tools with surprisingly rich functionality.  You can now do a filter or a cross tab in a few seconds that would have been agonizing five to 10 years ago.
  4. It may help if you or someone in your organization has research training.  However, online tools such as Zoomerang, Constant Contact or Survey Monkey make it easy to devise a reliable questionnaire.  In addition, they provide tutorials which teach research best practices.
  5. Even if your universe of potential customers is huge–say several million–you do not need a huge sample of respondents.  Three to four hundred respondents will provide reliable and projectable data. This is why Nielsen can project television viewership for such a small sample.
  6. You probably have a sizable database of e-mail names that can be used for your research studies.  Even if you don’t, companies like Zoomerang will give you access to a huge databases with highly detailed demographic data.  Moreover, Zoomerang will actually guarantee the number of responses that you want.

Is the time, effort, and expense worth it?  Absolutely!

Whether you are starting a business, launching a product, or creating a content marketing strategy, you must understand who your best customers are and what is most important to them.  Otherwise you’re flying blind.

Conducting reliable research is almost painless.  On the other hand, failing to conduct that research may be one of the most costly business mistakes you will make.


Tech Marketers: Where Should You Spend You Marketing Dollars

March 18, 2010

If you are similar to your marketing colleagues in technology, you are probably pressured to drive more revenue with limited marketing budgets. The constant challenge among many tech marketers is where to spend the very hard to come by marketing dollars. There always seems to be the best new tactical approach that can satisfy the need to drive revenue.  I have been in many meetings where trade show sponsorship, email blasting, SEO and SEM even telemarketing have been suggested as the “best ” place to spend these dollars.

With pressure to drive revenue it is very easy to look short-term and place your bets on the tactical approach that will drive the revenue the fastest, These are quick fixes and usually do not pan out with the desired results. So you find your self with less dollars to spend and now face the same challenges all over again, although with even tighter budgets remaining.

This is a very common issue among tech marketers and usually is a sign that a plan needs to be revisited.

All of these tactics may have great value to your revenue generating efforts, but taking a quick shot at them with out having a fully thought out plan can only lead to an endless cycle of short terms bets. Tech marketers, if you find your self in this cycle, it time to stop the activities and re-evaluate your plan.

Step back and confirm your target audience, find out what their issues are within their business. Ensure you have developed the proper messaging strategy that is relevant to the target’s issues and demonstrates  your organizations ability to solve these daily issues. Even better is if you can identify how your target consumes the various media you have been using on a short-term basis. Perhaps the majority of them don’t use trade shows within their decision-making process or love to read white papers. This understanding of media use among your target can influence the type of marketing vehicles that should be more effective over the long-term.

This may be very uncomfortable to stop daily activity, in fact it may raise questions from your counterparts in the organization, but by refocusing your strategic approach you will have a better idea of how to spend your limited marketing funds


Tech Marketers: The Right Mind-Set Drives Thought Leadership

March 16, 2010

As many of you tech marketers understand at this point, building credibility can positively impact the activities of your sales force. With a company wide effort to publish important and relevant content the sales process can be shortened by ensuring the tech buyers perceive your organization is leading the market and has deep expertise around specific issues. To be most effective with thought leadership, the marketing team needs to have a plan in place. I have suggested before that your team should think like publishers and put together an editorial calender outlining the topics to be covered throughout the year.

There is a large quantity of information regarding thought leadership on the web and I recently came across an article in marketing profs authored by  Paul Mckeon the president of The Content Factor. In the article, Paul outlines five best practices for generating thought leadership. He takes a different approach in terms of identifying the mind-set your organization should be focused toward to ensure a succesful thought leadership approach.

1. Clearly define your own brand of thought leadership

Before you embark, be sure you know where you are going. That means having a clear understanding of what thought leadership means in general, in your marketspace, and for your company. Such clarity will ensure that other key stakeholders in your organization follow you, and it will help them understand what it takes.

Experts agree that thought leadership is one of the most misunderstood, overused, and abused terms in business.

“Thought leadership is one of those terms people throw around with no idea what it means,” said Beverly McDonald, former chief communication officer at Infor, a $2 billion software company.

“People think it means repeating what has already been said in the marketplace and if they do it with more frequency they’ll rise above the noise. Or they think it’s an alternative way to get their name in the press when they can’t get attention with any real news. The bottom line for me has always been that you can’t be a great thought leader unless you have great thoughts.”

2. Be guided by generosity

Thought leadership is a commitment to a grander goal than lead generation.

On her blog, elise.com, Elise Bauer says that a spirit of generosity is essential to thought leadership, and it’s a good summary of the shift in mindset that should occur when a company makes the transition from business leader to thought leader.

“Thought leadership requires generosity of one’s time, intelligence and knowledge,” Bauer counsels.

Consider the phrase “a rising tide lifts all boats” as a mantra for your thought-leadership efforts, and understand that with a little patience your company will benefit from your work. Companies will look to you for insight and innovation. The media will quote you, and analysts will respect you. And rest assured that your brand will have earned a new credibility and glow that, although difficult to quantify on a spreadsheet, will build your company’s success over the long term.

3. Tell, don’t sell

In our post-credit meltdown marketplace, the consumer—whether B2B or B2C—is more skeptical than ever and can spot an insincere bit of “trust me” marketing a mile away. That is all the more reason for companies to exercise due diligence when starting a thought-leadership program. Be sure it is more “chalk talk” than “pep talk.”

For example, if whitepapers are part of the program, be sure you understand that they should offer objective analysis of an industry issue or problem, not promotion or technical documentation of your products. A whitepaper should accomplish the following:

  • Justify why the problem must be solved
  • Objectively explore alternative ways to solve the problem
  • Logically lead the reader to the conclusion that your organization has the knowledge, expertise, and tools required to solve the problem

4. Take yourself out of the story

Ken Anderberg, publisher and editorial director of Health Management Technology magazine, looks for people who take a bold stand on the issues when he selects contributors to the publication’s regular “Thought Leaders” column.

“The contributors should be presenting an overview that is not self-serving,” he said. “We’re looking for information that is useful for your readers, not a self-serving discussion of a company’s technology.”

5. Take risks; be visionary

Many companies measure a marketing effort’s success solely by how many leads it generates. That shortsighted view doesn’t take into account the longer-term return on investment of a thought-leadership program.

They are also apprehensive about sharing information that goes beyond what is contained in corporate collateral or on their website.

What they don’t stop to consider is that all organizations have a “secret sauce” or “family jewels” that set them apart, and keeping them locked away in the far corners of the organization is not the behavior of a true thought leader, especially not in today’s connected world.

Bottom Line: With the right mind set and expectations, your thought leadership can build your organization’s credibility and truly position itself as a thought leader.


Tech Marketers: Don’t Forget Traditonal Marketing

March 12, 2010

With limited budgets and staff counts, most technology marketers have been relying on social media as their main marketing initiatives. Rightly so, as the popularity of social media in marketing  continues to grow with more technology buyers taking this form of communication seriously every day.

But don’t forget about traditional marketing activities

While social media is an important element to technology companies marketing efforts, it’s not a complete replacement for traditional, proven forms of marketing . With its low-cost and seemingly widespread reach, it’s tempting to think social media can replace all other forms of marketing. But it’s important to remember that social media in and of itself isn’t a marketing  strategy: It’s only one marketing communication tactic

Marketing your technology should rely on a strategy that integrates your online and offline campaigns. A fully integrated strategy using both traditional and social media can take a message platform and build awareness, generate leads, nurture the target audience during a longer sales cycle and build credibility for your technology solutions.

Technology buyers consume media differently during their purchasing cycle. Traditional efforts such as vertical trade ads, direct mail even trade shows can build up awareness and create an established perception of your organization and technology solutions  during the early phases on the tech buyers purchasing cycle. If they are not aware of your organization, many lead generation effort can fall flat as there will be a hesitancy to react to an unknown organization. These traditional efforts can truly provide reach and air cover for the rest of your activities.

Driving leads using both direct mail and tele-marketing as an example,  as well as, on-line activities such as emails, blogs and seo/sem can work hand in hand to deliver an effective presence in the marketplace, all the while attempting to generate qualified leads among the tech buying audience. I am a strong believer that using “snail mail” still can be quite effective if the message and call to action are relevant to the audience. I also belive that strategically, using both on-line and off-line communication vehicles can enhance the response of each if coupled together within a campaign.

Certainly social media will allow your organization to continue the conversation and create relevant content in a quicker time frame than some traditional methods will allow. But both are important for success today. I suggest your organization should learn how to integrate both of these strategic approaches into a markeing plan to ensure you effectively reach your tech buying audience.


Tech Marketers: Top Reasons That Prevent Content Marketing

March 8, 2010

Content marketing is not going away so marketers in technology companies might want to pull a plan together to ensure they are communicating with their audience in a more relevant manner. In today’s tight economy ( although, it looks like it is getting better), budgets remain tight and limit the big message blasting available to most organizations. Content marketing is a viable alternative to reach your buyers in media that they consume and rely on for their information.

But, it is not easy. Developing consistent and relevant content relies on listening, analyzing and creating valuable information. Most organizations have a hard time setting up the structure to actually stick to the plan. To ensure you can successfully set up a methodology in your marketing department dedicated to content marketing avoid some of the common pitfalls listed below:

  1. Your company is set up to sell products or services, not to provide relevant and valuable information to customers and prospects. It takes a real mindset change to start thinking about your customers’ informational needs as part of your marketing strategy.
  2. You have well-worn marketing paths that are easy to follow.  Going off the beaten path into uncharted territory is intimidating.
  3. You have strong relationships with media partners that may go back decades.  It’s not easy to break those relationships by pursuing a brand-new content marketing strategy.
  4. The reduced effectiveness of traditional marketing may have occurred so slowly that no alarm bells have gone off within your organization. You also may think things will come back at some point.
  5. Many companies (possibly yours) aren’t measuring their marketing, so you may not even be sure what is and what is not effective. Hard to make any changes when you don’t know.
  6. You lack both the right people and the right processes to implement a new kind of marketing.
  7. You are reluctant to abandon traditional marketing tactics for what they may believe to be unproven content marketing or new media practices.
  8. You lack content marketing role models from whom they can learn best practices.
  9. You place very little value in marketing versus other aspects of the organization (operations, product development). Little do you know, that every part of the organization is affected by (or actually is) marketing.
  10. Even though I’d hate to think this one is true, I’ve seen it first hand…You have some real incompetent persons running marketing for your company that don’t have a clue about the needs of your customers or what to do about it. Before you can even look at content marketing, you have to ditch them.

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