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: 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.

Tech Marketers: Dedicated Budgets For Content Development Are Rising

February 11, 2010

As a technology marketer, you should understand that content is the core of your integrated marketing activities. Tech buyers continue to consume information during their search and selection activities. Without having relevant information for these tech buyers, you’re risking your relationship and credibility among this target audience.

Just a reminder: Smart content marketing is a marketing technique for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined target audience. Instead of pitching your products or services with constant self-referential brand messages, content marketing offers the promise of information, making your buyers more informed. And if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their loyalty and business.

Your organization should have a content development plan in place and if you don’t, you should create the process quickly as many other business and technology marketing teams are already realizing the benefits of well planned content development. In fact, a recent article in B2B Magazine details a January 2010 study of business marketers and found that 59% of respondents plan to increase their content marketing budgets this year, up from 56% last year and 42% in 2008.

The share of total marketing budgets going to content marketing will increase to an average of 33% this year, up from 29% two years ago.

Regarding which channels companies are using for content marketing, the top platform is social media, which 72% of marketers are using. Other top channels are: e-newsletters (63%), blogs (63%), white papers (48%), article marketing (48%), case studies (46%), online video (42%), custom in-person events (31%) and microsites (31%).

Well planned content can enhance an integrated marketing effort ensuring your messages are delivered with trusted vehicles (in a few different ways) and over time, this consistent messaging will allow for better audience comprehension.

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Tech Marketers: Your First Impression Counts with CIOs

February 9, 2010

If you are marketing technology, here is another reason why your sales team needs you to focus on nurturing your target audience with a fully integrated effort.

The CIO Executive Council recently interviewed 277 senior IT executives in October and November 2009 to gain a better understanding of vendor solicitation. Although the full ” Field Report” results are to be published in February, the first look at the results solidify general thinking in the market. Over 50% of unsolicited cold calls by your sales force are found to be the most annoying first contact method listed by the senior IT executives. I don’t think this is a surprise since logic suggests that the target should have some understanding of your solutions and organization before they are contacted.

More importantly, these senior IT executives found that the caller was not prepared and had little knowledge of the targets’ organizational needs in half of the contacts that actually connected.

The list goes on in terms of unsolicited contact strategies deployed by technology marketers. Unsolicited emails, email content that added no value, voice mails that had no clear message were also stated in the survey as being ineffective in a first contact strategy. CMOs, are you experiencing this at your organization? This can be solved with marketing. The sales force cannot do it alone and needs your marketing team to lay the ground work for more successful interactions with the IT buying target.

When these senior IT executives were asked how a vendor should differentiate themselves when contacting CIOs, they listed off the basic content a marketing team is expected to create and distribute using a variety of marketing communications materials and tactics.

  • Name references that are relevant to our own company and known/respected by me
  • How their product cost or feature set is tailored to companies of our size
  • How their product fits with our current IT implementations or standards
  • How their product cost or feature set is tailored to companies in our industry
  • How their product is competitively different and superior
  • What they are already providing to companies like ours
  • How their product could help us accomplish our specific business or IT goals

The results outline the simple fact that CIOs and non-incumbent vendors find that establishing a relationship for the first time is hindered by inadequacies and difficulties inherent in the approach for first contact. A smart marketing plan (or even an account specific plan) developed with your sales force can better prepare your content to ensure it’s relevant, your approach to ensure delivery of your message in channels that your target trusts,  and your follow through to successfully  nurture and establish these relationships with key decision makers.

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Tech Marketers: CIOs Want To Create Value

February 5, 2010

It’s a given that today’s CIOs must use information technology to support and enhance business goals. Organizations continue to raise expectations towards how the CIOs will create value for the organization while enhancing business processes and containing IT costs. This is a tough challenge and puts quite a lot of pressure on the CIO audience. But here lies the opportunity for technology marketers. By developing messages that are relevant to this current CIO mindset and demonstrating how your technology solutions will create the value sought by the CIO, you become more effective in your marketing efforts.

Marketing your technology solutions with messages focused merely on cost reduction will not breakthrough in today’s economy. Almost every marketing message is talking about cost reduction, so how can your message standout? Map your message to demonstrate how your solution will extend across the entire value chain of the organization like streamlining internal processes, restructuring operations, innovative ideas to make the business more agile and responsive, integration of the partner ecosystem such as suppliers, customers, service providers etc. These can all be messages that prove out your organization’s innovation, and how the CIO can bring value to their organization.

The role of the CIO has transformed to a value creator and an innovator, rather than being a mere ‘techie’ in the organization so your messages need to support this shift in thinking to get on their radar and be considered. Try to rise above the routine and mundane cost-saving messages and specific IT function and align your messaging to the CIOs  need to create value for their organizations.

Of course this will take a few meetings with your sales team and product teams to gather the raw information needed to create relevant messaging. So I have included some starter thoughts about the top CIO priorities for 2010 as gathered by Gartner. Use these to map your messages that relate toward overall business value and you may have a better shot at getting to the table.

Top 10 Business and Technology Priorities in 2010

Top 10 Business Priorities Ranking Top 10 Technology Priorities Ranking
Business process improvement 1 Virtualization 1
Reducing enterprise costs 2 Cloud computing 2
Increasing the use of information/analytics 3 Web 2.0 3
Improving enterprise workforce effectiveness 4 Networking, voice and data communications 4
Attracting and retaining new customers 5 Business Intelligence 5
Managing change initiatives 6 Mobile technologies 6
Creating new products or services (innovation) 7 Data/document management and storage 7
Targeting customers and markets more effectively 8 Service-oriented applications and architecture 8
Consolidating business operations 9 Security technologies 9
Expanding current customer relationships 10 IT management 10

Source: Gartner EXP (January 2010)


Tech Marketers Here Is A Quick Tip: Create Content For The Final Decision

January 28, 2010

There are a lot of great thoughts and opinions on how to use content to further a potential technology buyer down the sales pipeline. Tech marketers have done a great job of developing content that is relevant for the various buying stages and it looks like the tech buyers appreciate the information.  In the early phase of their buying stages these tech buyers are consuming content at an accelerated pace. This is good news.

But what about the later stages of the buying process. Many technology marketers struggle with how content can address the buyer’s issues when they are in the final decision-making process. More often than not, there seems to be a hand off to sales at this point with marketing stepping back a bit and allowing the sales person to “close the deal.”  However, tech buyers want more detailed information at this stage and may not feel comfortable bringing in the sales person during the end stage of their decision-making process.

So tech marketers, if you want to influence this end stage buyer, you should have some content built around relevant details for the buyer to contemplate. Take a risk….try providing a vendor comparison document.

Many of you in the tech marketing field are not comfortable comparing your solutions to your competitors due to the perceived risks involved, but buyers have expressed the desire for this information (as noted by many tech buyer reports). Let’s face it, these tech buyers are going to compare your solution anyways, so why not make sure that they have the right detail and benefits to compare with. By offering up this content, you can hep the buyers out so they are not searching for the information themselves, and perhaps your company will be seen as a more trusted and transparent partner.

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