In the face of increased competition for attention on digital channels, technology companies in the B2B sector struggle to reach the right decision makers on the right channels to increase their sales funnels. The ability to connect with these decision makers about an important issue, goal or challenge to their business can have a dramatic impact on the success of most enterprise technology organizations.
So what's a technology company to do? To maximize their investment in marketing initiatives, organizations should look for strategies and tools that have the most potential to engage decision makers by demonstrating that they understand the challenges their target industry faces, that they're a thought leader and have a unique solution that can provide substantial ROI.
Towards that end, we'll look at some of the best ways technology companies can do just that. Here are seven key marketing strategies that enterprise tech companies can use to transform how they market themselves.
We help fast-growing technology-centric companies differentiate, communicate and convert.
But companies today struggle just to be seen or heard amidst the constant noise of others trying to market their product or service. Tech buyers are also becoming increasingly smarter and more desensitized to the marketing they receive daily.
As such, they are becoming more reliant on others whom they trust or admire to share their experiences with an enterprise solution, platform, product or service before they consider it within their own organizations. This leaves an incredible opportunity for companies to leverage influencers, who have built a loyal following and credibility within an industry, to market to enterprise decision-makers.
Here are four steps to begin developing your influencer marketing program:
If you haven't already, the first step is to develop several buyer personas for your solution. Likely you'll have one for CEO, and other for IT, and maybe another for Sales & Marketing. Know what their goals and challenges are, what kinds of content they prefer, and who they're likely to follow and engage with online.
Next, you'll want to identify the peers, bloggers, publications and industry experts that your target buyers are following. The easiest way to start is by connecting with some of your target prospects (and existing customers) on LinkedIn to see who they're following, and what groups they participate in. Also, follow some of your target buyers on Twitter, and see who they're following and retweeting.
A critical part of influencer marketing in the enterprise technology space is establishing yourself as an independent thought leader. Influencers won't be willing to engage with you if they sense all you're looking for is some free social media visibility. That's why developing high-quality content such as whitepapers, blog posts, and webinars is critical for laying the foundation to get influencers on board.
Once you've developed this content, share it (along with other useful content you may come across), on social media and within the groups and message boards that influencers frequent. The important things are to be knowledgeable, add value, and have a perspective.
The great thing about influencers is that they're usually sought after in terms of live events, speaking engagements, and conference appearances. That puts them in a unique position to bridge the gap between your digital marketing efforts and live, physical interactions.
If you can collaborate with an influencer on a presentation at a live event, for instance, you can allow people access to those slides after the presentation in exchange for their contact information (known as “gated content”). You can then leverage that info to place those prospects into a marketing automation system for ongoing nurture campaigns.
In addition to these steps, there are a number of tools that can help you build your network with influencers. Here are some perfect ones:
FollowerWonk allows you to search terms to find Twitter profiles sorted by the number of followers and tweets. This lets you quickly find influencers on Twitter who you can follow and begin to engage with. Once engaged a little, don't be afraid to pick up the phone.
A great tool to find influencers, connect and manage your network of influencers. BuzzStream is a robust tool for influencer marketing and can help you build a real strategy for making the right connections count.
Upload any piece of content and Onalytica's algorithm will find the top related influencers for that content. Identify key influencers, engage them, and measure the results and impact of your influencer marketing activities.
GroupHigh helps you find bloggers and other social influencers, manage those relationships and even measure the value of your content.
MuckRack helps marketers find relevant journalists and bloggers, receive alerts, and build media lists. It also helps journalists, bloggers, and editors showcase their work, track shares, and grow their following. A great tool for better Public Relations which is an impactful influencer strategy.
Discover influencers including contact information and social profiles, create personalized outreach messages, automate follow-up, and track results.
BlogDash is the most efficient, effective platform by which you can reach 200K+ bloggers and grow every day. These bloggers have specifically opted in to connect with brands like yours and help you achieve web-wide recognition.
Traackr's IRM platform is your system of record to manage, expand, validate, and scale your global influencer marketing.
Building your influencer network and leveraging them can be a full time job, but worth both the effort and investment.
No matter what your industry, there's likely a multitude of competitors vying for eyeballs, some of which probably don't put a lot of time and effort into their content. What smart enterprise tech companies of the future will do is stray away from this kind of short-term thinking to simply generate click-throughs, but to develop a consistent program of high-value content that will foster long-term trust between your target buyers and your brand.
It's a struggle for companies to bite the bullet and invest in providing content that does not always mention their name or provide for “quick wins.” Content creation can be very expensive. But there are two things that tech marketers need to realize when it comes to high-value content: The Rule of Reciprocity and the growing struggle for companies to be heard.
“The Rule of Reciprocity is that when you provide something of value, the recipient feels the need to give something in return. This may not happen right away. But eventually, the more value you provide, the more prospects will rely on you for high-value content and give you their time in return.”
Brittany Rothnem, Principal at Rothnem Integrated Marketing
And because so many other companies are striving for attention, getting past that initial point of entry makes high-value content even that much more necessary. But once you get past that point, and earn trust with your target buyers, you'll be in a better position to complete sales than competitors that have been taking the cheap, low-value approach.
Whether you develop content in-house or decide to outsource to an agency or content platform, here are five traits that all your high-value content should share:
Every article, blog, or piece of content tells a story (even clickbait). The key is to tell better stories than your competitors. Take the time to analyze what others in the space are doing, and work to develop more unique (and more useful) stories than what's currently out there. Remember, helping your audience is more important than helping yourself.
Some of today's biggest brands tell great stories of how their solutions solve customer problems, impact customer lives or just provide an entertaining view on their business and culture. Think about how you would want to consume information. A B2B technology company can appeal to the humans they are selling to through powerful and even emotion-evoking content.
Rethink how you are telling your current stories and if they could be redefined as a documentary of a customer's journey, a powerful interview or a day-in-the-life of an employee helping customers solve challenges.
Again, your high-quality content strategy should flow from your buyer personas. You might put out a few great stories to begin with, but they'll probably resonate with some roles over others. Not all your content will be accepted by everyone, and that's ok. What you're trying to do is build credibility and thought leadership for each stakeholder individually, so in the end they'll come together and agree upon your solution based on their own intrinsic motivations.
It's important that when you create strategies and an editorial calendar that you develop an Audience Matrix that defines each person at a company who could be involved in researching or deciding to use your product. For each of those stakeholders, you can define their pains, goals and motivating factors – building a persona for each target customer is a must-do first step.
While individual pieces of content should be personalized, they should all come together in one centralized digital experience that's connected to your brand. Having a “Resources” page on your website, for example, will drive everyone into one experience yet people will be able to find the stories and information that's most useful to them. This goes for your social media accounts and video channels like YouTube as well.
Building a platform for content delivery that is connected will increase prospect confidence with each new story they interact with and improve their knowledge during the sales process. Built properly, these platforms can funnel leads through to conversion and into your overall marketing ecosystem.
Most important to any tactic is to deliver real value. First, if the audience doesn't get value, they will not convert to the next stage of your marketing process whether a signup, download or buy. Even if you can get a lot of people to find your content, a lack of value will repel them from moving further which is the ultimate goal.
Second, when you deliver real value, it creates a positive brand impression. Your audience will lock in their minds that you are the subject matter expert and when they need help, you are the best resource to talk to. A positive brand impression can last for when you reach them through other marketing channels and increase the likelihood of conversion there.
So, what is “real value”? It isn't just the surface-level info a visitor can get anywhere. The challenge here is to get over the fear of giving away too much – which many companies are afraid of. Wouldn’t you rather give away a couple of secrets to gain new customers than hold onto them and not acquire new leads?
The best place to look for these resources and areas of expertise is within your own company. What tools do you use, what questions do your customers have and what secret tactics or methods do you covet? Giving away more than the competition can give your company an edge balloon and significantly increase prospect confidence.
And lastly, make it unique in some way. Today, people are inundated with information and content because the tactic has significantly grown in popularity. Whether the information or the delivery is unique, it must stand out.
Consider different media such as video, animation, or apps – maybe even consider past tactics such as direct mail. If you can make the information valuable and unique while delivering it in an unexpected way, it will pay off in spades.
“In our weekly editorial meetings, story pitches have to pass a basic litmus test: Has this story been done before? If so, has it been done well? If the answer to both of those questions is yes, it gets rejected.”
Joe Lazauskas, Contently Editor in Chief
The following graphic represents what content can be used in different scenarios. Companies should have a wide range of content to reach people of different personalities, consumption preferences, and stages of the sales cycle.
The following graphic shows the type of content from left to right based on where they are in their buying stage while the top to bottom displays the engagement experience type.
Content Usage Matrix
Depending on where your solution, and organization, stand in the marketplace you'll likely have a different focus when attending live events.
Here are four reasons to integrate live events with your digital marketing efforts, depending on your core marketing needs at any given time:
Especially for early-stage startups and tech companies, your main challenge may just be getting noticed in the marketplace. Take live events as an opportunity to showcase one or two “wow” factors about your solution and to share the history behind yourself and your company. The goal is to simply get the word out there, so when prospects do finally evaluate solutions like yours, you'll be in the running.
For businesses in a more mature stage, it may be more imperative to generate sales leads face-to-face. Planning is critical, so make sure to reach out to key prospects well in advance to drive attendance to the event (and your booth). Have systems in place for collecting contacts, qualifying leads, and setting up follow-up sales appointments either during or after the event.
Live events are a great way to meet and greet current customers in a more fun, low-pressure format. Since they're already customers, you'll be able to get to know them on a more personal level, casually discuss their success with your solution, and discover if there are any potential up-sell opportunities.
Some of the most effective live event marketing that enterprise tech companies do comes in the form of educational content and workshops. This is great for drawing in both current customers and new prospects, especially decision-makers on the technical side. Again, you'll want to collect contact info upfront prior to any training session and follow up to see what they got out of it and if they're potentially a sales-qualified lead.
Make sure to stay active and engaged on social media both prior to and after the event. Encourage employees (especially your sales team) to spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to maximize the chances of active prospects attending, meeting and moving further along the sales cycle.
Live events can provide you quick exposure to a volume of prospects, but because you may not get much 1-on-1 time, it is imperative that you create a smart strategy to nurture and convert those leads. First, let's start with collecting leads:
Collecting leads is important, but too many companies don't utilize them correctly after the event. It is a waste of time and money if you don't see the process through.
During your event (if possible) or soon after,, leads should be entered into your marketing automation (the next chapter in this e-book) or CRM software. You should have a distinction set for leads that want direct follow ups versus those who are collected. Following up too hard on attendees who submitted a card or came to a workshop will just turn them away.
Set up a sequence of follow up emails and event direct mailers that are not too pushy – any leads from a “slide download” page can be put into this segment as they come. This process is called nurturing and should provide the lead with value while conveying your key brand messages.
Some ideas for soft follow-ups right after your event are:
The key here is not to jump into selling, but instead show your prospects you are knowledgeable, engaged, and care about providing them value. Doing this first and then building up to a demo or call will open the gate rather than quick rejection from a hard sales approach.
Marketing automation helps B2B enterprise companies nurture, qualify, and pass leads over to sales when they're finally ready. This is essential in the technology space, as both pre-sales and sales cycles can last weeks, months, and even years. What tool you use will depend on the size of your company, as well as the nature of your solution and target buyer.
Here are three of the most popular and effective marketing automation tools that you should consider implementing within your organization (if you haven't already):
One of the most powerful and popular marketing automation systems on the market. If you're currently using SalesForce.com for Customer Relationship Management (CRM), then Marketo is almost a no-brainer due to its seamless integration. Marketo is great for managing and segmenting lists, as well as delivering rapid-fire email content. However, Marketo hits it's limit and begins to slow down if your web page experiences high amounts of web traffic, or leads in the database exceed 750k.
Recently acquired by Oracle and now under their Marketing Cloud umbrella, Eloqua is a robust B2B marketing automation platform that outperforms Marketo with large databases. Eloqua also has what is considered the best customer and prospect insights engine, giving marketers detailed and granular analysis of how users are reacting to marketing emails they receive. The major downside to Eloqua is that it has so many capabilities that the user interface is often non-intuitive and difficult to execute. Eloqua can do more than 99% of marketing automation systems out there, but the learning curve can be steep.
Now part of IBM's marketing cloud, SilverPop is a competitive enterprise marketing automation solution that differentiates itself with more mobile, text and SMS marketing capabilities than the competition. It has an intuitive UI (user interface), a user-friendly database structure, and allows for relative ease of email creation. On the downside, Silverpop doesn't have as many native integrations as Marketo and Eloqua, and tends to slow down when processing large data sets.
There are many other Marketing Automation Systems available and now many are part of a platform that also includes CRM, Customer Service, and a wide range of other features.
If you are an organization looking to generate leads for sales teams, then Marketing Automation combined with lead scoring can significantly improve your entire approach to marketing.
Here are some high-level points on marketing automation to help you understand the value.
A process of automating follow-ups to potential customers. eMail sequences can be scheduled to automatically be sent based on rules to contacts captured through your website or other marketing tactics.
Each interaction that you have with a prospect can attribute points to them and the more points a prospect earns, the more “qualified” of a lead they become in the system. Open an email, they get 5; click a link, they get 10; visit a page, they get 20.
Combined with automation, we can consistently reach many people and create a ranking of the most engaged prospects.
The organization of prospects into like groups or leveraging data to target prospects with information most relevant to them. Segmentation is one of the most important topics in marketing and is central to marketing automation.
These three aspects are only scratching the surface of marketing automation but they should be enough to peak your interest to learn a lot more about what platforms like these can do for your marketing – especially for technology and software companies.
Efforts and investments here can pay off many times over. Not only can you increase the spending of existing customers, but by staying top-of-mind with them, you create an army of advocates building referrals. Most companies miss the opportunity by not putting a serious and thorough plan specifically for customer remarketing.
Here are three of the main ways that you can remarket to increase the lifetime value of current customers:
If your customers are having great success with your solution, they're probably logging in daily, if not more. How you design and maintain your customer portal can contribute to ongoing marketing efforts to your current customers.
Once a user logs in, you can design the portal as an “information hub” that acts as a central location where you can do things like announcing new products, alert users to live events, or ask for suggestions on how to improve your solution. These are all “top of the funnel” marketing activities that can eventually lead to up or cross-sales.
The last thing you want to do after you onboard a new customer is to remove them from your marketing automation program. However, it's a common mistake that many B2B enterprise tech organizations make. What you want is to design separate nurturing programs for existing customers.
The number of touches might be more infrequent, and the messaging will be much more consultative. Your existing customer nurturing program should include things like webinars, customer success workshops, and live events in their area. By seeing the topics of webinars customers attend, for example, you'll gain some insight into what their ongoing needs are and if there are any additional features or services they might be interested in purchasing.
Building out customer forums and communities is another great way to keep current customers engaged with your brand on a consistent basis. In general, people engage in communities to disseminate new information about their industry, “talk shop” with their peers, or collaborate with other professionals.
While customers will work with each other (and your employees) to maximize the value they receive from your solution, you should use communities to continually establish thought leadership through high-value content.
If you have a new whitepaper or eBook coming out, customer communities are a great place to announce it to get the conversation going and to see which customers are interested in that specific topic.
Any customer marketing program should utilize multiple channels and tactics and should be measured and adjusted over time to work best for your specific customer base. Below are two graphs that show what existing marketers focused on customer retention and marketing do and what channels are found to be most effective.
If you do not already have a customer marketing program, this data might help you decide where to start:
Whether enterprise technology, enterprise software or SaaS – customer marketing works. For SaaS companies, specifically where MMR (Monthly Recurring Revenue) occurs at higher volumes of users, there can be even more at stake with high churn rates.
If a typical SaaS business loses about 2 to 3% of their customers each month to churn, the business must grow by at least 27% to 43% annually to maintain the same revenue.
Drift Relationship Marketing
Churn can be deadly for a SaaS and high churn is often a signal of issues whether from market fit, features, user interface or support.
The challenge here is that if you are losing a percentage of customers each month, it takes significant new customer acquisition just to maintain growth. This puts a lot of pressure on top of marketing efforts to spread awareness and gain conversion at often unsustainable rates.
That being said, if a SaaS business focuses on existing customer programs and marketing, they can minimize churn and reduce the need for often frantic new customer acquisition tactics.
Daniel Marotta, Community Strategist at Vanilla Forums
Vanilla Forums, Whitepaper “3 Pillars of Customer Community”
Here's a breakdown of some of the different kinds of interaction content you should consider:
Calculators help leads crunch the numbers on things like costs, ROI or any other metric they might find interesting. These are great for people to understand and estimate the direct ROI impact of your solution based on their specific situation. Calculators range from simple to complex, depending on the amount of customer inputs you want to include. The more data that you ask from prospects, the more confidence they'll have in the accuracy of the results.
Also consider the outputs. With enterprise software, in addition to ROI, you may want to include things like Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and Break Even Point. Whatever the key metrics your solution addresses (sales revenue, customer satisfaction etc.) should also be included in your calculator.
Akin to static infographics, interactive content brings interesting stats to life in a visually compelling way. Try compiling stats relevant to customers’ industries and add visual elements that really “pop.” In addition to folding your existing data into interactive infographics, perform an audit of research you've conducted. Interesting data, facts and findings that you haven't previously used in marketing collateral can also be utilized in an interactive infographic.
Plan to use these in the early to mid stages of the marketing and sales cycle, as they're mainly for building awareness around either your product or major challenges in the industry that your solution is designed to address.
If you've been to websites like Buzzfeed, you're familiar with online quizzes. They're great because prospects feel like they're getting some personalized insight from you, and are easily shareable on social media. Consider repurposing some stats and figures from your whitepapers into quizzes, giving prospects incentive to test their knowledge after they've finished reading.
Another way is to utilize quizzes at live events. Have reps at your booth with an interactive quiz available on their iPad and have customers take it on the spot. After they’ve completed the quiz, discuss the results (and their potential business needs) right then and there.
These are like quizzes, but dig deeper into a prospect's business needs. They help your potential customers get a handle on the current state of their business, what needs improvement, and how your solution could possibly fit in.
Assessments can also be used for peer benchmarking, showing the prospect where they stand with respect to the overall industry. Prospects will either see they have ground to make up, or perceive the competition nipping at their heels. Either way, it's a strong impetus for them to learn more about your solution and how it could help them be more competitive.
Almost like a free demo, with solution builders you provide users access to a basic version of your product, and guide them through building a solution based on their specific goals and needs. This method is great for tactile learners who need to “play around” with technology to really get a sense of the value it could potentially provide.
If you need help getting started with a solution builder, a good place to start is referencing your existing product briefs. Solution Builders are ideal for those mid to late stage prospects where high-level value has already been established, but the buyer needs to see and feel exactly how you're going to solve their problem.
Interactive product tours help bridge the gap between tutorial or overview videos, and product demos. The problem with videos is that while the product is explained in detail, the user is forced to sit back and watch. Demos are great, but often users miss the most important features because they don't have any guidance.
Product tours are guided walkthroughs of your product, allowing prospects to experience and perform tasks within your platform, but with guidance in the form of pop-ups and prompts. For enterprise tech companies, WalkMe is one of the best tools available for creating customized, engaging product tours.
Per many, interactive content represents the future in B2B enterprise technology marketing. While you don't necessarily have to be hugely invested in it at this point, it's wise to start folding in things like ROI calculators, quizzes, and interactive infographics to your digital marketing mix to get started down the path and keep up with the competition.
One of the greatest tactics for making interactive tools effective is to add some real-time feedback for usage.
The key here is to give real value right there on the page, but then entice with deeper information when they provide contact information. Real-time feedback tools are shared and linked to often which significantly increases exposure and search rank. With the right tool, you have the ability to bring in very targeted leads en masse.
The final large benefit from tools is that upon submission you can gain valuable information for the sales process that might be otherwise hard to capture in any other type of conversion. So, while these tools can cost a lot to invest in, over a period of time they can deliver major ROI.
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