When I first approached Dean Ara, I was amazed by his know-how and skill levels in the product marketing area. He is the Principal and co-founder of Total Product Marketing. With 17 years of technology marketing experience, he’s run channel marketing programs, go-to-market positioning, and product launches, and managed the online reputation and identity for dozens of clients. That all said, we had to get his guest post on Altitude Branding – and here he is, without further ado:
Looking for a better, more effective way to market your products and services in the cloud, hosting, and tech space without having to spend a bundle or resort to expensive marketing solutions? With the increasing number of startups jumping into the arena, it’s hard to stand out above the scrabble of climbing all over one another to get those customers you just have to have.
The marketing of tech products and services isn’t like the marketing of motor oil. There you just pick the viscosity grade you want and a brand name you’re familiar with. It’s different when you’re doing digital marketing for tech companies. People who need you might be familiar with your company name or brand or, they might not.
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Your prospects are considering a pretty hefty investment and will do a ton of research before they even approach you. And how do most of us do our research today? We “Google it.”
Will your prospects find you?
They will if you try this well-planned, five-step digital marketing plan for tech companies — a winning MSP marketing plan that matches your products and services with client needs and educates them in the process.
Give it a try and move ahead of your competitors.
Step 1: Evaluate Where You Are
“If you do not know where you come from, then you don’t know where you are, and if you don’t know where you are, then you don’t know where you’re going. And if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably going wrong.” — Sir Terence David John Pratchett, English author
As Pratchett noted, it’s hard to figure out where you’re going if you don’t know where you are. So, start your digital marketing plan for tech companies by evaluating where you are now.
What’s Your Value Proposition?
First, figure out what product or service you’re selling and what differentiates your company from others selling the same things. Turn this into your value proposition — that concise statement that explains what benefit you offer for which business(es) and how you do it better than anyone else. Put another way; your value proposition pinpoints and solves the problem your target buyer is experiencing and describes what sets you apart from your competitors.
Then look at how you currently go about marketing your wares.
Are You Using Enough Marketing Channels?
Digital marketing is a multi-channel activity. It’s not enough to put up a website and expect people to find it. You’ve got to discover where your prospects are likely to be and also be there so they can find you.
More than 75% of B2B use three or more channels when conducting their research, according to Blue Nile research, with 80% leveraging online search and company websites.
What channels are you using?
Of the multiple online channels available, which do you use?
- Social media
- Organic search and rankings
- Paid search (pay-per-click)
- Display ads
- Affiliate advertising
You certainly don’t need to use all channels. But remember, the more channels you use to present your content, “the more opportunities you’ll have to drive potential customers to convert.”
Now it’s time to move to step two of our guide on digital marketing for tech companies.
Step 2: Determine Your Goals
It’s quite likely you’re among the many who’ve listed lead generation and increasing sales as their top two goals. But you can’t just snap your fingers and make it happen. You need to plan how you’re going to achieve those goals. And you need to make them measurable.
So, by how much do you want to increase sales and by when? By what percentage do you want to grow your leads and by when? Then you need to figure out how realistic those numbers are and whether you have the time, resources, and budget to make achieving them reasonable.
If you do, then it’s time to turn to digital content marketing. Demand Metric found that:
- Content marketing generates about three times the leads that traditional marketing does
- 90% find content they perceive as directed toward them useful
- 82% of people feel more positive about a company when it provides useful content
- 70% would rather learn about a company through an article over an ad
However, don’t stop reading and get on to writing just yet. You’ve got to develop your digital marketing plan. Let’s face it. Most people look at reading about cloud hosting or SaaS as less sexy than watching paint dry. So you’ve got to figure out a way to appeal to the customers you want.
Step 3: Define Ideal Customers, Create Buyer Personas
The success of digital marketing for tech companies hinges on understanding your target audience, the people/businesses to whom you want to sell. The more detailed you can be, the better.
Who Are Your Ideal Customers?
You can’t be everything to everyone, and why would you want to, anyway? Imagine all the irritable, unpleasant, late-paying, and rude customers you’d have among the gems that respect you and sing your praises.
In a perfect world, the ideal customer is one:
- Who knows he has a problem
- Has discovered your solution
- Can afford to pay what you charge
- Will become a brand advocate and refer others to you
But we don’t live in a perfect world, so you need to add the customer
- Who can’t yet name the problem for which you have a solution, but who knows something’s a bit off
Understanding the Buyer’s Journey
It’s this last person that typifies the first part of the buyer’s journey — the process people and businesses go through before making a purchase.
Digital marketing for tech companies must absolutely recognize this process in order to appeal to ideal customers and those who could become ideal customers. There are three stages:
- Awareness or discovery — when pain first sets in and the person wants to eliminate it, but doesn’t yet know how
- Consideration — where they’ve named the problem and are actively seeking solutions
- Decision — where they narrow the solutions to one or two and work to justify purchasing it
Creating the Buyer Persona
As HubSpot notes, personas are “fictional, generalized representations of real people” that fit your ideal customer profile. Personas make it easier when it comes time to tailor your content, marketing messaging, and services to the particular needs, attitudes, actions, and concerns of the different categories of people you sell to.
You might only need a couple of personas if you’re very niche or very small; others will need more. Possibilities include:
- Harried Harry, CEO
- No-Nonsense Nelson, CFO
- Geeky Gary, Head of IT
- Challenged Charlie, Head of IT
- Searching Sally, Geeky Gary’s admin assistant
In order to create effective personas that can be used by sales and marketing, you need to do some research. There are likely several people/job titles involved in the company’s decision making process and you need to know which each of them are.
Interview your customers, conduct research, and then create the personas that include the following information:
- Job title
- Company size
- Age, gender
- Lifestyle, family info
- Particularities — makes decisions quickly, likes phone calls, evaluates all options, bottom-line guy, etc.
- Business or department goals
- Challenges pain points faced in trying to do their job
- Typical sales objections to your product or service
- How your product or services solves those challenges, overcomes the objections, help them meet their goals
Step 4: Create Content to Address Buyer Personas’ Pain Points
Think back to the buyer’s journey. It starts when there’s a problem that needs a solution. Think from your potential customers’ perspectives. Are they trying to research what causes it, how to solve it, or what options exist? You’ve got to address all that — and your digital marketing for tech tactics will vary in each stage of the journey. Your buyers need information, research, educational content, that inform and guide them along the process to reach the decision stage.
Awareness stage — Blogs, eBook, white papers, industry research, checklists
Consideration stage — Comparison guides, videos, infographics, webinars
Decision stage— Case studies, customer testimonials, spec sheets, live demos, free trials
Forty-six percent of businesses surveyed by Blue Nile Research want data and stats to help them during the decision stage. But that “is less about buyers wanting to read dense academic reports and review charts … than it is about them wanting the marketer to give them the information they need to make an educated purchase decision.”
But, once you create all that content, consider search engine optimization.
Include SEO in Your Content
Search engine optimization isn’t just about the speed at which your web page loads. It’s also about your content — and its relevance to the user’s search query. So you need to really get inside your prospect’s head and deliver exactly what they’re looking for.
Google has turned to artificial intelligence and machine-learning techniques “to help it better understand intent behind the words searchers enter, and to make its results more relevant,” says Marcus Tober, founder and chief technology officer of Searchmetrics. “User signals such as how often certain results are clicked and how long people spend on a page help the search engine get a sense of how well searchers’ questions are answered. That allows it to continually refine and improve relevance” — which it does by changing its search algorithm up to 600 times a year.
Again, it’s clear your content must meet the need of your customer. So, think before you write. What is your prospect going to search for? How would he phrase his Google search? What are they keywords in that search that you can capitalize on?
This could help your web page rank higher in search results — but more importantly, it can help the potential customers looking for your solutions to find you more easily.
Step 5: Measure Your Success
If you’ve come this far in your digital marketing plan, terrific. But don’t stop yet.
Now you need to measure how effective it’s been. Why go to all this bother and not know what’s worked and what hasn’t?
So take a look at your content marketing success metrics to discover your most — and least — popular web pages, blog posts and email campaigns. You should aim to measure traffic, engagement, and conversions to help you determine the return on the investment you’ve made.
There are many metrics and tools you can use, but at the least you should measure reach, looking at:
- Number of unique visitors
- Time spent on each page
- Email forwards
- Conversion rate — the number of people who completed your call to action
- Social shares
You can go further and breakdown what you look at depending on your focus:
- Lead generation — use click-throughs, conversions, time to conversion, leads generated per offer, landing page new contacts
- Brand awareness — website traffic, blog post visits, social shares and follows, document and video views
The four top challenges businesses faced with their digital marketing plan identified by the 2016 B2B Content Marketing Trends report are:
- Producing engaging content
- Measuring content effectiveness
- Producing content consistently
- Measuring the ROI of the content marketing program
No wonder. Digital marketing isn’t easy. But at the same time, those four challenges are essential ingredients of successful digital marketing for tech companies. So, if you need a hand — or a complete plan — the experts at Total Product Marketing can help. We can assess where you are, learn where you want to go, devise a plan to get you there, and give you the tools to evaluate your success. Give us a call at 855-646-8662.