Expert opinion

B2B Technology Marketing: What's Different?

522
8 minutes

Victoria Sataeva, Marketing Team Lead, CROC Cloud Services

B2B commerce is hard, especially when you sell high-tech products and services. Apart from good knowledge of technology, a marketing specialist has to have a profound understanding of customer needs and pains belonging to different industries.

Speaking their language is as essential as being a well-rounded individual to ensure that the target audience successfully receives the message, otherwise even all most effective communication channels won't work.

CROC Cloud Services uses every opportunity to raise the profile of its competences and enthusiastically adopts new marketing tools. Surely, not every new thing makes a hit, but we learn by experience. The only person who never makes a mistake is the person who never does anything.

Over the past three years, the company has conducted about 150 integrated marketing campaigns, thus significantly expanding its presence in the media and blogging communities, redesigned its website, and revised the entire promotion strategy in close coordination with the cloud business unit top management. Today, I am delighted to share our experience and marketing campaign tools proved to be efficient on practice

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Intuitive marketing methods are a no go: Only those methods work that are based on tested hypothesis

Yesterday's data are not relevant today for the same reason that today's methods will be inefficient tomorrow.This is true for any rapidly changing industry, including IT. Indeed, the speed of change is crazy, therefore it is crucial to stay relevant and do not rely on past successful experience only.

CROC Cloud Services marketing team have been caught in overconfidence trap a couple of times believing into the channels' success, so we followed the path of fellow product managers and embraced hypothesis testing to estimate efficiency. For example, to understand which services need a more intensive promotion and budget support and which don't, we identified growth points through a social media marketing campaign. The gap in interest to certain services was huge – a tenfold difference in the number of requests depending on the demand for a solution. We used the same tool – social media – to learn to which words and expressions the target audience would relate more. We used all collected information in our other materials, aiming to tug at customers' heartstrings.

For example, when announcing webinars about specifics of launching a finthech startup from cloud, we published two posts on Facebook. One described the event agenda, the other focused on people who would benefit the most by attending the webinar. The second post generated three times as many registered attendees. That was the trigger we were looking for, so we started distributing invitations among our customer base with the following subject: "A webinar for CDO, CIO, and product managers working in finance." As a result, email marketing efficiency improved as well, as the number of registered attendees increased by some 35% compared to the previous similar events.

To ensure a successful business-to-business communication, add something personal to your message to reach a decision maker

The right word choice, as you can see, makes the difference. Maybe personal approach is the most important thing in the world. What was the technology B2B marketing content centered around before? It described how particular IT solutions help companies reduce costs, develop, improve services, and increase their efficiency in general. Today, the efficiency of such messages approaches zero for a reason. Behind a business decision there is an ordinary person with own needs to satisfy and global corporate goals to achieve. A CIO, for example, might want to become free from routine administration of the onslaught of hardware or quickly solve a computing capacity problem caused either by the old hardware expired warranty or the lack of resources to launch a new client service. In the latter case, a CIO has to justify purchasing new IT systems to a CFO. Therefore, we must touch the key decision maker's heart and provide proper arguments for requesting more resources. Again, speaking the lingo of IT and C-suit is an invaluable skill for a technology B2B marketing specialist.

Our communication tolerates slang as it helps quickly get the message and works as a shortcut to the potential customer's heart. You can acquire specific vocabulary even in casual conversation with customers – listen to them and you will hear. Last year we worked very closely with software and digital service developers, in fact, so closely that our active vocabularies absorbed some words, and we even used them to name cloud services. For example, our cloud testing environment used to test product functionality and load capacities is now called 'a sandbox', and it's official.

There is a long, long, looong gap between the start of brand awareness campaign and the actual purchase, but it's worth it.

Everybody knows that selling complex technical solutions takes a good deal of time. Though previously major conferences and exhibitions yielded at least one-time contracts, now these and PR activities do not result in short term sales at all. Which begs the question, are they worth the trouble? We say, yes, they surely are (if you pick the platform and target audience carefully, of course). The truth is that when a textbook IT customer arrives to a buying phase, you've missed your chance to tout your company. Therefore, test the soil for purchase in advance. Whetting the appetite for a product or service, reminding customers about yourself, and provoking demand for new solutions are purposeful brand awareness activities.

Retailers on their journey to e-commerce are one of our key target audiences. To market our services to this target audience, we scheduled every Q1 activity to engage as many communication channels as possible. We started testing the soil with telemarketing to see if there is anything in common out there. Then we picked the most interesting industry events and hosted similar ones on our own (we prefer informative and training webinars). Finally, we arranged press coverage of our activities and advertised them on our website and social media.

One-dimensional marketing does not work. Forget it. Efficiency lies within integrated marketing tuned to customers' moods and needs at a certain moment

If IT services are technologically complex and mostly customized, then it seems logical to narrow down promotion campaign to some most efficient activities encouraging buying. Our experience shows that mailing out, for example invitations to private for-insiders-only events brings results, but you can't fully rely upon them. As already noted, a year or more might well divide the start of brand awareness campaign from sealing the deal – enough time for customers to change their mind ten times. Customer relations have to be continuous and involve all available channels, while activities have to be tactically crafted and scheduled. To succeed in strategic planning of work with target audiences, we use, among other things, a customer journey map (CJM) to detail customer needs at each stage of their journey to buying services/solutions and select the right channels and tools for customer engagement. A CJM visualizes all key events schedule far in advance. CJM and end-to-end analytics from all available corporate systems are a practical implementation of data-driven marketing – both are a useful aid to B2B technology marketing.

Top 5 most efficient B2B technology marketing tools

  • Offline and online training events
  • Tech-related posts within professional communities (Habr)
  • Individual emails
  • Customer engagement (for example, free demo access)
  • Social media ads (Facebook is number one platform for B2B)
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