Technology buyers are inundated with email blasts, social posts, event invites, and telemarketing calls day in and day out. What is your organization doing to break through the noise to your prospects? This was the topic of discussion at the latest SMA/ITAC Think Tank where leaders in technology marketing and sales gathered to share tactics and insights on what works for them.
While we discussed a range of topics, 3 key areas stood out for the group:
Events: More organizations are turning away from big tradeshows and instead focusing on hosting their own seminars and workshops, highly targeted to their customer. Marketers take care in considering the right topic for their audience, in addition to the right venue. Sometimes you have to go to your customer instead of making them come to you.
Digital Marketing: Organic search, paid ads, social ads, emails, and more – the digital world is big and noisy. Marketers focused on 2 areas: building brand awareness and generating demand. These organizations are precisely targeting their content, market segment, and post frequency to ensure the biggest ROI.
List Management: The validity of data is key. Organizations need to hone their lists and ensure their contacts are up to date. Most organizations use internal lists, buying external ones only when a highly segmented market is needed. This raised a concern from the sales side: if we’re only using internal lists, are we limiting our ability to get net-new leads?
This SMA/ITAC Technology Marketing and Sales Think Tank was hosted at Dell EMC in North York by Michel Lagace, Canada Marketing at Dell EMC, Canada. The discussion was moderated by Bob Becker, Principal, SMA.
- Michel Lagace, Canada Marketing, Dell EMC, Canada
- Chub Letenyei, Canada Field Marketing Manager, Dell EMC, Canada
- Reema Ali, Independent
- Dave Dewitt, Independent
- Craig Taylor, Client Executive, Channels, Lenovo (Canada) Inc.
- Frank Baldwin, Marketing Director, Mid-Range Computer Group
- Anu Vijh, Country Marketing Manager, Palo Alto Networks
- Theo Moraitis, Account Executive, Sentia Solutions Inc.
- Sarah Warsi, Marketing Manager, Sentia Solutions Inc.
- Chelsey Byng, Partner Marketing Manager, Softchoice LP
- Kristin Hosie, Marketing Manager, Executive Programs – AMER, VMware Canada
- Shannon Major, Country Marketing Manager, Canada, VMware Canada
Segmentation is the Key to Success
Experts in technology marketing and sales from a range of organizations gathered at this Think Tank, open to all ITAC members, to share how their organization is trying to break through the noise to reach their target market. With shrinking resources and budgets, and greater expectations to bring in revenue, marketers need to get really creative.
The overarching theme that emerged when discussing any marketing medium was segmentation. In today’s technology marketing landscape, marketers are trading the one-to-many approach for the one-to-few or one-to-one method. It is labour intensive, but events and digital marketing campaigns are only successful when they are designed for highly targeted lists.
Several attendees agreed that large industry tradeshows were no longer where they saw a return on investment. As a result, many organizations have stopped participating in these kinds of events. One participant shared that it is much easier to create your own event because you can tailor your content to your target market, and you can ensure you get the right people in the room together – which isn’t always possible when you attend an industry tradeshow.
There is a focus on understanding your audience. One participated brought up an excellent observation: marketers need to be really honest about who is going to come their events – and who is not. Once you have this understanding, you can properly create an event for your market based on who they are and what they need.
When working with the CXO level, several participants agreed that a thought leadership discussion was pertinent. Instead of focusing on selling your services, organizations need to focus on talking about where the industry is going and how their customers can stay ahead of their competitors. When working with this segment of the audience, you cannot always expect them to come to you. Instead, you need to be willing to go to your customer. Invitations to this level of event are usually made in person or over the phone by an account manager who has a relationship with the customer.
A popular event strategy for technology buyers is a hands-on workshop where attendees can play with the software or equipment – really test it out to understand how it works. This kind of event, the participants agreed, was perfect for manager-level customers who act as influencers within their own organizations. After having had a chance to actually test out the technology, they would be more inclined to discuss it in-house with their peers. Invitations to this kind of event are often made over email and followed up with over the phone by the sales team.
The world of digital marketing is growing quickly, and technology marketers have to stay on top of a number of different areas including paid and organic search, pay-per-click ads, social media marketing, digital assets, websites and blogs, email campaigns, and PR. Similar to in-person events, all of the attendees agreed that segmenting and targeting was the name of the game.
Calculating the ROI on digital marketing initiatives is tricky. A few of the participants mentioned that they often don’t share marketing pipeline numbers with their sales counterparts because it’s impossible to track accurate revenue numbers from the digital marketing space. Every customer has multiple touchpoints. Instead, some organizations are now looking at pipeline as a whole – not segmented out by marketing or sales because it provides a more accurate view or the organization.
Digital marketing is generally split into 2 areas: brand awareness and demand generation. Many participants agreed that gating assets was a turn-off for many customers. Technology buyers conduct detailed research before they are ready to have a conversation with a vendor. While doing this, they want to remain anonymous. Instead of gating all assets up front, it’s important to segment the collateral based on the stages of the sales cycle. Content that speaks to the early stages shouldn’t be gated. When customers move down the funnel, they are more likely to fill out a form in return for an informational asset.
The participants agreed that creating content that is specifically targeted to various segments of their market was key. Thought leadership pieces were more interesting for CXOs, while technology briefs or technical papers were ideal for manager-level customers. Social campaigns are generally being conducted on LinkedIn and Twitter, with an interest in including more video through Instagram and SnapChat to the mix.
One participant brought up a thought-provoking point: just because a potential customer fills out a form to download an asset from your website, doesn’t mean they are a qualified lead. Instead, they are an opportunity for the future that requires nurturing. As a result, they shouldn’t be lumped into a list with leads that have already been qualified by sales.
All of the attendees noted that they primarily work with internal lists which they have built in-house through various demand generation activities including events and online campaigns. When using these lists, it’s important to ensure the data in CRM is accurate and up-to-date – which isn’t always the case. Only with the correct data is it possible to segment properly and achieve the desired ROI.
A sales participant brought up an interesting concern: if we’re only using internal lists, are we missing out on gaining net-new prospects? How can we target the customers if we don’t even know they exist? Perhaps that’s a discussion for another Think Tank!
The SMA/ITAC Think Tanks, held at different host locations across the GTA, are one of the benefits of membership in the Information Technology Association of Canada, or ITAC. To find out more about the Think Tanks or ITAC, contact Bob Becker, Principal, SMA at 416-275-6782 or email at Bob.Becker@SMAworld.com.