What’s the right marketing mix for 2018?

Pendulum swinging towards more digital, but tracking ROI still a major challenge

At our most recent SMA/ITAC Technology Marketing and Sales Think Tank, tech marketers covered a host of issues and topics, including shrinking budgets, the need to improve and track ROI, and finding the best ways to align digital and traditional marketing activities. 

These are the key takeaways from the December 7 Think Tank event:

  1. Digital marketing will continue to be a key component of the marketing mix for 2018, however tracking ROI remains a very significant challenge for digital activities.
  2. Traditional marketing isn’t going anywhere; it continues to be vitally important for marketing activities such as identifying new business opportunities and lead generation.
  3. Budgets for marketing activities are still very tight for marketers at tech firms, requiring innovation and lots of creativity to stretch limited resources as far as they will go.

This SMA/ITAC Technology Marketing and Sales Think Tank was hosted at Micro Focus in Toronto, Ontario by Claude Couillard, National Field Manager. The discussion was moderated by Bob Becker, Principal, SMA.


  • Vito Labate, Global Industry Marketing Leader, Capgemini Canada Inc.
  • Caterina Didio-Duggan, Canadian Regional Marketing Manager, Information Builders (Canada) Inc.
  • Mariana Kutin Morais, Director, Membership and Business Development, ITAC
  • Claude Couillard, Canadian Field Marketing Country Manager, Micro Focus Canada
  • Andrew Bowden, Senior Marketing Manager, SAS Canada

Comments from our Discussions

Below are participant comments from our Think Tank.  Each event is unique, and the needs of each technology company represented at the event are equally unique. As you will see, there are different opinions and approaches, but also some clear themes. We think you’ll find much food for thought in these comments from our participants.


  • We are all facing the same challenges in this era of digital marketing. If your execs are marketing-minded, you will have success. If not, you may be frustrated.
  • Keep listening to different perspectives, just one new idea can make a difference.
  • There is continued pressure to learn what is new, what to recommend and whether it will support ROI.
  • Explore LinkedIn tools to support marketing efforts; it’s not the “golden goose” solution for marketing leads and branding, though, you still need to determine how this augments traditional work.
  • We continue to be challenged to do more with less. Being a strategist and executor, how do you make it all happen? Look for new tools, and new ways to use existing tools.

What are you seeing as a marketing mix? What marketing activity have you started to do more of in the last few years?

  • Big events with huge spend are decreasing from 20 to 4. Traditionally, events have been about maintenance of customers and not focused on new ones. New for 2017 was cross-based marketing in lieu of account-based marketing; results are still to be determined.
  • Large organizations are decreasing the number of events per year. Focus is shifting to content marketing. Thought leadership is being used for digital media to help build relationships and showcase company leadership.
  • CRM tools such as SalesForce continue to be useful to track digital marketing.
  • Content is being developed for social media; predominantly on LinkedIn with links going back to website, including working with third-party media for landing pages.
  • Content marketing is being repurposed from blogs to infographics; it’s great eye candy. But the compelling data only captures attention at a particular stage in the sales cycle. Being more selective, putting less focus on lead generation and more on education and perception.
  • From a corporate level perspective, website needs to have right content. A lot of content is generated for content syndication to blogs and white papers, working more closely with partners/resellers.
  • Expanding partner ecosystem is becoming a new focus. Events are becoming more selective at the executive level; conversations start and need to progress – this is a fundamental must.

How do you track ROI? How do you deal with the pressure to deliver ROI?

  • Tracking continues to be difficult. As an industry, there is too much focus on ROI. Are we just spamming? Why are we focused on “going viral”? Getting to know a company via a video could be the start to relationship building.
  • There is a growing trend to “listen” to IP addresses to track users’ online activity based on online searches.
  • You have to have a digital footprint so that prospects learn before they come to you.
  • Google is great at “listening and selling.” How much should a company invest in seeing who is coming into their site? Are they interested after 1, 2, 3 or 4 hits? Or is interest lost after the 4th?
  • Two types of opportunities:

1. Market generated opportunities, i.e. attending an event and tracking this person – this is not a meaningful tag and it is difficult to measure ROI from this starting point. 

2. Market influence opportunities: this is better; generated versus influenced. In the grand scheme of touches (4, 5, or 6), how important is this tracking?

  • Are marketing budgets being cut? Need to go back to budget owners and educate to better understand marketing value and what the expectations are. ROI cannot be measured in ONE event because there is much more activity that happens afterwards. Budget owners need to understand how ROI is built across the whole marketing cycle/campaign.
  • Several pieces need to happen to build true ROI and build sales funnel; from direct mailer to content building, to call-out programs and follow ups.
  • Account-based marketing can help visualize meaningful activity and measure how that account grew – ROI is easier to see.
  • A direct mail campaign, after 4 years, a prospect becomes a customer – this can take several touches, i.e. government accounts. Where it first started PLUS all the in-between touches is how it should be tracked.

How do you get sales onside, being on top of tracking?

  • Capgemini: sales sends individual personal invites; leaders and sales are marketing-minded – focus on those that are focused for results.
  • SAS: dashboard score card on LinkedIn, where they are ranked and how engaged they are. Social indicators can increase sales. It can be used for pure relationship building. How is this better? Pure relationship reps are put on mature accounts (it’s more about relationship than product); for social engagement 1 to many accounts, the more junior reps will be more socially engaged and engage marketing more.
  • Using client name/product is a challenge for security and protection. Being used as a customer reference is being used as a negotiation tactic. They don’t want exposure, i.e. Do you know who runs “Obamacare?”

Because of CASL, how are you communicating differently with prospects/customers?

  • Dealing with a third party, buying a subscription-based list.
  • Become a member of associations (such as MISA), giving you access to their member base. Will not buy or rent lists because of CASL. Attending conference and obtaining list of attendees; permission is pre-given. It’s not about getting any name – it’s about getting decision makers and influencers.
  • Reducing email marketing. Communication is done via automated tool to existing accounts; sometimes we will sponsor (Gartner); different in US.
  • Digital cranks turning up behavioral targets based on pixel drop. Geo-tower via GPS coordinates, geo fence, look at browsing history via pixel drops. Vendor unifies data and this becomes a warmer contact. Rather than spray and pray.
  • Certain organizations have as high as 12 – 23% in registration using LinkedIn InMail invitation. LinkedIn does not take CASL into consideration.
  • Sponsored ads are difficult to measure; can have many views, with many clicks, then what?
  • Spam filters are becoming more sophisticated; currently it is difficult to know if information is getting through or not.

Who do you use to build content – internal/external? How do you find them?

  • It’s a mix from industry third parties, such as PR agency and Upwork (a network of freelancers for design and copy). It is not realistic to have a “team” of writers.
  • Third-party writers for blogs and newsletters – freelance journalist well versed in technology space.
  • Kurata: bought-right articles where a robot connects with external data to “write” a good story.
  • PR is no longer being used from a global perspective, including in Canada (too small of an outreach and not enough cash flow in Canada).
  • Use subject matter experts (internal and external) and outsourced third-parties to co-author.

What is resonating best with the C-suite versus mid-market executives?

  • Cross portfolio for top two C and lower C is targeted. Director levels do not care about cross portfolio, their priority is their piece of the portfolio.
  • C-level is all business; director is more specific to their portfolio.
  • Message and persona rather than content mix is important.
  • Director level is not discounted as they are influencers; directors do the research and write RFP; relationship is more at C-level and board level.
  • Titles can be very deceiving; some lower levels are now becoming decision makers. Be careful.

What is your balance for digital versus traditional marketing for next year?

  • 75% digital 25% traditional in North America – in Europe far more traditional. With resources and people, digital makes more sense.
  • For 2018, in Canada, there will be more traditional marketing. For digital marketing, will leverage corporate, i.e. U.S. run larger digital campaigns that can be amended to fit Canadian target market.
  • 70% digital activation and content; 30% traditional.
  • 50% – 50% U.S. from company’s perspective; 70% digital, 30% Canada.

Where do you find contacts to add to your database?

  • Ask customer: Where are they getting their content? What events are they attending? What publications are they reading? What associations do they belong to?
  • Search on LinkedIn for groups and conferences. Conduct a thought leadership breakfast in Toronto with a keynote speaker, by association and invite – do not position as a “sales” session.
  • Eventa & CIO Synergy: They don’t add value especially if you already have relationships. Hope and pray that sales invites top C level.
  • LinkedIn Sophisticated Marketer podcast, good nuggets: “Keep your content tight and marketing right.”
  • Large organizations use Twitter cards for events, it builds followers.

Join the Twitter party at the next SMA/ITAC Technology Marketing and Sales Think Tank in February 2018. Details will be posted on this page.

Posted By: SMA

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