2020 may have been a rough year for all of us, but technology companies did a great job at continuing the business even through the peak of the pandemic.
2020 was the year when technology companies looked beyond networking at events or getting recommendations from someone and embraced B2B marketing willingly. According to a LinkedIn report, 76% of marketers were compelled to change their key objectives to align with the current situation.
As an agency that has supported B2B-focused mid-sized technology companies in establishing themselves as thought leaders of their industry for the last ten years, we believe that now is the right time to invest time and efforts into B2B marketing.
When it comes to B2B marketing, let’s take a look at some of the unique challenges of mid-sized technology companies, especially those which are just starting with their marketing efforts.
Don’t have big budgets for ads: It is natural to do paid ads to get more leads. While it might work for B2C, it might not necessarily work well for B2B companies. A mid-sized company may have a limited budget, while a single ad campaign could cost the company $1000-$2000 per month for ads. The returns are low too, with the CTR being as low as 3.10%. Even those clicks may not necessarily convert as the sales cycle in B2B is longer than B2C. That apart, unless the company has first established a strong online presence, spending on ads would not lead to any benefits. Hence, they need to think of alternatives to get more leads.
Creating multiple content formats is not always possible: It is tempting to create various content formats to gain diversified traffic. However, companies must remember creating multiple formats such as videos and podcasts can be time-consuming, expensive, and require people with specific skillsets. Companies that are just starting with their online marketing efforts need to prioritize where they want to spend their energies.
They need focused marketing efforts: Mid-sized companies need to start with specific marketing goals, so that they can focus their marketing efforts on achieving them instead of trying everything and seeing no results in the end.
Marketing needs to support sales efforts: Marketing and sales can no longer work in silos – especially for B2B companies. They have to help each other to drive business and revenue growth. 57% of companies believe that collaboration between marketing and sales will advance marketing’s contribution to sales success and generate more ROI.
CXO’s personal network plays a critical role: A CXO of a mid-sized technology company would have a strong network with other C-level executives of other companies. They can tap on this gold mine by posting their views and news on social media and interacting with other peers actively. Building a personal brand is imperative for creating a positive impact.
Marketing needs to be a self-running effort: With limited bandwidth, time, and budget, mid-sized technology companies may face challenges in running campaigns and achieving marketing goals. They need to, therefore, focus on creating a self-sustainable marketing plan that can run with minimal effort and resources.
Now that we have set the ground rules, let’s look at the actionable trends that mid-sized technology companies can implement easily.
B2B Marketing Trends in 2021 For Mid-sized Technology Companies
80% of decision-makers prefer to get information from an article instead of an ad.
Hence, technology companies must focus on developing high-value content such as whitepapers, eBooks, and blogs. Cover topics such as the latest trends and industry news with unique take from experts, solution-specific content that addresses the company’s pain points, principal content such as prominent use cases or latest product updates, etc. Whitepapers are also a great way to launch email campaigns.
While creating high-value, evidence-based, and research-backed content is important, it is also equally important to create content regularly. Developing a content calendar and planning content distribution is the best way to ensure that content is published periodically. Publishing regularly will help the company to create brand awareness and also increase organic traffic to the website over a period. Ensure that there is content available at every stage of the customer journey such as attraction, consideration, and conversion, so the decision-makers are guided through the process.
Robust social media presence
According to the Harvard Business Review, 90% of C-level executives ignore cold outreach. So, those cold sales calls and emails will no longer help in generating leads.
Instead, marketers and the sales team must focus on social selling. 84% of C-level and VP-level customers use social media to make purchase decisions. Posting on social media regularly will help technology companies to create brand awareness, network with prospects in an organic manner, and humanize the brand. Some types of posts that work well on social media include – posts from C-level executives, trends and challenges related to the industry or target customers, regular product principal content updates, new releases or wins, etc.
Plan your blogging and social media posts using a social media calendar and regular schedule to strengthen its presence. Monitor its outcome regularly to know what works and what doesn’t and use those insights to create a solid social media strategy.
Webinars or live events on social media
Typically, technology companies leverage trade shows and industry conferences to network and get leads for their company. However, last year, it took a beating with most trade shows, exhibitions, and conferences getting canceled due to the pandemic.
Companies can now conduct webinars and live events on social media to create awareness of their offering and generate leads. 46.5% of companies confirmed an increase in webinar hosting during the pandemic. Webinars are cost-effective, remove geographical barriers, and it’s easy to get the best speakers to speak to prospects across the world. Most importantly, webinars are generally attended by prospects who are in the consideration stage. So, the chances of conversions are high after the webinar is completed.
Focus on personal branding
We cannot stress enough about the importance of personal branding.
82% of people are more likely to trust a company whose leadership is active on social media.
Encourage the C-level executives to actively post on social media platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn. It will not just give a face to the company, but it will also help gain the attention of customers and investors. The best part is the leaders do not have to do anything elaborate to build their personal brand. Even small efforts such as sharing a personal opinion on the trends taking place in the industry, sharing personal or professional anecdotes and lessons learned from it, and writing an authoritative piece of article can help the leader establish their reputation as a thought leader.
Read more about personal branding in our previous blog here
Build credibility with social proof
According to Edelman’s 2020 Trust Barometer Survey, 70% of respondents said that trust is more important for them when dealing with brands. To gain the trust of prospects, technology companies will have to show social proof to back themselves as experts in the industry. These social proofs could be in the form of client testimonials, case studies, or industry-recognized certifications. These will enable companies to demonstrate their expertise and impact on prospects. Ensure that the feedback and ratings are collected from customers regularly and publish them on the website and social media to show value and build trust.
2021 – The Road Ahead
There are so many things that companies can do to build their brand and get more leads. But with limited time, bandwidth, and budget, mid-sized technology companies must focus on getting their foundation strategy right before experimenting with other trending tactics. We would recommend beginning with these three actionable tactics:
Write high-value content regularly
Establish a strong presence on social media
Empower the C-level executives to share their opinion on social media and leverage their network
We have created a post-pandemic marketing plan – it outlines a rescue recipe for all kinds of mid-sized technology companies. Read it here
These tactics will take time to show results. But our experience of working with some of the best mid-sized technology companies has demonstrated that with consistency and quality content, companies can even supersede their goals and build a long-term relationship with their customers at a fraction of costs and efforts.
Mid-sized technology product and services companies have always been somewhat more focused on sales than marketing. And B2B tech marketing has never been easy.
Business leaders and marketers in technology companies have to juggle between several platforms, ensure a meaningful omnichannel presence and do everything in the book and yet there’s always room for improvement in how they market their products and services.
Conventionally, B2B technology companies were largely dependent on the word-of-mouth recommendations passed on by clients to their peers and others in the network, the powerful network of the founders, and CXOs who are most likely alumni of prestigious universities and B-schools or the good old outbound route.
Gradually, targeted email campaigns, presence at tech events, expos, and sponsoring tech conferences were also brought into practice to reach out to new potential customers. The mid-size tech companies with potential clients located primarily in the USA and other English-speaking geographies were pursuing all of these, in tandem to attract new customers. Of course, all that was supplemented by a hefty focus on travel by the sales pros and key executives.
The pandemic, however, has changed everything.
We’ve put together this handy guide for B2B tech companies who are wondering what to do to get their marketing game on. The question on their minds is, whether or not to focus on marketing during this time. (the answer is, Yes)
This guide is for every B2B technology company that is striving to tap into new customers, is eager to retain the existing ones, and does not want to get washed off by the competition.
This guide can help B2B technology businesses direct their content marketing efforts to survive the pandemic and thrive in the situations that will abide after.
This guide covers
Changing Dynamics of B2B Tech Sales
Why now is the time to do marketing
An “all bases covered” playbook covering content, social media and personal branding of founders
The ROI – What you will get
Changing Dynamics of B2B Tech Sales
At the onset of the pandemic, B2B technology businesses weren’t directly impacted. But this gradually manifested into a considerable hurdle. IT sales is faced with obstacles all around. Suddenly, every potential customer of the B2B tech companies had a fully remote team, operations were shifted online, processes were overhauled and person to person contact became very different.
With severe restrictions on travel, sales reps could no longer travel for meetings. As things stand, even after travel restrictions are lifted, things won’t return to normalcy soon, and even for the local clients, setting up face-to-face meetings in the times of social distancing is going to be quite impossible. Moreover, all events and conferences for the entire year are canceled or moved online, nullifying the prospect of meeting potential clients, networking, and meeting new people. Tech companies can, obviously, no longer get the visibility they otherwise would.
The traditional sales channels are being constrained even more than usual (which were already getting outdated – who answers cold calls made to the office landline when everyone is practically working from home?) and other outbound methods such as email marketing are facing too much competition (you don’t want to spend your marketing efforts simply adding to the pile of emails your client receives each day), a fresh approach towards marketing is the need of the hour.
Obviously, doing nothing is not an option. Clearly, the pandemic demands B2B tech companies push their boundaries and think outside the box to nail marketing now to outlast the tough times.
Why NOW is the time to do marketing
Unfortunately, the first expense item to take a hit during the pandemic was the marketing budget. ‘If customers aren’t buying, why to spend on marketing?’ was the impulsive call that several business leaders and marketers took in the first half of 2020.
But this approach WILL prove absolutely fatal to B2B tech companies.
The big economic numbers might be slowing down, but that absolutely doesn’t mean that your potential clients do not need a solution for their pressing business problems. In fact, with events canceling, even these clients are exploring other avenues to find solutions that are the right problem-solution fit for their needs.
Now is the right time to become visible in their eye line with valuable content that focuses on solving the business problems that plague your customers. ‘Out of sight is out of my mind’ and you don’t want to be out of the eye-line of your customers at this crucial time.
Of course, you have to be empathetic, and hard-selling like before seems a little out of place but there couldn’t be a better time to grow the top of the funnel and to nurture your audience with value-adding content.
In fact, with no commute and people -including business leaders and decision-makers working from home, there has been a significant rise in the time spent online. People are consuming content online, the only question is, whose content is it?
Sooner or later, your clients are going to be looking around for the right solution and this is when you want to be top-of-the-mind. Now is the time to invest in creating customer-focused content that can prove your authority and expertise and ensure your offering appears to be the most viable option for your target audience.
Once you decide you want to leverage the situation and direct your content marketing efforts other questions will arise. Which channels are to be explored? What type of content should be created? How often should the social media posts go live? Who should your target?
Let’s explore each in detail!
An “all bases covered” playbook
Let’s talk about content
It is needless to say that in the era of screen fixation, remote working, and fewer avenues to strike a face-to-face conversation with your potential clients, digital content is truly the king. Investing in content creation at this stage will not only help you come into the much-needed spotlight but also help you in the long run, especially if you choose to create timeless content pieces that are going to be valuable today and in the future.
Let us have a look at the type of content B2B tech companies should be creating right now!
Nothing makes your content more worthwhile than true utility to your audience. Irrespective of where your customer is in the buyer’s journey, you should have relevant, valuable, and highly informative content to offer. This content should not only be engaging to read with extremely accurate information but should also have key takeaways that can help your readers solve their real-world problems. The content need not necessarily lead to a conversion, at least not through the first piece your readers consume. But it should be worth remembering, useful, practical, and authentic enough to build trust with your users while also resonating with their problems and challenges.
Focus on creating content pieces that have actionable insights, especially in times like these where your customers are anxious and are quite frankly looking for solutions, not stories.
Another excellent example is the blogs from construction technology services company Virtualize Services. They have very cleverly created content that amalgamates their service areas with the newly required mandates and changes the construction sector is going through in the USA.
Content riding on current topics
Staying relevant is crucial for making any marketing activity, a success, especially in times like this. Ghosting the current topics is obviously not an ideal route. Your audience needs to know, in their unique context, how your company, its products, and services are relevant to them in the current times. Hence it is extremely important to create content that rides on current topics. This content might not be usable once the trend subsides but, it is worth the effort for the contextual impact.
Aroscop, an ad-tech company has put together several articles around the changing dynamics of consumer behavior and digital ad rate trends due to COVID-19 which are also a fine example of writing about current topics while continuing to focus on the key concerns of your target audience.
Content demonstrating business as usual
With uncertain times, it is quite natural that your potential customers (or the existing ones) are anxious. And while being empathetic is important, the real challenge is that no one really knows what to do next. Hence, creating handy guides that can help in getting back to business or preparing their businesses once the ‘new normal’ sets in can be impactful.
Not enough can be emphasized about how remote working has impacted several businesses. For most businesses, this entire remote working wave was unexpected, and the transition hasn’t really been a cakewalk. Especially since remote working looks like it is here to stay, businesses are clueless and do not know how to go about remote hiring, onboarding, and employee engagement while everyone works remotely.
The job market has been merciless and as per the experts, with the approaching recession, it is only going to get worse. But companies are still going to hire high-quality people. This is why writing about your company culture around hiring is important. It not only helps you put the best foot forward as a brand but also helps in attracting rich talent to your organization, in times of uncertainty.
It is important to consider the possibility of having an audience that doesn’t consume a lot of textual content. It is about time to get creative and present diverse content types so that you don’t miss out on anyone on the radar! Especially if your past marketing experience for a particular niche in B2B tech has been driven by diversified content types, you should actively focus on creating more.
For example, TruckX Inc has been creating highly engaging visual content that focuses on the trucking companies that are their customers and truckers who are their end-users for promoting their products.
This could also be a good time to release podcasts or host webinars since a lot of people are working towards upskilling. Presenting your customers or your internal thought leaders could be a very important move for your branding efforts.
Let’s talk about social media
Unlike B2C companies, B2B companies seldom fully acknowledge the power of social media. The perception that social media presence works more for B2C companies has sometimes made B2B tech companies stay away from social media marketing. Most companies, especially the small or midsize ones, have almost no presence on social media and look at it as an unnecessary effort. They simply post links to their new content pieces or to announce new collaborations or major updates. They have no expectations from the efforts and those expectations are met!
If you are not actively engaging on social media platforms, you should start now. And here’s what you should post on social media, apart from sharing links to your content such as blogs, whitepapers, and ebooks.
Hiring related updates
Speak, scream, and tell the world if you are hiring during the pandemic. Not just job seekers, but your customers will also have a newfound respect for you once they learn you are hiring in these tough times. Because it simply means- your business is up, running, and doing well, you have future plans put together, you have enough projects lined up which basically means you know what you are doing and this is exactly the type of company anyone would want to do business with!
Relevant content – tips and tricks
You can’t expect each of your potential clients to read through the detailed content that you create and hence your company page should be alternating between sharing links to content and sharing tips and tricks as a post on social media. These not only provide quick assistance to the ones who are looking for it but also serve as a great engagement engine. Especially if the tips and tricks you share are new, experience-based, or unique, you can expect users to engage on the post, which essentially helps in increasing the reach of your post and ultimately your brand.
Let’s talk about Personal Branding of founders
Founders are invariably the face of the company and play a huge role in establishing the brand of the company. Especially for the small, midsize companies and B2B tech startups that do not have the cash flow to invest in full-blown advertising, the company branding is subtly established via the founders. When it comes to cracking large value deals, clients look for companies that have trustworthy founders who they’ve read about or seen and interacted with on social media.
If you are a founder of a B2B company that is looking to establish itself during these changing times, there couldn’t be a better time to build your personal brand. B2B tech founders have a great deal of industry experience, good references, and knowledge of the ecosystem. Creating content to focus on personal branding aligned to the company’s brand can be the key to engage customers, leave a long-lasting mark in the mind of the audience as well as attract new talent to fill in key positions in the company. Being social-media shy is not ideal. Today, there is no excuse to have dormant LinkedIn profiles or be invisible on other platforms such as twitter. People need to know the face behind an organization, especially when it comes to small and mid-size companies.
Here’s how you can get started with founders’ personal branding:
It could be personal growth experiences of the founder or their take on anything they hold an expertise in. Founders of tech companies are tech leaders in their respective fields and over the years have garnered tons of experience. This could be not only an interesting read but also create thought leadership. Founders can share their interesting perspectives, opinions, and their personal journeys to create a bond with your readers along with amplifying the company branding.
Here are a few examples of how founders can share stories, opinions, and experiences:
Resonating with your audience and exhibiting your expertise is commendable, but what makes your potential customers take the leap of faith are your success stories. You can share your success stories, client testimonials or peculiar experiences of solving challenging business challenges and those will usher in a direct impact. Since these are the stories your potential clients are going to read and relate to and they are a data-backed proof of your expertise and efficiency as an organization.
For sure, be careful that your story doesn’t brag, overpromise, and is not salesy. Think of it as a candid exchange between your network and remember a little goes a long way.
Here are a few great samples:
Founders who want to take up personal branding seriously need to remember that this activity is not short-term and needs a lot of nurturing, just like real-world relationships. And hence, if you are only going to be talking about your journey, your products, and your experiences, you are going to be uninteresting for your reader. It is important that you write about current topics, share your opinions on how it will impact the space your customers care about. It’s also ok to be controversial if you can justify your stand.
You can check out how these founders have spoken about current issues which have helped them stay relevant within their network:
The ROI – What you will get
As we reiterate whenever the discussion of B2B marketing picks up, we firmly believe that strategic B2B marketing should be done with the intention of gaining brand visibility to the right set of audience in exactly the right context.
Putting in efforts and investment in building a comprehensive marketing strategy based on all the points mentioned in this guide can yield that brand visibility.
You can create a positive impression of your brand in the minds of your target audience.
You will be more visible. You will be understood better.
Your target audience will be able to place you in the right frame in light of exactly what you can do for them.
Then, you will see them reaching out to you when they feel motivated enough to want to solve those specific business problems.
You will be the frontrunner in that race, maybe even the only runner. There will be a number of signs along the way that this is working.
You will see a noticeable difference in connection/follow requests for your founders’ social media pages, improved web traffic, and a warmer response to your sales outreach since your customers already know about you!
Maintaining the consistency and context with your content is the bottom line. Traffic, engagements, and leads will follow suit. That’s the way to beat the COVID-induced slowdown.