GUIDE TO B2B Technology Marketing

How business-to-business technology companies can SEDUCE, ENGAGE, RETAIN, EXPAND their customers profitably.

Read our quick guide

A guide to technology marketing in a digital age

Technology marketing is a broad discipline. It includes a heady-mix of product strategy, product marketing, solutions marketing, digital marketing, social media marketing (etc.).  That means it takes a special kind of agency to support all of the required disciplines.

B2B technology marketing begins with a clear understanding of the PURPOSE of the enterprise. Before getting started, you’ll need to possess a deep understanding of the target audience.  Next comes the task of constructing a B2B Marketing Strategy that articulates how you plan to create customer value, and seduce prospective customers into making purchases.

For some enterprises, the biggest decision is how to design a business model that translates customer value into cash.  Technology companies are awash with business model design choices – and it really matters. Businesses might have the best technology, the largest addressable market, the most compelling case for adoption and yet still manage to fail because their business model simply isn’t profitable enough.

In this, our guide to technology marketing, we seek to simplify the subject and prioritize those areas of the discipline that really matter.   The biggest topics to think about are:

  • Make sure you know your target audience and why they will buy
  • Appreciate that technology marketing is a broad subject and contains within it a string of sub-disciplines, each demanding its own set of competencies
  • Your enterprise needs to be world-class at ‘something’
  • To create a predictable sales pipeline, you’ll need to focus on all FOUR phases of the sales lifecycle
  • If you haven’t already spent enough time on it, you need to think hard on the business model you’re adopting and whether it’s the best choice

We dig into these topics in more detail below!

 

Identifying a customer, a ‘job’ and changing buyer behaviors

B2B technology marketing is about creating customer value for a group of company buyers. This is achieved by identifying ‘a job’ that a particular community of people/companies need to perform, to then qualify how your product or service can satisfy ‘undesirables’ and do it better. Having created a solution to the problem, the magic happens when vendors can re-code a customer’s behavior; to persuade customers they should use their solution whenever the job needs to be performed.

No guide to technology marketing would be complete without emphasizing the critical importance of to deeply appreciating the Job-To-Be-Done and the undesirables that people can’t live with anymore.

 

Guide to Technology Marketing – The Sub-Disciplines

B2B Technology Marketing describes the discipline of marketing applied to the promotion of products and/or services by companies that sell to businesses (i.e. business-to-business companies); where, according to the Oxford English Dictionery, marketing is the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.

In this section we describe the ‘sub-disciplines’ of B2B Technology Marketing. 

The purpose of Strategic Marketing is to determine how a company can develop a competitive position in its target market by producing more customer value than its closest competitors, resulting in the creation of wealth for the shareholders.  This is achieved by formulating a plan and actioning it.  Aspects of strategic marketing include:

An appreciation of the company’s purpose, passions and ambitions, articulated in a brand personality

The development of customer understand and market needs

An understanding of competitive options, strengths and weaknesses

The formation of a product strategy and go-to-market plan

The development of conversational paths that aid in the task of (1)attracting (seducing) new prospective customers, (2) engaging them and converting ‘interest into orders, (3) retaining customers and, (4) expanding sales to them.  

 

 

Product Management is about managing the life-cycle of a product or service (from design, manufacturer through its life to end-of-life and retirement) at all times seeking to maximize its value to customers and shareholders. Product Managers are typically multi-taskers with a broad skills-set including excellent communications skills, good interview, research and analysis skills, persuasive presenters, and generally aware of technical concepts and tools. While Product Managers spend a disproportionate amount of time in the office and working on product launches, the real value of Product Managers is only realized when they get out of the office and learn how to shape the value of products and services according to the Use Case requirements of niche buyer groups. 

Solutions marketing is about wrapping layers of additional customer value around core products and services by shaping them to market needs, and specifically the Use Case and situational requirements of buyer groups.  While Product Managers are VERY close to their products and the underpinning technology constructs, Solutions Marketers are more customer facing with storytelling skills and a rich appreciation of buyer personas. Chiefly, in the market today, Solutions Marketers use Jobs-To-Be-Done and Behavioural Influence techniques to drive out additional value from product or service sales. 

Conversational Marketing is the practise of aligning sales and marketing activities and resources around pre-planned customer journeys that result in profitable conversational outcomes.  Conversational Marketing methodologies like SONAR2 help B2B Technology Companies to realize the maximum return from their sales and marketing spend by exposing underperforming process stages and prioritizing effort and spend on the most profitable customer conversations.

B2B Technology Companies use Conversational Marketing so they can build profitable customer relationships, one-conversation-at-a-time AT SCALE.  Conversational Marketing was invented by Newton Day.

Sales Enablement is about equipping sales teams with the right know-how, resources, content and tools they need to optimize their time and produce the maximum sales results. Effective sales enablement solutions should address all four phases of the sales lifecycle – SEDUCE, ENGAGE, RETAIN and EXPAND.The discipline is closely associated with modern Sales Enablement methods such as:

Sales Information Management – Giving salespeople the right insight to focus energy on the most profitable opportunities while minimizing tedious administration tasks and distracting data-entry tasks.

Sales Content Management – Delivering the right product collateral, marketing presentations and sales tools (like demo apps, pricing calculators etc.) at the right time in the sales process, preferably auto-shaping content to the specific needs of the buyer group.

Whiteboarding Workshops – Educating salespeople on how to sell products and services using a visual whiteboarding approach.  Whiteboard workshops are proving a very effective way to embed product knowledge into sales teams.  They encourage learning and development practitioners to focus classroom training time on the pragmatic application of knowledge that could otherwise be presented using online training courses.

Sales Playbooks –  A sales playbook provides salespeople with a simple guide to what they are to sell and how they’re to sell it.  Each product or service has its own dedicated section and walks through the sales process (activities, arguments/counter-arguments, benefits, competition and other resources).  Salespeople can use the Sales Playbook as an aide memoir on how to sell solutions.

Credentials ManagementCredentials, such as testimonials and case stories, play an important role in evidencing the ability of an organization to deliver its value to customers.  Case stories build trust and confidence in customer relationships.  They also educate customers into the value and use of solutions. But sourcing case stories can be a major overhead and sales distraction.  While salespeople WANT case stories, they don’t want to inherit the effort needed to source them or produce them.  Similarly, marketing teams are always keen to get their hands on case stories, but they find sales colleagues are keen to shirk the task of sourcing them.  Working with an expert independent provider like Newton Day helps both sales and marketing team to get what they want and help foster new opportunities through the timely supply of rich case story examples.

Excelling at SOMETHING

Technology companies have to be World-class at something.  According to the Discipline of Market Leaders, some will adopt a product leadership strategy.  Others will concentrate on customer experience or operational excellence.  Whatever your core sales differentiator, to be successful, your enterprise must create customers – and wealth.  In today’s market that means digital marketing, mastering both inbound and outbound agendas – and connecting lead generation with an effective sales process.  The sales process must produce predictable and scalable results.  Otherwise, growth will be held back by the efforts of a handful of sales leaders.

Marketing for technology companies is about supporting all four phases of the sales lifecycle

In the pursuit of new business, it’s easy for maturing technology companies to invest too little in RETAINING and GROWING existing customer sales. The marketing spend is often focused on this one area. Yet, it’s four times easier to sell products to an existing customer as opposed to a new customer.

Your business can grow faster if it balances its marketing spend across all FOUR areas of the sales lifecycle. That means investing to make sure existing customers remain, and opportunities to sell additional products and services to customers are exploited.  Take a look at the four phases below.  How well are you balancing YOUR marketing spend?

Seduce

As much as 80% of the B2B buying process happens online, with potential customers looking to learn new things, work out how to solve problems, evaluate buying options, and make a purchase. You need to engage your target audience in a sales conversation.  Before you can do that, you’ll probably need to draw them to your website.  It’s not about attracting anymore.  Marketing today is about getting people to WANT to become your customer.  It’s a practise that’s best described as SEDUCTION the process of deliberately enticing a person, to engage in a relationship.

In SONAR2 Conversational Marketing theory, the five steps of the SEDUCTION phase are:

1. Profile
2. Tempt
3. Entice
4. Gain Consent
5. Assign

Engage

It’s never easy to convert an interested prospect into a buyer.  Regardless of what some marketers might think, technologies sold to companies still need ‘selling’ which is about educating a potential buyer on the risks, choices and opportunities of a purchase, drawing out the value of your offer and closing a deal that benefits both parties (i.e. the buyer and the seller).  An engagement sales process typically takes on the form of a sales funnel or pipeline.  These reporting approaches are commonly employed by B2B technology companies to monitor progress of sales opportunities as they draw closer to a closed deal.  The most common phases are interest, opportunity, prospect and customer.

In SONAR2 Conversational Marketing theory, the five steps of the ENGAGEMENT phase are: 

  1. Suspect
  2. Opportunity
  3. Propose
  4. Prospect
  5. Close-Sign
Delight

Delighting customers is about delivering an above and beyond customer experience that results in customers becoming repeat customers.  Existing customers represent a huge source of income that’s rarely realized. Organizations often lack workable strategies, processes, systems and outcome metrics!  They may measure success on number of calls or visits, but that’s no measure of results.   Most will also monitor revenues though over performance in one area can disguise under-achievement in another. 

In SONAR2 Conversational Marketing theory, the five steps of the DELIGHT phase are: 

1. Onboard
2. Review
3. Re-Scope
4. Petition
5. Pre-Propose;

Expand

Few organizations today have a dedicated sales team to expand sales to existing customers.  That’s a big missed opportunity given that it’s five times less expensive to sell another product to an existing customer compared to winning a new one.  The customer sales expansion discipline is very different to New Business Sales and Customer Service (the focus of customer Delight and Retention policies).  It relies very much on data-centric decision making and an Account Based Selling approach.

In SONAR2 Conversational Marketing theory, the five steps of the EXPANSION phase are:

1. Profile
2. Evaluate
3. Risk Assess
4. Engage
5. Propose

Business models and why they matter so much for B2B tech companies

A Business Model translates customer value into shareholder outcomes (usually including profits) in the most efficient and effective way.

Take these examples of business models:
Creating wealth by…
1. Selling software that builds software apps
2. Publishing a software app and selling a license
3. Selling software app installation and commissioning services
4. Selling customer services to support a software app
5. Selling people with the skills to implement a software app
6. Creating a brokering platform to help people to find the software app they need

It’s possible that a tech-centric company with the right skills could choose to launch an enterprise formed around any one of these business models. Often, the issue becomes, which business model design is the most profitable, easiest to get to market, and offers the lowest operational overheads. There may be broader considerations however, such as how well the business models aligns to the passions of the founding investors and the purpose of the enterprise.

Business models have become the latest competitive battleground for tech-centric businesses. That’s because there are many ways an enterprise can generate wealth and digital technology is rapidly breaking down the boundaries of how wealth is created. The very structure of markets and definitions of competition are changing faster and faster. At one time, management teams would review their business model every five or ten years, but today it’s more common for organizations to review their business model every year.

Further Reading

Some suggestions:

 

 

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