One of the first major tech conferences I went to was SXSW Interactive back in 2011. There are 3 specific things that I remember from that wild week in Austin:
- People were pushing QR codes for the first time—way before they took off during the pandemic—and they were a total flop.
- It was one hell of a party.
- There was so much noise produced by tech companies trying to woo you to their latest product, and they were all trying to catch your attention in the exact same way. It kind of worked. But most people just enjoyed the free drinks.
Why do I bring this up at the beginning of this blog post? Because the noise that I experienced back in Austin in 2011 is a lot like the wall of noise that every tech marketer has to punch through online in 2022 to gain traction for their brand—especially if you’re selling a complex B2B product or service.
Facing down that wall of noise, you have two options. You can either decide that you are going to win by being the loudest brand OR you can take a step back, recalibrate, and circumvent the noise by being truly different.
Sometimes the loudest one in the room wins the moment. But, in my experience, it pays to be a bit contemplative, assess the situation, make any shifts, and move forward decisively. That’s typically how you win in the long run.
In today’s blog post, I’ll share how we approach building a successful marketing program for a complex tech product or service in the B2B space.
Clarify What You’re Really Selling
If you’ve read or listened to any of my content, this next statement won’t be shocking.
“It’s all about your brand.”
There. I said it. The most important thing that you can do as a marketer is to hold off the urge to start marketing immediately, and spend some time unpacking what you’re really selling, the unique memory that you want everyone to remember when they think about your brand.
What do I mean by when I say “what you’re really selling”?
It’s simple. I’m talking about the unique value that you provide as a company. The benefit behind the service.
Airbnb is offering people the chance to travel like a local, no matter where they are. HubSpot gives you the ability to build meaningful connections with your customers. One of our technology clients sells clarity in the face of a disruptive technology landscape.
As you can imagine, figuring this out will allow you to show up in the marketplace differently than any of your competitors. When you can do that, it’s no longer just about being the loudest.
If you want to learn more about how to think through this question, you can listen to my recent conversation with brand strategist Fabian Geyrehalter on A Brave New Podcast.
Build Trust with Humans
One of the mistakes we often make as B2B marketers is forgetting who we’re selling to. We get overawed by the big corporations we’re seeking to impress. This leads to us making the dangerous assumption that if we’re just a little more professional or just a little more technical we will be more effective.
We forget to be human.
This is a fundamental mistake, even if we’re selling to a highly expert audience like software developers. Because, at the end of the day, everyone who is making or influencing a purchase decision is human. Sure, they would like to see the justification for why your product is the best on the market, but they also want to feel heard, understood, and supported.
Humans make buying decisions based on their feelings and emotions. It doesn’t matter how complex the decision is. If they’re evaluating solutions similar to yours and they have multiple viable options, they’re going to go with the brand they connected with the most. Building connection in human ways is never a waste.
Let Lead Math Guide Your Decisions
Every marketer is beholden to metrics. This is true even if your exec team tells you it isn’t. There will come a time when someone looks at the big line item associated with marketing and asks if it is really worth it, and it’s your job to have an answer.
Understanding lead math is about more than just justifying your marketing spend, though. When you’re marketing a complex product, it’s essential to be able to map back your marketing spend to the channels that are driving the best results, and prioritize your spend there. Otherwise, you may spend tons of time on a channel that you assume will be a slam dunk but doesn’t return any value.
To learn more about how to think about lead math, listen to my conversation with the brilliant Erich Ziegler (currently with CircleCI, formerly with Netflix and RingCentral).
Don’t Get Lost in Features & Functionality
We worked with a healthtech firm in the pharmaceutical space many years ago. One of the things that was difficult about their marketing was their desire to dive deep into every single facet of their product. They wanted to write PhD level content regardless of the medium.
This firm struggled with an overemphasis on features and functionality. They were so focused highlighting all of the finer points of their platform that the benefits got lost. The result was predictable. Their content made it very clear that they had a complex and advanced product, but it was difficult to tell exactly how it would benefit the people who bought it.
The knee jerk response to the approach used by this health tech firm would be to oversimplify. And that’s what we did when we started working with them. Because we were trying to humanize the content, make it digestible and readable. We also overcorrected.
This is where our client was helpful. While we were overcorrected into simplicity they provided an opposing voice that encouraged us to make sure the content was technical enough and spoke enough about the features and functionality to make it trustworthy in their space.
The middle ground between where the client started and where we pushed them was where they needed to be in the end; focused enough on human connection and sharing benefits but also technical enough to prove the bona fides of their product.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to tread this balance when speaking with numerous sophisticated audiences, check out my conversation with Deepika Kumar on A Brave New Podcast.
Remember the Basics & Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket
So far, in this post, we’ve focused primarily on strategic approach. Before I wrap up, I want to make a few comments about tactics.
Once you’re done thinking about your strategic approach, you’re going to be tempted to pursue innovative tactics, try out new ideas, etc. This is excellent, and you should be thinking creatively, but don’t forget the basics while you’re doing this.
What does this mean? A few things:
- Even though they aren’t that exciting, you still need to create blog posts and some in-depth Ebooks and guides
- Make sure you have a strong paid media and SEO approach
- Emphasize all the fundamentals when it comes to email automation and lead nurturing
- Focus on optimizing everything
- Make sure you are positioned well within the Gartner Magic Quadrant
Get Started and Figure Out What Works for You
Ok, now it’s time to get started and dive in. One last parting word of encouragement. I’ve laid out at a high level how to successfully market a complex tech product, but you will need to do the hard work proving what works for you … because, after all, it’s up to you as a marketer to follow the data and chart the right path forward for your brand.
If you want to learn more about how to get started with your brand, check out our guide to accelerated branding.
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