Posts Tagged b2b marketing
A quick overview of why web marketing is critical for promoting technology products, for both B2C and B2B products and across all industry sectors. 24 hours a day, some of your potential customers will be looking online for your type of product or service. If they don’t find you they’ll find a competitor. This is a presentation we gave to campus-based companies for the Ignite Technology Transfer Office at the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG).
We work with a lot of technology start-ups. Pretty often these start-ups are looking at launching a new product into a new market – one in which they don’t have previous experience of selling their technology. Sometimes it is not obvious which market to go for first, particularly if the product can potentially be used in a number of sectors.
So, we usually have these questions to answer:
- Why can’t I market the product to all potential buyers?
- Which market should I choose first?
- How do I promote my product in that market?
In this post we look at why you should pick a first target sector, how you pick that sector, and then how you can promote your product. We’ll be using some ideas from the technology marketing classic “Crossing the Chasm” and combining them with digital marketing tools to quickly identify the sectors with the best fit.
Why can’t I market my new product to everybody?
- If you have a product that could be used in a lot of different ways, startups are often tempted to try to market to all potential users.
- You worry that if you focus on one group you will exclude the others.
- This is wrong for a couple of reasons:
- Limited promotional budget – you have a fixed amount of money to spend on promotion. Concentrating that spend on a clearly defined target group will produce better results than spreading it thinly across multiple potential target groups.
- Trying to be all things to all people generally doesn’t work when launching a new product. If you designed a car that tried to appeal to young families, men in their 20s and elderly women, you would end up with a mishmash that appeals to no-one. The same is usually true with technology products. You should focus your product and promotion on one or two sectors for your launch.
What is a target market segment?
- A market segment is a group of potential buyers for a product or service that share some characteristics.
- According to “Crossing the Chasm” the most important characteristic is that they think of themselves as being in a particular group and that they reference each other.
- For example, information security officers in large enterprises constitute a market segment if they think of themselves as working in the same sector, attend the same industry events and communicate regularly with their peers when evaluating solutions or services
- A sector can be ‘horizontal’ if it crosses a number of different industries e.g. the information security sector is horizontal because IT security is deployed in multiple industries including finance, defence and healthcare.
- A sector is ‘vertical’ if it is restricted to one industry e.g. ATM transaction processing systems are only sold to the retail banking sector.
How do you pick a target market?
- You want to choose an initial target sector that is most likely to adopt your product.
- Our suggested approach is adapted from “Crossing the Chasm”.
The approach is:
- Generate ideas for different market sectors where your product could be used.
- Filter those different ideas using a simple scoring approach to remove the weaker options.
- Do some test marketing online for the top 3 or 4 ideas to gauge the reaction.
- Filter again based on the feedback you get from this test market.
- Go to market with the top 1 or 2 ideas.
Generate Ideas for Sectors Where You Can Use Your Product
- Ask your team to identify up to 10 sectors where you could sell your product.
- Get them to write up each of those potential uses in the following format (again based on a format from “Crossing the Chasm”):
- Target customer – who do we think would buy this solution – their role, type of organisation, geographic location.
- Industry sector – what sector are they in?
- Compelling reason to buy – why would they consider buying your new product as opposed to sticking with whatever they have (usually cost, speed or ease of use or entirely new capabilities)
- “Whole product” – what else is needed apart from your technology to get a ‘whole solution’ to the customer – do you need system integration, a distribution network, are there any 3rd party technologies required?
- Partners and allies – do you need others to help bring the solution to the target customer, or are there companies who already have good access to your target customers that might act as your ‘channel’
- Distribution – is this direct, via a partner reseller, via retail outlets….
- Competition – what other solutions are there, how much do they cost, what advantages and disadvantages do they have?
- Positioning – how would you position your solution in the minds of target customers; who do you say you compete against; how do you characterise your company and technology (fastest, newest, cheapest, technically superior, uniquely valuable innovation etc.)
Score The Potential New Market Sectors
- Now you numerically score your 10 scenarios using quick “finger in the air” scoring to filter out some of the ideas.
- Take a table and score each idea for market size (10 is good, 1 is bad), level of competition, your credibility in that market and the product fit for that market.
- Add up the scores and select the top 3 ideas.
Develop a Pitch / Value Proposition for the Top 3 Ideas
So we have our top 3 potential market sectors to target. Now we develop a short pitch statement for each of the candidate sectors. The statement for your final selected scenarios should quickly describe the solution to a new audience, in one or two minutes – the elevator pitch. You can use this format from “Crossing the Chasm” to get started:
For (target customers)
Who are dissatisfied with (current market alternative)
Our product is a (new product category)
That provides (key problem-solving capacity)
Unlike (the main product alternative)
Writing these short pitching statements is the first step in thinking through and describing the value proposition for the product in each target market.
Do a Quick Market Test of Your Product
- You can test market a product early and at low cost using digital marketing.
- When you have identified a potential application of your technology that shows real promise, prepare and execute a test launch – i.e. a launch where you are not committing all your resources
- Use your website, email, pay-per-click ads and social media.
- Create a “landing page” on your website that describes the proposition and proposed pricing in a compelling way – check out other SaaS or high tech product launch pages for comparison.
- Your landing pages should emphasise the benefits, make the pricing clear, and describe how the product can be used e.g. with a video or storyboard slidedeck
- Drive traffic to your landing page (using pay-per-click ads, social media and email initially, later SEO) and monitor the reaction
- If you have lots of visitor signing-up and expressing an interest in your beta launch then this is pretty good validation – proceed to the next phase of a full launch
- If there are no registrations, think about what might be wrong and test some hypotheses. For example, test some alternative landing pages with a different pricing model to see if that works, or try highlighting different benefits and features. If nothing works, switch to the next potential application of the technology and do a test launch for it too.
Filter again, based on feedback
- At this stage you have identified potential target markets, prioritised them based on a rough score and test marketed your products in the top 3 most promising market sectors.
- Filter your choices again based on what you have learned from the short test marketing campaigns.
- If one of the test sectors shows real promise then throw all your resources into promoting the product in that sector.
- If none of the sectors are working out then go back to the drawing board, using what you have learned to identify the next set of candidate sectors OR using what you have learned to make adjustments to your product.
How do you grow your business? Most of our customers are technology or software companies and they vary in size from start-ups to multi-million operations. Regardless of size, they are all trying to drive growth. We usually start by focusing on the basics i.e. identifying how they can generate more sales and revenue. So we help clients generate more sales leads using their website, digital marketing and some automation technologies. And this works – if you generate more high quality sales leads then you should generate more sales which helps drive growth.
However, on a few occasions recently our discussions about growth have extended beyond lead generation for an existing product range to a broader discussion on the future options for growth. How do you identify the best opportunities for expanding a business over the next two to three years? While there is no simple answer to that question, we find this “Product / market expansion grid” a useful way to generate ideas and discussions.
The grid comes from Philip Kotler’s “Principles of Marketing”, a standard business school text book. In it he highlights the 4 basic options any company has when it comes to driving growth.
- Market penetration – sell more of the same stuff into your existing target market(s). In this case you focus on generating more leads and sales and worry less about new products or markets.
- Market Development – take an existing product or service and begin selling it into a new market. This could be a new industry sector, or a new country or a new demographic. In this case you will focus on understanding the new market and re-launching your product into that market.
- Product development – sell a new product to your existing market. This could be some extension to your product or service that you think your existing customers will adopt. You’ll be able to re-use a lot of your current sales and marketing materials and know-how.
- Diversification – in this case you’ve decided to attack a new market and a new product category. The example Kotler gives is of Daimler Benz expanding from automotive manufacturing into airline production. Apple has done it by moving into the phone and music business. For smaller firms it is relatively high-risk so you need to hedge that risk by using a lean approach to new product lines and new markets. Don’t over commit until you’ve developed some proof that you can sell the new product into that new market. Diversification is a bit like being a start-up all over again.
So, there are the four basic options for driving growth in the long term.
Of course, that still doesn’t answer questions like “What kind of new product should we launch?” and “What new markets should we try entering?” That will be the subject of another post.
“Content” is the fuel of digital marketing. If you want to generate web traffic and generate sales leads online you need to provide information that your target customers will find interesting. In this post we look at why you need content, what kinds of content you need and how you can use it to promote your business and generate sales revenue.
Why do you need content?
So first things first. Why do you need content? Well, with digital marketing you are trying to bring people to a location on the web -usually your company website. The hope is that when your visitors arrive at your site they will take an action –subscribe or register for a service, purchase a product or submit some kind of sales enquiry.
You have four main options for driving people to your site – paid online advertising, search engine optimization, social media marketing and email marketing/outbound marketing. All of these forms of online promotion are more effective if you have good content, and some of them won’t work without good content. Let me explain why.
You can think of online marketing as fishing and content as your ‘online bait’. In most cases, basic information about your product or service – e.g. company brochures – will not be sufficient to bring in your target customers. When people are thinking about a purchase they need additional information before they begin to narrow down on a particular vendor. This additional content – case studies, white papers, buyers guides, RoI calculators – is your bait. The companies that provide the best content will attract the most customers online. Conversely, if you don’t have compelling content you will find it hard to drive traffic to your site.
When deciding what content you need you start by thinking about who you are fishing for – your target customers. In a previous blog article I discussed buyer personas as a way to understand and describe your target customers. In business-to-business (B2B) it is likely you will have to sell to more than one type of buyer. For most complex technology sales you typically have to sell to end users, someone in the finance department, a technical gatekeeper and the executive who actually makes the purchase decision.
Also, each of these buyer types will require different information at different stages of their evaluation process. People generally start with an initial “learn about this product category” step – this is the ‘Awareness’ stage. Then they move to a research phase before narrowing down the list of potential suppliers (“evaluation”) and finally making a purchase decision. As they move through these stages the kind of information they need changes from high-level, educational material to more detailed product and pricing information as well as third party validation such as testimonials and analyst reports.
Planning Your Content Creation
Once you know who you are ‘fishing’ for and what kind of ‘bait’ those buyers need at each stage of their buying process you can set out a plan for the creation and use of that content. Draw up a simple matrix with your target buyers on the left-hand side and the buyer process stages at the top and then in each ‘cell’ of the table write down a list of documents and content you think would be useful at each point. (We wrote a previous blog entry on the kinds of content you can use for generating leads online – Creating Content that Generates Awareness and Demand). You will end up with a wish-list of content you’d like to use for your online marketing and lead generation campaigns.
Now comes the hard bit – creating that content. As a first step, check to see what you already have available (aka your ‘content audit’). Most companies will have some case studies and other sales support materials and you may already have written white papers and marketing presentations. One great source of content is recent sales proposals – sales staff typically keep their best material for major client bids so see if you can reuse some of that material. List all the material you have and identify where it sits on your content matrix.
Next, identify the gaps – what content on your matrix needs to be created from scratch? List this content and identify how and when you will create it. In some ways this is pretty simple – either you will write it yourself, get some staff to write it, or hire a 3rd party copy writer. If you need to pay for it then get some quotes and prepare a budget.
Next, decide when you will create the content – your ‘content schedule’. We are all busy people and money is a scarce resource so it is unlikely that you can create all of the content you require right away. So pick the most important content – material that can be used at multiple stages of the buyer process – and get it prepared as soon as you can. You can then schedule other material later in the year. Our recommendation is to start with case studies – they are the most useful pieces of content throughout the buyer process.
How do you use this content to drive traffic and generate sales leads?
So you have analyzed your buyers, prepared your content matrix, audited your existing content and set out a clear schedule for new content production. What do you do next?
Well, the advice here is to make it easy for your target buyers to find your content. You have to promote it, distribute it and share it as much as you can, across as many channels as you can. We normally start by placing the content on your website and ‘landing pages’ (see our previous blog post). For example, set up a Google ad promoting your new white paper or research report. Next, mention it on your blog, tweet about it on Twitter and share it on Google+ and Facebook. For some content that is high value you will require user registration i.e. you will ask users for their contact details before they can access the information – this is known as “gating” the content. In other cases, such as infographics, you will share it across the web without requiring any registration.
You will achieve results in two ways. The people who register for your high value content represent early stage contacts who may become real sales leads. To make that happen you will establish a regular flow of communications with them where you offer additional content over time and encourage them to move toward a purchase. This process is known as ‘lead nurturing’.
A proportion of the people who interact with other content without registering for it will also eventually become sales leads, e.g. when they return to download higher value content or otherwise ‘raise their hands’ to your marketing team.
Content is the fuel for digital marketing and online lead generation. If you understand your buyers and how they purchase your kind of product you can create compelling information that will persuade them you are their best choice. Start now and prepare your content strategy.