Five principles for building tech marketing strategies
IT buying has become a company-wide endeavour – and tech marketers have to respond by redefining their role
06 Minute Read
B2B tech buying is now a company-wide endeavour. Four out of every five employees are involved in it – and the initiative to purchase can come from almost anywhere. Whereas once a single IT decision-maker (ITDM) would scrutinise every step along the purchase journey, devouring spec sheets and pricing information, today, 50% of businesses’ IT purchases don’t go through formal approval at all. They’re driven by Anonymous Buyers: tech-savvy employees who are motivated to find better solutions and persuade their business to adopt them – but who don’t see it as part of their role to sign cheques or talk to sales.
of buyers today say they avoid filling in contact forms
of buyers say they’re not comfortable sharing details with a business they haven’t already worked with
In other words, pretty much everything that B2B tech marketers have long known about the IT buying process feels suddenly out of date. Exclusively targeting those with buying authority makes far less sense when the initiative to make a purchase usually comes from elsewhere. Focusing your efforts exclusively on IT won’t work when the person researching potential solutions could just as easily sit in sales, marketing or finance. And focusing solely on lead generation is counter-productive if the people you most need to reach are determined not to share their contact details. Most B2B tech businesses are leaving most of their high-value leads and opportunities unclaimed. They are walking away from the very people they need to influence because those people aren’t playing by the traditional tech marketing rules.
Yet just because anonymous buyers are cautious about sharing contact details, doesn’t mean you can’t turn them into valid and valuable leads when the time is right. In fact, the experiences they demand before exchanging their details will result in higher quality leads that are further advanced along the consideration journey and are more likely to convert. Tapping this potential involves B2B marketing strategies adapting their approach to fit the people leading on tech purchases and the experiences they expect. Once the role of the B2B tech marketer was to help sellers sell to an audience happy to hear from them. Now that role has changed to helping anonymous buyers buy – and do so on their own terms.
Here are five principles for building tech marketing strategies in the era of the anonymous buyer:
Flip the marketing funnel – earn loyalty first, then leads
When your targets are written in terms of Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) and you know that your audience’s attention is precious, it’s natural to try to leverage a lead from every interaction. That’s why tech marketing strategies prioritise capturing details first – and then aim to engage, educate and nurture once those contact details have been safely added to the database. However, in the era of the anonymous buyer this tactic delivers rapidly diminishing returns.
That’s because they’re not comfortable sharing their information with a vendor they hadn’t worked with. Insistently asking a buyer to become a lead simply pushes that prospect away.
To generate leads more effectively, marketers have to flip their traditional marketing model and prioritise delivering value from the first touch, in order to generate higher quality leads later. By treating anonymous buyers as anonymous customers, they build the types of relationship that persuade them to open up about themselves.
Moving beyond gated content as a default lead generation strategy is an important first step. However, many of the fastest-growing tech businesses deliberately go further. The collaboration software provider Atlassian invests in building communities of users of its free versions, hosting events and providing attentive online support for people experimenting with tools like Jira and Trello. The conversational marketing platform Drift invites free users to its Hyper Growth summit event. Research business Forrester offers free 30-minute consultations with its analysts. And these types of anonymous customer relationships aren’t limited to service industries or cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) providers that are a natural fit with freemium business models. Hardware providers like the earset manufacturer Jabra invest in company-wide offers and discounts that aim to build armies of anonymous advocates across the employee base.
Invest in broader brand campaigns
The traditional B2B tech marketing model has tended to ignore one of the most important formulas in marketing: the Share of Voice (SOV) rule. This holds that, when a brand’s Share of Voice in its category exceeds its Share of Market, the market share will grow until the two equalise. The same works in reverse: a brand with a strong Share of Market that fails to maintain a proportionate Share of Voice can expect to shrink. Recent research for LinkedIn’s B2B Institute by Les Binet and Peter Field shows that this rule applies just as strongly to B2B categories as it does to B2C. And yet, many tech businesses don’t really invest in building their share of voice at all.
Binet and Field’s report found that the optimum marketing mix for B2B involves a roughly 50:50 split between tightly targeted activation campaigns like lead generation activity – and broader brand campaigns that aim to build salience among a far wider audience over a much longer time period. The types of campaigns that build brand fame are designed to be talked-about as widely as possible. That’s why HP Enterprise built its advertising for hybrid cloud solutions around a large red, furry monster. Rebalancing budgets this way provides B2B tech businesses with a far better foundation for driving sustainable growth – and generating future leads.
Cultivate the three R’s for the consideration phase
LinkedIn’s research into the B2B tech buying journey shows that anonymous buyers consider the pros and cons of potential solutions not in terms of detailed pricing and specs, but in terms of the three R’s: Reputation, Reviews and Recognition. Tech brands that are widely recognised and spoken about have a big advantage as a result. Prioritise delivering value for prospects over capturing contact details- this can play an important role in driving positive reviews - while investing in relevant, original thought-leadership content is an important lever for securing a category-wide reputation.
Recalibrate MQL targets
In the anonymous buyer era, a lead is the endpoint of the nurturing journey rather than the start of it. The leads that marketing generates by flipping the traditional marketing funnel will inevitably be different to the MQLs that most tech marketing targets are set around. There will be fewer of them but the quality will be much higher.
To make this work effectively, tech marketers will need to work closely with their sales teams on reshaping expectations around MQLs. The ultimate goal is to focus less on lead volume and more on the revenue that those leads ultimately deliver. This isn’t something that a marketing team can simply announce to their sales colleagues. They need to demonstrate the process involved in nurturing leads prior to generating them, in order to credibly reduce their targets. The end-result is a win-win for both teams: MQL targets for marketing that are aligned with the journey anonymous buyers are on; higher quality leads for sales, who are able to work with advocates and influencers within their target accounts.
Find value-adding ways to introduce sales into the journey
Anonymous buyers don’t see it as their role to talk to sales – because they aren’t necessarily the people finding budget or signing off on a purchase decision. They leave the details to someone else. However, anonymous buyers are potentially more open to talking to consultants, advisors and experts who are able to help them find the information they need, set them up with a trial version, or get more value from a freemium service. Such interactions come across as pre-customer service rather than selling – but they are an increasingly important part of the sales and marketing process.
Are sales teams ready to take on a role as consultants to the anonymous buyer? Potentially so, if the engagement that buyer has demonstrated provides credible evidence that they are an influencer on an imminent purchase decision. There’s opportunity to be had in tracking such prospects’ engagement with content, scoring them as potential leads and then targeting them with marketing that introduces sales reps as experts on the areas they are interested in.
It’s all part of an important evolution from the traditional marketing-to-sales handoff when one type of buyer experience ends and a potentially very different one begins. Anonymous buyers don’t see themselves as jumping between different stages of a purchase journey. They see themselves as discovering, exploring and experiencing your brand, business and solutions. With the right strategy, these are experiences that sales and marketing can align on delivering.
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