Content is a key component for any business’ marketing strategy, and it’s especially essential for tech and startups as they navigate new and evolving markets. Content is needed in order to: sell a product, attract investment, reach more audiences, convert inquiries into leads, build the brand, generate revenue, be acquired, get into the c-suite and ultimately, to grow.
But there is a common misconception surrounding the messages those in the tech and startup industries need to share to get the right results…
The common misconceptions amongst tech startups
“I just need to tell people how good my solution is, and they will be convinced”
As tech B2B marketers, we have all experienced the highly-technical product manager that shares this common view. But the reality is that nobody cares about your product or solution, even if it’s built upon the most innovative and newest technologies such as 5G, AI or ML. Your prospective audience only wants to know how your solution will benefit them – i.e. will it: simplify a complex process, reduce costs or open new doors and opportunities? Insightful, benefits-based content is key to addressing your audience’s pain points and building a successful relationship. But remember, ultimately every product in the world is about cutting cost, saving money and generating revenue. The key is to strike the right balance between detail and high-level.
Another reality check: the sales cycle is longer and more complex than ever before: Demand Gen conducted a survey into the b2b tech space back in 2017 and found that 58% of their respondents (c-suite) reported that the length of their purchase cycle had increased compared to a year earlier. What this means for you is that marketing is not about a quick introductory e-mail followed by a call. Every stage of the purchase funnel is longer, with prospects needing to navigate it at their own pace. Pushing this pace usually results in a failed lead.
Associated with this same point is that prospects value autonomous progress through the purchase journey, with content playing a more important role within the overall tech B2B purchase cycle. In 2019, Isoline Communications conducted a survey and found that B2B decisionmakers are spending more than 70% of the purchase cycle engaging with content before they ever reach out to sales representatives.
By saying “I just need to tell people how good my solution is, and they will be convinced”, it basically means that you are expecting potential buyers to be waiting for a solution that is exactly like yours, that they have already gone through the entire purchase process and are now just waiting for your solution to come along and save the day.
This is never going to be the case.
Your audiences – at best – have a pain point that they might already have workarounds for. You need to help seed the idea of your solution as the logical answer and help your audiences arrive autonomously at the decision that they should speak to you to alleviate their challenges. This rings even more true during the current pandemic. So, what you have is your digital presence – content in other words – doing the job of the salesperson.
So, how can you use that content to generate successful leads and ultimately, to grow your business?
How to drive growth with content marketing
At Isoline we are fond of saying that while our clients’ technologies might literally be rocket science, content marketing is not. All it requires is common sense, an ability to look at things from the prospect’s perspective and a systematic effort through the year. Here are some simple steps on how you can use content to drive business growth:
First, you need to set out your objectives – what are they? Generate awareness of your brand or product/solution/service? Create expert positioning? Drive sales and generate leads? Once you’ve outlined your goals, you can use them as the basis for all the content you create.
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Identify your target audiences – in a tech B2B situation, there will be multiple stakeholders involved in each purchasing decision that you need to take into consideration. Don’t get fixated on job titles but instead, look at job responsibilities to see who your best target is. And don’t focus on personas. Yes, you need to understand the priorities and pain points of your audience but ultimately, these are likely to be similar across the board if you’re just selling one.
Take a holistic approach to your purchase cycle and break it down into two parts. The first is engaging with your audiences – this can be anything from promoting content via social channels and the media or producing podcasts, to sharing blogs for your company’s website. The second part is converting them into leads – following up with content in order to sell, which can include anything from case studies and use cases to product and solution 1-pagers.
Think about what channels you want to utilise to get your content to your intended readers. There is a huge range of channels at your disposal from email, PR, social media, SEO, trade shows and events (albeit more than likely virtual, under current circumstances), advertising, media sponsorships and more. Can you find out which channels your target audience utilise the most and leverage them to your advantage?
Content creation to engage your audience. As we mentioned earlier, content marketing is not all sell sell sell: it is more about establishing a trusted relationship based on knowledge or insight exchange. To do that, you need to identify the thought leaders in your company whose expertise can offer value to your target audience. This can be achieved via thought leadership-led content that shows knowledge and insight into A) your audience’s sector and B) the challenges they are facing.
No prospect is going to be willing to share their goals, aspirations and business details with a vendor whose sole focus is to promote their own solution no matter the cost. Be generous with your insights and expertise, think about consultative selling, too, you’re sure to gain some trusted customers if you can show them you’re really invested in their growth and success.
A common mistake startups make is expecting someone to do content marketing over and above their day job. Too often, this approach leads to a start-stop marketing model which – no unlike dieting – does not yield long-term results. If time is a constraint, consider working with a specialist agency to do the job for you. Think about the following: do you understand your needs and your budget? Do you need a small or a large agency (most tech startups will start out small and scale as required)? Learn which content services the agencies that you are looking at offer – are they subject matter experts in your particular field?
Seek out case studies and testimonials to find out why their clients chose them and remained loyal. And finally, demand full transparency – honest feedback is key to ensuring an ongoing successful relationship with your content marketing agency. If you decide to outsource your content marketing, find out how to recognise the right agency for you.
The last tip is to look at what you want to measure and how to measure it. You need to demonstrate that every minute of time and pound of budget are well spent, and resonating with your target audience. Measuring the effectiveness of your content is key to ensuring its success and being able to optimise it according to how your audience is engaging with your content. Discover why a pragmatic approach is often best and the different ways in which you can measure the success of your content.
Written by Anu Ramani, Managing Director and Founder of Isoline Communications