B2B Tech Breaks the Mold with Clever Marketing

Quick, think of an adjective to describe B2B technology. I’ll wait.

What did you come up with?

If you’re like most, words like boring, expensive, bland, confusing, or overwhelming might surface. Your mind may conjure images of towering skyscrapers, gray paintsuits, or complicated contracts.

And yet, that image is evolving, especially as startups have made such an impact on the B2B tech space. There’s been much written and discussed about the consumerization of B2B technology in recent years, a wave of change that has touched all facets of that industry – including marketing.

And just how is the marketing of enterprise tech changing? I’m so glad you asked.

B2B Changes Slowly

While consumers chase the new thing, in the corporate world the goal is stability – find something that works and don’t change it. To prompt change, something has to be much better and/or cheaper in order to tackle the pain of switching systems.

Around every 10-15 years, there’s an upheaval in the enterprise market. A new generation of companies takes on the existing giants, gunning for their market share. In the 90’s, it was companies like SAP, Oracle and Business Objects. These days, those same companies have a target on their backs from rising stars like Splunk, Netsuite, and Box.

In order for these plucky companies to make a dent in IBM, HP, and Microsoft, they can’t just be a little better – they have to be revolutionary.

Breaking the Mold

Cold-calling. Hosted events. Relentless salespeople. Driving leads. Complicated contracts. Mass-market media campaigns. These are the hallmarks of established tech companies selling their products.

But for up-and-coming enterprise startups, there are no sacred cows.

Give Away the Secret Sauce

Payment processing darling Square targeted an underserved market (small businesses and entrepreneurs) with it’s Town Square Business Resource Center. Not only did they provide smaller operations with valuable data on marketing and customer service, they let their target audience peek behind the curtain at data insights only Square could provide.


The content was a hit. By profiling small business owners who use the company’s tools, and putting real data and value behind their marketing, Square drew high praise for delivering a much-needed tool for the small business world.

Go Beyond Leads

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that Bizible, a marketing attribution software focused on B2B & SaaS companies, realized the value in focusing their marketing on more than just lead-generation.

The company shifted its focus to pipeline marketing and switched from talking about to leads to talking about revenue. As a result, they pour high amounts of effort into their live chat offering.

Does live chat deliver leads? Not many. And it takes a significant amount of energy to operate on a regular basis. However, it’s all worth it for Bizible.

We found live chats contribute upwards of 25 percent of our new monthly revenue each month, making it the third most effective sales channel in terms of revenue. A big factor is the 50% higher lead-to-opportunity conversion compared to other leads.

Dave Rigotti, Head of Marketing

Lower Barriers to Entry

Imagine a Salesforce, Oracle, or Business Objects giving you free access to their software’s highest tier, to use however you want for 30 days, with no strings attached. You don’t even have to talk to a salesperson to get setup.

That’s exactly what Sprout Social does.


Like many SaaS companies, Sprout Social’s primary CTA is to get users into a free 30-day trial. There are two important things the company does during that trial:

  • Users are encouraged to loop in other team members for free. This exposes more people from the company, creating potential for internal support to subscribe after the trial.
  • Sprout has placed huge emphasis on customer experience, with live chat and regular email updates offering user support resources as well as contact information.

Build a Beautiful Brand

Sometimes, modern marketers get so focused on ROI, CPA, ROAS, CPC, conversion rate, open rate, split-testing, and growth hacking that we forget the tangible value of great branding. But even in the B2B tech space, getting your brand right is a big deal – let me prove it to you.

I presume you’ve heard of a little messaging platform called Slack? Oh, good!

For the first several years of the company’s existence, Slack had no salespeople. None. They relied solely on word-of-mouth and some online paid advertising. How can a company taking that approach compete with industry titans like Yammer and HipChat?

By building a better brand.


Check out the Slack homepage from 2013. The voice is approachable, friendly. The image is relatable, familiar. There’s no jargon, no buzzwords. It feels like it was built by someone who understands what the target audience is going through.

And the brand doesn’t stop on the marketing website. The colors, the “knock-knock” notifications, the micro-copy, the signatures – everything contributes to a seamless brand experience that begs to be shared.

Still don’t think Slack’s power is due to it’s brand. Listen to what co-founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield said in an internal memo to his team:

Even the best slogans, ads, landing pages, PR campaigns, etc., will fall down if they are not supported by the experience people have when they hit our site, when they sign up for an account, when they first begin using the product and when they start using it day in, day out.

Empower Your Advocates

Consumer brands have known the power of word-of-mouth for years, but recently, B2B organizations have started to catch on as well. In an age of instant communication and online communities, giving your customers the ability and incentive to tell others about your product is almost a must.

In other words, referrals.


Companies like Booker and Yesware have figured out that marketing isn’t just done with Facebook posts, tradeshow events and television ads. Sometimes, the best marketing you can ask for is a customer telling one of their colleagues about your website.

Get Onboard or Get Left Behind

Remember those shifts that happen in B2B tech every 10-15 years? We’re in the midst of one right now. And if your business plays in that world, you can either get up-to-speed with the way marketing is shifting, or risk becoming irrelevant to your customers.


Bad Plugins Increase Development Time

WordPress is a great CMS. For many startups and SMBs, the platform seems ideal – flexible, customizable, widely known and used, and (most importantly) approachable to a non-developer audience.

And therein lies a challenge.

See, WordPress offers a UI and functionality that lets you adjust the content, appearance and interactive features without doing any coding or design work. However, you will likely need to customize code in some way during the lifetime of your website.

Enter plugins.

Plugins make it easy to customize your site in ways the stock admin interface doesn’t allow. Unfortunately, some plugins are made in a way that can cause significant issues for your website.

A plugin with low code quality can make your site unstable, hard to fix, and difficult to customize down the road. Even if you’re not a seasoned programmer, there are ways to evaluate plugins and spot signs of poor quality.

Here are a couple of issues that seem to occur most frequently.


Bloated Code

Sloppy code files make updating and customizing a plugin a nightmare. Your developer will need to parse through a ton of unnecessary code or deal with unwieldy organization in order to make changes, debug and test it to satisfy your needs.

The more time it takes your dev to make the changes, the bigger the hit to your budget and timeline.

Ideally, each file should contain code specific to the operation of that particular class or group of functions in the code. They should also be split up into relatively medium file lengths. If you open up some of the files in the plugin and see 1000+ lines of code, that might be a challenge later.

Bolt-On Functionality

Plugins that have been around a long time may have grown organically, adding lots of patchwork fixes to implement new functionality. Evidence of this can be seen in if-statement blocks repeated after each other, over and over.

This means when your developer makes a change, there’s an increased risk that something else could break as a result (regression errors).

It can be hard to know what if-statements are related, or may affect one another. In addition to the number of if-statements, take a look at the length of code inside each if-statement block.  A hundred lines of complicated logic inside each if-statement will be very difficult to parse through. Following the intent of what the code is supposed to accomplish will become harder.

The longer it takes to figure out where to make code changes, then more time (and budget) it’ll take to achieve results.

Front-End & Back-End Code Confusion

Another thing to look for is separation of back-end and front-end code. By this, I mean that any HTML markup should be in separate files away from logic code that makes decisions and processes information. The official terminology for this is separating View and Presentation layers from Controller, Logic and Model layers.

Why separate the code? When HTML is mixed in with PHP, it is just plain hard to read.

Combined code also tends to cause issues with the syntax highlighting mechanisms in most programming editors. Muddy HTML and logic also makes it difficult to backtrace what you’re seeing live on a website with what’s in the code files.

All of these issues increase the odds of making mistakes when developing.

External Resource Files

Externally loading resource files that are crucial to make the plugin work is a big issue to keep an eye out for. Common externally loaded reference files are javascript, font, style CSS, and image files.

Ideally, every part of the site should be self-contained. When you externally load in files, you’re depending on an outside party to keep those reference files unchanged and publicly hosted – forever. While this can work for common libraries like jQuery and Bootstrap, it’s not okay for small, customized javascript that is unique for that plugin, especially if it is essential to the plugin functioning.

These files are also often minimized, meaning they’ve been condensed into the smallest file length possible and as a result, are not readable by a human being – making it impossible to alter or fix issues in that file. All of the javascript files should be hosted inside the site’s directories, with both the minified and full development versions of the files being available. This makes switching between the minified and full-length development version easy when you need to have code customized or make a fix.

External resources also pose a security risk to websites, as they can provide a bridge in for hackers and malicious files.

The Right Plugin Makes All the Difference

Some plugins are small, and others are huge with hundreds of files. Whether it’s small or large, these “gotchas” can make keeping your site updated and tailored to your needs difficult.

Features and fixes will always need to be made as websites change, and you don’t want to be in an awkward position when that time comes. If a central functionality of your website is tied to a plugin that is completely unmaintainable, you’ll be forced to either start over, or pour excess time and money rectifying your vulnerability. Nobody wants to be in that position.

Choosing the right plugins for your WordPress site is an essential part of web development success. Open-source CMS’ and their plugins have a great price tag (free), but if you aren’t careful, a low price tag up front can come with considerable costs down the line.