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.