How to successfully master the challenges of B2B Marketing in the IT industry
Bringing a company on the road to success and achieving sustainable corporate success are two major challenges for the marketing department. But, in the B2B marketing model, there aren’t just these two challenges that marketers are facing. I have been working in marketing for the IT industry for over a decade, and I will be honest, sometimes it still seems complicated to me to market a company that operates in the B2B model. Implementing the best tactics when trends never stay the same for too long can seem like a race on an unknown route.
As a marketer, I remember talking to someone in the early days of my career and saying something like, "We don't really have a lot of competition on the market." Remember, this was at a time when software development companies were just picking up the pace and most people hadn't even heard of such services. He looked at me, smiled and said, "Miss, even God has competition."
No matter how special I am or the company I work for, the customers always will have another choice. And it's my job to get them to choose our company over and over again.
In early 2019, the company I work for was renamed Indrivo. Strengthening the Indrivo brand was one of the reasons why I joined the company at the beginning of 2019. If the direction of a company changes, marketing has to drive this strategically. At that time, the company got a brand new look and organizational identity. We have therefore clearly structured the marketing strategy and established close cooperation between marketing and sales. Because marketing can only market what the company masters technologically and what can be sold by sales.
Where there are challenges, there are also opportunities
From my point of view, these are the top 3 priorities and challenges for B2B marketers. These could help you determine your company's situation and make some plans for the future:
Top 3 priorities for B2B marketers:
- convert leads to customers;
- increase website traffic;
- generate more revenue from existing customers.
Top 3 challenges for B2B marketers:
- generate leads and traffic from the website;
- prove their own sales contribution;
- ensure a sufficient budget.
Difficult visual representation
Anyone who offers intangible performance in the form of services has confronted with the difficulty of depicting them graphically. I look a little enviously at product marketers in the B2C business who don't have such problems. A pair of sneakers is a pair of sneakers and the reason for buying it, along with added value, is relatively clear. You can show the product, for example, in photos, with the help of 3D effects or in commercials. Nowadays, footwear can even be represented virtually, with the help of AR (augmented reality). With B2B services, the "object of sale" is immaterial and therefore difficult to visualize.
Services can't be produced in advance
The services can't be stored, therefore they can't be produced in advance either. As a result, every managing director of a B2B service provider strives to ensure a balance in projects at all times. Too many projects at the same time can make the employees burn out or you even have to reject projects and leave the potential customers to the competitors. Too few projects endanger profitability and thus jobs. Finding the balance is almost impossible because according to Murphy's law you always have a lot of jobs when you can't use them and of course vice versa. Only a good marketing strategy can help here, generating a steady stream of potential customers, but more on this below.
Marketing and Sales: Together for success
Marketing is finally sitting at the same table with the sales team! We are living in an era where marketing and sales are connected like never before. Our marketing automation tools are linked to our CRM system, this way, we ensure that sales and marketing work with the same database.
Long sales cycle
In the B2B market, the duration of the sales cycle and the associated customer journey is usually very time-consuming and significantly longer than in the B2C market. Since the customer can't see the product or take it in their hands for a test, they spend an enormous amount of time in advance on considerations and comparisons. They do research on the internet, ask colleagues or specialists from other companies about their experiences with the service or the provider. The research, therefore, takes longer and usually, several decision-makers are involved. Trust and honesty are important factors when choosing a suitable provider. But the offer is usually the next problem.
Offers are not comparable
You probably know that too ... There are no standards for services, every company has different processes or strategies to achieve its goal and one is always trying to offer something more than the competitor does.
A decisive factor, especially in terms of software products, is played not only by acquisition costs but rather the integration into the customer's systems, the adaptation to the internal standards and specifications and not to forget the training of the employees. Comparing offers can take from days to weeks.
The customer is involved in the production process
In addition to working and operating resources, the customer acts as an external production factor for B2B services. When implementing a new IT infrastructure, the customer is usually there from the beginning to release. And here we are already at the next point.
Customer satisfaction is all that matters
In the B2B industry, customer satisfaction does not only depend on the actual performance, but also on the entire process. As a service provider, we simply have to "deliver" on many different levels in order to be successful over the long term. Sales should primarily focus on the benefit that the services or product offers a customer. A benefit-oriented value argument offers the possibility to show competitive advantages and to present the value for the customer.
Play me the song of the Lead...
It's all about leads. The generation of leads is an important step in acquiring new customers, especially for services or products that require explanation. Lead generation brings more traffic to the company's website, which leads to more sales and higher conversion rates.
Proving ROI from marketing efforts
Another challenge in marketing is the difficulty of proving the ROI from marketing efforts. With the right technical infrastructure (tracking software and system setup), this represents a challenge that can be solved.
Content & Inbound Marketing are the Power
Another challenge in B2B marketing is to reach the target group on the internet and on social networks with topics and content relevant to them and the needs of their business. I am a big fan of easily understandable content, it is therefore, important to transform technically complex content into simple, understandable content. Therefore, content marketing initially requires a strategy, which is closely aligned and adapted to the target audience, and, in parallel, investments in SEO.
Influencer Marketing and Employee Advocacy
In the B2B sector, the relevant influencers are less likely to be found on Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn or blogs. More often, brand ambassadors become customers or our own employees who are very active on the social networks and thus become B2B influencers.
Huge amounts of data: a curse and a blessing at the same time
With new tools, the marketing team can find out more and more about existing and potential customers with the help of big data and business intelligence tools. Automated marketing solutions help to offer consumers tailor-made and personalized products and services. The downside: the amount of data must be properly evaluated and managed so that it is useful to the marketing team. This is where IT comes in.
Marketing has been seen as a cost factor for years, but it is constantly changing. I see the future of marketing as a real sales driver. Digitization makes it possible to interact with customers via digital marketing. Marketing today and in the near future is all about big data, chatbots, podcasts, content and storytelling.
The focus on the customer, the ability to identify what the customer needs, the ability to drive sales and operational excellence create a culture of excellence and promote trust.