PR and entering new markets

Entering new markets may soon be on the agenda. The response to COVID19 has transformed the business landscape for many companies, causing trading difficulties in their markets. In some cases this may be short term but in others it may prove to be long term, or a permanent change. This is what economists call the scarring of the economy.  Consequently, I believe some technology businesses will be looking for ways to enter new market areas. Like this they can repair the damage caused by the virus and the lockdowns around the world.

Naturally PR and promotional activities will be part of this marketing activity, but they may not be enough on their own.  This blog looks at some simple, strategic approaches for entering new markets. Each of the five approaches here are strategies I have seen being used by software and technology vendors. They could work for companies selling application software or cloud-based IT services for business, or any other high value technology product that is sold in a similar way.

Entering new markets

Companies in business-to-business sectors tend to view markets as verticals, for example: retail, local government, or manufacturing. If a business has always worked in one defined vertical or just a few, it can be difficult to enter a totally new area. This is often because the customers’ needs and culture are different, even if the product or service is potentially valuable to them.

Entering a new market requires a marketing strategy that will create a brand presence, bring sales enquiries, and a plan to win orders. The challenge is twofold. The buyers in the new sector will not know the business or its brand, but equally the business may not understand what the new buyers are looking for, or how they reach their purchasing decisions.

Getting the first customer in a new market is the greatest challenge. Here are five entry strategies that a business might use to move into a new sector where it has no previous contracts or contacts.

1. A Sales Hire

This is a relatively simple strategy, to hire a sales manager who is already working in the industry. He or she will bring inside knowledge and contacts which will open doors and speed up the process. It may not be enough on its own though. This will be a tough period of new business development and the company should also plan a marketing campaign to support its effort. When trade shows are functioning again, exhibiting at a show for that industry is relatively simple and could be a good way forward.

2. Collaboration

A customer collaboration can be an effective market entry strategy. It involves a collaboration with one customer who agrees to provide input into product design and testing. This provides a proven solution and a first customer in one go. This route is a popular one in the software industry. Success depends upon finding a forward-thinking customer who wants to build a better solution for their industry. Then the project becomes a joint development. The customer will expect to be compensated for the time and effort they are investing, so they may receive their own system at no financial cost.

3. Partnership

A partnership approach is a little similar. With this approach the other party is not a customer but a supplier or service provider. Importantly they  already operate in the new market. There should be synergy between the work of the two partners so that they can approach the market effectively together. They will probably work together on systems integration and marketing. In some cases the product or service may be “white-labelled”, i.e. it will be sold under the other company’s brand.

4. Acquisition

Buying a company is the probably the easiest and most certain way to enter a new market. It is also the most expensive. This strategy is simply to buy a business that is already trading in the new area. However this requires an investment from company reserves or capital raised. There will also be a detailed process of due diligence which will be beyond the usual remit of the sales and marketing functions.

5. Capability, credibility and PR

Finally, it may be possible to enter a new market sector just by mounting a marketing campaign. This campaign will need to demonstrate capability and build credibility in the new market. It might involve a PR splash linked to a digital marketing campaign and supporting information on the company’s website.

Companies typically use white papers and case studies as content to support this kind of campaign.

To conclude, entering new markets is not easy, and will always require  some degree of investment of resources and effort. Each of the five routes outlined above involves some cost and the CMO or director responsible for marketing will need to determine how best to move forward. It may be that a combination of two or more of these strategies will work well together.

If you anticipate using PR as part of your broader business development campaign, you can contact me on 020 8275 9955 or email info@technologypr.co.uk.

 

 

 

 

 

Covid19 marketing where next?

Chart showing downward trend after COVID19 outbreak

After COVID19 marketing may look different. Since the Pandemic began, my inbox has been full of webinar invites and notices about virtual events that are replacing the real-life ones.  Without doubt, the pandemic has changed marketing. I sense that some of this change is here to stay.

B2B Marketing wrote a useful post about the future of trade shows, making the points that some groups of people will be unable or unwilling to travel for a while. They suggest that future events may need virtual and physical elements.

Meanwhile we are becoming experts on Zoom, joining events without wasting time travelling. With yoga classes and musical performances also taking place this way, I can see there is potential to use this medium much more creatively.

Positive and negative change

With digital communications replacing business travel, distance doesn’t matter any more. If your business tended to be local or regional because of the practicality of travelling, it may be able to reach further now. For example, a sales manager in the South of England can talk to accounts in the North more easily with online tools, and save many litres of fuel.

However telesales, the mainstay of leads generation for many IT businesses, will struggle when many are working from home. It will become harder to reach people who are mostly out of the office using a mobile phone.

Content marketing is exploding

Content marketing was already the biggest trend in marketing. However as more people do it, it’s becoming more competitive. This means success will depend on keeping up with search engine optimisation and choosing appealing topics.

As an independent PR and writer, I sometimes take a cynical or critical view of the rest of the marketing industry. I actually don’t agree that content marketing should work to rigid content plans. The COVID19 outbreak has shown how fast everything can change, and how a pre-set content plan can rapidly become irrelevant and even wrong.  I think a content strategy is better. Certain topics are included in a plan, but the calendar should be left open to address the most topical question for each day or week.

How to prepare for recovery?

It would be helpful to know what the recovery will look like and when each business sector will be able to function normally again. In the absence of that information, it may be better to prepare for more than one scenario, and allow for a certain amount of social distancing to remain in the medium term.

Without trade shows and conferences, other forms of leads generation will be needed. This means that the budgets – whatever will be available – will go somewhere else.

People will continue to work and read online, so digital marketing is likely to appear even more attractive post pandemic.

On the PR and advertising side, publishers are trying hard to keep going as before – so these routes to market should not change much and will hopefully emerge as valuable channels to market, particularly where there is a leads generation mechanism along with branding.

Launching in lockdown?

Whether you launch or not will depend on what you sell. If your customers are firefighting or furloughed, this may not be the time for a launch. Budgets are constrained where incomes have dried up. Some companies are investing, for example where they need to adjust to remote working and equip their teams to do this properly for the long term. But the challenge is that no one can plan very far forward.

Business has been different during lockdown. The pandemic period has seen people and communities coming together in mutual support and we have noticed examples of great generosity as businesses help others through the darkest period. Companies that have been able to do this will emerge with new respect on the other side.

For many the difficult locked-down period has been mostly a time to time to keep in touch with customers and build relationships, and complete some housekeeping tasks ready for the recovery. It’s a great time to update  websites.

Covid19 marketing – enterprise in adversity

It is good to see a business finding opportunity amid disaster. Chris Brazil at Ideal Exhibitions has done just that. Congratulations to Chris for seeing the opportunity. After stories of people’s washing appearing in the background of Zoom calls, his branded backdrops will ensure our domestic environment never distracts in a conference call again!

Anna Wood

Feel free to get in touch to talk about content marketing, blogging or PR:  info@technologypr.co.uk 

Links:

Branded backdrops

https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6648238681058619393/

The future of face-to-face events

https://www.b2bmarketing.net/en-gb/resources/blog/show-must-go-or-must-it-what-b2b-marketing-leaders-think-about-future-face-face

Sustainability – Your customers care – what can marketers do?

The Climate Change movements are not just inspiring but their message is incredibly moving. There seems to be a real chance that people will finally start to take steps to slow down the heating of the planet. The latest headlines about our wildlife are serious. This article isn’t about governments. It is about what businesses and PR / Marketing people in particular can do to play a part mitigating climate change and protecting the environment. There is an important place for sustainability in marketing.

Sustainability may pose a threat to some businesses. I’m thinking of the fast fashion chains and low-cost clothing that is very much part of our lifestyle currently. Interviewing a gentleman in the charity retail sector recently, I learned that the quality of modern clothing isn’t even good enough to recycle it through the charity shop route. This is a worrying trend. Some manufacturers need to rethink their products so that they won’t be left behind in the sustainability revolution. Plastic straws and petrol vehicles come to mind but it goes further than just consumer goods.

Mr Carney’s speech in March expressed his vision that the Financial Sector will be able to direct funds towards more sustainable investments and build  a low carbon economy.

Sustainabilty in marketing

Marketers also have a voice, and should be thinking to the future. They may be able to influence product innovation towards a more sustainable path.  Markets want more products  of all kinds that contribute to solving the climate issues. There will be amazing opportunities for businesses that grasp this – hence the success of electric vehicles and the vegan sausage roll. It will be important to consider sustainability in marketing planning as well as communications and packaging.

I want to make my own work as “sustainable” as possible and am wondering what else I can do? Being office-based, most of what I throw away is paper, packaging, print cartridges and spent plastic pens. I’m already re-cycling paper and cartridges. I can print on both sides of my paper and maybe I’ll switch to a fountain pen to avoid plastic pens. I need more information about how products are made to help me make these decisions. I want to do more, and co-incidentally I found inspiration in the breakfast cereal made by Alara.

Alara is using compostable packaging and won the Sustainability Pioneer Award at the 2019 Sustainable Food Awards. What I like about Alara is their optimism, and their belief that we can make a difference – besides their delicious healthy cereal. Marketers have sometimes been accused of “green-washing” their products, ie overstating their green credentials, but Alara seem to be genuinely trying harder than most businesses.

Packaging falls right in the Marketing area, and we should not waste time in using less plastic and more cardboard and trying new sustainable packaging materials. The Royal Horticultural Society is setting a good example – they have recently changed to compostable packaging for their magazine. All publishers should be moving this way.

Marketing and Public Relations people can influence corporate policies and should do what they can to promote sustainability in marketing at their companies and help the climate emergency. For example:

  • Look for packaging that is plastic-free, compostable or reusable
  • Provide details of the carbon footprint for your company or product, if you dare
  • Outlaw disposable coffee cups and single-use plastic bags, including the giveaway bags at trade shows
  • Use less air travel, forget Air Miles and use videoconferencing
  • Use public transport, walk more
  • Promote cycling
  • Vegetables – consume less meat, choose more vegetarian options, choose organic, home-grown or locally grown produce – key for businesses with catering
  • Use energy generated from sun, wind and water – a greener energy provider
  • Buy recycled and greener brands, for example, Ecover cleaning products
  • Plant trees
  • Have beehives on your roof or land
  • Support a charity that acts to promote sustainability

I am sure I have not thought of everything and I want more information!

What else can we do?

PR and Digital Marketing

PR and digital marketing work well together. I call myself a PR consultant working with technology businesses. However the work overlaps with Digital Marketing.

You will probably know that PR stands for Public Relations. That name is quite strange. In the field where I work, most companies who care about PR simply see it as part of their marketing communications.

PR and some history

The old school Public Relations profession was born after the Second World War when people from the Diplomatic Corps and Secret Services went back to Civvie Street and offered their skills to business.  Employers found their skills useful for wining and dining clients, public speaking and meeting and greeting VIPs.

Today most people think of PR in connection with a company’s reputation, and especially in connection with positive stories in the media. Media used to mean newspapers, magazines and  broadcast channels – today it includes online and social media as well. There are business and technical media for every market sector and niche you can think of, especially when you include the growing numbers of bloggers.

PR and Digital Marketing

We have reached a point where online media matter more than print media.  Readers are more aware of the environment and don’t want to throw paper away after a short life. It is often easier to read news online, and companies are thinking digitally for much of their marketing – their chief aim is to be visible online and rank high in search engines, and online articles play an important role here.

The relationship between PR and Digital Marketing is interesting. There was a period a few years ago when Digital Marketing seemed to sideline PR, because it promised quick measurable results which many business people found attractive. It also offered channels that are free of charge – the only cost is the resources used to create content and promote it.

However Digital Marketing changes all the time and it is becoming more sophisticated. Now people want high quality well-written content delivered  to an editorial plan just like in the world of PR and publishing.  People want articles and blog posts that are of publishable standard and “a good read”.  In the context of online media, PR skills have become highly relevant again.

It has become important to have someone on your team who can write, and write fast in a readable way. They need to be able to write for humans and for search engines, so they need to have a good understanding of the digital environment.  Ideally they will be able to write a piece which works well to promote your company, and helps to bring organic traffic to your website from the Internet.

This form of PR helps companies to become visible in their market AND contributes to search engine ranking. It can explain  complex marketing messages.  It can reach out beyond a company’s own customer list and database and touch new contacts. Today there are many marketing and digital channels to consider. PR has moved on a long way from wining and dining clients.

B2B Marketing Post GDPR

With the GDPR research and compliance just about complete for my own business, I have been thinking how B2B marketing will progress in the post GDPR world. GDPR forces us to think more like sales people, who focus closely on the best opportunities, and less like the now old-style digital marketer who worked extensively with large databases, click rates and “opens”. People liked the predictability of working that way – knowing that if you email 10,000 contacts, 1% would respond gave a neat way to justify the cost of a campaign. The trouble with those campaigns was that the other 9,900 people receiving your email message may have viewed it as rubbish, or mildly annoying at best. From next week we should see fewer unwanted messages in our inboxes.

GDPR – people choose what they receive

But it poses a question for B2B marketers. Until the 25th of May, email marketing was the number one tool in the digital marketing toolbox for customer acquisition, however from next week an email shot to cold list or a third party database won’t be legal unless the contacts have “opted in” to receive communications – and going forwards the marketing lists available are likely to be quite a lot smaller but not proportionately cheaper.

The remaining digital options for customer acquisition are: pay per click advertising, blogging and online PR / advertising, the social networks, and organic search – where most businesses would need to invest in SEO and a tool to watch who visits your website. Each of these options needs a bit of investment. It will still be possible to offer webinars and white papers, but when the GDPR rules come into force website visitors will be able to be more selective about the messages they agree to receive, so the new contacts or “leads” coming from these methods are likely to be fewer.

The social networks can be effective for business development, and will present a good opportunity for some businesses – in particular, I know people who have used the paid promotional options on Linkedin with good results. However the social networks can only work IF the individuals you want to do business with are active users there, so they don’t work for everyone – and as their algorithms are continually changing, it would be a sensible to keep this kind of activity under constant review.

It seems that the era of the cheap digital marketing is now behind us, and marketing budgets may need to be re-focused.

The traditional ways of finding new customers – trade shows, events, telesales and even direct mail – will continue largely unchanged and may even see a little revival.

How to move forwards?  We should watch what is happening with trade media. They provide good channels for B2B promotions but have suffered in the last few years from the shift away from print and loss of advertising revenue.  Now they could see an increase in interest – probably mostly in the digital area. In particular, I believe this will be the case where the publishers with greater foresight have already established useful publications for lots of specialist market sectors. There has been a gentle movement in this direction for some time. The same goes for exhibitions and conferences where there’s a clear trend towards smaller, more focused events.

Marketing – necessary evil?

It came up in conversation that marketing is “a necessary evil” and an overhead! I can understand that some companies have had bad experiences and have come to feel this way – and I know only too well how careful businesses need to be with their budgets! But whoever made this remark was clearly not getting their marketing right. Marketing should be the biggest and best investment you can make to enable your business grow.

What is Marketing?

It all depends on how you define it. Many people think of it as making brochures, websites, exhibition stands and fluffy PR – it can be viewed as a little arty by those on the engineering side of things. However to be more precise, those aspects of marketing should really come under the heading of Marketing Communications. The real scope of marketing is wider than this. The classic concept of “Four Ps” defines it much better: product, placing (for this read distribution or route to market), pricing and promotion. In most companies, the marketing department is focused on the fourth “P” – the promotional work – but the four Ps model is spot on because it puts the elements in the right order. There is other work to do before the promotional work can be successful – the product has to be right, the pricing has to be right and the route to market has to be prepared.

I will add a note about markets here. The size of a market will dictate the size of the opportunity for an individual company – and the number and relative strength of competing companies in the same market sector will have a bearing on the share that each single player can reasonably expect to achieve.

Successful marketing

I believe that for marketing to be successful – and in this instance I mean promotional marketing – a number of other business questions must be considered first. Top of the list is research to understand the size and scope of the market, competitors, and the potential demand and opportunity for the product or service on offer. Then, the product or service needs to be shaped so that it fits with that demand, at a viable price.

If the background research has been realistic, and if the product or service design and pricing are right for the market, then the promotional work should bring good results.

This article is about marketing budgets, not messaging, so I will not discuss propositions in detail here. However, to conclude, I would say that provided there is a real opportunity in the marketplace, increasing your promotional work should bring a real increase in business – and that those businesses that have done their research and have spent more on their promotions than their competitors will almost certainly do better in the longer term.  This doesn’t favour smaller competitors – which is why the great business gurus like Michael Porter advise smaller companies to specialise in market niches where they can achieve visibility and success without such a large investment.

 

 

 

Content marketing for leads

Content marketing is high priority for technology businesses. This means that the resources and budget that are allocated to content marketing are growing.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is a form of marketing where you aim to meet prospective customers by posting the content they are looking for on your website. It is a key part of digital marketing for many businesses as it brings new contacts by organic search. That is to say it brings new contacts from people searching on the internet. This means that the “content” you publish should answer the questions your prospective customers are currently asking.   The content can be text, images, info-graphics, video or podcasts, However most of content is simply text. This is probably because it is the easiest and least expensive to create. Video comes second because people seem to love viewing video.

Case studies are very popular for content marketing, especially for technology companies. They are useful for marketing any high value product or service as a success story should encourage more buyers to go ahead and purchase the same solution.

A story or article for content marketing should be unique, i.e. it should not be available anywhere else on the Internet. This is another reason for choosing customer case studies, they belong to your company, and are ideal material to use.

However, companies use other forms of written content as well. “How To” articles and guides to best practice are popular too. News items and comments on industry news are also good. A new piece of research, presented as a report, can work well, because it contains information that is genuinely valuable to the reader.

Whatever the content, it needs to work effectively for search engines as well as human readers. This means that the writer should write with an awareness of the SEO goals, or the text may be edited later to be more suitable for search engines.

While this sounds easy, businesses often find it hard to create enough content that is good enough to use.  It should contain something that people really want to read if it is to work well.

One way to achieve this is to take an editorial approach as editors are used to writing for their readers and understand what makes a good read.

Working to a content plan or content strategy will help.  A content plan will ensure that the writing keeps to the right topics, and that it covers the areas people are interested in. The best content can be often case studies, as mentioned before, or it can be an article based on new research or an interview with a subject expert.

Finally it should be written to a high standard which reflects your company’s brand and values.

Content marketing takes more effort than people realise, but when it is done well, it becomes a very useful source of new contacts. However, when you compare content marketing with other ways of gaining new contacts, such as attending a trade show or staging a marketing campaign, these also come with significant costs. It is not surprising then that if content marketing is to be effective, it is unlikely to be easy or free.

 

Case studies – ten ways to use them

Case studies for marketing. Here’s a quick article to suggest some more ways to use those valuable customer stories. Ideally you would make a case study for every market sector you sell to. First, collect the details of the story and have it written up as a case study, to make a marketing document that can be used as a sales tool. Then there are plenty of ways you can use this information in your marketing.

Case studies for marketing

  1. Number one on my list has to be Content Marketing because it has become so important. There are a few different ways of doing this, but the principle is simply to display a brief version of the story on your website, and collect the email addresses of the visitors downloading the story.
  2. Use the customer story in a PR campaign. Interesting stories about well-known organisations and forays into new technology are very often suitable for editorial news and features.
  3. Email marketing – refer to the customer story in an email marketing message, and  use a link to track “opens”. Many companies are now using a marketing automation system such as Hubspot to streamline this process.
  4. Share the case study with existing customers. A new case study is a great topic for a company newsletter or a presentation to a user group.
  5. A ground-breaking case study is a brilliant topic for a conference presentation.
  6. Do something different and present the story in other ways – for example it’s no trouble to use a smartphone to make a video for posting and sharing.
  7. I have seen detailed technical case studies being used very successfully for training sales people and distributors overseas.
  8. Why not enter a customer success story for an industry award?
  9. Add case studies to tender submissions to build credibility and strengthen a bid for a major contract.
  10. Finally, this is one to make your internal team feel connected with customers, even if they are not in customer-facing roles. Use glossy pictures of customers using your products to brighten up your offices. It’s also good to have them in reception and meeting rooms. Of course, this only works for certain kinds of products and services!

With so many ways to use a customer case study, I believe it is well worth taking the trouble to put a story together and have it written in the right style and format for your business. The first customer in a new market sector could be an ideal candidate for a case study, as their story will help to gain a foothold and build credibility in the new market area.  Ideally your case study library will contain examples from every sector of your customer base. Depending upon how you plan to use your case study, you may need anything from 500 to 1,500 words of text, but the average length for a business case study is usually between 800 and 1,000 words. That’s long enough to convey a lot of detail, but still short enough to be an easy read.

For the website, your case study may need to be shorter, to grab attention as a reader skims your site. Most companies have a preferred style for their case studies and work to that.

Please contact me at info@technologypr.co.uk to request samples from my case study portfolio.