Content marketing is a high priority for many businesses, and the proportion of a marketing budget that is typically allocated to content marketing is growing.
It will not surprise you to learn that for technology companies, customer case studies are extremely popular for content marketing. To be effective for content marketing, a story has to be unique and it should not be available anywhere else on the Internet so case studies are ideal.
However, companies can work with other forms of content as well. “How To” articles and guides to best practice are popular too. A new piece of research, presented as a report, can work particularly well, because the information it contains is genuinely valuable to the reader.
While this sounds easy, many businesses are finding it challenging to create enough “content” that is of sufficient quality to be attractive as a content download and many companies are struggling. It requires an editorial approach and a “content strategy”, plus some investment in research and careful writing to create the kind of genuinely worthwhile documents which the website visitor will want to download and view.
It takes more effort than many people realise, but if you compare content marketing with other ways of making new marketing contacts, such as gaining sales leads at a trade show, or staging a marketing campaign with a publisher, you soon realise that if it is to be effective, it is unlikely to be easy or free.
IBM predicts that by 2020 the digital universe will be four times bigger than it is today. I guess much of this will be a direct outcome of the marketing ‘content’ we are creating today.
Hand in hand with this, IBM also predicts that we could see a trend towards “dark social”. This is a phenomenon where people no longer want to share everything about their lives on social media – the greater proportion of conversation on social media now takes place in private within the messaging applications.
I heard this at a great talk by Jeremy Waite, at the Technology for Marketing Show, where he introduced IBM’s latest work with AI and marketing. Another interesting trend, which we are beginning to see – is for the big IT companies, and I am sure Facebook will be one of the first of these, to look for ways to track emotions as well as clicks. While it may seem strange at first, it would really be extremely simple for a company to track emojis and feed the data back into their marketing information.
With these trends evolving, personalised marketing where you approach each contact with the right message at the right time becomes more complex, as there is more data to read. This is a new challenge for marketers, and Big Data and data analytics are likely to become drivers of marketing – working to understand feelings and emotions – especially in the bigger consumer-facing companies.
Because of the all-pervasive trend towards Cloud Computing, as I looked around the Cloud Expo Europe last week, there was not a great deal of hardware on show, and a number of exhibitors had thought of completely different ways to attract and interact with the show visitors. For example, one company was challenging visitors to a game of crazy golf.
One display which did catch my eye though, was the selection of cool rugged tablets from Tablet Technologies, which had a good position near the entrance to the show.
Tablet Technologies is a UK company manufacturing their own range of rugged Windows and Android tablets. The devices are built to client specs, so can include extra features, such as barcode scanning or GPS, with the showcase product being the NX10 IP65 Ruggedised 8″ Windows Tablet. Looking more closely, these devices have a true quality feel – the ruggedness of a Landrover compared to the lightweight tablets that most of us use. They will be a great asset to people in the toughest and most demanding jobs on the planet- travelling, in warehouses, working out of doors in all weathers.
I am beginning to like the ExCel centre – the DLR route through London’s new docklands to Custom House is efficient, and it’s just a short hop from the station platform to the exhibition halls.
Today, ExCel was the busiest I have ever seen.
The spaces within ExCel are vast and cavernous, they house a number of individual halls of all sizes. On previous visits, ExCel had always seemed to be providing too much capacity for the shows and crowds it attracted, and even with a few hundred people around, you could still feel a bit lonely there.
Today, with some of London’s biggest technology trade shows all in full swing, ExCel came to life. The Data Centre World, Cloud Expo Europe, Cloud Security Expo and the new baby exhibition Smart IOT London filled one end of the centre, while at the other end, Railtex, InfraRail, ARLA and CITE (Civil Infrastructure and Technology Exhibition) were all buzzing with people. Thinking about visitor numbers, the first four shows alone probably attracted over 12,000 people.
Good PR and marketing should help to generate sales. They help a company to find new sales prospects, and help the sales conversion process in numerous ways. However, this can be easier in smaller technology firms than in larger businesses. In small firms, very often the same individual is responsible for directing sales and marketing, whilst in larger companies, the roles are split between large sales forces and marketing departments with a number of specialists, all working in a more complex corporate hierarchy. In technical businesses, it may also be the case that technical product management will take the lead in PR and marketing.
This means that it can be far easier to align marketing, PR and sales in a small company, and respond tactically to market events, because the strategy is simply decided by one person. In slightly larger organisations, good integration can depend on the personalities and how well the sales and marketing people are aligned as a team. The largest businesses will use formal structures and leadership to ensure that sales and marketing are working in tandem.
PR and marketing messages
A marketing plan, PR plan and sales campaign should all be geared to helping and supporting the sales effort needed to achieve a company’s financial goals, and all should be promoting the same messages about the company and its products or services.
Besides the obvious product features and USPs, your brand, reputation, credibility, track record, technical expertise, accreditations, support services and future outlook can all be factors in winning a sale in a competitive situation. This means that your PR and marketing messages should focus on those areas where they can make the greatest positive impact on sales. It can be an interesting exercise to conduct an internal workshop to brainstorm marketing messages and listen to suggestions from all parts of the business.
Targeting PR campaigns to SMEs is not easy, yet this is a market that some of my technology clients are aiming for. SMEs are the companies that typically have any number of people up to about 200.
Thinking about PR and media for this audience, it is difficult to find a media channel that reaches them all, because they include so many different kinds of companies. They could be retailers, manufacturers, service providers, professional services, or providers of food, drink or hospitality, and they have very little in common except that they are businesses that fit a certain size bracket.
I believe that to conduct a successful promotion, you need to know your customers better than this. There will be groups of customers in different sectors and some may stand out as being more attractive than others. It’s also likely that the clients in different sectors may use your products or services in varying ways, and for different reasons. So it may be helpful to break that SME sector down into vertical markets which will have their own trade media, exhibitions, newsletters and forums.
It can be a very interesting exercise to conduct a Straw Poll and see what media, magazines and websites the customers actually read, and where they would look for new suppliers. There’s a lifestyle factor too. For example, people who travel a lot by car may listen to radio, and people who travel by air may prefer to use laptops and tablet computers and of course, online news services and discussion groups that go to particular groups are great for reaching particular sectors.
Online communications are rapidly making the world feel smaller, but Marketing should still think “local”. When it comes to selling in countries where English is not the first language, sometimes it is a good idea to prepare the PR material in the local language.
You may say: “Everyone understands English, so we can promote our company in English,” and of course, often technical terms are universal worldwide. However this is a little lazy. Making the effort to communicate in the local language can make a great difference. Most editors speak English, of course, but they don’t have time to translate the material we provide. Anything that makes their life easier will help your PR campaign.
With a little effort, it is always possible to find individuals who can translate technical marketing information into other languages. There may be a small cost, but in my opinion, the cost is extremely small in the wider context of selling overseas, which usually involves a lot of expensive travelling. Translating key press releases into local languages is a simple step that every company should consider if they are serious about their exports to the regions where English is not the first language.