Marketing

The travails of the technology marketer

<This post was first featured on the Paul Writer website> 

The modern marketer is witnessing conventional brick and mortar companies going digital in a big way and there is no escaping the digital marketing tsunami. Having worked in the technology marketing space for the past few years, I’ve always wanted to consolidate and share the key challenges that you are likely to face if you are planning to set foot on these tricky waters! Marketers face an assortment of challenges as digital and traditional marketing techniques converge posing tougher questions in a crowded market space. Let us look at what are the key conundrums that you are most certainly bound to face in your quest for marketing excellence.  

1. Audience generation

With the advent of the mobile phone, the attention span of the target audience has shrunk even further. Getting consumers to notice your brand is a Herculean task. The customer needs to be constantly educated about the brand. The marketer needs to weave the story in such a way that the customer is the protagonist in the story being told. The audience that is generated by marketing efforts over a period of time feeds the sales funnel. Hence driving traffic to your brand is a big challenge that the marketer must readily take head on! 

2. The soft sell

I’m a strong believer that marketing should be a key lead generator. Being allied with sales goals is indispensable and marketing is ideally placed to help in acquiring new customers. The marketer needs to ensure that potential prospects are not subject to “death by spam”. The art of writing an email subject line is probably something that you could write a book on! Your story telling should be so compelling that customers flock to you like moths to light. Many a time the marketer would be able to generate dozens of qualified leads, but they don’t really matter if revenue does not come in. Recent trends reveal that marketing teams are morphing into “inbound marketing engines”. For instance, all leads that come from online sources can be credited exclusively to marketing efforts. Email marketing, corporate websites and online customer communities are all domains from where marketers can source leads.

3. Keeping up with change

In today’s world, technology updates happen at the blink of an eye. During my MBA days not reading Economic Times every morning was considered a cardinal sin. Now, not skimming through TechCrunch or Technorati every morning is a cardinal sin! Keeping up with trends requires patience, rigor and discipline. A combination of offline and online reading works well for me. As a marketer you need to be skillful in connecting the dots on what you have read so that what you say is relevant with the times. Your customers are consistently giving feedback about your product or service. Are you engaging social listening platforms to listen to your customer’s voice and change accordingly? Technology has the habit of spurting out new ways of doing things every alternate day. The question is how agile are you at playing catch up?

4. Adopting the right strategy for your target audience

As traditional marketing takes a back seat, adopting the right strategy is decisive in managing customer expectations. Your marketing goals are going to be pretty intense and hence having a clear vision for the brand and following it up is paramount. Every company worth its salt does a press release. So what can you do different? How can the marketing team do something unique that creates real value for the brand at a low cost? The fact is that the entire marketing spectrum has had a paradigm shift from the days of Kotler. Your marketing strategy also ensures brand consistency across various platforms. This is where integrated marketing becomes a priority for the technology marketer of today.  

5. Serenading the customer

The only way that your customer will remain loyal to you is through the exceptional value that you bring to the table. Sales cycles are tougher as there is increased competition in the market. A niche product or service can remain niche only for about 6 months.  In such a scenario, the digital marketer needs to create a connection in the minds of the customer. The marketer needs to work over time to ensure that competition will not wrest away the customer that you worked so hard to get. The digital marketer needs to think about how the customer can accept a long-term commitment and not a one-night stand!  If the marketer can make the customer experience something memorable, then the interaction would be something more than just a “sale”.

6. Clinching the right budget

One of the most difficult conversations for a marketer to undertake is justifying budgets to the management. In the B2B space, most often the marketing budgets are a lower priority and the “left over monies” are given to marketing. This is because in many cases you will not be able to exactly quantify the ROI on a campaign. This is where reporting tools and dashboards come into play. If you could use big data analytics to analyze your CRM data, you would be able to come out with justifiable numbers when you present your budget proposal to your management.   Once you get the budget, the next challenge is allocating the right mix so that you get the proverbial bang for the buck. Spending lakhs on a one-time television ad might not be really worth it if you are a mid size firm.

7. Content is king

Everyone knows that content marketing strategies are here to stay. The biggest challenge is ensuring high quality content on a consistent basis without diluting the brand equity. Content also needs to be structured is the form of some dialogue and not a monolog. Hiring a content person would be one of the best investments that a CMO can make. Another factor that you just can’t ignore while generating content is the rise of creative conflicts. Since marketing related design work is visual in nature, every Tom, Dick and Harry will have an opinion about the fonts and the color palette being used. The experienced marketer will know how to handle creative differences and put out something that will be acceptable by majority of the stakeholders.

8. A role with many moving parts

Marketing is pretty much a juggling game. The customer touch points are manifold and hence managing all of them can be pretty draining. You can be rest assured that you will be pulled in multiple directions and hence you need to ensure that you don’t spread yourself too thin. There are hundreds of events to attend and dozens of blogs to write. Be cognizant of what will provide the best value for your firm. To get inspiration, read up on marketing websites like www.hubspot.com orwww.marketingprofs.com. Starting the quarter with a well-defined marketing plan that ties in with business goals is critical so that you can manage all that juggling you need to do.       

9. Understanding the nuts & bolts of technology

If you are a marketer in the IT industry, it really helps if you understand some of the technology terms that are being thrown around. I have met with many marketers who are afraid to talk technology. I used to be one of them but have gradually overcome that fear of talking to a CTO across the table. When I went to Singapore to do some business development for Compassites, I was thrown into technical conferences and CTO forums. This is where I learnt to talk some of the tech stuff.  Some of the terms surely techies use initially seem like Greek & Latin to you, but once you get your head into it, it gets addictive to know how the tech folks think. 

10. Demonstrating clear ROI through analytics

With the CFO breathing down your neck to show metrics, the role of the marketer is to prove the value that is being provided. As a marketer you need to ensure that reporting mechanisms are in place to show that you had made optimal use of the resources at hand in order to provide a certain value to the organization. Measuring how effectively marketing is creating revenue is critical and there are many tools in the market that can help you do this.   

For me, marketing has always been the art of gentle persuasion. We are the guys who do the soft sell and make the brand look “sexy” in the eyes of the customer. Obstacles are bound to come by, but the smart marketer is capable of handling these and a lot more. To be a good marketer you need the tenacity to stay the course and pursue your objectives. May your tribes increase!