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Digital Marketing for Engineers Blog

Seven Deadly Sins of B2B Technology Marketers

Posted by John Hayes

Jun 29, 2017 11:08:52 AM

The seven deadly sins – sloth, pride, envy, lust, greed, gluttony, & wrath – few concepts are so thoroughly embedded in the collective conscience.  The sins as we know them can be traced back to 270 AD, which just might predate technology marketing.  

As marketers, we can be guilty of our own sins, from leaving lead generation to the end of the quarter to failing to measure our results.

Based on my experience as a marketer, here is a list of seven deadly marketing sins and how you can deliver some salvation to your remaining campaigns in 2017.

1. Leaving your lead generation goals to the end of the quarter

This makes the top of the list of the seven deadlies. It’s a killer because not only does it set you back for your goals for the quarter, that delay stacks up every quarter. By the end of the year you are a full three months behind.  When you get to that last quarter, you have a big hill to climb to reach your yearly target – you have to pull in a full six months worth of leads. That is really tough.

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There are lots of reasons why you may be short on leads. First, your brilliant campaign idea may have failed. Actually, that’s pretty rare.

What’s more common is that your brilliant plan didn’t even launch because of some obstacle. It could have been a huge delay in getting the downloadable content you need for the campaign, or a customer’s legal team won’t approve your case study.  The delay in getting your content asset translates into less time to execute the campaign, making it near impossible to hit your lead generation goal in the time remaining.

To get past these sorts of challenges, I try to push the launch dates of projects that rely on external parties to later in the year. This gives me as much lead time as possible to make allowance for any of those, “oh sorry, just saw this now” emails that delay a project by 60 days. 

Here’s what I do – start the year with projects in my control or ones where I’m working with a trusted partner with a track record of delivering on time.  Next, I set deadlines with all those other parties I’m working with, and then a second secret “real deadline” which is the one I need to hold the other parties to no matter what. 

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With this in mind, now is a good time to get started on the projects that are going to require external approvals or support when they launch later in the year.

Btw - We are doing a lot of survey and research reports to create unique downloadable assets for our clients these days. Our clients find it to be a reliable and quick way to get high-quality thought-leadership types of assets.

One way to keep yourself honest is to track your leads every day. Our marketing automation tool, Hubspot, helps us manage this kind of procrastination by putting our yearly leads on the dashboard. With this total staring us in the face, both with text and a chart, we get a daily reminder when we are falling behind, or a daily boost when we are ahead of the target. 

And if you do find yourself in that end of quarter crunch, one helpful way to get leads fast is to review the campaigns that you have run recently that had the fastest conversions. Those conversions may be to MQLs, if that is your metric, or Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs).

Then double down on those campaigns to get you over the finish line. If your metric is MQLs and you don’t have much budget left, apply it to whatever campaign generated the lowest CPL. And then swear to yourself that you won’t do this again next quarter, because low-cost CPLs that may not convert are going to come back to bite you someday.

 2. Allowing “marketing speak” into your blogs and sponsored posts

Have you ever edited a piece of content, say for a blog from one of your engineers or a sponsored post created for you by a publisher? In that editing, have you ever pushed the author to either eliminate comparisons to competitive solutions, or asked them to focus more on your product’s strengths? If so, then you are guilty of pushing marketing speak into content.

Pride in your product is a good thing and the desire to put your company’s best foot forward is universal, but excessive pride that only extols the virtues of your product is a problem. 

Why? 

Because it’s not authentic. Authentic content admits that there are areas where your product could be better. It can even achnowledge a competitor. This builds credibility for the story and makes it much more likely that the cynical reader will believe whatever comes next, which may be a successful match between your product and the problem they are trying to solve.

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And guess what? Your readers already know that your product isn’t perfect for every application, so it really doesn’t cost you anything to admit it. On the plus side, being honest about your product attributes buys you a huge whack of credibility.

I know you could get scolded from on high for allowing anything that has the slightest whiff of acknowledging a weakness, but customers aren’t stupid, particularly not B2B technology customers. Appeal to their intelligence rather than pretending they don’t know what’s up, and your brand will benefit.

3. Foregoing the future for the sake of today – no awareness advertising

Ever wish you were as well known as your biggest competitor?  Don’t be envious, embrace the idea that it takes time to carve out your piece of the pie.  One way to get there is making sure your prospects know about your brand. 

Speaking of brands, have you set aside any budget for awareness advertising? Many technology marketers, especially B2B marketers, will say no.

Achinta Mitra recently wrote an excellent blog on Awareness Marketing for industrial Companies. It’s worth a read.

Awareness Marketing for Industrial Companies

The net of it is that technology buyers, such as engineers, are human too. They need to overcome their fear of buying from companies who are not familiar. Awareness advertising helps get your prospects to a more comfortable place, where they at least recognize the name of your company as a legitimate solution provider.

4. Not learning the technical details of your product

Some marketers don’t think it’s important to understand the technical ins and outs of their product. They think that’s what applications engineers are for.

But here’s the thing. If you don’t truly understand your product and how your B2B customer actually uses it, you won’t be able to credibly communicate with those prospects. You won’t recognize when an agency gives you copy that is just a little bit off – that has a few words that miss an important nuance. And in that moment, your opportunity to convince your prospects is lost.

Learning your company’s products is difficult, but the risk associated with skipping that step is just too large to justify. 

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It’s also important to note that in addition to knowing your product you should get to know your prospects. For technology marketers, reading the personas that other people have written isn’t the same as interviewing your actual customers about their actual applications – in person if at all possible.

You will gain a wealth of information if you can meet them in their own workplace, to see what the rest of their job entails. Visits like this can give you invaluable insights into how to communicate with your prospects, based on a real world understanding of how they do their jobs.

5. Doing things you’ve always done without measuring results

Many marketers build their budgets by taking last year’s budget and rolling it forward. The good thing about this approach is that it doesn’t take long, and nobody likes to take long with budgeting.

The problem is, too many marketers consume a lot of their budget without drilling down first into which activities have the best ROI. That can lead to wasted dollars that could have been spent more effectively. 

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For example, in the 2017 Engineering Marketers Spending Plans research report, marketers said that trade shows were still the biggest line items in their budgets, even after 3 straight years of declining popularity. When we asked marketers why they still go to trade shows in a quick poll during a webinar for technology marketers, ~25%% answered “Inertia. - we’ve always gone.”

Q: Why do you go to trade shows?

A: “Inertia – we’ve always gone.”

That figure was almost as high as the 28%who said that “trade shows have proven ROI so it makes sense to go.” Those who knew why they were going to trade shows are doing it right. The 25% who are just repeating the prior year need to do the arithmetic to decide whether each show is worth their while.

That’s not to say that trade shows are inherently low value. Many marketers use them to advance their branding, test new products with their customers, and get feedback on why certain prospects are not yet customers. That said, it is important to have goals for your trade show activities and to measure success against them so you can prove ROI.

6. Not experimenting with new stuff 

Every marketer likes to talk about experimenting with new technology and new marketing practices, but for all our talk many of us rarely actually take the dive and try something new. The reason for this is simple, and we hate to admit it, but experiments are risky.  You can invest a big slice of your budget and not get a lot back in return. 

We want leads. We need leads. And so we too often avoid really branching out and instead rely on the tried and true practices that have delivered for us in the past. 

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That’s not to say that routine is always bad. Some activities are helped by routine – maybe you spend a certain time every day scheduling your social media activities, doing your industry reading, or answering email. But what about working on those breakthrough ideas? Do you have any time or budget left to try them?

For example, are you keeping up with the latest tools such as account based marketing, or employee advocacy? Are you continuing to test your subject lines in emails?

If you have become too driven by process, where you are focused solely on crossing tasks off your list, you may be missing some big things that can help you reach your goals, leads and otherwise, more easily. 

If you fear this is happening to you, one great antidote is to give yourself some unstructured time, preferably with a work colleague, to trade ideas. Our team at ENGINEERING.com goes on “walking meetings” as a regular activity. The unstructured time lets them share and generate ideas without a schedule, meeting room, or agenda. Good stuff doesn’t always come out, but when it does, it is often something big and truly insightful.

7. Not measuring the right metrics.

It’s no secret a great many people don’t like numbers.  As marketers, we can easily fall into the trap of ignoring the metrics, often because they don’t measure what we really need to know. It’s difficult to create clear and understandable metrics that are truly helpful in explaining how well our marketing efforts are performing. 

In the place of those power metrics many marketers instead supplement other sexy metrics that don’t mean nearly as much.  Things like Facebook followers, page views, retweets, and clicks are common examples.  What about leads? With many marketers being evaluated on leads, that must be a good measure, right? 

Many companies are now asking marketers, what is the value of leads if they never turn into MQLs or SQLs…or revenue?  If you are measured and rewarded on the wrong things, your entire team can suffer. I dive into this topic in my blog post “how to compensate and engineering marketer.

20170629 Blog Image Dark Side.jpgIf you really want to take your marketing to the next level, embrace the math side.  There are metrics that will give you a lot more understanding of what is happening, such as measuring pipeline or Out-of-the-Box lead scores for instance. 

If you really want to build something that measures your campaigns exactly the way you want, consider building an algorithm to judge your campaigns on a combination of metrics.  You can weight the inputs based on what is important to your business, like LinkedIn shares for your marketing blog. 

To get a deep understanding, there is no substitute for getting down and dirty with some spreadsheets to figure out what kind of return your trade shows, webinars, and CPC campaigns are giving you! 

Those are my top seven deadly sins of technology marketers. You may have some others you would like to add. Feel free to post in the comments.

And since I care about Linkedin shares, I hope you’ll share this post!

Best,

John

Topics: Content marketing for engineers, Branding and awareness, content strategy, Content Promotion

    
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