2017 IT Channel Marketing Trends, Challenges, Priorities and Preferences 

The 2017 IT Channel Marketing 360 Report is here. The first of what will be an annual publication from Lauchlan, this survey and report takes a look at IT channel marketing trends from the perspective of all 3 groups involved: vendor channel marketing leaders, solution provider/VAR marketers and IT executives, management and mid-level pros.

The survey zooms in on opinions surrounding some of the most common marketing activities in the IT channel, including:

  • What marketing activities will get the most MDF in 2017?
  • What’s the best time of day for an IT event?
  • Is direct mail truly having a comeback?
  • What do IT pros think about all those cold calls and emails?
  • What content formats and sources do IT pros prefer?
  • What do IT pros want marketers to start—and stop—doing right now?

 

Here’s a few notable findings from this year’s report:

  1. What we are going to call “The Eternal IT Marketing Paradox” endures. Calling remains a top marketing tactic in both frequency of use and perceived effectiveness in the IT channel. BUT, it’s overwhelmingly the most negatively perceived tactic among IT pros.

 

  1. Events still reign supreme. All the talk of inbound and digital marketing aside, the good old lunch-and-learn—or steak-and-storage, or happy hour—is still seen as a top IT channel marketing tactic. And events will continue to take the lion’s share of MDF in 2017.

 

  1. Proving performance is the biggest challenge. Both vendors and solution providers/VARs ranked “tracking ROI of campaigns” as their biggest marketing challenge.

 

  1. Sales is to blame! Both vendors and solution providers/VARs ranked “inconsistent follow-through” on the part of the solution provider/VAR sales team as a top barrier to MDF campaign success.

 

  1. IT pros really don’t like marketing fluff. When asked what they disliked most about IT vendor and solution provider/VAR marketing content, “too much marketing fluff” was chosen by 45% of IT pros. At a distant second was “no pricing information.”

 

  1. Afternoons (not lunch) may actually be the IT event sweet spot. Interestingly, afternoon was ranked the most preferred time of day for attending learning events by IT pros. Morning was second and lunchtime was third. After work ranked the lowest.

 

Get the 2017 IT Channel Marketing 360 Report

Download the free report to dig deeper into what IT pros think about your marketing tactics and what your channel peers are planning for 2017.

 

Pete Fuduric is Content Director at Lauchlan. You can email Pete at pfuduric@lauchlanx.com.

Nurturing IT Leads Down the Funnel: Insights from Lauchlan’s Lead Secure Manager


 

Lauchlan Lead Secure Manager Sean McCool recently sat down with us to talk about his team’s role in helping our clients in the IT channel “usher” leads down the funnel through a mix of marketing automation and voice and email touches. Watch the video or read the transcript below.

 

What is Lauchlan Lead Secure?

Lauchlan Lead Secure is a team we setup internally that focuses on looking at the buyer journey from a holistic point of view. So if you take things into consideration from the buyer’s perspective: what matters to them, what sort of content do they want to see, how do they get from stage 1 to stage 2 in terms of not knowing about a product to wanting to buy it, and what sort of tools we can put in place to empower them to make their way through that journey?

 

How does it fit in with an overall campaign?

I see Lead Secure as being the type of glue within a certain campaign. So if you think about it from these campaigns having all these different components from design and development to content to accounts management, Lead Secure is essentially the glue that helps these different departments and these different components talk together and play nice together.

 

What’s the role of automation?

Automation within Lead Secure works as a great middle-of-the-funnel tool. So it takes people who probably already know about who you are and what you do and helps feed them through to take a meeting with you. Essentially, it’s about setting up an environment for people to start interacting with you and then, based on their interactions, feed them specific types of content to help usher them down the funnel.

 

What are some calling best practices?

So first and foremost, I think it’s important to recognize that each person you call is different and that each conversation you have is going to be different, as well. On top of that, realize that these are people that have busy schedules. Be respectful of their time, and clearly and quickly explain the benefits of what you’re offering to them.

 

Solve for Buyer-Centric Lead Nurturing

The Lauchlan Lead Secure team has delivered thousands of leads for our clients in the IT channel. Get in touch with us to start a conversation about your needs.

 

How to Make Your IT Marketing Event a Success

In-person events have seen enduring validation from B2B marketers. In Content Marketing Institute’s B2B Technology Content Marketing 2016: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America, events were rated the most effective content marketing channel. And, according to our own research, events will be the biggest bucket for IT channel marketing budgets in 2017 (look for our IT Channel Marketing 360 Report coming soon).

With that in mind, we wanted to hear from Lauchlan Senior Account Manager Stephanie Blaisdell. Stephanie has helped our clients plan and drive attendance to IT events of all types and sizes. I asked her about trends in the space, what she sees working and other insights.

 

What do you think are the key things an IT pro looks for in an event?

I think a big thing they look for is the opportunity to ask the experts questions and have candid conversations. They want to gather information on new ideas and approaches, potential vendors and solutions—within the context of their role and industry—that address their challenges. We’ve also found that an interactive, hands-on element to the event is something attendees value, according to our post-event surveys.

 

What about day and time—any best practices there?

Days like Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays have worked out consistently in planning events. Mondays are difficult because the work week is just beginning, and on Fridays people are thinking about weekend plans—especially if the event is towards the end of the day and early evening. Timeframe can vary quite a bit, and each timeframe has their place: full-day, half-day or just a couple of hours. Also, it probably goes without saying but you should avoid events on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings (conversion rates have historically been very poor).

It’s also critical to conduct some research to see if there are any competitive events in that area where there might be overlap.

 

In your experience do incentives (prize raffles, booze, food, games, etc.) work to bring an IT audience to an event, or is the content and networking all that matters?

Content and networking is definitely critical to getting people to attend events, but the other incentives certainly can help attract people too. If you look at an event from a prospect’s perspective—why would I attend? Does this product or service help me do my job better, make my job easier, bring efficiencies or increase cost savings for my company? The value of the event is in the content, and everything else is sort of gravy. Which isn’t to say that people object to most things offered to them for free (unless in the case of certain public sector professionals where incentives are actually off limits).

 

Now the really important stuff: Do you see trends in the type of food and/or booze IT pros prefer?

Craft beer along with a nice selection of spirits seem to be really popular and go over well with the tech crowd. I think that casual fare like finger foods and appetizers are simple and light, and generally enjoyed by everyone. They also help to structure the event and encourage people to mingle and ask questions as they network. Then again, who can say no to foie gras and a glass of Sauternes?

 

I can…

What about gift incentives? Any standouts that you see drawing an IT audience?

IT pros actually seem to like less expensive items just as much as higher-priced tech gadgets. I think it’s because it’s sometimes more about value than the overall price. For instance, a nice metal tumbler might be more appealing because you can get a lot of use out of it (home or office), rather than possibly receiving yet another tablet or activity tracker that might just end up collecting dust or be re-gifted. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t splurge. There are a number of great sites that have the latest in innovative products from virtual reality headsets to solar panel chargers to 3D printers. When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with Bacon of the Month Club (no, seriously).

 

What kind of venues are working for IT events right now?

Venues can vary depending on the type of event you want to hold and the specific requirements. We’ve seen great results from sports complexes, hotels, restaurants, demo centers and industrial/loft spaces. Important factors to consider are the anticipated number of attendees, room setup, any particular AV needs, cuisine and the general location. Depending on where you want to hold the event, factors like accessibility and easy parking are definitely aspects that might have an impact on attendance. Try to make it easy for people to attend and not give them reasons not to.

 

Is there a magic number for amount of emails and total touches it takes to meet registration goals?

There is no magic recipe so to speak, but one of the most important parts of promotion is the list you are using (list quality > list quantity). They should be people that have engaged with you and are familiar with your company’s offerings. Events that target net-new prospects can be very challenging since events are typically more of a mid- or down-funnel activity. It also certainly helps to add in other tactics like direct mail and social posts (paid or organic) for increased visibility of your event to your target audience. To summarize, it can take as many as 8-12 touches in several formats to meet registration goals… with a quality list.

 

What are some of the best ways to follow up with event attendees?

Following up with attendees (and sometimes registrants) is very valuable. This could be through email for its low cost and efficiency, but sometimes direct mail or following up with a friendly phone call can be beneficial to further the discussion. And it doesn’t have to stop at one touchpoint. As we know, the buying cycle for IT can be as long as 9-12 months, so continue to be helpful to them by providing more information and content through marketing automation and lead nurture over a longer period.

 

Is there a sweet spot as far as when to follow up?

Generally, we like to wait about 2-3 days before following up. A few days will give them time for the subject matter to resonate, but also soon enough to keep you top of mind. By including a survey about the event in the follow-up you can also gather some helpful insights for future events—perhaps in exchange for a valuable piece of content. After the initial follow-up, future emails should be behavior-based and driven through an automation program.

 

If you could make one recommendation to IT marketers planning events, what would it be?

Give yourself the time you need to plan, scope, budget, develop creative, launch and promote. Sometimes there are constraints with timeframes and budgets, but not having the runway you need can end up being a significant waste of time and money. Like most people, prospects want to be able to schedule things in advance, and last minute events will end up at the bottom of the list of priorities. Give yourself at least 6-8 weeks to promote, at a minimum. This way, you will also have time to make some changes if you aren’t seeing the registration results you want.

Awesome. Thanks, Steph!

 

Solve for Impactful IT Marketing Events

We help IT channel marketers plan and execute events that fun, informative and fully attended. Get in touch with us to start a conversation about your event needs.

 

Pete Fuduric is Content Director at Lauchlan. You can email Pete at pfuduric@lauchlanx.com.

 

 

 

5 Ways to Humanize MSP Marketing

This post was originally published on the Continuum MSP blog .

Managed services providers (MSPs) planning a marketing strategy today will find an overwhelming array of technologies and tactics at their disposal. But those that adopt technology- and data-driven marketing while maintaining a consistent human touch will stand the best chance of success.

Here’s 5 practices we often recommend for MSPs looking to humanize their brand and make stronger connections with prospects:

 

1. Lead with your people.
IT leaders looking to outsource management of a critical piece of their environment may have a variety of factors to consider, but these two tend to be the most critical: They want to know you have technical expertise and reliable customer service. A great way to demonstrate both attributes is to lead with real people and real stories in your marketing. Examples of this include video interviews with your engineers and support team, frequent customer case studies and team bios prominently featured on your website.

 
2. Deliver on-point content for every question and objection.
A comprehensive, buyer-centric content library is a key building block of a good IT marketing strategy. You can build this by first doing an internal workshop to understand the common stages of the decision process for each of your services, then creating a piece of content that addresses the typical questions and concerns a prospect has at each stage.

Once built, this library can fuel nearly every aspect of your marketing—from lead generation to social media to sales calls. 

 
3. Avoid marketing buzzwords.
Contempt for marketing buzzwords and generally empty language is universal among IT pros. When you build your website and content library, try doing it without using phrases like “world-class,” “end-to-end,” “best of breed,” or “industry-leading.”

Instead, try to convey your true identity and differentiators in a direct, simple and transparent voice. Tell them what you do, tell them what you don’t do, and have a clear and painless call to action for starting a conversation.

 
4. Build email lists organically.
Particularly for new MSPs starting from zero in marketing, the temptation to purchase an email list can be strong. But the serious drawbacks of this tactic have been well documented, including here, here, here and here. Simply put, you risk brand damage and compromise your future email deliverability while likely seeing poor returns.

The good news: When you build your email list through slow and steady inbound marketing (drawing people in with useful content and getting them to subscribe) you will likely see much higher engagement levels and ultimately better leads. It’s quality over quantity.

 
5. If you cold call, be armed with knowledge.
Cold calling can turn off busy business decision makers, but sometimes it feels like a necessary evil to build pipeline. If you must do it, be sure your sales reps have the depth of knowledge to lead a meaningful conversation with the few people that do want to engage. Our own research as well as that of others has shown that IT pros don’t care much for cold calls, but they really don’t like getting them from people who can’t answer their questions.

Learn more about the humanized approach to MSP marketing: Visit Lauchlan at booth #108 at Continuum’s Navigate 2016 Conference, September 28-30th — Boston, MA. We look forward to meeting you and talking about your marketing challenges.

 

Solve for Human IT Marketing

Lauchlan helps MSPs, CSPs and IT solution providers generate demand while keeping a human touch. Reach out to start a conversation.

 

Pete Fuduric is Content Director at Lauchlan. You can email Pete at pfuduric@lauchlanx.com.

10 MDF Lead Gen Ideas You Can Use Right Now

Lauchlan is close to 300 MDF lead-gen campaigns deep since our founding in 2009. Over the years our team has come up with a lot of ideas—from the big to the small, from the creative to the tactical—to fine tune performance and yield the best results. Here’s 10 of them in no particular order. Hopefully you can use a few in your own lead-gen efforts.

  1. The brandelope – These eye-catching envelopes allow you to include design elements directly on the outside panels. We’ve used brandelopes as part of multi-touch lead-gen campaigns to send things like a letter from a sales leader, an event invite or a datasheet. They can be a great way to grab attention in the mail stack of the IT decision maker.
  1. The one-two punch – Follow up a big direct mail drop (particularly one that includes an aggressive CTA like a discovery call) with a text-based email that simply mentions the mail drop and reminds them to take action. It’s a fairly straightforward tactic that we’re now regularly using after seeing significant performance boosts in recent A/B testing.
  1. The LinkedIn connect CTA – Much of what goes into an MDF lead-gen campaign comes down to lift and drag. IT pros are super busy and often skeptical of marketing. Anything you can do to reduce friction to conversion, even slightly, is a plus. A landing page with a CTA to connect with a sales rep on LinkedIn or to “look for my connection invite on LinkedIn” can be an elegant and more personable alternative to the traditional registration form. This is a calculated sacrifice of data capture in the hope that it will increase conversions.
  1. The human lead form – A variation on the LinkedIn connect CTA, the human lead form puts the picture of an actual sales rep on the landing page of an MDF lead-gen campaign with a button to connect directly by email. Like the LinkedIn approach above, you are sacrificing data capture for conversion rates. (You can read a case study of this approach here.)
  1. Video, video and video – It’s become gospel that video is one of the most (maybe the most) effective content format in IT marketing. As IDG noted again in its 2016 Customer Engagement study (summarized here in one info-rich poster), 93% of IT decision makers reported watching a tech-related video in the last 3 months. We’ve seen high engagement and conversions on lead-gen campaigns that lead with one centerpiece video—in an email series, at the top of the fold on the landing page and possibly in a direct mail video brochure, if budget allows. If you’re planning on spending budget towards a content asset, take some time to consider whether it can be delivered through video.
  1. The arts-and-crafts direct mail piece – Rumors of direct mail’s death have been greatly exaggerated. As the DMA noted in a 2015 report, marketing ROI for direct mail is healthy indeed. For the right campaign—typically one with a highly targeted list of 100 or less prospects—we sometimes like to lead with a very creative, handmade piece that grabs attention while capturing a theme that relates to the solution being offered. For example, in the planning stages of a recent lead-gen campaign focused on an Oracle retail systems upgrade, the client’s subject matter expert told us that most retailers have a shambolic mess of systems “duct taped together” thanks to years of reactive IT planning. We decided to lead with that visual concept in the first direct mail drop. Our creative team handcrafted abstract sculptures composed of a jumbled mix of paper clips, duct tape, rubber bands and other miscellany. The message: Do your retail systems look like this? The image was carried forward to the landing page with a time-lapse animated GIF depicting the creation of one of the sculptures.
  1. Google video ads – I already mentioned how big video is for IT pros (see number 5 above). One of the most successful channels for video in recent Lauchlan campaigns has been Google video ads. These are the YouTube ads you can skip after a few seconds (surprisingly, IT pros ARE very willing to watch the full video ad if it’s relevant and engaging.) We recommend visually rich, actionable videos that get straight to the point and lead to a longer version of the video and/or a landing page.
  1. LinkedIn Sponsored Updates – One of the highest-performing paid channels for our lead-gen campaigns, LinkedIn Sponsored Updates are a great way to bypass saturated email inboxes and target prospects in a more content-forward medium. Plus, you can target placement by region, industry, role and even company.
  1. The multi-touch, multi-channel approach – Developing and deploying 100s of MDF lead-gen campaigns has taught us a few things over the years. Of all the best practices we’ve learned, this one might be the most critical: Campaigns with multiple touches across multiple media channels almost always perform better.
  1. The long game – The best tactic to master the MDF lead-gen campaign might be to ditch it altogether, or at least to leave behind the traditional quarterly variety. That’s the idea behind our Content Hub framework. It combines content, marketing automation, digital targeting, analytics and continuous optimization to enable a more holistic approach to IT marketing aligned with the buyer’s journey, not the channel’s sales cycle. (OK, commercial over).

 

Solve for New MDF Lead-Gen Ideas

Looking for new ideas to drive MDF lead-gen success? We think about this stuff every day. Get in touch to start a conversation.

 

Pete Fuduric is Content Director at Lauchlan. You can email Pete at pfuduric@lauchlanx.com.

Content Is King (So Long as It Isn’t Crap)

I remember reading Doug Kessler’s now legendary (uh, B2B legendary) Crap: The Content Marketing Deluge SlideShare a few years ago and thinking every marketer in the world must have had some version of this argument floating in their brains. It’s just hard to imagine it being said with more clarity or wit than Doug brought to his. It’s a delightful and easy read if you haven’t yet had the opportunity.

His argument can be boiled down to this:

  1. Every marketer and her mother are getting in on the content conga line.
  2. This has led to a deluge of marketing-generated content—some of it good, a lot of it crap.
  3. Buyer sentiment towards marketing content will sour on account of all the crap.
  4. But, the brands that truly dedicate themselves to quality content—created from the buyer’s perspective, focused on your sweet spot of knowledge, consistently published, not lazy—will reign supreme in the post-deluge world.

What does all this mean for IT solution providers devising a content marketing strategy? The good news is there has been a big validation in recent years of quality over quantity. Content is as important as ever for IT pros, it’s just a matter of separating signal from noise. If you’re starting at zero with content, you can go a long way with just a few key evergreen assets that do the heavy lifting.

When we talk to an IT solution provider looking to get started with content we usually suggest the following in order:

  1. Case studies (video or written) – The case study is a content powerhouse, especially in IT. Tech pros like hearing from their peers, getting specific details about use cases and ROI, and they want to validate you as a potential solution provider. A good case study achieves all these things at once.
  1. About you video – A 1-minute video (animated or live photography)—embedded top of fold on your homepage is a great way to tell your overarching story as a solution provider in one succinct, consumable package.
  1. Why you 1-pager (or infographic) – For many IT pros, choosing a solution provider comes down to the value-add proposition. This content piece is a key asset, but it needs to capture true differentiators, not just the usual clichés. And try to avoid the dreaded datasheet filled with gobs of copy. Very few IT pros will read it, and they’ll be put off from the start. Try an infographic-style treatment—visual, punchy, scannable and fun.
  1. Subject matter expert (SME) videos – Your top SMEs—particularly in areas like security, big data, IoT and cloud—bring a human face to your brand and validate your expertise. The loose, casual SME interview video is one of our favorite content formats for IT solution providers.
  1. ROI calculator (or other practical, interactive tool) – Some of the most appreciated value-adds a solution provider can bring to a tech buying decision is the lower-funnel stuff. Interactive tools like ROI calculators are a great way to bring real value to prospects and position yourself as a true IT advisor. They work great as the centerpiece of a lead-gen campaign as well.

 

Solve for Killer Content

Lauchlan helps IT solution providers do content, whether it’s 1 asset or a comprehensive content marketing strategy. Check out our Content Is King microsite to learn more.

 

Pete Fuduric is Content Director at Lauchlan. You can email Pete at pfuduric@lauchlanx.com.

 

 

IT Marketing: Building a Tiered Multi-Channel Approach

Technology companies, whether OEMs, solution providers or CSPs, have the need to identify and understand their technology buyer, know what solutions may match their needs, and know where their buyers go to find solutions like yours. Often times this takes the form of identifying the given solution to be promoted, selecting a geography, pulling a list of target prospects and setting about to building awareness into this prospect audience across email, calling, social media and other channels. Sound familiar? This basic strategy is the framework of many IT marketing practices. If taken at face value, however this process falls short of a few key strategic steps that help maximize a strategic, multi-channel approach.

1. Understand Buyer Behaviors for Your Solutions
Defining who the ideal buyer is for your products and solutions is a necessity. As an agency serving the technology sector, Lauchlan is frequently asked to target C-level decision makers. The plan is to go straight to those at the top of the organization with purchasing authority. However, marketing research, and our own agency experience have demonstrated that there are typically many levels of input, research, competitive and product analysis taking place at within the organization that aid in contributing to a given IT solution being selected. Because of this, marketing programs singularly directed at c-level decision-makers oftentimes disappoint marketers in the results they seek.

By understanding the full range of influencers; from interns, to administrators, IT managers, to procurement teams and c-level financial decision-makers this will allow for implementation of the more successful strategy of developing tiered, targeted communications to various buyer personas within the organization.

 

multi-channel

 

2. Develop a Multi-Level Communications Strategy
With a clear understanding of the solution(s) you wish to target and a list that reflects the internal, decision-making stack within an organization – crafting the appropriate materials to each ‘tier’ of influencer and stakeholder is key.

One approach to do this is to deliver a range of communications that provide research-based analysis on your solutions to those involved in the solutions-identification process such as administrators and engineers, end-users. Informative videos, webinars, data sheets and focused white-papers to IT managers and directors that provide the depth of knowledge on your solutions that is needed to formulate an informed recommendation. Case studies, at-a-glance statistically-driven infographics and personalized invitations to connect are ideal for c-level decision-makers short on time and are looking for validation on your solutions and solutions. Making sure your communications deliver relevant, IT-buyer-first content designed to help educate vs pushing a ‘me-first’ hard-hitting sales message (in other words more of an inbound approach) helps adhere IT buyers to your brand for the long term.

3. Execute Across Multiple Channels
With the knowledge that your intended recipients use multiple platforms (from social, to email, to online media) and devices (from desktops, to tablets, to smartphones) to access your content, implementing a multi-channel reach strategy will allow you to reach your audiences using the medium and device that is most relevant to them. Structuring your outreach strategy to open doors and build awareness with emails, social connects, and thought-leadership articles in the early stages, then moving into more in-depth user-based selection of deeper content assets, and following with direct, personalized outreach allows for a natural identification flow of possible leads. Seeing who is engaging with your marketing efforts and effectively tracking them throughout your outreach cycles closes the gap between ‘cold’ efforts and more strategic, effective lead progression.

With multiple channels in play, carefully measuring the results of your multi-channel approach is critical to noting which methods of outreach are working best with your audiences.

 

Solve for Effective Multi-Channel Marketing
Lauchlan works across the IT channel to develop and deploy highly effective, integrated, closed-loop multi-channel marketing for IT solution providers. Get in touch today to learn how we can help you reach your desired audiences and tell your unique story.

 

Kathleen Lauchlan is Co-Founder and CEO of Lauchlan. You can email Kathleen at klauchlan@lauchlanx.com.

Understanding the Inbound Sales Methodology

As B2B marketers, we know the value of implementing inbound marketing tactics in order to provide high quality leads to our sales teams. However, if those sales teams are operating under the “traditional” sales process and not an inbound sales methodology, your high quality leads can quickly become someone else’s.

What is inbound sales you ask? Simply put, inbound sales transforms the sales process to match the way people actually buy in today’s world.

These are the two philosophies that drive inbound selling:

  1. Inbound salespeople base their entire sales strategy on the buyer rather than the seller.
  2. Inbound salespeople personalize the entire sales experience to the buyer’s context.

These two concepts are fundamentally different from the way sales has worked in the past. Due to the buyer’s ability to gain access to important company and product information on the internet, salespeople no longer hold the power in the buying/selling process. This is the age of the empowered buyer.

By taking a buyer-centric approach to the sales process and by personalizing the experience to the buyer’s specific needs, you will create an experience that buyers will love rather than loathe. You will quickly gain their trust and find yourself sitting on the “same side of the table” rather than at odds with your potential sale.

The 4 Stages of the Inbound Sales Methodology

Lead-gen-graph

Identify

The Identify stage is about researching and identifying leads that are active in the buyer’s journey. Here, it is imperative to leverage resources and clues that are available to gain valuable information about prospects. These clues could be found in blog posts, LinkedIn groups, tweets and many other social channels. Committing time to monitoring and engaging these channels will help you find active and prospective buyers.

Here are some important actions to make a habit of during the Identify stage:

  • Regularly read blogs from the industries you are targeting and don’t be afraid to become a participant. Be sure to comment on new articles or blogs that you feel contain important information on those specific subjects.
  • Join LinkedIn groups related to your industry. Look for conversations about your niche and provide comments that add value to the conversation.
  • Follow the thought leaders of your industry on Twitter and other popular social channels. Share and retweet interesting commentary.
  • Submit guest articles to company blogs or industry publications.

Connect

The Connect stage of the inbound sales methodology focuses on starting conversations around the buyer’s pain points, plans, goals and challenges. Leading with a message personalized to the buyer’s industry, role, interest or common connections is a great way to gain trust right of the bat. Trust is developed with buyers by identifying interests and priorities, and then demonstrating a genuine interest in helping them solve these issues. If the prospect has a problem you can assist with and they want your help, then the lead becomes qualified.

Here are the three steps to set up a connect strategy:

  1. Define your buyer personas. It is important to ask yourself: What are the different segments of companies I want to target? And, who in the company is involved in buying our services?
  2. Define the sequences for each individual. You must define an outreach strategy based on the medium you will use to reach out to each person, what time will you do this, and if you don’t connect the first time, how many times will you continue to reach out before considering it a lost cause?
  3. Define the outreach content for each sequence. To continue personalizing the process for the buyer, you should be thinking about the type of organization the buyer is from, who the buyer is within the organization, and what stage the buyer is at in their journey.

Here are some best practices for defining your outreach content:

  • Take an inventory of your existing content. Remember, useful content DOES NOT have to be directly from your company. It is just as valuable to buyers if you can point them to high quality content from third parties that informs their decision.
  • Keep your outreach communications short.
  • Reference the buyer at least 2x as much as you mention yourself.
  • End all emails with a question.
  • Sound human and helpful.
  • For emails, the subject line is critical. Make sure it is enticing, brief and a natural lead-in to the email content itself.
  • Offer a free consultation that is within the buyer’s area of interest.

By continuing to provide value at this stage, you will gain insightful information from your lead and be able to transition a qualified lead to the Explore stage.

Explore

The Explore stage is the time where you discover how you can best help your prospects. This stage allows you to continue to craft a buyer’s experience and strengthen your position as a valuable resource that can potentially solve their problem.

When a buyer expresses interest, it is time to transition into exploratory mode where you can develop additional trust and uncover deep buyer goals through a conversation. Leverage the buyer’s initial interest and use your credibility as a thought leader to uncover the buyer’s specific goals and challenges. Inbound sales professionals are able to determine if they are in a position to help the buyer more efficiently and thoroughly than a prospect could be on their own, while helping guide prospects to the right conclusions. By not transitioning into generic presentation mode like traditional salespeople are accustomed to, you will show your prospect that you are more interested in solving their problem then making the sale. At the end of the Explore stage, you will know if the prospect should or shouldn’t buy from you. And you should willing to walk away if it is clear there isn’t a good fit.

Advise

The Advise stage is where you should tailor content—often in the form of a presentation–to the buyer’s context by leveraging the information gathered during the Explore stage. The empowered buyer must understand how your services help solve their challenges. In addition, you need to make the necessary transformation to position yourself as a trusted advisor. Your role here is to develop trust by creating a plan based on the buyer’s timeline and when they need to achieve their goals.

Here are some steps you would take during the Advise stage:

  1. Recap your exploratory call.
  2. Suggest ways the prospect can achieve their goals and overcome challenges.
  3. Confirm budget, decision-making processes and timeline.
  4. Secure buyer commitment.

The most important part of the Advise stage is to provide specific, customized advice that shows you care. Much like in the Explore stage, stay away from the generic presentations or pitches at this point.  You have gained enough information from your buyer during your conversations that you can customize your pitch to the buyer’s pain points and goals. If the buyer is slow to pull the trigger, be flexible enough to adjust your timeline to the buyer. Come off too pushy and the buyer will back out and seek another qualified company who is willing to work with them on their timeline.

The inbound sales methodology motivates buyers to provide you with the information needed, so you don’t have to make assumptions that are incorrect. Gone are the days of the “used car salesmen” approach and shady tactics that have given salespeople everywhere a bad rap. Inbound sales methodology helps you build a sales process that supports the buyer throughout their journey. As a result, the salesperson and the buyer feel like they are aligned, rather than at odds, with one another through the buying and selling process, leading to a much more pleasant experience for all.
 

Solve for Inbound

Lauchlan helps IT solution providers adopt buyer-centric marketing strategies. Get in touch with us to start a conversation about your marketing goals.
 

Jason Antonucci is Account Manager at Lauchlan. You can email Jason at jantonucci@lauchlanx.com.
 

ABM 101 for IT Marketers

As B2B marketers, our goal will always be the same: to create messages that connect with the right person at the right time in the right format to build awareness, educate, convince and convert. While that basic fact hasn’t changed, one thing that has in recent years is the growing emphasis on understanding all the stakeholders in an organization that contribute to a purchasing decision, how they all interact and how we can calibrate our marketing tactics with consideration for everyone’s needs.

The Importance of ABM in IT Marketing

The findings of a TechTarget study (registration required) illustrate the particular importance of account-based marketing (ABM) in the complex enterprise technology buying cycle. It revealed that:

  • 96% of all technology buying decisions involve more than 1 individual.
  • 51% involve 4 or more individuals.
  • 29% are made with more input from the business than IT.
  • 71% of all final technology buying decisions are made by IT leadership and their staff.

These stats track pretty close to what other recent studies in the industry have shown. A typical scenario emerges: A need is identified by a line of business or a mid-level member of the IT team. All stakeholders collaborate to inventory requirements, but then IT takes more control to identify all technical and security requirements, and ultimately arrive at the final decision. Whether or not all technology purchases follow this model, we can assume that the vast majority involve multiple stakeholders each with their own set of priorities, opinions and content needs.

How to Get Started with ABM

So, given all of this, how does an IT marketer get started with ABM? As anyone who attended this year’s MarTech conference will tell you, the marketing technology space is abuzz with new ABM offerings. Vendors are rolling out solutions in account data and sales intelligence, predictive analytics, content creation and account-based ad targeting. But aside from the martech stack, Lauchlan has found that good old-fashioned sleuthing can be a great place to start an ABM strategy. We’ve seen strong results with client campaigns that incorporated:

  • Cross-platform social media research
  • IT, C-suite and line-of-business org chart mapping
  • Multi-touch direct mail and digital messages targeted to each stakeholder within the account
  • Segmented content tracks for each stakeholder
  • Call to action for workshop-style meetings that bring together all stakeholders

 

Solve for Results-Driven ABM

Lauchlan helps IT solution providers open the doors to key prospect accounts through multi-step, multi-touch campaigns. Get in touch with us to start a conversation about your marketing goals.

 

Adrienne FitzPatrick is Account Manager at Lauchlan. You can email Adrienne at afitzpatrick@lauchlanx.com.

 

[VIDEO] Engaging the IT Buyer: Make It a Convo, Not a Cockfight

Three things the Lauchlan team loves in no particular order:

  1. Giving IT buyers what they want
  2. Giving tech marketers what they need
  3. Classic NES games and their glorious music.

We’re a diverse group here. We have many obsessions, healthy and otherwise. But it was these three that recently found their way into one cheeky video with an ax to grind. Check it out above, but just to summarize what we’re getting at: done wrong, content and/or inbound marketing can be spammy too.

A few of us often chuckle around the office about a certain marketing automation concern that preaches inbound but pounds us with sales calls. As tech marketers, we constantly need to do a gut check on whether we’re engaging people in a buyer-centric way across every channel. It’s not enough to just write an ebook, white paper and a case study, plug ‘em into a lead nurture chain and hope for the best. Truly mapping content, format and cadence to the buyer journey takes a lot of time and effort, but it’s the only way to engage IT buyers jaded by the spam and content deluge.

Anyway, enjoy.

IT Discussion Slugfest from Lauchlan on Vimeo.

 

Solve for Buyer-Centric IT Marketing

Buyer-centricity is built into every aspect of our Content Hub framework. Get in touch with us to start a conversation about your marketing goals.

 

Pete Fuduric is Content Director at Lauchlan. You can email Pete at pfuduric@lauchlanx.com.