Email Design Tips for Microsoft Outlook

Google may be making serious inroads into SMB, but Microsoft Outlook remains the dominant email client for mid to large-sized businesses. And since those larger organizations are the sweet spot for most IT solution providers and VARs, understanding how your marketing email actually appears in all instances of Outlook is critical.

I recently talked to our Miriam Blais and Mike Lockhart—Lauchlan designer and web developer, respectively—to find out the latest best practices for B2B email design for Outlook. Here’s the highlights of our chat.

PF: What are the most important best practices for designing emails for Outlook right now?

ML: Keep it simple. Outlook uses a very outdated version of HTML (basically stripped down HTML 4) and is not up to current standards (HTML 5). Because of this, things that might look good in a browser email service could look awful in Outlook. Basically, designing an email for Outlook is a lot like designing one in Microsoft Word—one small shift of a line might throw the whole document off.

MB: I would also say avoid using fancy fonts. Stick to your basic web-safe ones—Arial, Tahoma, Georgia, Times. Also, don’t get too creative with multi-column layouts and in-text images. They’ll cause nothing but trouble across multiple Outlook platforms.

PF: I would say multi-column email layouts are a bad idea for a lot of reasons.
 
PF: What are some of the most common email design mistakes you see from B2B marketers?

ML: Treating HTML emails as if they are a website. Outlook (and some other email clients) uses minimum features and will block some code (like JavaScript and PHP).

MB: And, sort of to my point earlier, trying to do too much with an email. The functionality should be simple—it’s either giving you a means to share information within the email (newsletter-style) or it’s linking to an external site, landing page, video, etc. where more functionality can be added in-browser. An email should never aim to be the all-encompassing component that many wish it to be. The technology just isn’t there.

PF: I think that’s a great point, Miriam. In most cases an email should make a quick case for consuming a larger piece of content elsewhere, especially in a lead-nurture scenario.

PF: Let’s talk spam filters. Are there things you can do in your design to avoid triggering them?

ML: Use a 1:2 ratio of images to paragraphs of text. An image-heavy email will trigger spam filters. And you should keep images under 200 KB in size.

PF: And what about cloud versus non-cloud Outlook? Any differences there?

ML: Every version of Outlook acts a bit different from the others. Desktop versions that come bundled with Microsoft Office on Windows use an outdated version of Internet Explorer that is built into Office. It’s the most problematic of all the versions, especially because Microsoft itself has stated they no longer support any IE browser older than IE 11. Outlook on Mac is the easiest to work with because IE doesn’t exist on Mac. That means Outlook can take advantage of a modern browser with up-to-date code.

Outlook in browsers is kind of a middle ground. If it’s running in a modern browser, it can utilize modern code. But some issues do still pop up because Microsoft has programed it to strip out certain code that it views as potentially dangerous from a security standpoint.

PF: So with all of this in mind, what are the steps one should take to ensure an email renders correctly in Outlook across all OSs and formats?

MB: The process can be time-consuming, but our answer is simple: Litmus is your best friend. It lets you see how your email will render across every relevant platform. We do lots and lots of testing across every platform we have access to before deploying our clients’ emails.

PF: Great. Thanks for sharing, guys!

 

Solve for Better Email Marketing

 

Done the buyer-centric way, email is still one of the most effective channels for reaching and engaging IT pros. Get in touch with us to learn how you can deliver beautiful, consistent and relevant email to your audiences.

 

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

IT Solution Providers: 3 Considerations for Establishing a Brand-First Marketing Strategy

Lauchlan Content Director Pete Fuduric recently blogged about why it’s more critical than ever for IT solution providers to adopt a vendor-neutral marketing strategy. The idea put forward is to lead with your story, not that of your OEM partners. This approach allows you to build trust with your customers and prospects by helping them navigate the technologies available to them without directing them toward a specific OEM solution. Done well, it can bring you one step closer to the highly desirable position of being seen as more than just a technology vendor, but a strategic advisor and long-term trusted partner.

However, there is a difference between vendor neutrality in marketing and leading with a brand-first strategy. In Lauchlan’s experience as an IT channel-focused marketing agency, striking the right balance between vendor neutrality and a brand-first approach is key.

Before we look at considerations for a brand-first strategy, let’s consider the brand. Your company’s brand is far more than your logo, website, name and collateral. Your brand is the emotional, authentic essence of how your company’s purpose and promise exist in the minds of your constituents. Defining and leading with this story goes beyond vendor neutrality to clarify in the minds of your audiences the differentiated capabilities your company brings to the marketplace. Simply stating your company takes a ‘consultative, vendor-neutral approach” is not, in today’s IT landscape, the only differentiator you need to consider. Many leading IT solution providers are now leading with this perspective. It’s critical to also tell the story of what truly makes your brand different, including:

  • Differentiated capabilities and thought leadership
  • Unique and consistently applied institutional expertise
  • The tenure and importance of your customers and relationships
  • Technical and engineering prowess
  • Vertical-specific knowledge
  • Relevant experience and core strengths
  • A high degree of quality and user loyalty

These qualities can aid in defining your IT brand and help IT buyers identify and align their needs with your capabilities.

Here’s 3 considerations to establishing a brand-first strategy:

  1. Truly define your IT brand story and it’s unique qualities. This first step is critical. Employees, C-level to intern, should be able to articulate your company’s brand qualities and unique differentiators. The simplicity and clarity of this messaging is key to relaying internally as well as externally how your brand stands out from the competition.
  1. Audit your storytelling toolset. With many IT solution providers relying on OEM MDF (marketing development funds) to support their marketing efforts, and much vendor-neutral/brand-first communication development not adhering to OEM funding guidelines, there is a need to define exactly what communication components are critical to your brand-first storytelling, as development may need to be funded internally. Working with an experienced IT channel-focused agency like Lauchlan can be instrumental in helping you identify, develop and deploy critical content assets for your story.
  1. Roll out an integrated roadmap. With clarity of message and differentiated capabilities identified, develop a multi-channel marketing and communications roadmap for consistently telling your story to your prospects, clients and stakeholders. Considerations should include target audience identification, buyer persona mapping, the best channels and content types to reach your audiences, KPIs and metrics to gauge what channels are working, and a focus on strategically building your brand long term.

A strategic, vendor-neutral, brand-first marketing strategy carves out a space in the minds of the marketplace for your company’s value to shine strongly and stand on its own merits.

 

Solve for a Brand-First Marketing Strategy

Lauchlan works across the IT channel to develop and deploy highly effective marketing and brand communications for IT solution providers. Get in touch today to learn how we can help you tell your unique story.

 

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

Why Vendor-Neutral IT Solution Provider Marketing Is More Important Than Ever

“We’re trying to be more vendor-neutral in the way we go to market right now.”

The Lauchlan team is hearing this from our clients a lot these days, and for good reason: In our recent survey of IT pros, a vendor-neutral perspective was ranked the second most important characteristic they look for in a VAR, IT solution provider or systems integrator. (The ability to be a strategic advisor for cloud and other next-gen technologies was number 1.) And while that perspective can be communicated through any employee that touches your customers and prospects, your content is likely where the biggest impact will be made.

A vendor-neutral approach to marketing can help you:

  1. Signal to IT leaders that you can help them navigate the complex tech (and vendor) landscape. This relates back to that survey result cited above. The world of IT is in a constant state of churn, and it’s more difficult than ever for CIOs to make informed decisions about the future of their environments. They want to know that their IT solution provider can help them weigh all options equally and choose the best tech for them.
  2. Fuel your content marketing strategy. Ask yourself what would be more engaging for IT pros: a “blog” that automatically syndicates in content from Big Storage Inc., or a blog focused on the latest trends and practical use cases of hyper-converged storage. Starting with a vendor-neutral approach to marketing will both open up the content possibilities and make that content naturally more appealing to your audience.
  3. Build a presence as an industry thought leader. If one of your goals is to gain a thought leadership position within your tech niche—through blogging, social media, events, speaking engagements—you would need to start by cultivating a vendor-neutral perspective that is consistent across marketing, PR and any of your public-facing subject matter experts.

One big caveat to all of this is that vendor-neutral marketing only works when it’s an extension of a broader vendor-neutral strategy followed by the business as a whole, from sales team to practice leaders to architects and engineers.

 

Solve for a Vendor-Neutral Marketing Strategy

We help IT solution providers build marketing and content strategies focused on their unique capabilities as a strategic technology advisor. Get in touch with us to start a conversation.

 

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

 

Top Performing Door-Opener Incentives for IT Decision Makers

Cut through the noise. This task is at the forefront of every creative mind in a campaign kick-off. One of the most common tactics to achieve this in IT channel lead gen has been the tried and true meeting incentive. While it’s appropriateness often depends on the brand, audience or situation (you especially have to tread lightly in the public sector), offering a little gift as a carrot to take a meeting can indeed be part of an attention-grabbing and successful campaign.

In working with our IT channel clients to put together campaigns that open doors at their target companies, we’ve gained some insights on incentives that tend to be the most effective. Here’s some of our top performers based on actual campaign results.

Wearable technology – The buzz surrounding wearable gadgets like the Apple Watch and Fitbit reached a crescendo this past year, so we weren’t surprised to see great results when using them as a meeting incentive. Plus, they are a natural thematic fit in campaigns focused on solutions in IoT and big data.

Amazon Echo — Following in the footsteps of voice activated assistants like Siri and Google Now, Echo is a stand-alone device for your home that gathers information by recording your daily activity. It stores this intelligence and uses it to execute simple tasks like playing a song to reordering household items to monitoring traffic on your commute. This item has particular cache with early tech adopters—a common persona among IT executives.

Ticketmaster gift cards – This isn’t the sexiest incentive, but the best thing about the Ticketmaster gift card is its flexibility. We’ve found they perform well when tied in with a theme that suggests a use—like a major summer concert—but is open to be spent on whatever the recipient wants.

Apple TV — With key new features like the Siri remote and touch surface, Apple TV continues to entice prospects to take meetings. Streaming devices like these are rapidly replacing traditional television configurations. It doesn’t hurt that they are also very compact and easy to ship.

iPad mini – Tablet sales may be in decline, but the results of our door-opener campaigns suggest they still get the attention of IT pros. We’ve seen fairly consistent success when using iPad minis and other mid-range tablets as an incentive in lead-gen campaigns focused on big ticket solutions like hybrid cloud and enterprise storage.

While these and other items can give a strong boost to your lead-gen campaigns, it’s important to always lead with your value first and position the incentive as just that—a token of appreciation for taking the time out of their busy day to hear your story. This approach maintains the integrity of your brand and ultimately attracts higher quality leads.

Solve for Door-Opening Ideas

We help IT solution providers open the doors of their most sought-after decision makers. Get in touch with us to start a conversation about your lead-gen goals.

 

James Gilmore is Account Coordinator at Lauchlan. You can email James at jgilmore@lauchlanx.com.

5 Reasons Why IT Solution Providers Should Embrace Long-Term, Strategic MDF Marketing

We call it MDF spray and pray. Money is passed from vendor to partner in a quarterly game of hot potato. Isolated campaigns are planned and executed. Results are measured (sort of). There may be anecdotal talk of “good meetings secured,” but it basically ends there. The next quarter comes along and the whole process is repeated. There’s all kinds of institutional reasons why this mode of channel marketing still prevails, but the fact is B2B marketing as a whole is rapidly evolving forward, and the IT channel is getting left behind.

For IT solution providers that adopt a long-term, strategic marketing strategy built on content, automation and meaningful metrics, good things will come. Here’s 5 of the big ones:

  1. If your marketing is aligned to their needs and buying cycle, IT pros will listen. The typical enterprise IT purchase takes anywhere from 5 months to a year or more, depending on the complexity of the technology. A well thought out marketing automation plan will help you keep mindshare with prospects through the entire buying cycle of a solution. Blitzing them with pre-baked emails and a call script from whatever vendor happens to give you MDF this quarter will not.
  2. You will have a great arsenal of content assets–for marketing and sales. Defining buyer personas, mapping their journeys and creating content accordingly takes a lot of time and resources. But once you make that investment in core content assets up front, you may be surprised how easy it is to repurpose it—in the form of PowerPoints, sales enablement tools, events and webinars, blog posts and more.
  3. You will become a more efficient marketer. Planning quarterly, one-off MDF campaigns with all of your vendors is time-consuming and leaves you in a constant state of reactionary marketing. A long-term automation strategy requires a lot of initial planning, but having this framework in place allows you to then plug in MDF spending in a more cohesive annual plan where all marketing efforts are part of a whole. (We call this flipping the MDF model. Ask us about it.)
  4. You will be able to measure performance and optimize strategy. IT channel marketing too often indulges in metrics for metrics sake. Opens, clicks and downloads are counted, but it rarely informs a larger, holistic strategy. Adopting a long-term automation strategy with the right toolset—automation platform, CRM, analytics, etc.—lets you systematically track marketing performance, A/B test and optimize tactics in a continuous cycle. This also makes your marketing ROI more quantifiable and provable to both your vendor partners and your internal stakeholders.
  5. Your vendor partners will take notice (and often give you more MDF). We see this happen more and more with our clients. Vendor channel marketers are looking for alternatives to the MDF spray and pray, but they often feel like their VAR partners are too passive when it comes to strategic planning. A partner that can bring a proactive, strategic plan to the table will get more traction, and likely more funding to execute on that vision.

 

Solve for MDF Spray and Pray

We help IT solution providers adopt holistic marketing strategies that integrate content, automation, data and continuous optimization. Get in touch with us to start a conversation.

 

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

 

How to Rock the IT Trade Show Floor

The stretch of major IT events is fast approaching, so we thought it would be a good time to take a look at how IT marketers can make the most of their presence on the trade show floors in 2016. Lauchlan Co-Founder and CEO Kathleen Lauchlan is a regular at these events, and has a few ideas on how companies can stand out from the crowd, drive booth traffic and bump up the ROI. Here are the highlights from our Q&A:

PF. Hey, Kathleen. So it’s that time of year: The trade shows are coming. In your experience with our clients in the IT channel, what do you think are the key benefits of spending budget and resources on events like EMC World, HPE Discover, Citrix Synergy, Cisco Live, etc.?

KL: I think you, of course, have to look at it from two perspectives: sales and marketing. On the sales side, the benefits of trade show attendance are obvious: the opportunity to connect with potential prospects, industry peers and customers in a short period of time and in a single location. Trade shows have proven to be one of the most effective ways to generate quality new leads and accelerate ongoing opportunities.

From a marketing perspective, a well-executed booth presence delivers an engaging, immersive brand experience that simply can’t be duplicated by other means. The in-person experience is still hugely important in IT and probably always will be.

I think it’s also important to demonstrate your company’s connectedness to the industry in a very tangible way. Exhibiting at these events is a way of putting your flag in the ground and showing that you are a player in the ecosystem. It really has an effect on mindshare.

PF. In your experience, have you seen particular strategies that help companies standout in the crowded boothscape?

KL: Great question. A successful strategy we’ve used with clients is to create a uniquely creative theme for a trade show. The idea is to create a theme that has enough legs to carry across pre-, post- and at-event materials, both in messaging and as a compelling visual story.

PF: Any examples?

KL: One particularly successful theme was our “Reach Peak IT Performance with [OEM] and [Partner].” We featured an actual rock climbing wall as part of the client’s trade show presence. The “peak performance” messaging was reflected across engaging promotional materials, delivered a memorable brand experience, and provided the backdrop to a stand-out booth experience complete with climbing contests and prizes. Talk about rockin’ the trade show floor—the climbing wall was visible from all areas of the exhibit hall and was by far the most talked about booth.

For another client we came up with the theme “Ride the Wave of IT Innovation” and had a whole surfing theme, with surf board simulators, surfing contests, beach-themed music and a raffle for a 4-day beach getaway to Los Angeles. Great booth draw and a really memorable brand experience for our client.

PF: Awesome! And of course it always helps to build buzz for your presence before the event. What do you see working there?

KL: We’ve seen great traction by utilizing an integrated approach to pre-event communications across social media, email and direct mail—it’s that multi-touch, multi-channel magic. Making sure there is a clear call to action and link from the communication you’re delivering to your booth is important. As an example, we once had as a booth driver a model Ferrari giveaway in a large glass case in our client’s booth. We sent all event registrants a direct mailer with an actual key. If the recipient’s key opened the glass case, they won the model Ferrari inside. This offer was so effective we literally had 50+ people lined out of the booth and down the corridor.

Exhibitors oftentimes also have the opportunity to insert something into the event’s welcome registration packs. If so, go for something that stands out in the pack and makes a clear call to action to the booth—something that won’t get mixed in with the typical collateral in these packs. Our team has found some really cool, odd ball items on sites like The Gadget Flow.

PF: It really is a strong trend we’re seeing with IT pros these days. They’ve been showered with the bland tech swag for so long that the quirky stuff is really resonating. They want this Stormtrooper pepper shaker, not a USB stick with your logo.

Cool, sounds like some great ideas for breaking through the trade show noise. Anything else to add?

KL: Just that we’re here to help! Lauchlan has a range of solutions for the whole IT trade show cycle—pre-event, at-event and post-event lead nurture. I encourage our readers to reach out if they want to start a conversation about their upcoming shows.

PF: Thanks, Kathleen! I’m sure you’ll be heading to more than a few of them this year. We’ll be interested to hear your report on which brands were rocking the floor most righteously.

Solve for a Standout Trade Show Presence and Better Event ROI

We help IT channel marketers drive engagement with their trade show booths and make it count with follow-through after the fact. Get in touch with us to start a conversation about your exhibit, tradeshow or event needs.

 

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

The Human Lead Form: A Case Study

At Lauchlan, we’re all about buyer-centric tech marketing, and we’re always experimenting with new lead-gen tactics that make life easier for IT pros while still giving IT marketers what they need.

Central to the IT marketer/IT pro relationship is the ubiquitous lead form. While it’s often a critical tool for B2B marketers to capture prospect information, research shows it can be a barrier for the buyer—both practically (“I really need to fill out 9 fields!?”) and psychologically (Seeing a lead form can put them in the mindset of a marketing experience they may be reluctant to initiate.)

With all this in mind, we decided to shake things up for one recent MDF lead-gen campaign. Here’s the case study in a nutshell:

The campaign goal: Generate meeting requests for EMC flash storage and Cisco Unified Computing System as an architecture for Oracle.

The audience: A focused list of only 68 Canadian IT executives

The idea: Engage and convert IT pros to a meeting through a more human and user-friendly experience that bypasses the traditional trappings of lead-gen marketing.

The approach: Replace the meeting request form with a picture of the solution provider’s actual solution architect. The call to action is a simple “Email Steve” button to ask for a meeting directly.

The components: 3 emails, 1 direct mail, a landing page

The results: The client netted 4 high quality in-person meeting requests from the campaign and considered it a great return on their MDF investment.

The takeaway: It may add a bit more legwork for the marketing team, but a more personal, buyer-centric lead-gen experience can ultimately generate a higher conversion rate—and in the end that’s all that matters.

Solve for More Human Tech Marketing 

We help IT channel marketers go digital while still keeping a human touch. 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.

7 Takeaways from the 2016 CMI Tech Content Marketing Report

The results are in from the Content Marketing Institute’s B2B Technology Content Marketing 2016: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America report. The survey, sponsored by IDG and conducted by CMI, asked 392 technology marketers in North America about their content marketing strategies, tactics, budgets and expectations in 2016.

There’s a lot of interesting insights here, but these 7 stood out to me:

  1. Tech marketers are ahead of the content marketing curve. According to the report, a whopping 95% of tech marketers have adopted content marketing—the highest adoption rate among all the B2B segments CMI surveyed. That’s up from 93% in last year’s study.
  2. And they plan to go even bigger with content in 2016. 75% of respondents said they plan to create more content this year versus 2015.
  3. The lunch-and-learn (still) reigns supreme. It’s interesting to note that despite all the talk of new digital modes of marketing, in-person events were rated the most effective content marketing tactic (75%), followed closely by webinars (72%), case studies (69%) and videos (69%). (Planning a live event? Let’s talk.)
  4. But how about those case studies? If you set aside experiential formats like events and webinars, the case study has consistently ranked as a top, or the top, content format for both tech marketers and (more crucially) IT buyers across several industry studies. (Ask us about our case study packages.)
  5. Search advertising is effective. Banners, not so much. Tech marketers ranked search engine marketing as the most effective paid advertising method (56%), followed by promoted social posts (50%) and social ads (49%). Online banner ads (31%) and print/offline (22%) brought up the rear.
  6. E-newsletters are overrated. E-newsletters topped the list of things tech marketers ask IT buyers to subscribe to (73%), followed by blogs (68%). But e-newsletters were also ranked the least effective content marketing tactic.
  7. LinkedIn remains the preferred social channel. Another preference reinforced in survey after survey, LinkedIn was ranked the top social channel for content marketing at 72%. Although Twitter was not that far behind at 60%. The rest were YouTube (52%), Facebook (23%) and Google+ (7%).

The full report is available here.

Solve for Effective Tech Content Marketing

We help IT channel marketers create content that specifically addresses the questions buyers have along their journey. Get in touch with us to start a conversation about your content goals.

 

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

 

7 Best Practices for a Successful National Sales Meeting

For many IT solution providers this is the time of year when the national sales meeting (NSM) has been wrapped up, the post mortem has been held and, in some cases, the planning meetings for next year’s event are already occurring. The Lauchlan events team has helped several solution providers plan and execute large-scale NSMs over the years and has learned a few things along the way.

If you’re planning your next NSM, here are 7 best practices from our team to yours:

  1. Spend the time and resources to create a powerful event theme/brand. A meaningful, well executed and consistent NSM theme/brand captures the essence of your vision and goals for the upcoming year and rallies the troops behind them in tangible ways.
  2. Choose a venue that can truly support your needs. Some venues look great on the website and have everything you need on paper, but have little or no experience with an event of this kind. That could lead to problems with everything from A/V to simple things like shipping and receiving mix-ups. When evaluating venues, be sure to ask detailed questions about the logistical support they can provide at every stage of your NSM.
  3. Choose a partner that has been there before. If you have the budget, consider working with an agency or event management firm that has direct experience planning and executing an NSM end to end. It allows you to lean on the expertise of a team that has learned best practices in the trenches and knows how to put out fires at primetime.
  4. Invest in a dedicated NSM app. Some great platforms have emerged in recent years that allow you to skin a pre-built mobile app template with your event brand and populate it with agendas, speaker bios, keynote presentations and other related content. Many of these platforms also have built in social media elements that allow attendees to share posts and check in to sessions, among other activities. It eliminates the need to produce physical event collateral and gives all attendees everything they need to know about the event in one user-friendly digital format. Two of these platforms we like are Guidebook and DoubleDutch.
  5. Over-communicate with attendees. As the event approaches, make sure that attendees have all the information relevant to them or know how to get it. Be very clear and repetitive about event registration details, agendas by group and the responsibilities of vendor reps. Always assume that everyone knows nothing about the NSM and over-communicate accordingly.
  6. Have a solid plan for the inevitable unregistered attendees. Let’s face it. There will always be a certain percentage of attendees that show up to your NSM without pre-registering. While it can be frustrating, keep in mind that the late comers are often critical team members or busy vendor VIPs (hence the disorganization) whose presence at the event is critical. Be sure to have a system in place for expediting registration and making their arrival as smooth as possible.
  7. Never expose behind-the-scenes challenges to the masses. It’s an old adage but a true one: Never let them see you sweat. Even if you are managing several small crises at once in the back room, perception of how the event is going is more important. Be sure there’s a hard firewall between behind-the-scenes scrambling and the attendee experience of the event. And it goes without saying that every member of your on-site execution team should understand this and keep their game faces on no matter what.

Solve for NSM Nirvana

NSMs are in our DNA. Get in touch to find out how we can support your planning for an NSM or any other event, big or small.

 

Katherine Bush is Account Services Director at Lauchlan. You can email Katherine at kbush@lauchlanx.com.

4 Steps to Adopting Buyer-Centric Tech Marketing

I finally had a chance a couple weekends ago to watch the last episodes of Mad Men on Netflix. It was hard to let go of one of my favorite shows of the last decade, but in the context of my life as a marketer it felt right to be (spoiler alert!) leaving Don Draper meditating on Coke creative atop the cliffs of Big Sur: The days of the marketer as broadcaster, as dictator of taste, as dominant voice in the conversation are long gone—in B2C and B2B. You can argue it is less fun, maybe even less creative, but one thing you cannot argue against is that in a digital world the buyer is in the driver’s seat and marketing is riding shotgun.

For IT marketers that means thinking less like Don Draper and more like a good customer service rep. It’s an approach we call buyer-centricity, and it goes hand-in-hand with the fundamentals of good content marketing, not to mention just plain old common sense.

Here’s 4 key steps on the road to buyer-centric IT marketing:

  1. See yourself as a steward of IT buyer research — The biggest value marketers can bring to the complex technology sale is the research experience they create for the buyer in every dimension, from digital targeting to your website to the nurture track and sales handoff. How easy is it for the buyer to find the content they need from you where and when they need it? How well do you balance prospect engagement with the creep factor? How pushy are you in your drip emails and CTAs? Always putting yourself in the buyer’s shoes will actually drive them down the funnel faster and lead to more conversions. (We see it all the time.)
  2. Map content to people, not personas — IT marketers across the world are now having earnest discussions about buyer personas and their respective journeys. That’s great, but too often these exercises get really theoretical, really fast, and the person gets lost in the persona. Want to really understand what specific pieces of information your buyers actually need at given stages in the purchase? Just ask them. Survey and interview recent purchasers of the solution about their experience—from researching the technology to evaluating options to building a case internally to executing the deployment—and ask them what questions they had at every step. What type of content did they need that they had a hard time finding or didn’t get at all? Getting specific anecdotal feedback from actual buyers will make it easier to build your content library, and it will be more on-target too.
  3. Adopt just-in-time content marketing — Let’s say your sales team is talking to a financial services industry VP of IT about a $2 million converged infrastructure project. The opportunity is promising, but he is hung up on one thing: He is having a hard time painting a detailed picture of what ROI will look like for his CIO and CFO. If you don’t have existing content that speaks to this scenario, wouldn’t it be worth creating a couple of briefs that specifically address the concerns of financial services CIOs and CFOs when considering a converged infrastructure investment? This is a great way to accelerate ongoing opportunities while steadily building a deep library of highly targeted content for future marketing.
  4. Think outside the gate — As any regular participant in the Spiceworks tech marketing community can tell you, IT pros hate the gate. While putting a contact form in front of content assets is sometimes necessary, you should keep it limited to truly substantive, lower-funnel assets. You should also be looking for creative ways to avoid the gate while still capturing data. (We have some unique ways of doing this. Just ask.)

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.