Few doubt the technical acumen of IT solution providers. Being able to put together an impressive portfolio of business technology products is table stakes in the channel. So what separates the successful from those just scraping by?
Often the difference comes down to marketing. If sales is about acquiring accounts and generating revenue, then marketing is the activity that leads to those sales. At the heart of this effort is content, the packaging and conveyance of the function, value, and benefits of your solutions and services. Being a savvy marketer and leveraging marketing content is increasingly important for solution providers, but the discipline is far from simple.
Through its annual Technology Content Survey, Eccolo Media has found that the pool of marketing content types continues to expand. Whereas there were only five in 2008, that number climbed to 16 in 2014 and now includes blogs, Webinars, social content, e-newsletters, podcasts, infographics, and more. Almost four out of 10 respondents (39 percent) in Eccolo’s most recent survey said product brochures and data sheets are the most influential assets when it comes to evaluating a technology purchase. Thirty-three percent voted for white papers, and 31 percent gave case studies and success stories top billing.
While they garner slightly lower numbers, newer marketing vehicles such as blogs, social media, and e-newsletters are getting more and more attention from technology influencers and decision-makers, particularly in the early phases of the buying cycle, the Eccolo researchers found.
Today, 36 percent of B2B companies with a documented content marketing strategy consider themselves very effective, three times more than those without a documented strategy, according to statistics compiled by the LinkedIn Technology Marketing Community. And in 2014, an analysis of 500 SMB-focused IT solution providers by channel research and strategy firm The 2112 Group found that partners availing themselves of vendor- and distributor-provided marketing services outperform their peers in growth and profit.
Solution providers don’t have to be marketing gurus to get their products into the hands of target customers, but they do need to know a bit about what it takes to pique interest and generate demand for the solutions they’re selling.
Since partners can’t go to market without filling the sales team’s kit with material that continually conveys value, here are some ways solution providers can make content marketing a solid part of their go-to-market efforts:
The Watchword Is Quality, not Quantity
Solution providers don’t need glitzy material to get their value proposition across, and they don’t necessarily need a huge volume of content. But partners should generate content strategically and follow certain guidelines while doing so. According to the Eccolo survey, the best performing white-paper content eschews marketing hype and offers specific, unbiased solutions for business problems. If video is the marketing medium of choice, solution providers should make sure the content is relevant, well-produced, and entertaining.
Tune In to Target Markets and Sales Cycles
Bear in mind: What works for one kind of customer—SMBs, for example—rarely works for all of them. Marketing experts suggest creating buying personas that map the specific needs, challenges, and objectives of target customers. The marketing materials should then be built to satisfy that game plan.
And just as they have different buying habits, customers also seek different things at different points in the buying cycle.
Eccolo found that organizations in the pre-sales phase prefer e-newsletters and blogs. In the initial sales phase, when companies are in the midst of understanding the problem, they prefer white papers and case studies. In the mid-sales phase, companies are actively identifying solutions and evaluating providers, and they pay the most attention to technical guides and videos. In the final sales phase, when finalizing their purchasing decisions, they rely most on tech guides and eBooks.
Consider Syndication from a Trusted Vendor
It can be a tall order for partners primarily focused on maintaining their technical acumen in a constantly evolving industry to also stay on top of developing marketing strategies and churning out high-quality content. One thing solution providers can do is to take advantage of content and distribution mechanisms supplied by trusted vendor partners.
Samsung, for example, offers its channel partners access to a robust content marketing syndication platform that includes fresh, co-branded, ready-to-use marketing content, along with all of the tools necessary to produce, publish, distribute, and promote it across multiple marketing channels.
Through its content syndication program, Samsung produces and supplies high-value, vetted content that partners can use on their Websites, in templated collateral, on social media networks, in e-mail, or for other forms of marketing. Solution providers get to engage clients and prospects with content that’s accurate, relevant, and current without the time and expense of crafting it themselves.
The best part about a full-featured syndication platform like the one offered by Samsung is that it comes with built-in measurement capabilities so users can see in real time how well the content is working to engage prospects, produce leads, and drive new sales.
Be Engaging and Keep the Drumbeat Going
One mistake many solution providers make is failing to continue to offer quality marketing content to clients after the sale is made. In fact, post-sale customers told Eccolo that they prefer to regularly receive thought leadership content and new product information as a way to maximize the value they get from IT solutions and to establish lasting relationships with their technology providers.
And these existing customers want to feel involved in the content they consume, so building in engagement mechanisms such as audio, video, hyperlinks, graphic elements, and social elements is vital in generating interest in the content and keeping the conversation going.