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Why your b2b tech business needs a communication strategy

Why your b2b tech business needs a communication strategy

If you feel you’re working harder than your business performance reflects, that your resources are stretched and that the returns don’t seem to reflect your investment as well as you’d expected, then a communication strategy may just give you the marginal gain you need.

 A communication strategy means different things to different people. So, for the sake of clarity, what I’m talking about is a road map which shows you how to identify and then persuade your ideal client to purchase your product or service, within the context of your commercial objectives.

It enables you to consciously shepherd your prospects from the bottom of the pyramid where they are in a state of absolute ignorance (of your brand) to brand advocate – in other words, at the top of the pyramid. Your communication strategy provides context for you to select appropriate tools and activities to ease your prospects through each phase.

 

Never forget that it is people, not companies or job titles, who make decisions about you. It is how you relate to people that will determine whether you succeed or fail, and it is for this reason that we put people at the heart of your communication strategy.

Low hanging fruit

Firstly, your communication strategy should scope out amongst whom you are most likely to achieve the results your business is targeted with. This will provide you with focus. An iterative process best achieved by brainstorming to identify who they are, where they work and why they are a good target for your product or service. By engaging a cross-functional team, you can ensure that you don’t miss any important opportunities.

It is worth bearing in mind that by working as a senior cross-functional team, you also give the project gravitas and authority. This is not a job for the interns, if you are serious about changing to a higher gear.

Where the ‘who, where and why’ cross over, you have your sweet spot, your focus for your comms strategy. If you feel that you have two or three possible sweet spots you have to a) prioritise them and b) decide whether you have the resources to pursue all of them proactively and effectively.

Persona(s)

A persona is a representation of your ideal customer(s) and they can be a lot of fun to develop. You should have no more than three of four – more will be unmanageable and probably means you haven’t done the first part of the process properly. The persona is where you capture all the key attributes of your target decision maker(s) – making them feel like a real person even though they’re not. You will collaborate internally to identify these attributes in enough detail for you to feel you know them – from what university they went to, to the media they read, their aspirations, motivations, fears and irritations – everything that makes them who they are in the work environment. Because, if you understand them, you will be able to better craft communications that interests and engages them.

See our Case Study featuring Lloyds Maritime Academy showing how a Communication Strategy can give clarity and structure to marketing efforts, enabling the marketing team to target different audiences at different stages of the buying cycle.

The value proposition

Once upon a time someone set up your business because they thought it was a good idea, they thought it filled a niche, that someone would pay good money for it – they had a pretty good idea of the value proposition. The comms strategy needs this value proposition to be clearly articulated. It should be robust and should have been interrogated to breaking point and then put back together.

Positioning statement(s)

A positioning statement is essentially a rationale for investing in this specific ‘thing’, whether it be a product or service offering. Identify the need and niche it is fulfilling and why it is better than alternatives currently available. Everything you develop should be interrogated in this way – from a business perspective if it delivers no specific distinguishable benefit– why invest in it? If you can see no rationale for it, how on earth will a prospective customer?

Read our brand awareness case study showing how we helped tech business Predatar find “absolute clarity around our value proposition and our messaging throughout the different stages of the buying cycle“.

Messaging

Imagine: I’ve never met you before and you’ve never heard of my company and you receive an email from me which is entitled: ‘Fligflamm – delivers immediate cost savings’. How likely are you to read it? Be honest. Your to-do list is off the page and you have 200 emails in your inbox. You’re not going to read it.

Messaging is about saying the right thing at the right stage of the buying cycle. It informs you when to talk about issues, when to mention brand, when to focus on features/benefits and when to showcase your success stories. I’m a big fan of Mike Gospe (author of The Marketing High Ground) and we use his Message Box model, see below, to draw out the correct messages for each stage of the buying cycle. (In fact, we reference him a lot – do buy his books, they’re brilliant!)

When you have clarity about what you should be saying to whom and when – it makes choosing your campaign tools a lot more intuitive.

Validation

The final stage of developing your communication strategy is the validation. Engage with existing customers to make sure your assumptions and understandings resonate with them. You’ll be surprised what you learn – it never ceases to amaze me what little nuggets of information and insight emerges.

And then you’re ready to plan your marketing investments, including B2B PR, with greater precision and purpose.

 

Next step

the messaging lab iconEC-PR’s Messaging Lab delivers bespoke workshops which can facilitate the development of your communication strategy. If you’d like to see more detail of our Communication Strategy Toolkit do get in touch!

 

B2B PR – Five steps to an effective B2B communication strategy

B2B PR – Five steps to an effective B2B communication strategy

An effective B2B communication strategy will focus your marketing and PR efforts in order to target your client niche and meet your business objectives. It is a powerful tool that will help you develop very effective messaging. Here are five simple steps to get you started.

 

1. What success will look like

My starting point is always to determine what success will look like, in terms of what do we want marketing to deliver in order to enable the company to achieve its strategic goal(s)? Whatever the desired outcome is, it must be measurable.

There should be a communication objective against each business objective such as: To generate #X qualified leads for bespoke vessel design from shipyards servicing the renewables industry.

 

2. Whose attention do we want to grab?

Knowing what we want to achieve then leads us to the next quantifiable question: whose attention do we want to grab? We need to be as specific as possible and I would suggest that the starting point for this would be your existing database.

Identify who you currently sell to in this industry and use this as a signpost for whom to target moving forward. For example: We want to target and engage Technical Designers and Vessel Designers employed by Shipyards (anywhere in the world).

 

3. What can we say that is arresting?

Following on, we need to say something to make our audience stop and think. We want to say it in an intelligent and authoritative way that challenges their assumptions or inspires their imagination. (Remember: People buy why you do something, not what you do. They engage with your passion**).

This is where we, as a B2B PR agency, play a role expending creative energy to communicate in a way that provokes the reaction that you want.

 

4. What do we want them to do?

Now that we have their attention, what do we want them to do? The call to action is what enables us to measure how successful the marketing communication has been. It needs to be realistic and achievable.

It can also provide a clear hand-over point between marketing and business development, such as: We want them to give us their contact details and indicate their area of interest (and possibly what stage of the buying cycle they are in).

Be realistic, business people will not place an order for many hundreds of thousands of pounds off the back of a piece of marketing communication. However, they will express interest by following a link or subscribing to a newsletter, or requesting a download. Once this is received, it’s at this point that your business development people should step in and take over the lead while your marketing communication continues to work in the background.

Your marketing team should also be aware of the technical tools available to help you track engagement from your B2B communications. For example, make sure that you measure clicks on online links. If you are putting a post onto LinkedIn or sending an email to your prospects, then track the URLs with a campaign name, medium and source. If you use Google Analytics, you can generate a tracking code using their Campaign URL builder here. This all helps give a fuller picture of the impact and effectiveness of your B2B communications and where there might be weaknesses to address.

 

5. Relevance and cost-efficiency

The choice of marketing vehicles then comes down to relevance and cost-efficiency, i.e. how do we get our message to your target audience in the most cost efficient way?

Because your strategy will be well-planned and measurable, you can then test different media and messages to see which gain the most traction, thereby increasing cost-efficiency over time.

When a company is tackling multiple markets there will be a range of vehicles being deployed with some overlap. The important thing is for everyone in your team to be clear about your desired outcome for each given capability and market.

The golden rule

Essentially the better you design and execute, the better the outcome – for those engineers** in the audience: does this sound familiar?

Next Steps

You can read more about our approach to Communication Strategy Development in our blog post: Why your b2b tech business needs a communication strategy here:

Why your B2B Tech Business Needs A Communication Strategy

the messaging lab iconAt ec-pr we have a three-phased approach to B2B PR, starting with The Messaging Lab – Communication Strategy Development. This will give you the best start to an integrated communications campaign.  Contact us if you would like us to help you prepare an effective communication strategy for 2019. See our case study for Lloyds Maritime Academy demonstrating the power of a Communication Strategy here.

** We are passionate about helping B2B Technology Businesses and their people to communicate more effectively with customers, colleagues and the media because we believe you are a remarkable group of people who make the world a better place and often don’t get the credit you deserve.

 

News Release Production and Optimisation FREE DOWNLOAD

News Release Production and Optimisation FREE DOWNLOAD

News Release Guide Front Cover

How to maximise the impact of your news release

An essential guide for marketers

This practical download is a step by step guide to creating and publicising your company news release.

Using our guide will ensure that you maximise every opportunity to create the best press release, obtain internal buy-in, and then generate quality press coverage, social media awareness, and intranet and website sharing.

Please complete the form and we will email our definitive guide.

You can read more about how to get your news release in front of the right people here in our blog post.

Case Study: Predatar – Evolving the Brand

Case Study: Predatar – Evolving the Brand

Predatar – Awareness campaign

Evolving the brand

BACKGROUND

Predatar delivers a business automation platform and framework that enables value added resellers (VARs) of IT services to rapidly grow their offering and evolve into profitable and sustainable Managed Service businesses.

A visionary leader with a strong interest in marketing communications, Alistair Mackenzie has been instrumental in the development of the Predatar brand, which came about as an enabler to the transformation of Silverstring where he had been MD.

Problem

Alistair needed to find a way of building an understanding of the Predatar concept and articulating the vision, whilst increasing awareness and engagement within the target audience.

SOLUTION

Alistair asked EC-PR to design and deliver a brand awareness campaign that would build credibility within the IT channel – specifically the target audience of ambitious CEOs of Value-Added Reseller businesses who are looking to evolve and expand into a Managed Service business, at speed and scale.

The campaign would introduce Predatar focusing on the pain points of a business transformation strategy. EC-PR devised a six-month brand awareness programme that was to include: two round tables, a white paper, LinkedIn articles and thought leadership.

Outcome

“EC-PR has really focused in on understanding the business and it quickly became apparent that this wasn’t just about building brand awareness – we needed to have absolute clarity around our value proposition and our messaging throughout the different stages of the buying cycle.

EC-PR helped us to formulate this, which was instrumental to ensuring the brand awareness campaign was aligned and laser focused on our target audiences.

Tenacious and challenging, coupled with a great spirit, Lorraine and Liz are committed to raising the bar and delivering a PR programme that is dynamic and impactful.”

Alistair Mackenzie

CEO, Predatar

GUARANTEED PERFORMANCE

Being in the right place at the right time. We will deliver feature length coverage to your target press... or your money back

Case Study: Lloyd’s Maritime Academy

Case Study: Lloyd’s Maritime Academy

LLoyd’s Maritime Academy

Taking control and leveraging the brand

BACKGROUND

Lloyd’s Maritime Academy, a subsidiary of Informa Plc, offers an enormous portfolio of online training to maritime professionals around the world.

New to the business and leading a marketing team of six, Veronica Araujo’s prime remit is performance marketing, centred around generating leads to fill the hundreds of courses that Lloyd’s Maritime Academy delivers around the world.

Problem

The brand was being marketed under a sub brand ‘KNect365 Learning’ creating confusion and dilution. Veronica and her team had become aware that the business was not only operating in silos but was functioning on a tactical level rather than a strategic one and as a result, this world-famous, prestigious brand was not being leveraged to full effect.

In an ever-increasing competitive landscape, it became clear that a more targeted and focused approach to its marketing and communications activities was needed to ensure Lloyd’s Maritime Academy stood out from the crowd.

SOLUTION

Veronica had already initiated a quantitative brand perception study amongst customers when she asked EC-PR to design and deliver a branding programme. The purpose of which was to clarify how the brand was perceived by its critical stakeholders, as well as develop a communication strategy to provide clarity of approach.

Utilising both the quantitative study and qualitative engagement conducted by EC- PR, the strategy would include the value proposition, industry prioritisation, persona development, positioning statements and messaging. It would form the backbone to inform and guide all marketing communications moving forward, including the Public Relations activity for which EC-PR would also take responsibility.

Outcome

“The Communication Strategy development programme EC-PR delivered returned control and authority to the marketing team. We feel a greater sense of brand ownership and appreciate the enormous value of the Lloyd’s name, which had become lost amidst delivering everyday tactics.

As a marketing team, we are better aligned and empowered, and externally, we are working hard to put our clients back at the heart of everything we say, do and develop.

We now know exactly what we need to say in order to support our different target audiences at different stages of the buying cycle. The clarity and structure of the communication strategy which EC-PR provided us with, has given us a set of tools and a plan which makes everything we do make so much more sense. It is still very early days and I look forward to reporting on the impact the new strategy has on our business.”

Veronica Araujo

Head of Performance Marketing, KNect365 Learning

GUARANTEED PERFORMANCE

Being in the right place at the right time. We will deliver feature length coverage to your target press... or your money back

Six reasons why you need a communication strategy

Six reasons why you need a communication strategy

Marketing plays an integral role in the business’s growth, but without a clear communication strategy, money is being wasted and it’s impossible to be consistent and efficient.  CMO’s are expected to deliver whilst working in a vacuum.

In our experience, CMO’s with a communication strategy can lead the business with greater confidence and authority.

 

1.    Enables you to lead your business

As a CMO you need a comms strategy because it will make your job easier and more rewarding, it will also help you to lead the business and perform your duties at a higher level altogether.

The nature of being responsible for a company’s marketing means you must respond to multiple demands from the business. This can lead to a kind of tactical myopia. Your colleagues in sales will demand qualified leads – and rightly so – but if you haven’t got a mutually agreed understanding of your target sector priorities and a tight definition of your target personas, then the likelihood for disagreement or disappointment is almost inevitable.

 

2.    Provides focus and efficiency

Low hanging fruitA well-formed comms strategy keeps you both focussed and aligned. It ensures you are more efficient, by focussing your time and money on the strategic priorities. The natural optimism, energy and opportunism characteristic of salespeople means that they can be distracted by whoever or whatever appears to be a quick win. That’s not to say low-hanging fruit shouldn’t be picked if it falls outside the specified target – but it must be recognised for what it is and should not distract everyone from the wider strategic intent.

A comms strategy provides a yardstick by which every effort and initiative can be assessed for efficacy. Everyone needs to understand when the pursuit of low hanging fruit has turned into an unhelpful distraction and drain on resources. If you own a comms plan, this will be as clear as the nose on your face.

 

3.    Results in more effective messaging

Your audience is ...article quoteYour target audience will rarely comprise a disciplined cohort equipped with all the information they need to select your products and services. Your audience is most likely made up of broad groups of people, with similar sets of responsibilities, who are at different stages of the buying cycle. They are probably ill-informed, confused and/or insecure in their knowledge or options. Creating typical, representative personas helps to focus attention and effort. Furthermore, understanding that your target persona will be at different stages of the buying cycle enables you to develop messaging which talks to their individual information needs, while addressing their fears, motivations and irritations. This approach, which respects your target audiences’ differences, will be more persuasive because you are telling them things that matter to them in a way that helps them to move along their buying journey.

 

4.    It forearms you

Your comms strategy captures your sales needs, sector priorities, personas, positioning and messaging. It provides you, and your extended team and colleagues, with many of the essential tools you need to enable you to deliver your business objectives. I’m a great believer in active decision-making. The process of formulating your comms strategy will enable you to identify knowledge gaps. Then, you can decide whether you need to secure the missing information or not.  It’s important to recognise and understand the implications of your action or inaction so that outcomes don’t come as a surprise – forewarned is forearmed.

 

5.    Brings clarity of purpose

a communications strategy quoteWhatever your objectives and whatever your requirements, a communication strategy just makes the process of getting there more efficient, more effective and the journey so much more rewarding. Having clarity of purpose also allows you to lead the business, fend off unnecessary or irrelevant requests and direct your resources with intent.

 

6.    Enables effective PR

So, where does PR fit into all of this and why am I writing this article? My view is that the most effective type of PR is PR that is fully integrated; it is wrapped around the marketing activity to create impact and effect. The most effective type of PR follows a clearly defined plan, speaking to people about the things they care about in a tone that engages and persuades. We can only do this properly if there is a clearly defined comms strategy…and so, we arrive full circle.

Read about our latest communication strategy project featuring Lloyd’s Maritime Academy

If your marketing is operating on a tactical level instead of a strategic one, EC-PR can help your marketing team regain control of your brand and marketing strategy.

Please get in touch to see if we can help you.

EC-PR specialises in helping Science, Technology and Engineering companies create clearly defined comms strategies and fully integrated PR solutions.