Why Tech Companies Fail at Marketing (and How They Can Get Better)

It all comes down to knowing your audience.

Tech companies often fail at marketing because they take a fundamentally wrong approach to designing marketing strategy and campaigns. Subpar marketing means “me-too,” uninspiring content on corporate blogs with insignificant social shares and superficiality from the target audience’s viewpoint. Tech companies struggle to create strategic messaging to describe their products with undifferentiated messages, jargon and superlatives. Marketing drains significant resources on channel-oriented paid acquisition campaigns that have no market segmentation or lead to homepages or other generic pages.

These are just a few examples, but what’s behind such failure? Part of the problem is not understanding what marketing is and what its goals are. The goal of marketing is to control perception and change the behavior of your target audience. Period. All marketing activities and every aspect of marketing falls under the goals of controlling perception, changing behavior or both.

In the last few years, I’ve spoken with over a hundred founders and marketing executives. When asked about marketing strategy, most of the time companies present some sort of Excel file (or other document) with a list of activities such as SEO, SEM, social media, content marketing, paid acquisition campaigns, PR, email marketing etc. Each channel might include a few generic marketing campaigns or just a laundry list of activities. So, why do so many tech companies fail at marketing?

Focusing on Channels Rather Than Target Customers

Successful marketing strategy starts with understanding your target customer, setting the right goals, creating effective messaging and only then deciding on the best channels to reach your targets. Knowledge of the target customer should drive your strategic messaging and content strategy. Both are essential in designing marketing campaigns.

The process of creating a marketing campaign is somewhat similar to cooking a nice meal for your family or friends. First you might consider their preferences. Then you think of the dish that you want to cook. Only then do you make a list of ingredients needed. In successful marketing, the channels are just the ingredients that come after you are clear on your target audience, your goals and your message.

Most companies start their marketing backward: Channels – > Segmentation  -> Customer -> Message
This is how success marketing campaigns are structured: Customer -> Segmentation  -> Message -> Channels

Before designing your next marketing campaign, answer the following questions:

  • Who is your target customer?
  • Can you segment your market into meaningful segments such as verticals?
  • What messages do you want to use or test to influence your target customer?
  • What are the best channels for your marketing campaign to reach your target audience?

Going Wide and Shallow Rather Than Narrow and Deep

Companies rarely look into segmentation to achieve greater ROI on their marketing spend. Even when a company understands its target customer, it overlooks the fact that their target customers’ needs and challenges might be very different depending on the vertical. For example, a sales manager in the pharmaceutical industry might have different needs, organizational structure or even goals than a sales manager in the hardware or media industry.

While account-based marketing and account-based selling might come across as something new, the basic concept has been around for a while. Focus your selling and marketing efforts on a list of target customers with the highest potential Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). The true benefit comes when account-based strategies in sales and marketing are aligned.

Marketing based on target customer profiles segments the market into a few categories and creates a list of specific companies and people to go after. So for example, if you are selling to VPs of sales in organizations with over 20 sales representatives, you might segment and test the pharmaceutical market and software resellers. Then you would pick a list of 100-200 companies in each category. Needless to say that when you prepare your marketing campaign for each vertical, you need to design unique messages.

Ultimately, align your marketing and sales messages so that your target customer is exposed to your message a few times per day. In the morning, your sales team might send him/her an outbound email. During work hours your customer can be exposed to your ads on Linkedin and Twitter leading to a marketing asset that provides valuable insight. And at the end of the day he/she might see your retargeting campaign ad on Facebook or while reading the news. This unified 360-attack will allow you to spend your money efficiently and embed your company and message into the mind of your potential buyers.

Focusing on First-Touch/Last-Touch Attribution Models 

Do you understand the pattern of how your prospects interact with your content, your product and your marketing campaign before they become a customer? If not, you’re missing a big picture. Look for overall patterns and a correlation between free trial signups and how many times a customer visited your website, consumed your contented or was exposed to your marketing campaign. It is not the first touch or the last touch that matters. It is about the number of times (pattern) that prospects are exposed before they signup or buy from you.

Marketing is not about picking channels and running broad marketing campaigns with generic messages. Successful marketing strategies start with understanding your target customer and designing effective messaging that resonates. Market segmentation helps companies to get maximum return on every dollar they spend. Instead of going wide and targeting the whole marketplace, figure out an effective way to segment your audience. Align your sales and marketing and design joined-up campaigns that allow you to reach your selected target of customers multiple times per day.

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