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Emotionless automation

Emotionless Automation blog header

Like a scene from James Cameron’s Terminator, the machines are slowly but surely taking over the world of marketing. Thankfully, unlike the movie, we’re not quite at the post-apocalyptic state.

Leaving things to the computers is now part and parcel of big business. Whether it’s harnessing the power of big data to gain additional customer insight, embracing IoT connectivity amongst smart devices, or moving marketing operations onto one of the many automation platforms available to streamline productivity.

There can be no doubt that if managed correctly, artificial intelligence (AI) can add huge value to businesses. But from a marketing perspective, automation can risk becoming an incubator for lacklustre content with a decline towards a quantity over quality.

Connect the equivalent of an automatic gearbox to the marketing engine; fuel it with structured, engaging and targeted content and you’ll not only make the buyer journey smoother but also accelerate the delivery of qualified, in-mode prospects to sales. Unfortunately, the reality doesn’t always match this vision. Ill-conceived strategies, lack of empathy with decision makers and thinly veiled sales pitches masquerading as thought leadership tend to put the brakes on too many nurture programmes.

Safety in numbers

For many marketing automation practitioners, success (and ultimately failure) is all in the numbers, ie. how many prospects can we move through the sales funnel. Typically, this is governed by interactions with certain pieces of content that are then assigned a value. This value is recorded upon click and not upon the actual engagement with the content quality itself. Automation, it could be argued, simply encourages ‘click bait’. After all, if it’s short-term gratification that marketers require, then snappy headlines and empty promises will certainly deliver the quick hit that line managers need to report.

The road is long

In the realm of technology marketing, the decision-making process can be a long and winding road. Influencers can hail from both IT and business sides of the house. Buying cycles can vary wildly depending on the nature and price ticket of the purchase. In some cases, closing the sale can take in excess of 18 months. This is where hit and run, lacklustre content falls by the wayside. Instant gratification may yield superficial marketing results but in terms of deepening engagement and enhancing brand position these may well be compromised in the long-term.

Computer says ‘yes’

Another drawback of leaving ‘intelligent’ content distribution to a set of rules is that you are removing a degree of empathy with the prospect. On a large scale, there can be no denying the benefits of introducing a series of workflows which determines the order, frequency and type of content. Doing this manually would simply be foolhardy. However, for complex, big ticket, B2B purchases there is a degree of treating each prospect in the same way as you would with an Account Based Marketing (ABM) programme. If left to lead scoring, automation platforms could raise a flag that the prospect is ready to buy when in reality, they are merely showing the first signs of curiosity.

Take a look at our quick guide to discover how content can be more ‘killer’ and less ‘filler’.

The tech case study compromise

The tech case study compromise blog header

One content asset that frequently creates frustration for technology marketers is the case study. Often, efforts to pull together real-world examples of use cases are hampered by a number of challenges.

So, why do marketers need case studies and why is it worth overcoming the challenges to make them happen? Case studies can be ‘killer’ content for tech marketers. For sceptical business and technical decision makers they provide the evidence that backs up sales and marketing claims. For sales teams, case studies make great anecdotal material for customer conversations. For some marketers, they can even form the basis of campaigns. And when you can turn a case study into a video, you have an asset that can reach a wide audience again and again.

Amongst other marketing advantages, the case study can be a powerful objection handler but ironically it often fails to materialise because of objections from customers, brand and legal departments or even sales executives.

Possible barriers to toasting your success

Of course, some objections can be valid: it’s too soon after project delivery; results data needs substantiation; the original decision maker has moved on. However, some obstacles to case study production can and should be overcome. For example, schedule an agreed date to complete a case study when the project has matured but lay down the basics in a draft case study with the customer now. If data needs substantiation then leverage the idea that empirical evidence on improvements and benefits are of equal importance to the customer. If the original decision maker has moved on it’s likely that other advocates can be found from the original influencing and decision making group. After all, few technology purchases are attributable to just one person.

Brand and legal guardians on the customer side can also object to case studies but the onus has to be on them to explain their reasons or at least identify the appropriate terms and conditions of the supplier/customer relationship or agreement. It may also be worth a little desktop research into any infringements by other companies that may help to bolster your case.

Whilst case studies can be valuable to marketers, if politics or practicalities preclude their publication, there are some potential get-arounds. These include the more obvious ‘anonymising’ of the customer and careful editing of content that can risk identifying the customer.

Case studies can be difficult to conjure up on demand so the creation of a structured customer advocacy programme with mutual benefits can provide a more strategic and workable solution. Alternatively, a vertical industry case study compiled from a number of anonymous customer examples can be a more tactical solution if time is not on your side.

Even a slightly compromised case study can be better than no case study.

Take a look at our quick guide to discover how content can be more ‘killer’ and less ‘filler’.

Vanilla technology videos

Vanilla technology videos blog header

As a marketing content asset, video can be uniquely powerful and effective. But don’t assume the medium will compensate for deficiencies in the message.

If the plot is thin, the characters are wooden, or the ending is disappointing, your investment in a video production could fail to see a decent return at the marketing box office.

Think of the technology marketing video like a film genre and you can begin to see how best to approach production. As a genre it may not have the mass audience and populist appeal of a romantic comedy or a sci-fi blockbuster but it can follow some similar basic rules for success.

Analyse almost any movie you’ve seen and you’ll realise there’s a tried and tested method to the plot. It begins with establishing ‘normality’ for a single protagonist or a group of people before introducing an event or situation with the potential to change the norm and present the main character with a challenge. From there, we see a journey through events and encounters (with twists and turns for added interest) and finally a resolution which usually changes one or more of the characters and/or their world.

So, how does this have any relevance to a video for a Wide Area Network solution or a cyber security portfolio? Well firstly, characters and protagonists are involved- in the form of business and technical decision makers. These are the people who are about to be presented with a challenge to their ‘norm’. The challenge arises from whatever is being marketed. The plot continues with twists and turns usually in the form of user scenarios, product or solution comparisons, testimonials and cameo appearances from experts. And finally, resolution is offered in the form of a call to action.

Of course, all of this is simply a playful way to say that the plot is critical to any technology marketing video. And without the right content and contributions to support the plot, you can end up with the equivalent of an arthouse movie playing to an empty house.

With a good plot, and production values that don’t try to create Star Wars from a Blair Witch budget, the technology marketing video can educate, motivate and activate influencers and decision makers with an immediacy and clarity that can often be difficult to achieve with other marketing content assets.

And..cut!

Take a look at our quick guide to discover how content can be more ‘killer’ and less ‘filler’.

White paper: white noise?

White paper: white noise - blog header

The white paper has taken on a ‘grey’ hue since it was first introduced by Winston Churchill in 1922. Apparently, business is to blame – with marketers extending its original remit whilst adding it to a growing armoury of content assets.

Technology marketing can gain real advantages from including a white paper within an integrated campaign or programme. As a content asset, it can fulfil a unique role but only if some basic rules are followed in order to avoid the white paper simply becoming ‘white noise’.

A white paper shouldn’t be a product pitch. Neither should it try to combine the detailed product information of a backgrounder with an industry-wide perspective or thought leadership. It has to be authoritative – with facts, figures, examples, comparisons and quotes.

White papers should be found at the academic end of the marketing content library with a high degree of expertise backed by solid research and fully documented with references. If that means they can be a little bit ‘boring’, requiring two or three reads to fully understand, that usually means the balance is right.

Getting the quality and balance right requires time, especially when you factor in technical, legal and brand approval. Breadth and depth is essential, and anything less than six pages could be deemed lightweight. Tight deadlines and white papers aren’t a good combination but they can be afforded longer lead times if the need is identified early enough in campaign planning and they’re offered as a downloadable fulfilment piece later in the delivery schedule.

White papers perform a unique role in establishing credibility, trust and preference when they help to clarify an issue, solve a problem or help to guide a decision. And as downloaders are usually further into the customer buying cycle, they can be positioned at a critical point in the sales funnel.

Take a look at our quick guide to discover how content can be more ‘killer’ and less ‘filler’.

Tips to avoid becoming a social pariah in tech marketing

Tips to avoid becoming a social pariah blog header

Have you ever started a conversation with someone at a social occasion only to realise that it’s either running out of steam; is too one-sided; or takes a turn that you or the other party is not prepared for?

In technology marketing terms, that’s how social campaigns or programmes can sometimes unfold.

Take for example the campaign that bursts into the digital equivalent of a low-key cocktail evening. Wearing an outfit that screams ‘look at me’, it proceeds to work the room with the promise of scintillating conversation and insightful anecdotes. Whilst the guests are slightly taken aback they may be willing to engage with the new arrival if only to lighten what could be an otherwise uneventful gathering. However, it quickly becomes apparent that the usurper is either drunk on their own self-importance or is simply a crashing bore. The room is soon emptied as guests beat a hasty retreat to waiting taxis.

Top social tips for technology marketers

Let’s rewind. How could this scenario have been better? Advice for our social pariah could include:

In an era where time is precious and ‘productivity’ is the watchword on many boardroom agendas, surely keeping things to the point and getting the important information across as succinctly as possible should be the goal.

  • check that it’s the right venue
  • don’t gate-crash
  • dress appropriately
  • start a conversation if it can be sustained
  • take the conversation in different directions
  • think laterally and creatively
  • ask questions and show interest
  • get fresh input to grow the conversation

Finally, when enough food and drink has been consumed and the buffet is beginning to look stale, it’s probably best to leave and plan for the next successful social gathering.

Take a look at our quick guide to discover how content can be more ‘killer’ and less ‘filler’.

Webinar wasteland

Wasted Webinars blog header

In the marketing cannon, webinars are an interesting proposition. On face value, it’s a great medium for a crash course on a subject which combines demos, expert opinion and commentary, coupled with the traditional PowerPoint slideware. What’s not to like? Most of us would rather voyeur at our screens for an hour than trawl the internet or read white paper after white paper in an effort to uncover the gems of information that we can otherwise be spoon-fed via a webinar.

With so much potential, it’s not surprising to see that marketing departments are keen to take advantage of our webinar expectations.

Gone in 60 minutes

It’s almost a given that once you decide to produce a webinar (regardless of subject matter) that it will last an hour. After the initial introductions, house rules and agenda (which if marketed correctly should already be obvious in the lead generation part of the campaign), you’ve already burnt through the first 10 minutes. Add the traditional, and very choregraphed Q&A’s at the end and that’s 20 minutes of the hour that could have be shaved from the length.

In an era where time is precious and ‘productivity’ is the watchword on many boardroom agendas, surely keeping things to the point and getting the important information across as succinctly as possible should be the goal.

Case study cop out

Another staple of the webinar is the good old case study. The chance for the webinar owner to showboat customers that have bought and benefited from their technology. In theory, this section should provide real insight which can include watchouts and potential added audience interest and value.

The reality though is that these examples are often over-sanitised and thus offer very limited value to the webinar participant. Devoid of budget allocations, lead times, tangible monetary savings or quantitative productivity gains, case studies merely become a beauty parade of brand names and or an exercise in customer ego stroking.

All mouth, no trousers

The final, and probably the most infuriating tactic webinar marketers use to attract both volume and quality of audience, is the topic headline. Employing the mantra that ‘every day is a school day’, participants register for these online events with the expectation that they will discover something fresh. Razzamatazz headlines, high-calibre speakers and stellar brand case studies all help to convince the participant that the subject matter is going to be innovative, revelationary and… new. Alas, many webinars promise a lot but deliver little – dusty content is repackaged and rolled out, case studies are devoid of actual insight and thought leadership material is revealed as thinly disguised sales pitches.

Take a look at our quick guide to discover how content can be more ‘killer’ and less ‘filler’.

Avoiding the technology vision vacuum

Vision vacuum blog header

Here’s an apocryphal story about ‘vision’. During the space race of the 1960s, a NASA employed road-sweeper was tending the rail path for the Apollo 11 rocket to reach its launch pad. He was asked what he was doing. ‘I’m putting men on the moon’, he replied.

Fast forward to 1984 and Steve Jobs is proclaiming that ‘the world will never be the same’ with the introduction of the iMac personal computer.

The importance of vision and thought leadership

Vision can be a powerful marketing asset when it’s developed and applied properly. On the other hand, an apparent lack of corporate vision and brand positioning can create a vacuum for competitors to fill with their own thought leadership. But vision is not necessarily about establishing a thought leadership position that few have seen before. It’s about painting a picture of an aspirational and positive future.

For a technology marketer, vision has to be more than a strapline or a cut and paste copy block from brand guidelines. With extended influencing and decision making groups amongst customers and prospects, the vision for a technology proposition has to pass through several lenses. It can’t be blurred or so distant it can’t be seen. And it has to be focussed on customer needs and aspirations. An effective vision or thought leading view of a tech marketing future has the power create a positive glow around a product or service.

Making thought leadership work harder

Once the vision or thought leadership notion is articulated it should permeate all content assets – from product sheets to high-level presentations – and everything else between. So instead of leaving the vision itself in a vacuum, it becomes credible, useable and attainable. In short, it becomes the glue that holds technology, service and brand propositions together.

The most successful examples of thought leadership promotion not only stimulate brand enthusiasm but can also create expectation and anticipation in the customer’s mind. Think of the zeal of early-adopters queueing overnight outside Apple stores.

If it’s a disruptive vision or thought leading position it needs careful articulation. People don’t buy disruption, they buy what’s best or better.

A message elevator can help to establish a vision or thought leadership that’s credible and supported by a portfolio of technology propositions capable of helping customers to achieve that vision. The vision itself can be elevated or grounded. It can be universal, or tailored to a vertical market. And if the idea of communicating a vision sounds awkward or even pretentious, you only have to remember that successful technology either begins with a vision, or aligns with a vision as market success grows.

Take a look at our quick guide to discover how content can be more ‘killer’ and less ‘filler’.

When the corporate deck is a wreck

When the corporate deck is a wreck

Amongst the many manifestations of content for a technology business there is one asset that can evoke a range of emotions – from frustration to fear.

If content is king, surely the corporate deck should be the jewel in the crown for the field marketing or sales enablement professional. However, more often than not, that jewel simply fails to sparkle. Worse still, it can often be consigned to the equivalent of a ceremonial curiosity cabinet where it gathers dust and rarely sees the light of day – along with a pile of other unused corporate presentations and presenters intended to inspire customers and partners.

On occasions when the corporate deck is revealed by obedient courtiers it tends to be announced with an air of apology. And once revealed to a waiting audience it runs the risk of someone from the assembled crowd exclaiming ‘the king has no clothes!’

The imperative for sales enablement and field marketing

It may sound like a fairy tale but for many technology field marketing and sales professionals the corporate presentation presents a very real challenge. We’ll refer to it as ‘the deck’ because that’s the most common form that it continues to take.

Frequently the problem can be characterised as simply ‘too many hands on deck’. That’s understandable when it’s meant to represent the sum of the parts that a technology company can offer- which means a range of stakeholders find themselves involved in contributing to the content. That can lead to a patchwork assembly that lacks cohesiveness or balance between business propositions and the technicalities of the portfolio. The sales enablement solution requires a level of objectivity that’s unlikely to be found amongst the stakeholders and can’t simply be imposed by the CEO (assuming they are involved).

The solution also requires a hybrid set of skills that blend field marketer experience and sales support mindset with brand sensibilities, in-depth technology knowledge, content expertise and even political astuteness. Together, that can add up to seeking help from a specialist agency with experience in tech sales presenters and marketing presentations.

And as a final thought: in a world where content segmentation is so much easier to achieve perhaps the ambitions of the corporate deck are outdated as it often tries to be all things to all people. Another aspect that a specialist agency can help with.

Take a look at our quick guide to discover how content can be more ‘killer’ and less ‘filler’.

Killer content for technology marketing

Killer content blog header

Somewhere between quality and quantity there’s a point at which content can be more ‘killer’ than filler’. A point at which content can fulfil its proper role as a bridge between broadcast marketing propositions and customer acquisition.

Finding that point requires objectivity bordering on ruthlessness.

When marketing began embracing the power of content in the new digital age, the initial challenge seemed to be creation and curation. Now, it seems there’s no shortage of content flowing from a multitude of channels towards a market that appears to be drowning rather than waving.

As the enabler of the digital marketing age, the technology sector not only has ‘paternal’ rights to its content distribution capabilities but should also be one of its biggest beneficiaries. Let’s face it, technology marketing is different. It needs all the help it can get in order to penetrate extended decision making groups; align with buying cycles; provide clarity on complex technical arguments, and translate innovations into ‘must-have’ market benefits.

Content objectivity begins with an audit of everything you have that falls into the content spectrum – from a white paper to a vision manifesto and everything else between. If you’ve read the best-selling book ‘The life-changing magic of tidying’ by Marie Kondo you’ll realise that with the right method and mindset, any mountain of accumulation (in this case, content) can be conquered.

There is a method and a mindset that can be applied to creating killer content. It includes a recognition of ten typical reasons to conduct an audit; a checklist of sixteen essentials; four alternative assessment enablers and four key criteria for creation and curation. And if that sounds complicated, the good news is you don’t have to do it yourself. In fact, you’re more likely to get the best result if you leave it to a specialist.

Find out more by downloading The Rubicon Agency free guide: ‘Killer or Filler – assessing content success for technology marketers’.

How do you reduce noise to signal in technology marketing?

Noise to Signal blog header

In a world where content rules the marketing roost, quality trumps quantity. However, there are too many examples of brands being guilty of marketing for marketing’s sake when a primary asset has been created.

Certain assets are packed with gems of information, facts and statistics that naturally lend themselves to be reworked and repackaged. There is however, a fine line between extracting, scaling & ‘chunking’ content and repetition.

Research reports are prime examples of assets that deliver the ‘mother-load’ of thought leadership hooks. Utilised correctly, the raw information can be disseminated and reassembled into a multitude of content. The context, pitch and salient points can be manipulated to stretch up (or down) the corporate pyramid to provide fresh insights and perspectives to the full influencer group. This is a true reflection of content manifestation; However, many marketers are guilty of not harnessing the value of such pieces. A sprinkling of window dressing and the same message (and sometimes the same lack of answers/insight) are rolled out across as many paid, owned and earned channels as physically possible. The result can create ‘white noise’ that undermines the opportunity to create audience engagement.

How to maximise the reach of your message?

We’ve all heard that the most important factor in content success is relevancy. Well, this still rings true when reconstituting the core points of your content asset. If we take our hypothetical research report as a starting point, the focus of the findings may be aimed at senior IT decision makers and include key challenges likely to be faced by CIOs. Sure, this could be adapted into a webinar format targeting the same type of prospect but it won’t resonate with the IT & Network Manager tier. Being able to manifest these insights into tangible careabouts for these guys really is the key to scale, reach and ultimately success.

So, what about social?

The same rules apply. Parachuting in the full version of your original content isn’t going to work for everyone. Adopting the proper tone of voice, message and insight is as important in social situations as reconstituting content into different formats for ‘classic’ marketing. Remember, all social channels and communities are different, so don’t adopt a one- size -fits- all policy. Saying the same thing to everyone in the same tone of voice is unlikely to get the message across or make you popular in social circles.

To find out if your content has the right noise to signal ratio, register for our unique M4 content audit.

The medium isn’t the message

The Medium isn’t the Message

The phrase ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover’ first appeared more than 70 years ago in the thriller novel ‘Murder in the glass room’. Today, it’s a statement that could be applied to a particular aspect of technology marketing.

There’s a common misconception within technology marketing that certain mediums will automatically fulfil a role within the buyer journey by virtue of format, title or location. However, one thing that is often overlooked is the quality and purpose of the content that’s being provided for that medium.

For example, thought leadership pieces are often seen as the gatekeeper to engagement. The most popular of these is the tried and tested white paper. Having an engaging title, pitching as thought leadership reinforced by a reputable brand, and seeding it on vibrant and respected tech properties doesn’t guarantee that the content has ‘killer’ qualities.

Content should resonate with the audience in terms of pitch and clarity of the message, not the medium. Likewise, format doesn’t guarantee that the content will strike a chord with the user. We’ve all consumed white paper content that’s caused us to immediately regret trading your data – when it’s evident that there’s little enlightenment or clarity in return.

One of the more glamorous and (sometimes) costlier assets within the tech marketer’s repertoire is the positioner video. To use another metaphor, they say that a picture paints a thousand words which is true if executed correctly. Video content can cut through and explain complex technical architectures, elevate product information and even express a corporate vision. One thing to heed however, is just because it’s a video doesn’t mean it’s a panacea for poorly conceived content. Again, we’ve all experienced video content with patchy scripts, flimsy concepts, poor delivery and an over- or under- inflated pitch that leaves the audience more confused than an episode of The Twilight Zone.

A logical approach to content is to take an agnostic view of the outputs. Start with the message – who are we addressing? What is it we want to say? How do we want to pitch it? Is this content they are accustomed to receiving? Once you’ve answered these questions the format and medium should then be selected to serve the message… not the other way around.

To find out if your content is suffering from medium over message register for our unique M4 content audit.

Why speeds and feeds don’t work on a first date for technology marketing

Why speeds and feeds don’t work on a first date for technology marketing

‘Speeds and feeds’ is a phrase we often hear from tech marketers who are conscious that using technology features or technical integration language is not going to cut it with all of the influencers and decision makers in their target audience.

The challenge with technology marketing content can be sheer breadth and depth. Unlike some other sectors, technology often has a lot that needs to be said to an audience with a diverse range of care abouts and motivations.

There’s a time and a place to talk about ‘speeds and feeds’ but not on a first-date with a customer who may be more interested in say the power of collaboration solutions than the ins and outs of Unified Communications. In fact, extending the dating analogy to the concept of ‘speed-dating’ is a good way to imagine distilling all that could be said into the things that can actually make a customer romance blossom.

Most technologies could promise ‘greater agility, productivity and efficiency’ but as an opening chat-up line it’s unlikely to create an instant attraction – especially when the clock is ticking. That’s because we’re not telling our date anything they haven’t heard before.

How to woo technology decision makers

Context is key. That means absorbing and vetting everything that can be said with an almost obsessive aim to translate what really matters to the people we need to impress. Save the TCO arguments for the CFO and the SLA promises for the CTO and you’ll cut the ice much quicker. And if you’re stuck for what to say, you can try asking questions. Social and interactive tools are a perfect way to get a two-way conversation flowing.

A ‘messaging elevator’ is also a useful tool to set the upper and lower levels of content objectives – whether that means establishing the vertical and horizontal context for content or recognising an opportunity to raise the bar by talking about the business transformation capabilities of a technology solution. And if there is a place for ‘speeds and feeds’ it will also tell you where that should be.

To find out if your content needs to take a trip on the message elevator, register for our unique M4 content audit.

Five routes for implementing a content audit

Five routes for implementing a content audit

So you’ve identified the fact that your content has turned feral and requires an audit in order to keep it on-point. Realising the need to action this and actually implementing it, are two completely different things.

So what are your options?

Head in the sand

Well, the easy option and by no means the wisest, is to do nothing. The lack of budget, resource and skills may naturally demote the priority of reviewing the merits of your marketing assets from a necessity to a ‘nice to have’. The net result means that you carry on with the status quo more in hope than expectation that the content will resonate with your audience.

D.I.Y

Another approach is to conduct the assessment in-house. This mitigates the need for additional budget but does require a secondment of resource to complete the project. With head count often scarce, this could restrict your ability to perform a D.I.Y audit internally. There is also the additional risk that your content won’t be critiqued agnostically, after all it was produced by your peers and represents a view, a vision or a business/technical posture of your organisation. ‘Good’ content may be championed internally but may fail to deliver when syndicated to your prospects.

Ab Fab

The next route is to task your PR agency to conduct the review. From a journalistic point of view this may seem like a logical approach especially if they are technology specialists. Assessing pitch, tone and target audience should be second nature to a PR specialist. However expanding the content into a fully joined up marketing strategy may come as a stretch and fall outside of their capabilities.

Social soundboard

The same could be said for commissioning a dedicated social agency. Looking through the lens of ‘social-ability’, content will be assessed to see how sharable it can become through networks and communities. Messaging flex is important when ‘chunking’ content for the purposes of social distribution, although if the actual nub of the content is weak to begin with the results could be catastrophic if syndicated in social space.

Marketing mojo

The final option, and the one that has a more rounded approach to it, is to contract a marketing agency (with an affinity for technology) to critique your assets. Marketing agencies worth their salt should be judged on ROI, so analysing the content that ultimately they will use in their marketing campaigns is a natural progression.

Ensuring that the core message & pitch, vibrancy, audience resonance and ability manifest itself is critical to planning a successful content strategy and joined-up marketing approach.

We all know the importance of content. To leave it to evolve organically and even produce it sporadically without control runs the risk of attracting the wrong kind of audience or worse, no audience at all.

To understand more about our unique M4 content audit framework and how it can help you supercharge your content, register your interest today.