With 2015 right around the corner, we're all in turbo-planning mode as we build our growth strategies for the year ahead. There is much to consider, but we can take the legwork out of one topic: understanding the marketing trends and opportunities emerging in 2015.
For tech firms, clients' changing decision-making strategies are transforming technology marketing - leading firms to educate and influence through the lens of buyer's needs and priorities. Below, we've collected the top four trends to watch - and what you need to know to leverage them most effectively.
1) Buyers of technology services want to be educated
Research conducted by RAIN Group and Hinge shows a striking trend. In a study of competitions for professional services sales, the winning firms consistently did one thing: successfully educated their prospects. By contrast, firms that lost their respective sales were consistently ranked poorly for educating prospects. In fact, education was the characteristic least commonly associated with these losing firms.
What does this tell us? Buyers want to be educated. They want to understand how to better frame their problems and challenges, and they want to know how to choose the most successful solutions. Like anyone else, buyers have grown accustomed to finding quick, accessible, and effective answers online.
The firms that provide these answers through educational content stand to build credibility among their audiences, take a leading role in the fast-moving industry conversation, attract new visitors, and shape the way prospects conceptualize their challenges.
2) Social media matures - while new risks and policies emerge
Social media's no longer the new kid on the block. It's gone mainstream, and as such social media has generally found its place within most organizations, typically being folded under the marketing function. By now, many competitive technology firms have recognized that social media - and particularly LinkedIn - can play a very active role in lead generation.
As platforms and technologies mature, of course, we come to better understand their nuances. In social media, it's become abundantly clear that the numerous advantages of real-time technology marketing and direct customer interaction come paired with significant and evolving risks.
First and foremost, firms must take care not to appear opportunistic or self-serving in their social media activity - it is crucial to engage in a curious, participatory, community-oriented way, sharing others' content more often than your promote your own - three or four of others' content to your one piece is a good rule of thumb.
This kind of successful social media engagement requires a nuanced understanding of social media best practices. In addition to your firm's official social media accounts, which may have multiple administrators, your employees often represent you online as well. For this reason, it's important to create clear and informed social media policies to manage your firm's social sharing. Key topics for these policies include:
- Volume. Take care not to overshare - your audience may quickly grow annoyed if you "spam their feeds."
- Voice. Maintain an accessible, professional tone that is generally consistent across platforms.
- Brand. Create policies to help employees share company content in a strategic, consistent way that aligns with your brand identity and content goals.
3) New opportunities arise in the cloud - but you have to make "the cloud" matter to your audience
There are more opportunities than ever for digital delivery of services, including powerful possibilities for services delivered via apps and Software as a Service (SaaS) models.
But here's the challenge. Marketing "the cloud" is difficult, because that phrase needs to be more than a buzzword for your firm. If everyone is talking about offering cloud-based services, then the idea loses any differentiating impact.
In 2015, it becomes increasingly urgent for technology firms to not only seize new opportunities, but convey the value of their cloud products and services in terms that are clear and meaningful to their audiences.
In other words, aim to communicate how your SaaS model or cloud-based service improves your value proposition and delivery capabilities. You can't fall back on the same industry jargon that everyone else is using: you have to show what makes your firm special - and solves your target audience's problem.
4) An increased focus on data security and privacy
Just as the proliferation of cloud services brings new opportunities, it also brings associated risks.
The high-profile hacks and breaches of the past year are a harbinger of things to come, the consequences of which can be catastrophic. Forrester's 2014 Technology Trends revealed that for many firms "the minimum cost of a data breach is $10 million, and in many cases it can be much larger." While fines of this size are typically imposed on large companies like national retailers, the consequences of a breach can be proportionally devastating to smaller firms.
Just as important as the financial cost of these incidents, however, is the aggregate reputational impact. Many consumers have grown skeptical that firms can or will effectively protect their data. The recent high-profile hacks of celebrity photos on Apple's iCloud are just one example. Protecting your customers' data is now essential for building brand trust, and will only become more important. In 2015, a reputation for successful security will become a brand asset.
Just as the technological capabilities and offerings evolve quickly, so too does technology marketing. But this parallel is one reason it's so important for technology services firms to stay on the leading edge - the currency of your marketing reflects directly on the currency of your services.
For your 2015 planning, focus marketing efforts on educating your target audience, social media fluency, and messaging that articulates your relevancy. If you can achieve all this, your firm will be able to hone its competitive edge and drive continued growth.
To find out how real-world technology firms are using online marketing techniques today, check out our Online Marketing for Technology Firms Research Report.