We’ve worked in B2B technology marketing for a long time (15+ years) and we’ve seen a lot of good things and a lot of bad during that time.
Because of this we have a set of rules or laws that we tend to follow when working with a new company that helps guide everything we do and forms the foundations for the strategies and tactics we use.
We believe that these laws are ‘immutable’ meaning that they are unchanging and will still be relevant in another 10+ years. They are not based on fads or trends but core principles of what it means to execute a successful marketing strategy for a technology company selling to other companies. And yes we stole the ‘immutable’ bit from the advertising classic.
So let's delve into the laws one-by-one and see why we chose them:
Categories are how the human brain works. Categorisation is the brain’s tool to organise nearly everything we encounter in our daily lives. Grouping information into categories simplifies our complex world and helps us to react quickly and effectively to new experiences.
The same goes for technology products. The more technology products are invented and developed the more categories we have to remember. Knowing which categories your product fits into will help you understand the perception and the positioning of it. It also helps keep in check those people within a company who think you have invented something that deserves its own category.
If you are however looking to define a new category as per blue ocean thinking then that is a slightly different thing, but, complete new categories are very rare, more often than not these categories are created every few years and they are usually when a breakthrough happens in technology, like AI as an example.
If you haven’t read the marketing classic the 22 immutable laws of marketing then I recommend you pick up a copy. It heralds from 90s advertising but has some principles in it that still ring true today, one of which is the law of division:
The Law of Division suggests that over time, a category will divide and become two or more categories.
For example, think of the Computer. Before laptops existed it would just be a desktop computer. Now you have gaming computers, laptops, tablets, work tablets and even kids tablets etc. but they are still all part of the broad computing category, which now has many subcategories and categories within those subcategories, like a cell dividing, this is the law of division.
The same goes for software products. More commonly in the B2B marketing industry categorisation tends to happen by vertical more than by features. For example, you are more likely to get a B2B specific or industry specific digital marketing agency than a new type of digital marketing agency, although don’t get me wrong people try all the time.
You will often see people trying to create a category by repositioning something, Revenue Operations is actually a good example of this. It is not really a new thing when you look at the detail of what is happening but the category of RevOps has grouped other things into it to create something new that is now accepted as an umbrella category.
So, you need to understand which categories your product fits in before you can start marketing it - this is similar to having a product market fit really.
If you want to have a look around to see what categories are available to you then have a look at review websites like G2 and Capterra. Literally all of the lists of companies on these websites are grouped by categories and sub-categories, with companies appearing in multiple ones.
AI is a great example of a new category being created. At the top level you have ‘AI’ and now because of the fast development in this area you have new sub-categories appearing all of the time as companies scramble to take up position in the new space.
We now have categories of AI content tools, AI data analysis tools and AI project management tools.
This one is a tricky one for a marketing professional. Unfortunately many technology companies don’t involve marketing in product development, which is a mistake. The best products are built with a mixture of skills and as we talk about later, User Experience (UX) goes beyond usability and also has aspects of desire.
It’s worth noting that based on the trend of AI development and no-code product development that individuals with sales and marketing skills will eventually be able to develop products without heavy investment in engineering which will lead to products that are built for Product Led Growth (PLG) more than ever before.
Besides this, the product is the most important part of any company. Quality always rises to the top when it comes to growth.
Some people will tell you the customer always comes first but in our experience it should be the product. The two things are interlinked anyway, a product that is designed well will inherently provide a better experience for the customer.
One of the most important parts of digital product design is User Data or User Research Data. This comes under the umbrella of UX (User Experience) and UX Researchers. Before digital products existed, designers used anthropometric data such as height and weight to build physical products that were ergonomically sound, like an office chair - this was to ensure the product was comfortable, easy to use and therefore easy to sell.
For digital products the data on ergonomics is not so much physical but mental. How easy a digital product is to use is measured by conducting user research to monitor things like Cognitive Load and Eye-tracking.
Cognitive load analysis, also known as cognitive load assessment or cognitive workload analysis, is a process researchers use to evaluate the mental effort and cognitive resources required by individuals when performing specific tasks or interacting with a system, such as software applications, websites, or instructional materials.
The goal of cognitive load analysis is to identify and manage the cognitive load imposed on users to ensure that tasks are efficient, effective, and easy to complete.
Cognitive load refers to the total amount of mental effort or processing capacity required by an individual's working memory during a task. Working memory is a limited capacity system responsible for temporarily holding and processing information needed for various cognitive activities.
As you can imagine, measuring the cognitive load of performing a task on your software application is a great indicator of how ‘easy’ it is to use. A low cognitive load implies that the software is easy to understand and use and the opposite applies for a high cognitive load.
Cognitive load analysis involves the following key concepts:
Peter Morville’s User Experience Honeycomb has been around since 2004 and is still a highly relevant design framework for modern product development projects. The framework forces design teams to evaluate a product through seven facets of user experience to identify areas for improvement.
Here’s how Peter explains each facet or quality of the user experience:
A good way to think about marketing for a B2B tech company is to think about ‘how you can be the most useful brand’ in your category. Being useful means helping your audience understand everything about your topic, category and helping them solve problems even if you think it doesn’t help you sell more.
If we consider Peter’s UX hexagon from earlier, you can think about a company or brand in the same way. Desirable is the thing a brand would probably put at the top of their priority list but you don’t get one without the other. Your brand needs to be ‘useful’ to your audience as well as desirable and valuable.
So what does being ‘useful’ mean in the context of a company or brand? Well typically it involves providing your audience with useful information and/or tools that improves their day-to-day lives, when they are not in-market to buy something.
Put your product or service to the side for a moment and think about what would be some useful information to provide your audience, no strings attached? This is where Inbound Marketing has found its place in the world.
Companies discovered that providing useful information to their audience helped them get discovered through mediums like Google, this eventually led to being deemed as being more useful and authoritative by the search engines and therefore you would generate more business - usually through a website.
Whether or not your goal is to increase your business through Search Engines there are many forms information can take. TikTok videos are a great example of people and brands being built on providing useful information or content creators as they are often called. This law will always be true in the world of marketing and in the realm of Technology marketing, useful information can help buyers make often tricky decisions.
After all, ‘knowledge is power’ as Sir Francis Bacon once said. Being a producer of information and content puts you in a position of power.
The next step from providing information is to provide practical tools to enable your audience to do something. These typically come in the form of free templates and online tools like calculators. These are genuinely useful tools for your audience to use.
I often call it ‘stop-gap content’ because it is a way of providing a temporary solution in the form of a free template that will help solve a problem without the need to purchase a new piece of software. Whilst that person / company hasn’t become a customer you have provided them with something useful and will build trust if the need ever arises in the future.
Perception is everything. How a company is perceived is what it is to that person. It doesn’t matter what you know, what you do or what you think, it's what buyers think about you.
Perception in psychology is a person's sensory experience of the world, which includes how an individual recognises and interprets sensory information. This also includes how someone responds to those stimuli. Perception includes these senses: vision, touch, sound, smell, taste, and proprioception.
Obviously when we are talking about perception in marketing and in B2B tech marketing we’re not usually talking about smell and taste, or even touch and sound but we are definitely talking about vision. Often called ‘the optics’ of something, usually by politicians - is the perception of how something looks, I think we can all understand that.
The best way to describe this is to look at a supermarket shelf and think about what you are feeling and thinking when you look at each brand. We do it subconsciously all the time but we often don’t take the time to really acknowledge what is going on in our heads. The same thing happens when companies are reviewing products for their business - just not in a supermarket.
Perceptions are one of the most effective ways confidence tricksters can defraud people. They often present themselves in a way that gives the impression (perception) of being legitimate when actually they are a criminal organisation.
I'm definitely not saying companies should trick buyers into believing something they are not, but many companies do tread this line, especially when they are starting out. The most important thing to take into account with the perception of your company is that it can play a massive role in the buying process.
Examples of this going on right now are greenwashing. Where a company makes bold claims about its environmental impact being so small or making claims that are unsubstantiated, but, the reason they do this is to be perceived as a company that is ethical and eco-friendly.
Large enterprises and tiny companies are the worst for this, they are on both ends of the spectrum, one so big it is hard to stay relevant and the other so small they are trying to be relevant. Most large enterprises spend most of the marketing budget on brand marketing and perception, this
Perception in brand and marketing is a well known concept but it also bleeds into the design of the product itself. This field is called Emotional Design (ED).
“Emotional design is the concept of how to create designs that evoke emotions which result in positive user experiences. Designers aim to reach users on three cognitive levels—visceral, behavioural and reflective—so users develop only positive associations (sometimes including negative emotions) with products, brands, etc.” - Interaction Design Org
To apply emotional design, you first need a good functional design to work with. You also need to gain a deep understanding of your users through UX research as we mentioned earlier. Here are some ways to make emotional design work for you:
Above all, to create positive emotional engagement, you must have a friendly presence in your design—to show users you know them. Reinforce this with happy customer testimonials and pictures of your office/team.
Your design should look different from competitors’. It should also feel different, as a reliable, pleasurable part of users’ lives. Attractive designs that accommodate users' needs and feelings give the impression they work better, too. Whatever the emotions your design conjures in users, these feelings will affect the bottom line. Even a minor oversight can trigger the wrong impression overall.
Everyone likes to give an opinion. Just like I'm doing right now, which is a bit hypocritical but at least appreciate the awareness of it! The problem with opinions is that they are often ill-formed and not factual.
When it comes to executing successful marketing strategies and campaigns for tech companies you should ALWAYs use data over opinions. I’ll explain a bit more in the next few paragraphs.
Sometimes, with experience you know when something is the right thing to do. In a way this is the brain's way of storing data and using that information to make decisions. An inexperienced marketing professional doesn’t have this data to use, whereas someone with 10 years experience has a lot more data to make decisions.
Using data matters when you are looking to make decisions on where to invest your marketing budget. Marketing teams in B2B tech & SaaS companies are measured based on revenue generated, the same with agencies.
The consequence of ‘opinion marketing’ is typically a lack of evidence to prove where revenue has come from and campaigns that have no direct impact on the company's bottom line. Often marketers may explain these campaigns away as being ‘brand’ campaigns meaning that they see no direct correlation to the bottom line, but with modern technology all types of marketing campaigns can be monitored with key performance indicators.
Content marketing is often the main casualty when it comes to opinion marketing, with companies producing content that they believe is important and/or that they want to talk about. The problem with this approach is that it is not based on being more useful to your audience and doesn’t help them.
One of the most difficult and important aspects of marketing is attribution. This means being able to look at when revenue is generated and knowing which marketing activities have contributed to that revenue, it's usually called marketing attribution or revenue attribution.
Unfortunately we as humans can be very predictable, not always, but sometimes. This is especially true when businesses are engaged in digital marketing, including social media marketing. There are so many data-points companies can use to optimise and improve their marketing efforts.
Predictive analytics in social media and digital marketing involves using historical data, statistical algorithms, machine learning models, and other techniques to make informed predictions about future user behaviour, trends, and outcomes in the digital realm.
One thing AI is great for is predictive analytics. This basically means predicting the future based on past data. The great thing about digital marketing is that it is full of analytical data that can be analysed and used to predict future behaviour.
1. Customer Behaviour Prediction
2. Content Optimisation:
4. Ad Targeting
5. Social Media Engagement:
These are just a few ways predictive analytics are already in use for tech marketers, it's the kind of thing you know happens but you don’t realise it's all based on data and predictive analytics. There are lots of areas that predictive analytics can be really useful for a SaaS company including:
The problem many tech marketers face with attribution is that the B2B buyer journey can be lengthy and involve many touchpoints and stakeholders so it can be difficult to track attribution unless you are using a tool like HubSpot Marketing Enterprise.
Like many things when it comes to analysing something, you are only able to really get a good analysis when the data is good. If you are looking to attribute revenue to marketing activities you need the data there to be able to do it.
This means having data on which advert was clicked and which content the person read. Without this data you cannot perform attribution successfully, no matter which attribution model you choose to use.
B2B Marketing Tools like HubSpot are really great for helping companies keep attribution simple and maintaining data standards.
A unique aspect of technology and specifically software marketing is the existence of the tech eco-system within which your product operates, often referred to as the ‘tech stack’. Many modern software products need to integrate with already popular tools to help them sell their own products.
Knowing your buyer's tech stack enables you to both build partnerships with companies looking to attract the same buyers but as a complementary product rather than a competitor one. It also can help with your performance and inbound marketing by creating content around the ecosystem your buyers are using.
A tech stack, short for technology stack, used to refer to the combination of programming languages, software tools, frameworks, libraries, and other technologies that are used to build and run a software application or a system. But more recently the term has been used to refer to the tools teams use to do their jobs, such as Marketing Tech Stacks and Revenue Tech Stacks.
The knock-on effect of the invention of so many software applications is that it can get confusing and messy in companies. Especially when a product is installed by one person, they then leave the company and the new person doesn’t understand it or how it was configured.
Many consultancies and professional service firms specialise in just this by helping companies not only choose the right tools but do audits of their technology stacks and help them integrate their tools into one another.
One way tech companies can ‘be more useful’ is to not only present their product in isolation but show potential customers how it fits into their stack or how they can replace their stack with a new approach - this method does involve partnerships with the other relevant business.
Often you’ll find that buyers in the B2B technology sector will actually look for a tool based on it integrating with a system they already have. For example “a project management tool that integrates with Quickbooks” is something that a buyer would search for online.
This shows the importance of understanding the other technologies your audience use because it unlocks another potential area of growth and possibly an area to build partnerships with these other companies.
One way of addressing this is having your integrations listed on your website in a way that makes them easily accessible via search engines.
Another approach some companies take when they have bigger marketing budgets is to use intent data tools and market data such as Zoom Info that allows you to obtain contact information for companies based on the technology they are using. This is called Technographic information.
Buying journeys in the Business-to-Business space are more complex than the Business-to-Consumer one. Gartner often speaks about this and has produced a number of diagrams trying to visualise this process, which in itself can be quite tricky!
Transactions in the B2B (Business-to-Business) space tend to be longer and more complex than those in the B2C (Business-to-Consumer) space for several reasons:
B2B transactions often involve larger sums of money and more significant financial investments compared to B2C transactions. Businesses often purchase services that have a substantial impact on their operations, so the decision-making process is typically more cautious and thorough.
B2B purchases often require the involvement of multiple stakeholders within a company. These stakeholders may include decision-makers, budget approvers, end-users, and legal or procurement teams.
Coordinating and aligning the interests of these stakeholders can extend the transaction timeline because each stakeholder has a different perspective and set of requirements.
Company culture can also influence how different stakeholders contribute to the buying process with some companies being easier to deal with than others.
B2B sales cycles are usually longer due to the complexity of the products or services being sold and the need for extensive evaluation, negotiation, and customisation. It may take months or even years from initial contact to closing a B2B deal, especially very large ones.
Sales cycle length typically correlates with the value of the sale and the size of the company with larger deals and companies taking longer to close.
B2B products and services often require customisation to meet the specific needs of the purchasing organisation. This customisation process can add time and complexity to the transaction as businesses negotiate terms, specifications, and pricing.
Again, this is more prevalent in larger deals and larger organisations where they are potentially more inflexible with processes and require a product to fit them rather than the other way around. Larger companies know they have a lot of power in these sales cycles because of the value of the sale.
B2B transactions frequently involve compliance with industry regulations, legal requirements, and contractual obligations. Ensuring adherence to these standards can be time-consuming and complex.
This is especially important when working within technology sectors such as FinTech and MedTech and where any consumer data is involved. There are a number of data-privacy regulations that need to be followed. For example when selling software into the healthcare industry you will need to be compliant with things such as HIPAA in the USA and the Data Protection Act in the UK
Negotiations in B2B transactions can be protracted, involving back-and-forth discussions on pricing, terms, and conditions. Both parties seek to secure favourable terms, which can lead to extended negotiation periods.
This is often a barrier some Software as a Service companies try to circumvent by having a self-service approach to their products which enables buyers to purchase and renew contracts without speaking to anyone.
Again, larger organisations with a larger order value often expect some form of sales process and consultation here because of customisation and the order value etc. trying to sell a self-service product at a high price tag is often a tough slog. It is often seen as a white glove service.
Building trust and maintaining long-term relationships are crucial in B2B transactions. Businesses often prefer to work with trusted partners and suppliers, which can lead to extensive due diligence and relationship-building efforts.
When you work with large organisations that have procurement and legal teams, they will often have a preferred supplier list that means anyone within the organisation can use this company without having to go through the procurement process all over again.
Many B2B organisations have structured procurement processes that require formal requests for proposals (RFPs), vendor evaluations, and competitive bidding. These processes can introduce additional steps and time into the transaction.
Not all companies require an RFP and in fact it can sometimes be seen as quite ‘old school’ as it is a very manual process that is often just a procedure that you have to go through rather than anything that actually adds any value to the process of procuring something.
B2B products and services are often more complex and technologically advanced than those in the B2C space. Understanding and evaluating these complexities can take time. This is typically because a B2B product is helping to perform more complex tasks, unlike consumer applications that are often simple tools.
B2B transactions are generally more intricate and time-consuming, they can also lead to more substantial and enduring business relationships. Businesses understand the importance of careful consideration and due diligence in B2B transactions, as they can significantly impact their operations, profitability, and competitive advantage.
This one is a little less practical and a little more abstract but it is nevertheless a good rule to follow. Just like everything in life, things move on, those of us who don’t embrace change often get left behind - even more so when it comes to marketing and technology.
As marketers this means keeping on top of the latest technology available to us and ensuring we understand how we can use it to improve ourselves and the companies we serve.
Digital marketing used to be a new thing 20 years ago, since then it has become the largest part of marketing. Now, social media marketing, influencer marketing and content creators are toping the pile in terms of trends with AI revolutionising how we operate and execute marketing campaigns.
It can be difficult to get to grips with new technologies with marketers always worrying about FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and also as everyone does, imposter syndrome. But always remember that everybody is in the same boat as they say and if you work hard to learn something new you’ll always remain in good standing.
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