Marketing in the tech industry – how to outrun the competition?
Two are the critical factors for success of the technology firm – R&D and marketing. But in many sectors, the technology firms are competing on applications of similar technologies and marketing their achievements becomes critical for their competitiveness.
Nevertheless, most of the companies are focusing on digital lead generation with their core or only marketing tool. And while lead generation is very important in certain stages of the company’s development, it is related to consistent organizational resources, sometimes including significant financial outflow.
Depending on the business goals and the development stage of the technology company, the organization must manage a mix of marketing communications tools in order to achieve the highest levels of effectiveness and efficiency of resources. Which are these marketing tools, available to the technology firm?
1. SEM and SEO
2. Content marketing
3. Social media
4. Marketing automation and e-mail
5. Media relations
6. Corporate events
7. Corporate reputation management
8. Brand management
In this part of our series, let us take a look at the biggest asset of all – brand equity.
Brand management is a function of marketing that uses techniques to increase the perceived value of a product line or brand over time. Effective brand management enables the price of products to go up and builds loyal customers through positive brand associations and images or a strong awareness of the brand.
Why do tech companies need strong brands?
Although discussed here last, brand management for the B2B technology firm must be one of the most critical marketing investments. Too many times, especially in the case of startups, but not uncommon with medium sized and even global internationals, marketing priorities are the lead generation marketing campaigns while difficult to manage or measure concepts like the corporate brand are neglected.
There are different reasons for this, the primary being lack of brand management talent and organizational expertise, senior management ignorance about the purpose and benefits of the brand, fear of major long-term investment with difficult ROI measurement and control or simply lack of financial resources. Often senior management makes the totally wrong, or actually nonexistent, choice of investment between lead generation marketing campaigns or corporate brand development. There cannot be such choice as both communications strategies must work together for the business success of the organization.
The current global pandemic crisis will pose further brand-related problems and complex issues for the senior management to address. These will include such questions as to what our business mission will be after this crisis, will our brand values evolve or how should be preserve our core brand tenets in this environment and lastly – how much should we invest in our brand efforts and how to optimize them in business environment, characterized with very limited financial resources.
Corporate brand equity investment, especially for B2B firms, brings significant benefits for the organization:
1. Lead generation or product marketing thrive on the shoulders of strong brands.
The well-positioned corporate brand is what could be the difference between successful and unsuccessful deal. The members of the purchasing committee will feel more safe with known and established in the industry brand.
2. Great corporate brand reduces risk and uncertainty.
The established corporate brand brings much important level of assurance in the other party that the purchased products or services will perform according to the agreed upon specifications. One of the distinguishing characteristics of enterprise tech projects if their complexity and difficulty to clearly first convince and then ensure that at the end of the project the results will be according to the agreed upon. A well-established corporate reputation can go a long way into limiting this risk for the purchasing organization.
3. Brings value for partners in the supply chain.
An established corporate brand can help the organization build easier and more productive partnership with resellers and service organizations along the supply chain and could even command better deal terms with them, if the corporate brand is with positive positioning in the industry.
4. The corporate brand brings differentiation to the offering.
Most tech industries are commodities industries. The offerings are mostly similar in their characteristics and benefits for the user. Therefore, the thing that brings differentiation in such commodity environment is the corporate brand.
Which are the first and most critical steps in corporate brand management?
Brand management is a complex endeavor which requires clear view on the internal and external forces as well as creativity and discipline with long-term consistency and dedication in managing it. Regardless of the brand management complexity, every company could deploy few simple steps in building its corporate brand.
1. Do not postpone. Too many times senior management thinks of brand investment as something not critical in initial stages of the company’s development and an investment not directly related to business results. This can not be further from the truth, because the sooner you start corporate brand development program, the easier will be down the road. You will easier align brand to the core purpose of your business as it is closer to the origins of the mission and vision. Earlier start will make it easier to push brand messaging in the organization – before greater number of employees overwhelm and change the organizational brand values and all external stakeholders will faster develop your organization’s positioning in their minds.
2. Be aware of the essence of your organization’s existence. What is the purpose of your business and your most clear value proposition? Make this the core of your brand.
3. Know your competitors. Too many times in too many industries companies are positioning themselves around the common thinking that customers in this industry all look for this one particular value and messaging. The purpose of the brand is to differentiate your company, therefore review your competitors’ positioning and together with your internal positioning, find the messaging niche of your brand.
4. Grow you character. Brand is like a child, if not pointed in the desired direction you can not know what will come up of it. If you want your brand to represent something of value to your stakeholders, define what these character traits are and make sure you work to nurture them.
5. Be consistent – brand positioning is a result of long-term effort and consistency. Only when you repeat the similar message it sticks with your audience. Be careful how you represent your brand, in both words and visuals. Once a marketing manager in a global organization was wondering why I pay so much attention and invest effort in the corporate web site’s visuals. Visuals are the first line of communication – their tone and thematic bring the first emotional “response” in the minds of your users. Only after the image attracts the attention, the text starts to work.
6. I know it is difficult, but it is critical – first brand touch point is the logo and it is visual. In addition to the logo and corporate identity try to incorporate brand elements in all possible brand touch points – use brand colors wherever possible – from physical to digital domains.
7. Brand is not democracy. Although brand and internal communications consultants claim that brand tenets must be communicated internally, and this is totally true, in reality just a few critical people in the organization would really understand what the brand meaning is and drive the brand culture. These people will be responsible for pushing the brand values to the rest of internal stakeholders, on a daily basis. In general you can not make people who do not abide to your brand values to change, therefore HR must be careful about how they pick your new employees.
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