Marketing strategy grows out of separating your brand from those of competitors. You can't overemphasize your competitive difference. If you don't have a marketing and communications strategy based on clear, competitive differentiation, go back to square one and get that done.
I have discussed developing strategy in several earlier posts. (See: Content Is Key to Successful Tech Marketing and Creating Effective Tech PR Strategies.) Once you've clarified how you want to be perceived against your competitors, you're ready to execute tactics and create content assets in various media. Strategy first, then tactics! Otherwise, content development efforts with be all over the map and likely much less effective.
Ever since your brand launched a Website, you've been in the publishing business. Content development is merely putting your publishing efforts into gear -- or, better yet, overdrive. But how well do you understand the buyers of your products and services? Your purchasing circle may include several people in an organization. What's interesting for the design engineering manager very likely isn't the same as what's top-of-mind for the purchasing manager. Depending on the product being purchased, the vice president of engineering and the CEO may be just as far apart in their perspectives.
B2B tech marketing is complex. You need to know your audience and realize one piece of content does not fit all. Yes, a business or technology overview may be a good starting point for most decision makers, but that's all it is. Separate content addressing differing perspectives is generally needed.
Let's emphasize the strategic basis of any content item, be very clear on what point you're attempting to communicate. Forget all the techno-babble and buzzwords. Tell them how they will benefit (time and money) and avoid the pain they're experiencing with your competitors' products. The focus must be on solving their problems, not how cool your product is. They don't necessarily want your product. They want to avoid the business pain that's costing them time and/or money. Focus on that.
You're the expert in how your product helps people. Share information on your product category, and advise customers with insight and fresh ideas about how they can move away from their pain. Demonstrating your category expertise builds your credibility and makes your brand attractive. This is where marketing, engineering, customer service, technical training, tech support, and sales can form powerful alliances. (We've discussed previously how to involve engineering team members.) All these teams can be expert sources for content that is valuable to customers. Enlist them and discover ways of connecting their expertise to your content development tactics.
Strike a balance in your content tactics between trying to sell something and offering ideas your customers can implement immediately. Your selling should be very gentle, like salt in the soup. Customers will accept some promotional content as long as they're receiving solid information. An example would be educating buyers about the criteria, specs, and key factors when planning a purchase. Sure, this may be slanted toward your product, but it should also educate customers in areas they need to consider, regardless of the brand they choose. Helping them become more knowledgeable will be valued.
Also, strike a balance in the informational depth you provide. If customers don't need to know how you make your product, don't drown them in nonessential details. However, if how your products are made is a key differentiator, let them know about that advantage. If your content tactic is running long for length's sake and not providing essential details, edit it. Very often, less is more.
Lighten up, and put some character in your content. The style, tone, and feel of your content can be part of your differentiation. An example from the consumer world is the Geico gecko -- a smart-aleck spokeslizard injecting humor into the dreary topic of car insurance. Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) used Blue Man Group to make a difference in its marketing. You may not be able to afford a modern dance troupe, but putting a consistent, friendly difference into your written or spoken content can go a long way toward connecting with your audience. B2B companies don't have to sound stuffy and staid. Even IBM has become more hip.
Appropriate tactics run from social media and contributed articles to live or recorded events, newsletters, success stories, (informative) whitepapers, blogs, Webinars, pamphlets, and magazines. And don't forget videos, a cost-effective opportunity to deliver compelling informed content. A short, well planned whiteboard talk by a knowledgeable, entertaining presenter may prove to be one of the winning tools in your content inventory.