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Marketing for Technology Companies

by Francine Carb, President

You would think that creating and implementing marketing programs for technology companies would be easy. After all, they understand the advantages of email marketing, CRMs, and how news is disseminated in today’s digital age, so it should be a snap. Well, not so, and here’s why:

  1. Isn’t everyone like us?
    Technology companies tend to think that everyone uses technology as adeptly as they do. The reality is that while their buying audience is getting younger and using more technology, technology isn’t the only, or necessarily, best way to reach buyers. Even twenty-somethings like to first meet or get a personal introduction to a service provider (see our last blog post), as a way to familiarize themselves with a company and get to know the person they’ll be working with. While electronic communications in the follow up stage are welcome and preferred, that first impression is best made in the flesh.
  2. Not all buyers are created equal.
    I’ll be the first one to talk about consistent messaging; however the content—and delivery method—should be tweaked, depending on the audience. For instance, an ROI message might best be suited to the C-Suite; while the fewer headaches message is best for the administrator or manager. In addition, the C-Suite might only be receptive at high-level conferences and panels, while those overworked, under-appreciated managers might prefer webinars, followed by a Q&A session.
  3. We’re moving quickly, so our marketing should too.
    There’s no avoiding it – marketing is an art and a science. The “answer” in terms of marketing may take some time, trial and error, and refining to do its magic. The most expedient method may or may not be the best. Furthermore, just putting it out there may cause irreversible harm. That’s not to say, overthinking is the answer, but thinking through a solution definitely helps, even if it takes a little time.
  4. Our competitors are doing it.
    It seems that all industries, not just technology, are guilty of wanting to blindly follow their competitors—especially when their competitors have a great idea. The problem is that a particular idea may become associated with another company, not yours. Bottom line: there is no substitute for original thinking, so try to work with your creative team, agency or consultant to brainstorm an approach that’s uniquely yours. A better idea may be to “borrow” from another industry and tweak that idea appropriately for your company.
  5. Don’t stop getting to know your audience.
    While your technology product or service was most likely designed to solve a particular set of problems, your audience is evolving. Whether that is due to familiarity with your product or other companies entering the market and solving those same problems, the way your audience responds to marketing is most likely to change over time. Speak to them, meet them, attend their events and conferences, take their pulse through casual meetings and formal surveys, and just engage— however and whenever possible. What you learn will help inform your marketing, keep it relevant, and contribute to more and happier customers.

These five points are especially relevant for technology companies; however, much of it applies to other industries, as well. If you need to bounce your marketing ideas around, please give us a call.

The Dreaded Marketing Budget for Engineering Firms and Other Related Industries

by Francine Carb, President

My clients who are in professional services industries, like engineering, architecture, and construction, often ask about determining their marketing budget. How much should they be? What should they include? And does our firm even need one?

After seeing my clients struggle with these issues for many years, I’ve devised a very reliable, widely accepted formula. Try it and I think you’ll be satisfied, or maybe even happy, with the process and the answers.

First, take your forward-looking year’s forecasted revenue projection. For this example, let’s use $25 million for fiscal year 2015. Much literature has been written about what percentage to use—typically from 3% in manufacturing to 20% in the software business, but neither really makes sense until you dig deeper. So let’s continue.

Then, take 10% of that number (which is really an overall average from multiple industries), so that would be 2.5 million dollars. Stay with me—that’s not your budget number. The 10 percent number is the baseline upon which to “normalize” it for your specific firm. It gets a little more complicated, but worth the effort.

Now, take a weighted average of the margin for each business unit. For this example, let’s try the following:

Business unit 1’s margin is 50%, but only contributes 10% to the business
Business unit 2’s margin is 10% and contributes 50%
Business unit 3’s margin is 25% and contributes 20%
Business unit 4’s margin is 15% and contributes 10%
Business unit 5’s margin is 20% and contributes 10%
Do the multiplication and add the results:

5% + 5% +5% + 1.5% + 2% = 18.5%

Now you can apply this realistic weighted average margin to the $2.5 million dollar baseline above, which gives you $462,500. Now, that feels like an appropriate budget for a $25M engineering firm with the margins depicted above, doesn’t it?

So, how should you allocate that budget? Here’s where the “art” comes in. First of all, do not allocate it by the contribution from each business unit. In fact, using the example above would put 50% of the budget to Business Unit 2. That would be a mistake because that’s the part of the business that pretty much runs on autopilot—it doesn’t need marketing.

First, look at the foundational marketing elements of your firm and see if they need an upgrade or refresh. For instance, if you need a completely new website, you likely want to apportion a sizable chunk of that budget to get your digital brand back on track.

Next look at trade shows and conferences, those usually consume a big portion of the budget. Now, with what’s left, you should look at those business units, initiatives, or innovations and are likely to attract the most new business and create campaigns around them—whether they take
the form of advertising, email marketing, thought leadership programs, blog series, microsite, or others.

This is just the beginning, but I hope this helps you get off to a great start. And if you need some help determining your marketing budget or implementing those new marketing initiatives, do not hesitate to give us a call.

Watch Out Marketers, It’s the Millennials Turn to Take Center Stage

by Francine Carb, President

It’s time to realize that changing demographics in the workplace are causing a change in leadership. Millennials, who have been acknowledged as being the most educated, tech-savvy, connected, thrifty, and socially conscious generation ever, are becoming the prime candidates for promotions at every company whether entrepreneurial or corporate. So as a B2B Marketer, you likely need to change your approach to reach these individuals.

The IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) has released a report summarizing this new change, titled “To buy or not to buy: How Millennials are reshaping B2B Marketing”. This study looks at a subset of 700+ survey respondents from the Millennial, Gen X and Baby Boomer generations and how their decision-making processes differ. To successfully reach Millennials, it is important for marketers to alter their approach.

  • Analytics drive decisions
    According to the study, more than half of Millennials depend on analytics to help them make better business decisions. Today, people are used to the accessibility of data with just a click of their phone or tablet. Readily available data will speed up the buying process, and give your product or service the authenticity needed to be credible.
  • Introduce Yourself to Millennials
    During the research process, what really matters for Millennials is determining if a vendor is a good fit for their organization. Since most basic research can be easily found online, the addition of authentic and personalized in-person interactions allow Millennials to better envision what it would be like to work with another organization.
  • Hook, Line, and Sinker?
    The Sales Cycle has begun, so now what, more in-person meetings? Nope. IBM states that even though Millennials prefer personal introductions with vendors at first, once the sales cycle starts, it’s a completely different story. Millennials desire interactions that are quick, easy, and virtual as they decide on an answer. For example, emailing and interacting through social media would be the best way to keep in contact rather than calling to set up in-person meetings. The less work they have to do, the better!
  • Family and Friends Are Key!
    Once it’s time to make a decision, Millennials are seen to rely heavily on the influence of family, friends, and peers. They believe that if others within their circle see the product or service as beneficial, they will feel the same way–even for B2B businesses. Neither Gen X or Baby Boomers use this strategy for decision-making; their own experiences and impressions are the most important.

As a B2B Marketer, understanding the attitudes and decision-making process for this new generation of leaders is key for success. Many marketers have been using the same strategies for years, and yet they’re wondering why they are falling short when working with Millennials. Understanding and implementing these tactics in your business may be challenging at first, but once mastered, they will provide marketers with a competitive advantage that will last for years to come.

Marketing for IT Companies

by Francine Carb, President

Hello, all software, network, integration, migration, and training firms. It pretty much doesn’t matter where your expertise lies; Marketing is your lifeline, if you’re in IT. View our marketing for IT tips:

Let’s start with your relative position in your specific, defined niche—we marketing folks like to call it mapping. Gartner Group calls it the “magic quadrant”, although there’s hardly ever any hocus pocus involved. Even if you are an emerging growth company, you’ll need to figure out where you fit in the ecosystem, so take the time to seriously consider your competitors, as well as those you would like to emulate and create a 2-D visual. We like to put “industry reputation” or “market share” on one axis and “ability to deliver as promised” on the other as one suggestion of an eye-opening view, but you should select and compare those parameters most relevant to your niche.

Are you a thought leader? If so, how might you communicate your expertise with customers and prospects? There is a good chance that you have certain individuals in your company who can solve any problem, sooth any customer issue, or unravel any puzzle. They may not be in the spotlight, but they represent gold, in term of marketing potential. When carefully nurtured, these experts can be the sources of the most sought after blogs, white papers, webinar content, press coverage, and more. If they are timid about writing content, especially for marketing purposes, take the approach of interviewing them and letting them be the “VOC” or Voice of Customer. That should make them feel more comfortable and give you the insight you need to create some powerful marketing content.

How about showcasing your clients? Many companies have challenges getting a case study program off the ground. It’s usually because the client doesn’t want their name mentioned or their technical issues exposed publicly. No one can argue with that; however, if presented in a positive light, most will go along with the idea, especially if they are not blatantly promoting your company or its products. For these clients, you should have an excellent example, in hand, to show them. Also, don’t be afraid to write testimonials on behalf of your clients. As long as they are professionally and respectfully written, most will approve them on the spot.

Let’s move onto imagery: photos, illustrations, info-graphics, videos, and the like. All are extremely helpful to a prospect trying to visualize your technology offering. Videos are best because you have the opportunity to tell an entire story; however, many times, info-graphics can be extremely powerful and long lasting. In today’s increasingly visual world, you may need to stop and consider the visual messages you are sending your prospects, and refocus on the impact that fresher, or more streamlined, images can offer. They can also enhance your content by making it more relevant and interesting to those viewing it.

Finally, I’d like to talk about bragging—specifically touting your companies achievements and successes. It’s not only OK to do so; it’s imperative to building your company’s reputation capital. If you are “award winning”, “leading”, or otherwise “tops in your field”, please say so, consistently and with confidence.

Having trouble getting your marketing and PR programs off the ground? Look no further than the marketing experts at Markitects. We’ve been launching new products and services, building brands, getting our clients noticed, generating leads, and other cool things for technology, engineering and science companies for over 21 years…and loving it. View our services!

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