O’Dwyer’s PR News, a leading industry trade publication, released its annual ranking of national PR firms this week, and Idea Grove earned multiple distinctions. The trade publication ranked Idea Grove as one of the fastest-growing PR firms in the nation as well as the top technology PR firm in Texas.
Idea Grove ranked as the second-fastest-growing agency among 114 firms that generated more than $1 million in fees in 2013. The agency’s revenues grew by more than 50 percent last year.
In the technology category, Idea Grove ranked 43rd among tech PR firms nationwide, and 107th among all privately held PR firms. Edelman topped the rankings with fees of $734 million in 2013.
Idea Grove president and founder Scott Baradell attributed the agency’s growth to its commitment to the unique needs of enterprise technology companies and the buyers they seek to reach.
“We recognize that the buyer for enterprise software and B2B technology products is changing, and we help our clients to better communicate with this buyer through the media as well as through the full range of digital channels,” Baradell said. “To us, no industry is too technical and no technology too arcane to inspire great content that connects with audiences.”
Idea Grove’s roster of B2B technology clients includes enterprise software and hardware companies, BPO and IT outsourcing providers, and communications and mobile technology companies.
O’Dwyer’s rankings are verified by income tax and W-3 forms to support fee and employee totals.
Chances are you have a few different types of prospects. They may ultimately all reach the same conclusion, whether that’s choosing you or your top competitor. But differentiating factors such as role, authority, need and subject matter expertise all impact a buyer’s journey to making a technology purchase.
The process of buying enterprise technology today can take anywhere from a few weeks to well over a year, depending on the product and who’s doing the buying. Generally, though, in B2B tech marketing, there are ample opportunities to step into a potential buyer’s consideration set. But there will also be chances to lose out to the competition.
The best way to keep a potential buyer on the path of becoming a paying customer is to build an experience where the brand is
This will ensure the journey is both a pleasant experience for the potential customer and has a higher chance of converting her into a buyer.
What Is a Buyer Journey?
This term refers to the process one takes to obtain a service or product. Usually this includes identifying an issue, researching solutions, selecting vendors and, ultimately, choosing a technology provider. While the steps taken during the process are more or less the same, many other aspects of the journey will differ from person to person.
Take the research phase, for example. One buyer — say, a CIO — may have more experience purchasing high-tech products. Chances are his journey begins with vendor credibility and reputation. He knows which service or product he needs, but is unsure which brand offers better quality or value. His research phase is short and more tied to his personal views and the reputation of the brand.
Another buyer may be more of a novice when it comes to purchasing IT. Perhaps this is a CMO, COO or other member of a business unit. Her research phase may be longer and begin with more high-level questions. Instead of asking, “Which vendors are best equipped to provide this?” she may be asking, “What technology will enable me to execute this?”
Both buyers are important in meeting sales quota. But the difference in each buyer’s journey begins as early as the first question. Because it’s important to get into both buyers’ consideration set, you have to identify ways on how to answer both of their questions. A one-fits-all strategy will not work.
How to Create The Right Journey
What you’re trying to accomplish is to use your digital properties (i.e. website, social media, email) to have an educated conversation with a potential customer. This means you need to be able to anticipate the buyers’ questions and where they will go to find answers. You need to know the times of day different buyers prefer to read email or browse social media feeds, which news outlets they reference for industry tips and trends, and other behaviors that contribute to decision-making.
It’s difficult to achieve any of the above if you don’t start with a documented buyer persona. Buyer personas include psychographics, demographics and firmographics. You may think you have a solid picture of who your buyers are. But you’ll find the documentation will keep you and your colleagues better equipped to provide someone the ultimate journey to becoming a customer.
What works well for one buyer will not work for another. And while you may have worked with particular CMOs or CIOs in your own experience, this does not ensure an accurate portrayal of the majority in these roles. The best buyer personas are crafted from hard data collected from a variety of sources.
Improving the Journey Through CRO
Once your buyer personas are on paper, try documenting the conversation you believe you’d have offline. Now outline how you’ll provide the information through your online properties. Maybe one answer is provided via a blog post, another by eBook and yet another via email. The purpose is to keep the conversation moving forward. Keep them traveling along the buying funnel.
Through CRO, or conversation rate optimization, you’ll constantly be testing the frequency, timing, and content of your messages. This is how you will learn what’s working, what’s not and tweak strategy accordingly. Inevitably, you will improve efforts to a point of seeing
If you’ve created a strong buyer journey, it’ll be easier to keep the prospect’s attention. Even better, your potential buyers will be less likely to seek answers from another vendor. Your helpfulness and your strong attention to detail will make the buyer’s decision-making process easier. Your persistence in offering the right materials at the right time will not go unnoticed. And your prospects will be much more like to conclude their buyer’s journey with you.
Research companies such as Forrester and Gartner are shedding light on the growing shift of technology spend. Increasingly, CMOs, COOs, line managers and others in senior management are becoming the lead decision-makers for IT purchases.
Why are CMO and other business executives expanding their responsibilities to this area? Isn’t that the CIO’s job?
In order to engage as marketers with a buyer of less technical experience, it’s important to understand why this shift is happening. Here are three key drivers of this trend:
1. Technology Drives Business Results
A study from MIT Sloan Management Review shared that most company leaders believe technology is the key to business transformation. Increasingly, it’s believed that technology can have a direct, and often immediate, impact on the bottom line by helping brands:
How strong is their faith in technology meeting business goals? Apparently, strong enough they’re spending their own resources. Of the 891 business executives from Forrester’s study, approximately 24 percent reported spending their own budget. Not just a small portion either, but a whopping 21 percent of the unit’s budget was spent on acquiring IT. To give you an idea, that accounts for over $31 billion in expenditures.
Senior management in sales and marketing were the top spending business functions. The use of social media, analytics, mobile and embedded devices have contributed to the increase in spending in these business units.
2. Business Leaders Understand Their Needs
Who better understands a business unit’s pain points than the respective manager? Senior management in marketing, sales and operations are conducting research and participating in vendor selection because, frankly, they don’t see it as being IT’s strong point.
CIOs and their teams have enough on their plate. If a CMO can either conduct or assign the vendor research and selection, this will save time and be more likely to produce the desired outcome. Business leaders have become increasingly impatient with what they perceive as longer buying cycles when purchases are led by IT.
3. Technology Is No Longer Intimidating
The rise of smartphone, tablets, and everything else the average consumer uses on a daily basis is contributing to the way we’re using technology in business.
John McCarthy, the author of Forrester’s study on tech spend, shared that 33 percent of high spenders say their technology IQ has increased and they’re more comfortable working with IT. Another 20 percent say that their use of consumer technology has changed their expectations of how technology can be used.
How IT Departments Fit into the Tech Spend Picture
CIOs may not be making the initial decision as to which tech vendors make it into the final consideration set. But they are still held responsible for ensuring all the web platforms and technology services work together.
Companies are starting to view CIOs and IT departments as a kind of business consultant when it comes to tech spend decisions. For example, it may make sense for a business unit to use Salesforce. But IT may identify a benefit to purchasing the enterprise license for use by the entire company rather than a single unit. CIOs ensure the company’s big picture is taken into account so that all technology is compatible.
As analyst Andrew Bartels puts it:
The ideal tech-buying process is one in which the business and the CIO’s team work together to identify a need, find and fund a solution, choose the right vendors, implement it and manage it.
On Monday, we’ll discuss how to reach today’s tech buyer by crafting a buyer’s journey for sales conversion.
For the past few years, B2B technology companies have seen an unprecedented shift in buying responsibility among their customers. Today, it’s often no longer the CIO, but instead the CMO, line manager or other business buyer who has emerged as the decision-maker on technology purchases.
The rise of this new buyer — typically senior management in marketing, sales and operations — has presented enterprise tech companies with new challenges. One of these challenges is how to create content to engage a buyer with less technological expertise and perhaps more focus on cut-to-the-chase results than IT buyers of the past.
Business buyers don’t conduct research and reach conclusions in the same ways as CIOs. They often start by seeking out high-level information to give them a grounding in a technology or industry niche, and then create a short list of prospective vendors based on a combination of third-party endorsement (such as via analysts, the news media, and social media influencers) and persuasive vendor content.
If you are looking to get your enterprise technology into the consideration set of more business buyers, here are some things to remember about this new spender.1. Heavier Reliance on Social Media
Buyer Behavior: A report from IDG Connect showed that a majority (57 percent) of B2B technology buyers are using social media as part of the decision-making process. If you think about it, this makes complete sense. Social media is easy to navigate and provides relevant information from hundreds and thousands of sources. Technology users are sharing experiences, setbacks and general opinions about particular vendors and products.
Vendor Solution: When was the last time shouting facts about your service offerings on a street corner secured you new business? You’ve probably never even tried it. You know that to be successful, you have to be strategic in your conversations. You have to network with potential buyers and people with influence in the industry. This purposeful approach is exactly what B2B technology companies need to replicate online via social media. Initiate conversations with people who have the authority to influence buyers’ decisions. Ask current customers to give testimonials and reviews. Share educational content to online groups and circles where this new buyer mingles.2. Preference for Simple Language
Buyer Behavior: Research shows that 33 percent of high-tech spenders say their technology IQ has increased and they’re more comfortable working with IT. While this may be true, it doesn’t mean that they understand or want to consume technology jargon. What business buyers are browsing the Internet for are solutions explained in simple, clear language. From the buyer’s perspective, if a vendor can take a complex topic and make it easy to understand, perhaps the vendor’s solution can address the buyer’s challenges simply and elegantly as well. Tech speak isn’t going to be effective with business leaders. They need something they can digest quickly and easily.
Vendor Solution: Provide content that’s straightforward and compelling. Technology companies should work with marketing writers who can understand their complicated products and services and can translate the information in simple, direct language. A qualified writer will interview a vendor’s subject matter experts, such as company executives, and create content that relays the message in ways business leaders understand. The right writer will even convey the same excitement and urgency a president or CEO feels toward the offerings his company provides. Tech spenders pick up on this and in turn get excited about the solutions, too.3. Research Conducted During All Times of The Day
Buyer Behavior: Just because a CMO has expanded her responsibilities to include tech spend doesn’t mean other obligations have fallen off her plate. This has her conducting research at all times of the day. Early mornings, lunch hours, and late night commuter flights become prime times for researching new technology. (Another reason we see social media being a popular source for purchasing decisions.) She wants the needed information when she wants it. If she has to wait to receive it, she’s going to bounce to the next source. More times than not that source is a competitor.
Vendor Solution: Break down the barriers to retrieving desired information. Tech companies need to focus on how to provide the right content at the right time. This means embracing marketing automation and other software that helps capture, segment and nurture potential buyers into customers. What’s great about email and other automated communications is it 1) puts a website visitor on the right path to obtaining the information needed to make a decision and 2) makes information available regardless of the time of day.
For B2B technology vendors, marketing automation delivers the invaluable benefit of enabling you to track the behavior and actions of people coming to your website. This means marketers can test and optimize the delivery of content in efforts to improve a potential buyer’s online journey.Embrace The New Tech Buyer
B2B technology companies that traditionally have made a living selling into IT departments may find the shift to a non-tech buyer audience a bit unnerving. Fortunately, however, a targeted inbound PR and marketing program can be an excellent solution for embracing this important emerging buyer.