Trials and Tribulations of Technology Marketing

Steve Niemiec
Steve Niemiec

SVP of Sales

As a ten-year veteran of IT media sales, I have personally worked with hundreds of marketers from start-ups to Fortune 50 technology companies.  Based on my first-hand experience, I have witnessed the full spectrum of good, bad and risky marketing strategies.  I thought it might be valuable to share some of my insights with other tech marketers who would be interested in comparing notes on what works and what doesn’t especially when it comes to finding the right IT media partner in the face of reduced budgets and limited resources in a tough and unpredictable economic climate.

The cost of doing more ‘marketing’ with less

With budgets being slashed B2B marketers have been faced with the real dilemma of how to do more with less.  Certainly a valid concern—and marketers today need to be more nimble to ensure that where they’re spending marketing dollars (or Euros) is effective.  Doing more with less is certainly a good thing, but it can also be prohibitive when doing more with less comes at a cost.  At what cost you ask?  The cost of not being in front of real technology projects or in the right place when enterprise IT decisions are actually being made.  Every B2B sales rep today will tout that 60% of IT Decisions are made before the IT buyer contacts a vendor sales team.  I’m sure every marketer is sick and tired of hearing this during sales presentations – YES, I GET IT!   But if tech marketers really get it, we all need to realize that it’s more critical than ever to be where projects are happening with messaging and alignment.  Over the last year, the B2B marketplace has been introduced to an even wider array of services that promise VOLUME and REACH with QUALITY and IMPACT.  Sounds great, doesn’t it – reach & quality–with no compromise?  Well, this is  an oxymoron.  It’s like saying I want a Mercedes but I only want to pay for a Pinto.  We all chuckle at this in our real lives but we fall prey to it day in and day out as tech marketers.  Now, I’m not saying that this vision of grandeur doesn’t warrant some attention or place in a marketing plan but the true premise of marketing 101, which we all learned in our introduction to marketing course in college, is to ensure that my message is in the right place at the right time when projects are being researched.

IT Buyers put their pants on the same way as all of us

Having spent over 10 years working directly with tech marketers worldwide, I’ll be the first to concede that the world of B2B is confusing.  I realize every day many of my customers get a new call, a new sales request.  But in combination with what I find to be a challenge, I look at it as rather simple. As a partner to many tech marketers, everyone tries to think of their target audience as ‘different’ from you or I when in reality they’re the exact same people who do the exact same thing in research.  Contrary to what has become the average B2B enterprise marketer’s belief, enterprise IT folks are just like you and I— they put their pants on the same way, they get up and eat breakfast every morning.  If you believe this, you also believe that they do their research the exact same way we do by naturally gravitating to the most applicable content to hit a need.  If you agree with me, then why are many B2B marketers trying to boil the ocean?   If we hold true that publishing content equals audience makeup, our odds of winning as marketers exponentially increase when we try not to be everywhere and anywhere but rather in the right place where the buyers are.  There’s been a lot of buzz about DSP’s or ‘marketplaces’ changing the landscape of marketing in B2B. Personally, I don’t think this is true.  Sure, they serve a good purpose, but they look to mask quality with reach and this leaves many marketers susceptible to not really knowing where their content or advertisements are being displayed.   Many promise to ‘optimize’ or  tell you that you can just ‘figure it out’ but do we really know or even want to take the time to know?   These types of vendors prey on marketers’ natural instinct to want to blanket the canvas of the world because it’s what we as consumers see every day.   I heard from a tech marketer the other day that was promised visions of grandeur through an online ‘marketplace’ but when I asked if they could specifically pinpoint the distribution of their content it was met with ‘Ummm…. Silence.’  Makes you think.  Are we agreeing that we should sacrifice quality and project engagement in favor of the low CPM? Let’s call a spade a spade.  If you put junk leads in at the top of a funnel, I don’t care how great your re-messaging structure is, you get junk leads out of the bottom of that funnel.   You can’t turn junk into gold.

The time for tech marketers to be empowered is now

In an age where things are more confusing than ever, we need to take a step back and realize the truth: the buyer from IT is just like you and me.  He/she spends their time with the real content that leads them to the best decision.  And in an age where noise on the web is becoming greater and greater, marketers can ensure they win with greater frequency by being focused and adjacent to the right content.  I’m going to give you a real example.  I saw a vendor enterprise hardware ad across my MyYahoo log-in page recently.  Really?  No wonder why the company is doing poorly. I’d love to know what the agency or clients’ justification was  for running enterprise solution positioning across MYYahoo.  .000001% of your audience is there for ‘enterprise IT’ let alone evaluating $100K + systems.  I recognize this all sounds elementary and rather rudimentary, but it’s a perfect example of how some marketers are getting away from the core of what they know is best.  It’s time for tech marketers to be empowered again and start to peel back the misleading numbers publishers and vendors present.  Remember, any IT Buyer puts his pants on just like you and me. If you were going to research an enterprise project would you go to Yahoo? If you say yes you probably also believe that airport ads are good for reaching a serious IT buying target audience and that they don’t make executive management at a company feel good about themselves.

To help many of our tech marketing clients address some of the dramatic changes in IT media over the past several years, we recently published a paper titled 3 Things Traditional IT Media Companies Don’t Want You to Know.  It might help you answer some of the challenging questions facing tech marketers:

  • Do you know exactly where your leads are coming from anymore?
  • Have you audited the environments in which your content and messaging is recently being displayed ?
  • Are your B2B technology media partners delivering the serious buyers and results your sales teams demand?

In summary, if you see content that isn’t applicable, feel free to step away!  The  reach and pageviews that sales promise need to be met with editorial context and delivery. I already know what the response will be to this blog about the MYYahoo placement —‘there’s the long term residual brand down funnel long impact I’m going to get from this.’  I agree – there is reach with the 18- 60 yr old, who may have a remote clue at what ‘Converged Infrastructure is.’  but at this time where we’re all being asked to do more, does it make sense to start with doing less with offerings that get me 00001% of my target?

Let’s not get caught up in what’s flashy and bright for what doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

If you want to have a discussion, feel free to reach out to me here.


B2B marketing, effective messaging, lead generation, marketing strategy, marketing tactics, questionable marketing tactics, ROI, sales perspectives, targeting, targeting IT buyers

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