Five things tech professionals hate about your marketing

This top five list is based on of my 15+ years working and marketing to technology professionals. By admission, it’s not based on a formal survey or research study, but instead off of the hundreds of conversations I’ve had throughout my career about these topics. I’m always looking for ways to improve my marketing effectiveness, and as they say in the textbooks, it always starts with the customer.

So what did our clients (technology professionals) tell me are the five deadly sins committed by technology marketers? Extreme personalization, buzzwords, flashy but non-functional websites, our presence at trade shows and too many gates.

We’re friends… right?
Whether it be through name personalization or the famous fake forward, technology pros can very quickly sniff out when you’re pretending to know them. But isn’t personalization in marketing supposed to be a best practice? It can backfire – or worse; it can turn customers off.

Recently, I’ve seen an explosion of campaigns that are designed to look like they come from someone who already knows me: the subject line is often masked as a reply or a forward; my coworkers or managers might be referenced in the intro; and the overall tone is one of “Hey buddy when are we going to catch up?” instead of “I’d like to set up time to tell you about my product.”

I know this has become standard practice for most of us. To be honest, I usually find it annoying when I’m duped into opening something that is, in fact, a marketing message. My guess is our prospects feel the same way. It’s dishonest, and is likely to get your future messaging ignored – or worse blasted on Twitter.  

An alternate approach would be utmost honesty. For example…

I recently had a MarTech vendor trying to pitch me. Instead of sending a fake personalized email, they sent me a canned email, admitted it was a canned email, and promised to get back to me directly if I’d like to learn more. I even tested this, and the response was quick and direct from a sales rep. Well played.

What do you call bees buzzing in unison? Stingalongs.
Technology professionals want the facts, not the fluff. One common complaint I’ve heard throughout the years is that technology marketers spend too much time creating meaningless buzzwords to define their market. Instead, IT pros want specifics explaining why you are different and what makes your solution the best option.  It’s hard to make a shortlist if your customers don’t understand what you do.

Make sure with everything you produce you are clearly defining the product functionality and the benefits. I understand there is always a temptation to set yourself apart from your competitors, but the reality is if technology buyers do not know the category you fit into it’s going to make it a lot harder to get on their shortlist.  We all want our brands to be shining stars, just make sure it’s still in the same galaxy.  Leave the new market acronyms for Gartner.

“So the Labyrinth is a piece of cake, is it?”
If you want to put a smile on the face of a technology pro, make sure your site is clean, organized and easy to navigate. We spend so much time trying to just get people there, that sometimes we lose sight of what they’re going to learn (or not learn) once they arrive.

It’s tempting to use all the latest and greatest design techniques and tricks on your website. But at the end of the day, function is always going to win over form when it comes to IT pros.  Make sure the categories make sense, your content is readily available, and you use industry standard terms to describe the technology and benefits.

Pay particular attention to your site load times. Limit the flashy features if it’s going to cause issues with long page loads and navigation. Remember, your customers are there to learn about your technology. Make your primary destination as easy as possible for them.

One strategy I suggest is to bring a few new prospects together who are not familiar with your solutions, have them review the site and then tell you what they think you do. It can be hard to find IT pros to do this, but if you can pull it together, it’s enlightening. Large trade shows can be a good place to organize something like this, and there is nothing like real user feedback to point you in the right direction.

You don’t call a heart surgeon when your pipes burst. At least not if they’re hot water pipes.
We are all experts at something.  For some reason, a lot of us forget this when it comes to trade shows and events. We spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of planning, just to make sure we have a presence at the right show. But do we always have the right people staffing our booths? After all the investments we put into event planning, why do we sometimes forget to have our most valuable technical experts representing us?

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard attendees at technology events complain after they visit a booth with a technical question, and then find out there’s no one there to answer it. The usual response is to scan the badge and tell them someone more technical will follow-up later. This is wrong. Attendees are taking time out of their day to attend the event and talk to YOU instead of your competitor. Respect their time by having a sales engineer at your booth – always.

“What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?”
No one likes to stop when you’re trying to get somewhere. Every time I drive up to visit my lovely neighbors in Canada, I have to deal with a long line, a gate, and a bunch of questions. If I had an easier option, I’d take it.

Same can be said for content marketing. Most of us have KPIs requiring user behavior tracking, lead/contact acquisition and proof of ROI. The problem is the more accessible you make your content, the more content they will read. So how do you accomplish both objectives?

First: Keep your questions to a minimum. Marketo recommends no more than four as part of their best practices. I’ve learned that once you surpass five, you’ll see a dramatic drop in responses. In some cases, it’s necessary to have an extensive list of questions but know that with every question you add you are losing subscribers and potential business.

Second: Create a one-time registration process allowing visitors to view your entire content library.  The top criticism I’ve heard from IT professionals is that they hate sites that require registration for every content asset they’re trying to review. Most hate registering at all, but we all know that completely removing registration is not an approach that will be approved by the majority of organizations.

Unlike crossing the Canadian border, technology pros have plenty of options. Make sure your content is easily accessible, or risk fueling your competitor’s funnel.

Special thanks to two of my favorite films Labyrinth and Monty Python and the Holy Grail for the great quotes.

Josh Garland

Josh has 17+ years of b2b agency, publishing and digital marketing experience in technology markets. He’s a self-proclaimed​ “cat loving marketing nerd” with a passion for learning about technology and its impact on the future of marketing. Josh currently owns and operates bettertechmarketing.com.

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