A Sea of IT

Practically every business needs IT help these days, so there’s a countless amount of companies delivering these services. When potential customers look at your company, do they see what makes you the best choice, or do they just see the same thing that 100 other companies are doing too?

90% of IT companies are saying the same things on their websites. They’re all dedicated to customer service, ready to meet the client’s needs, and include every other generic statement that you could imagine. You can gain an advantage in the market simply by positioning yourself differently.

Marketing to Segments = Increased Engagement

You improve your engagement with prospects when you segment your efforts by industry. You can use customized content sets or campaigns to deliver a highly relevant message to each audience segment. When you focus on the ways to market your particular product or service to those industries, you end up winning over more prospects.
If you are simply selling your business as a whole, you don’t have the opportunity to address pain points that are unique to a particular sector. You also miss out on key opportunities to engage prospects with a targeted, specific message they need to hear, whether they know it or not.

So what should your first steps be when you move from a generic approach to an industry specific one?
One easy way to begin this process is by creating a section on your company’s homepage labeled “Industries We Service.” You have a few ways to use this section. If you work with several broad industry categories, you can feature each of them. Are you specialized in particular parts of an industry? Make sure to go into detail about your ideal clients.

Here is an example of what the section could look like in practice. While we list many industries here, ideally you want to focus on 2-3 of them. You’ll still get clients from outside of your targeted industries, but the bulk of your efforts gets focused on your specialties:

  • Start-up companies
  • Healthcare
  • County & Municipal government
  • Government contractors
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Legal firms
  • Biotech & Pharma
  • Energy Companies
  • Insurance
  • Technology / Software Providers
  • Transportation
  • Manufacturers & Distributors
  • Educational institutions

 

Each industry your business focuses on can have a secondary menu. This part explains the specific services your IT company offers for this type of business, the benefits you bring to the table and the reasons why they are important. If two industries have an overlap in services, you can repurpose the original content and edit it to fit each segment. Even if the industries that you’re targeting have the same services, your customers don’t see it that way. You need to explain how the service benefits that industry in particular, rather than just describing the service in general. How does healthcare benefit from an IT service differently than Transportation? What about a Legal Firm vs. an Education Institution.

Bring Your Marketing Into Focus >>> Select A More Specific Demographic

When you choose a specific demographic, you can tailor your marketing messages and channels to appeal to that type of customer or business. While this relates to the industry segment technique above, it also means you’re drilling down a bit more to look at what the people or businesses are looking to get out of a relationship with your company. Who are the potential clients and how do you find them by using demographic data?

Review your current customer base to identify common characteristics and interests. Run a few unique reports to discover which clients and companies bring in the most business, who the most loyal clients are and which ones referred the most new business to your company. It is likely that other people with similar demographics could also benefit from the same product or service.

Another attribute to consider is how much knowledge of technology or IT the customer has. Some people and companies are very tech-forward in their operations and skill sets, and they are often early adopters that enjoy riding the leading edge of technology. Other clients may be able to perform basic computer functions, but they don’t have a lot of knowledge outside of that key skill. Some industry segments naturally have more IT know-how than others. You need to adapt your marketing messages and material to present your services in a way that’s approachable and understandable for each skill level. Keep the details appropriate for each segment, and focus on the outcome more than what is involved in getting the business there.

Now it is time to look at your closest competition. Who are they targeting? What do you know about their current customer base? Once you create this list, you have a decision to make. Is it worthwhile to go after the same market, or do you think the potential client base isn’t large enough to support two players in that part of the market? You may be better off looking for a niche market the competition is overlooking so you’re not drawing from a shallow well.

Put together a list of all of your products and services. For each one, write out the benefits associated with it. If you already know your market segments, customize this list to match the specific needs of those potential clients; otherwise, make a list of customers who have a need that you fulfill with a particular benefit.

Be Human…Because You Are One

You might be selling to a business, but ultimately you are dealing with human beings. They like to buy from other humans, not faceless companies that are virtually interchangeable. You need to be as human as possible, which means focusing on authenticity, trust and passion. Accomplishing this goal is especially challenging for IT businesses because the first touchpoint that prospects encounter is typically online – through your website or through a social media profile.

Humanizing your site gives your business the chance to make that connection before a lead interacts with you directly. You need to design your website around the question, “How can we help you or your business?” Customers should have a simple process to find the solution they need, with language that’s not filled with endless amounts of technical IT jargon.

When you build off of this foundation, you will discover that your content, website infrastructure, social media platforms and entire brand is informed and aligned through this simple query.

As soon as a prospect lands on your website, you should aim to simplify their decision-making process. Many IT companies have a habit of bombarding visitors with all of their services at once. That’s a little overwhelming, even to someone who does have an idea about technology. If the person doesn’t know much about the services or what the IT company can do, that individual will be completely flustered in no time.

Map out the customer’s journey so you can visualize their path and behavior when they interact with your online experiences, products or service. You can find key opportunities to engage with the lead, ways to encourage more engagement and areas where you can stand to improve.

When a customer comes to your IT site, present them with three options: managed IT, security, etc. When they select an option, they get presented with new information and another set of options to narrow down what they’re looking for.

Does your About page sound like it was written by a robot? Does it contain an extensive vocabulary of tech jargon and business buzzwords? Let potential customers see who’s really behind the company by including personal tidbits about your staff members. This page is an excellent place to highlight the passion that helps your business come off as approachable and human.

It is now time to address your business’ social media profiles. On networks that revolve around human-to-human interaction, many IT companies take a wooden and formal approach that sounds out of place on the platforms. Even LinkedIn, a network known for being business-oriented, is more casual than other engagement channels. When you look at Facebook or Twitter, you benefit from showing even more personality.

Don’t be afraid to engage on social media. You have direct access to your target audience, who tend to be acclimated to more casual contact due to the nature of social media. Sit down and have a conversation about the latest technology trends, or describe how to overcome a particular IT challenge that your target demographic faces. Ask and answer real questions to show that you are helpful and authentic. Your approach should focus on building long-term relationships with your prospects, rather than going in for a hard sell.

If staff members all post from the same business account, make sure to initial each post or sign a name so followers know a bit about the people behind the conversations. Another consideration to keep in mind when multiple people post in an official capacity is to have social media policies. The line between business casual communication and inappropriate interaction is hard to walk at times, and documented guidelines create consistent standards.

Communicate early on in the buyer’s journey and make sure to keep in contact regularly. Create unique and engaging welcome emails for all of your marketing segments, as well as your current customer base. Don’t be afraid to show yourself and your personality. Remember, when you have their attention, you have a prime opportunity to demonstrate how you are different from your competitors.

This tactic might sound complicated, but it is actually one of the easiest to implement. Start writing the way that you talk. This practice helps you develop an authentic voice that cuts through the normal IT business jargon, sets you apart and makes you memorable. Over time, you can put together a style guide based around this voice so you can scale up your process.

Target Identified! Now Reel Them in with Content Marketing That Resonates

Content marketing is one of the most important parts of developing a strong marketing strategy. Good content builds your brand awareness, creates brand preference and expands your brand’s reach to more buyers and potential customers. Informative and engaging content comes in many forms; you can strategically develop this content so that it can be repurposed for multiple channels.

One way to present this information to your potential customers is through a resource section listed on your homepage. This page will have content that targets each of your prospect segments. Some of the best formats for this type of content includes blog posts, news stories, case studies and white papers.

Another option for content delivery is through email marketing campaigns. If you have engaging content on your website, you are more likely to capture emails to produce more leads. Commonly called lead magnets, this campaign works by getting the prospect to sign up with the promise of valuable content. You may offer a tech tips newsletter or an e-book guide designed to help them with common IT problems in their business. Don’t forget about your current clients when you put together your email marketing campaigns. You can use content for lead nurturing, which can build loyalty among your current customers and help convert leads by establishing trust.

Your unique positioning should flow through all of your social media platforms, website and other marketing channels. Posting content that is relevant to your targeted customers can increase traffic to your site. However, you can’t sustain the growth unless you are consistent in your efforts. If your social media engagement isn’t consistent, you miss out on potential leads and opportunities. Throughout this process, you have to keep the key question in mind: “How can we help you and your business?”

Start with a benefits-first approach when you’re posting about the products and services you offer. Potential leads don’t care about the features until they are convinced they need that particular offering in their life. Try to show them why it matters through a “Learn More” link that directs them to your website or a customized landing page. The content on this page should explain how the service works, what the customer gets out of it and what the most engaging benefits are. For your tech-savvy leads, you can assume that they have a solid understanding of the basic concepts, terminology and acronyms. For less tech-forward prospects, take the time to explain any necessary terms and rely on analogies to help them understand your services.

Offer plenty of advice packaged as helpful tips. If you aren’t sure where to start, look through your emails and helpdesk tickets to discover the most asked client questions. You can then create the content based off this information. Such an approach has two benefits. The first is that you position yourself as a helpful and authentic managed IT company that is happy to help even when people aren’t yet customers. The second is that you answer many common sales objections and pre-sales questions well before the prospect gets to that point. The lead ends up with a better education about their particular problem, the solutions that make the most sense, and which of your services fit the best.

You have a lot on your plate, so you may not have the time to create content yourself. It is worth the budget to hire someone to handle social media automation and content creation. When you look for a freelancer or company to work with, make sure they understand the subject matter. You don’t want your business reputation to take a hit because the outsourced content creation messes up technical details. Providing a thorough outline and a brief explanation of technical jargon can help avoid this type of problem, or you can work with someone who already has domain knowledge.

Add a visual element to your posts to drive more engagement. Charts, infographics, icons and other graphics draw attention to your content. Social media updates that have an associated picture are also more likely to get click-throughs, shares and comments.

Do you have access to useful data sets? A data-driven article or guide gives your prospects something they can’t find anywhere else, especially when the information comes from data you collected directly. Many IT companies conduct surveys or do studies to gather this type of data, as well as leverage operational data. You might not think it is terribly interesting, but your prospects will probably disagree. You see the data every day, but your potential customers are seeing it for the first time. When you write about the data in a way that relates to their demographics or market, you can attract a lot of attention. Sharing data is also a way to encourage distribution of your content. Websites may cite studies, writers might use them as reference points in other articles, and original data can be shared on social networks.

Talk about interesting client projects to increase your social media followers and provide real-life examples of the help you provide. If you use technology in an innovative way or face a unique challenge, you can call it out and explain your process. This behind-the-scenes look also gives prospective clients an idea of how you operate.

If your business is active within the community, post about it. Make sure you have a few well-documented photos of the event to tell that story and continue to humanize your social media. If the events align with your company’s mission and values, make sure to create a website section that features them. Many people don’t just look for a company to do business with. They want to partner with an organization that matches their own values and beliefs, and they will form a strong emotional connection with brands that can fulfill this promise.

Are you ready to differentiate your managed IT marketing through positioning? You don’t need to be a small fish in a large pond. Through segmentation, demographic targeting, humanization and solid content, you can stand out from your competition by knowing your part of the market, inside and out.

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