The past decade has been a perfect storm of challenges for high-tech companies. The confluence of a struggling economy, an increase in customer expectations, and an explosion of digital channels has created a trying and difficult environment for businesses that are competing for budget from cost-sensitive businesses, share of wallet from increasingly savvy consumers, and hard-to-gain market share.
However, with these challenges and complexities comes the opportunity to leverage the array of digital channels to connect with consumers and businesses in meaningful ways that deliver on a company’s key business objectives, allowing businesses to maximize the return from their investments in advertising and digital marketing programs.
The following trends define the high-tech landscape today:
1. Rapid digital evolution: High-tech businesses are challenged with a rapidly evolving technology backdrop and a focus on digital channels for marketing, sales, and customer life-cycle management, making it difficult to determine the best mix of technology solutions to drive the business. With this focus comes increased pressure to leverage technology to drive customer engagement and sales, and to effectively measure the return on these investments. In addition, businesses are selling to customers (both consumers and businesses) that expect to interact with them via a multitude of digital channels and mobile devices. As companies become more efficient at leveraging technology wisely, they compete more heavily on price, squeezing competitors’ margins.
2. Longer, more complicated sales cycle: High-tech companies are now dealing with longer sales and consideration cycles from businesses and consumers alike. Budget constraints are causing them to consider all technology investments more cautiously, as customers have an array of comparison-shopping options, reviews, and social networks to aid them in their buying decisions. “Winning the business” by engaging with the customer via personalized, meaningful interactions is becoming more and more of a necessity for high-tech businesses. The ability to create a unique experience for each and every purchaser allows high-tech businesses to drive conversion and sales during these complex buying cycles.
3. Proliferation of customer communication channels: High-tech B2B and B2C businesses need to communicate with customers on their turf, whether it’s on a mobile or tablet device, via social media, email, and online, or in the store. Sophisticated high-tech businesses understand that an agile digital marketing strategy equips them to engage with their target audience—in meaningful and educational dialogue—via all of these digital channels, while connecting the dots between channels to create a consistent experience for the customer. This trend creates both a challenge and an opportunity to differentiate the way the business interacts with its target customers.
Challenges For High-Tech Companies
The trends described have created a number of challenges for marketers at high-tech companies. Because of the digital explosion, marketing departments now have a wealth of information and data about how prospective customers interact with their digital properties and assets, what advertising channels drive the most engagement, how customers interact via social, mobile, email, and more. Managing this data and leveraging it can be a powerful tool, but marketers are confronted with the following hurdles when building out their digital marketing and advertising programs:
1. Effectively engaging with customers: The ability to deliver relevant, engaging experiences and content to customers across all channels is complex; however, done right, it allows customers to find information quickly and effortlessly engage with the business.
2. Generating demand: Generating leads for B2B high-tech marketing organizations is a tremendous challenge, one that requires companies to carefully manage and educate the prospective buyer throughout the buying life cycle. This allows marketing to align with sales via programs that ultimately drive revenue.
3. Delivering a consistent brand experience: With a multitude of digital channels and assets, it is difficult for marketers to maintain a consistent brand message and experience. Understanding the complex array of interactions is vital to being able to create an experience for the prospective buyer that takes into consideration his/her previous interactions with the business and areas of interest.
4. Measuring ROI on sales and marketing spend: Marketers are under more pressure than ever to prove the effectiveness of their digital marketing programs and their contributions to the sales pipeline. A solid measurement and optimization strategy allows marketers to understand the return on advertising spend across channels—on-site investments to drive conversions, email programs to drive retention, and investment in newer channels, such as mobile and social media, to drive acquisition.
How Marketers Use Digital Marketing To Address These Challenges
While the digital explosion of the past decade has created challenges for business—and, specifically, marketers—there is opportunity for high-tech companies to measure and optimize every digital interaction with their prospective and existing customers. A solid digital marketing strategy not only drives revenue for the business, but it creates efficiencies regarding how advertising and marketing budgets are spent; every campaign can be measured for its effectiveness and optimized to yield the highest returns.
Businesses, therefore, must consider optimizing their digital marketing programs to yield the following benefits:
1. Maximize return on advertising and marketing spend: Marketers can leverage digital marketing technology to deliver the highest ROI from their advertising campaigns. Understanding which advertising campaigns—whether paid search, display, social, or email—deliver the most site visitors and yield the highest conversion rates allows high-tech marketers to invest more heavily in those advertising mediums that perform best. In addition, a solid measurement and optimization strategy allows high-tech businesses to apply this same logic to all of their digital marketing investments, including on-site investments, testing/targeting technologies, email marketing programs, social media programs, mobile apps, and optimized sites. This helps ensure that marketing investments are aligned with a company’s business goals to yield high returns.
2. Personalize customer experiences: A proliferation in marketing data is proving to be a tremendous challenge for businesses, all of which are confronted with the issue of “big data”and how to manage and tap into that data. By making use of the wealth of information available to a business about its customers and prospects, high-tech businesses can create a relevant and engaging experience that builds on a prospective or existing customer’s previous experiences each and every time that consumer or businesses interacts with that company. A connected and interesting experience properly educates customers about a company’s products and services, helping them to move along the buying life cycle and closer to a revenue-generating transaction.
3. Tapping social media: Marketers have the ability to leverage and understand the effectiveness of social medial for their customers. Not only can high-tech companies measure customer behavior, they can understand specifically whether social media is driving conversion and/or revenue by tying popular social media channels (such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter) to the demand funnel or purchase life cycle.
4. Multidevice communication: Consumers, as well as those responsible for purchasing decisions in businesses, will decide when and where they want to interact with a high-tech business, whether via traditional Web or on a mobile device. High-tech marketers can—and must—deliver differentiated and device-specific experiences. High-tech businesses, for instance, have an opportunity to create mobile-optimized sites for smartphones and tablets that take into consideration the attendant form factors and navigation requirements, as well as the consumer profile, to deliver a personalized experience.
5. Reduce operational costs: High-tech businesses can leverage digital channels to make customers more self-sufficient by moving customer support online and to community forums. In addition, connecting the dots between customer interactions prior to a call being placed to customer support allows representatives to more effectively service customers and reduce call times significantly.
By embracing the host of changes that have defined the business landscape in recent years, high-tech digital marketers and businesses can now create fully optimized digital marketing programs that offer engaging experiences for customers and prospects, while driving revenue.