One of the things I’ve been doing in my first month at Six & Flow is getting to know some of our clients in the B2B tech space. Content and inbound marketing for tech companies has been my area of focus for around five years now, so it’s been fun - and constructive - to come in and compare notes with the rest of the team here.
It’s also reminded me of one of the reasons I got into inbound marketing in the first place: content marketing for a B2B tech business is tough. It’s expensive to do well, easy to screw up, and the market is competitive and fast-moving. You need a methodology you can count on - and, for me, that was inbound.
This was a while ago, though. The marketing landscape has changed a lot since then, and tech companies are now, I think, less inclined to see inbound as the silver bullet to all their problems so much as one component in a wider spectrum of marketing activities - next to account-based marketing, biddable media and more.
This raises the question: is it still a good idea for a B2B tech business to hire an inbound marketing agency in 2018? Here’s what I think.
First of all, let’s not forget the core premise of inbound: to attract customers through informative and engaging content that helps solve their problems.
That’s not a bad fit for service-oriented B2B tech companies - think resellers, managed service providers and consultancies - whose USP is using their expertise to solve complex problems.
The B2B tech space may be fast-moving, but some of the biggest challenges for these companies have remained unchanged for a while now: challenges like the ultra-competitive nature of the market and the commoditisation of infrastructure and software. In the era of the public cloud, there’s a lot less work involved in keeping the lights on than there used to be, and a lot less functionality their customers can’t buy off the shelf. In order to survive, they need to do a much better job of drawing attention to their knowledge-based value adds.
Inbound marketing is still, I think, the best way to do this. The inbound methodology teaches you how to focus on the story your prospects really want to hear, and then provides you with the tools you need to tell it - adding value before, during and after the sale. (And, of course, working with an inbound marketing agency will help you tell that story in the most compelling possible way.)
Secondly, while I said above that B2B tech companies are now less inclined to see inbound as a silver bullet and more inclined to see it as one possible activity among many, that’s not to say it’s become less important - far from it.
Inbound isn’t as new and exciting as it used to be because it’s become ubiquitous, and it’s become ubiquitous because it works - both on its own and as the central pillar for other activities like account-based marketing and biddable media (both of which are now gradually becoming part of the inbound marketing agency offering).
It may not be a silver bullet, but it is a must-have. For a B2B tech business, where the sales cycle is long and you need to engage with prospects at multiple points in that journey, inbound is the backbone of any effective web marketing strategy.
(Oh, and the fact it’s the most obvious route to GDPR-compliant lead generation doesn’t hurt, either.)
Finally, working with an inbound marketing agency like Six & Flow gives our clients access to a pretty wide range of marketing skills and expertise. As mentioned above, my background is in content writing and marketing automation for B2B tech companies. But our team here is also a treasure trove of knowledge on paid search, paid social, growth-driven design, sales enablement, ChatBot marketing and more.
This means there’s a lot we can bring to the table for our clients under the inbound marketing umbrella - much more than just the basic blogs, emails and lead capture pages. Sure, we can do all that, and we have more than enough industry knowledge to do it well. But we can also bring an outside perspective to B2B tech marketing, and pull in new and innovative ideas, and ensure your entire marketing budget is spent in a joined-up way.
What this means is content that won’t fall on deaf ears, and a marketing strategy that cuts through the noise of a crowded market - however competitive the environment or ubiquitous the tools have become.
To find out more, why not download our free guide to the benefits of an inbound marketing agency?