IT marketing has fundamentally evolved over the past few decades, as market consolidation transforms the competitive space. As a result, IT resellers must learn to market their individual expertise rather than the benefits of their products.
In the 90s, when ERP and other application software first came onto the market, IT resellers had all the power, as the internet had little influence on the buyer’s journey. Resellers could rely on trade shows, cold calling, editorials and print ads, using marketing materials supplied from vendors. This was then easily rebranded and repurposed for specific marketing needs.
However, buyers have now come to expect more from IT marketing - and unique, valuable content is at the heart of the revolution. In fact, as discovered in Demand Gen’s B2B buyer behaviour survey, 61% of respondents agreed that the winning vendor delivered a better mix of content appropriate for each stage of the purchasing process.
The changing IT reseller landscape
What’s changed? Well, market consolidation has completely transformed the ways in which IT marketing should be approached. Buyers originally had hundreds of software applications to choose from, meaning that IT resellers could sell on product alone, but today only a few options remain. As time has gone by, the weaker and less successful software programmes have been left in the past or joined together, paving the way for a new era of condensed suites such as Microsoft, SAP, IBM and Oracle. According to Gartner, the world’s top 10 biggest ERP companies now own 64% of the worldwide ERP market. As a result, more emphasis needs to be placed on an IT reseller’s unique service and expertise, not just the product alone.
Most importantly, the way a buyer starts their journey with an IT reseller has completely changed. While this journey would originally begin with a cold call from sales, Demand Gen note that 46% of buyers are now using a search engine as their first research source. During this initial research process, they are primarily looking for valuable and relevant content that can help to solve their business challenges and offer a possible solution. This is where B2B content marketing in the form of blogs and guides is of optimum importance.
Present your unique selling point
What will stop a buyer from turning to a competitor who offers identical software? Your unique selling point (USP), which an effective content strategy can successfully present. Entrepreneur defines a USP as “the factor or consideration presented by a seller as the reason that one product or service is different from and better than that of the competition.”
For most resellers, your USP is going to be focused on your customer service, industry experience and knowledge. This means that IT marketing needs to be strongly linked to audience pain points and any shortcomings you may have identified in competitors.
For example, a prospect’s main weakness may be a lack of knowledge around installing and maintaining their software. Your company could help solve this problem by:
- Consulting and guiding prospects to the most suitable software for their business
- Having extensive knowledge of how to get the best results from your software
- Sending out an experienced team to install software
- Offering 24/7 support and maintenance to ensure that software runs smoothly
This is what your buyers are looking for, and what is going to sell in your services: an alignment of your software with reseller-specific expertise and valuable experience.
Progress leads down the sales funnel
The modern buyer is much more informed now than 10 or 20 years ago. In the digital age, an air of transparency has made it easier for buyers to conduct their own research and compare multiple IT resellers. Armed with this information, buyers can afford to be more particular in their purchasing decisions.
It’s very rare that a buyer will make a purchasing decision after one cold call. Instead, they want to choose which resellers they interact with, and have to be nurtured with valuable and stage-specific content that leads them to an eventual purchase.
Typically, an IT reseller will go through three stages before they are ready to sell:
Get found – the awareness stage
A huge 96% of prospects are not ready to buy when they first visit your site. Before your prospects even consider you as a potential provider, chances are they have a host of questions and problems which need resolving. These types of prospects are in what we call the ‘awareness stage’. They will have identified that they have a potential problem and are seeking more information via the web.
Within the awareness stage it is critical that your content remains purely educational and not promotional, as the majority of prospects will not be ready to buy. Content that offers information and advice helps readers to identify their own problems and symptoms. Once a prospect has defined their problem, they will progress to the next stage of the buyer’s journey.
Offer a solution – the consideration stage
Once they’ve defined their problem through search engine research, prospects will begin looking for a solution, and will likely land on an educational blog post that expands upon their problem and offers a potential solution.
After you have presented your solution to prospects in the form of blogs, it is important to offer additional content that expands on your solution and explains why it is better than other alternatives.
Convert into customers – the decision stage
Your prospects have identified their problem and agreed on a defined solution – so what’s next? Converting them into customers!
Commonly, in the decision stage, it’s ok to be promotional – your prospects are invested in your company and at the stage where they are comparing IT resellers. Supply them with content which not only supports the benefits of your software, but also your company’s unique industry experience, knowledge and customer service. Client case studies that focus on companies within your prospect’s industry demonstrate your experience in their niche field and, creating an advantage over competitors.