Small Business Technology Marketing Strategies: Next Moves

Small Business Technology Marketing Strategies: Next Moves

MSPs might be able to learn a thing or two from B2C marketing techniques and a recent report from hawkeye, a marketing agency, offers a few ideas to consider. The report, Ten Marketing Trends for 2012, points to content curation, “gamification” and authenticity as among the key developments unfolding this year. A B2B version of the report is due out soon. In the meantime, here’s a breakdown of a some of the report’s findings and how they could apply to service providers:

First up, MSPs need to reinforce their brands via content marketing. Indeed,  content marketing involves publishing tips, how-tos, opinion pieces and other articles to bolster credibility and underscore expertise. Admittedly, a small-business MSP may find it difficult to produce a supply of original material. The hawkeye report recommends marketers have 12 months of content prior to launching a strategy.

“It takes a commitment and a steady stream of content to remain visible,” noted John Tedstrom, managing director, insight and strategy at hawkeye. “In general, most small businesses probably don’t have a lot of resources or the time to create enough original content.”

The workaround? Tedstrom suggested supplementing original articles with content curation. That is, collecting content from other sources and adding your take on it. The act of collecting and organizing content provides a service in itself and also offers an opportunity to put the information into context for the customer.

Tedstrom said a business can offer perspective on how a given piece of content is germane to the customer and how it might solve a particular problem.

“It could be as simple as commenting and talking about how relevant it is to your customers,” he said.

And, in doing so, Tedstrom said a business can reinforce what it stands for and bring its brand to life.

Naturally, you’ll need to keep copyright, fair use, and attribution in mind when aggregating content.

Tedstrom noted: “It's also probably wise to post a link to the other site, and probably good to ask permission first and establish a relationship.”

Borrowing From The Gaming World

Marketing programs have begun to incorporate elements of gaming into their campaigns. It’s a new development and the impact is not easy to assess. The hawkeye report acknowledges that “not everyone agrees on [gamification’s] effectiveness.”

Tedstrom, however, said gamification may be appropriate for training and education. The “leveling-up” concept could apply here. He also pointed to simulation as a potential component of branding and marketing. He pointed to the example of IBM’s Smarter Planet website, which includes a sim game called CityOne. The game lets players try to make a city’s energy systems more efficient, for example.

Tedstrom said a sim game provides an avenue for engaging customers, as they apply a company’s technology solution to a particular scenario.

A game is certainly more participatory than traditional marketing material. That said, game development is probably not realistic for most small business marketers. Companies may still be able to apply simpler gamification elements such as level-based recognition, Tedstrom noted.

Incorporating Customer Feedback

Opening oneself to customer feedback -- and embedding it into your marketing message -- may prove even tougher than cranking out a game. But Tedstrom said that approach is key to establishing authenticity at a time when trust in manufacturers and brands has eroded.

Tedstrom said a business could incorporate customer comments, ratings, reviews and feedback to boost its transparency. He also suggested inviting customers to share feedback on products and services with each other in a non-competitive setting.

Most companies think this form of marketing sounds like a great idea, Tedstrom said. That initial enthusiasm tends to wear off when the time comes to actually implement a program.

“They get very concerned about that unfiltered commentary,” he said.

Domino’s Pizza represents an extreme form of the warts-and-all marketing approach. One of the company’s ad campaigns acknowledged negative customer feedback and revealed plans for addressing its pizza-making shortcomings, Tedstrom noted.  As a second step, Domino’s deployed a live customer feed in New York’s Times Square with comments writ large and in lights.

That’s pretty strong marketing medicine and Tedstrom admitted tactics of that sort won’t be appropriate for every business. But if your marketing strategy seems a bit tired, these emerging trends may contain a couple of ideas worth investigating.

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