Marketing complex B2B technology can be difficult to wrap your head around – even for people with marketing and business training. Nearly every day I talk with at least one tech company executive who has burned a frightening amount of time and money on failed programs designed and implemented by people who have no clue about the IT buying process.

When even experienced marketers falter in attempts to market complex technology how can we expect social media people – very few of whom have marketing or business backgrounds – to deliver results that actually contribute to sales? The answer is: we can’t. They need guidance.

I put together this cheat sheet as an overview to help your social media manager begin to understand how all this works. It’s a follow on to the list I published last week: Ten Things Your Social Media Manager Needs to Know About LinkedIn.

So here we go.

Ten things your social media manager needs to know about tech marketing

  • Generally speaking, marketing’s most important goal is to assist in the sales effort by generating awareness and trust, engaging with potential buyers and influencers, and developing them to the point where they are ready to talk with a sales person. Social media – specifically LinkedIn – is a great channel for accomplishing each of these objectives.
  • Potential buyers come in many shapes and sizes. Technology buying decisions are made with the input of multiple people (often called a buying committee) who each bring a different set of needs to the table. 43% of them are from outside the IT department. They represent relevant functional areas such as marketing, finance and operations. Half are managers and executives. Half are individual contributors.* To move these buyers forward, marketing must meet the information needs of all of them.
  • The decision to purchase complex software or other technology solutions is not a single big decision. It’s actually a series of smaller decisions to continue moving forward in the process. The technology buying process is commonly divided into stages: awareness, research, planning, selection, and implementation. Social media is most commonly used for reaching buyers in the awareness and research stages but buyers also use LinkedIn for expert assistance in the selection and even implementation stages.
  • Best practices for technology marketing process looks something like this:
    >> Drive traffic consisting of qualified prospects to a landing page where the prospect trades contact details for valuable information generally in the form of a whitepaper, e-book, webinar, newsletter subscription or similar.
    >> Qualify and nurture or develop the prospect by providing a continuing supply of increasingly valuable information – usually via email – until the prospect is ready to talk with a sales person. Social media can be used to drive traffic and to nurture leads.
  • Content is key. Due to the easy access of massive amounts of information on the Internet, buyers “self-educate” before they are willing to talk to a sales person. Various studies estimate that buyers are already 60% or more through the buying process before they’ll talk to sales. Marketing must make up for the lack of interaction in the earlier stages by developing high value content and placing it where buyers are looking.
    Social media, mostly LinkedIn, is one of the places buyers are looking.
  • Technology buyers are a jaded bunch – especially those in the IT department. They have a 6th sense about anything that seems like marketing and immediately reject it. On social media especially they don’t want a sales pitch. In fact, “receiving a lot of marketing materials” is the #1 reason IT buyers wouldn’t connect with a vendor on social.
  • There are many elements to a good technology marketing program and each element – including social media – must integrate with other elements. This can include other lead generation tactics such as pay-per-click advertising and email marketing, lead development activities such as webinars, newsletters, blogs and auto-response email, and sales prospecting efforts.
  • Contrary to what management might love to believe, no one cares about your product in the first two stages of the buying process. Buyers have a problem. They are researching it. They want to know you can help them.
  • Like anyone else, IT buyers purchase from people and companies they know, like and trust. In years past it was the job of sales people to establish relationships and build trust. Now buyers insist on knowing and trusting a company before they’ll talk to a sales person. This is now the job of marketing.
  • CEOs and CFOs expect marketing to prove its worth – usually in the form of return on investment (ROI). While the best-run companies allow for a certain amount of experimentation, most marketing programs, including social media, can and should include provisions for measuring and reporting on results.

The IT buying decision is complex, multi-staged and involves a lot of people; and anyone who really knows technology marketing also knows I’ve over-simplified here. But it’s a start. As social media managers begin to learn more about how technology buying, marketing and selling work, they’ll be able to develop and implement more useful social media programs.

Have I forgotten something essential? Please post it in the comments section below.

Your social media manager can also benefit from reading our free report on 12 Costly Mistakes Tech Companies are Making on LinkedIn and What You Can Do About It.

* Source: commissioned study conducted by comScore, Inc. in the US on behalf of LinkedIn, Q3 2013

Related Content:

10 Things Your Social Media Manager Needs to Know About LinkedIn

The Right Way to Use Gated Content On LinkedIn

Teleseminar Recap: The New IT Buying Committee – How to Engage Them on LinkedIn

5 Ways to Measure Sales-Supporting ROI from LinkedIn