Podcast image - Is this the end of the world...run on spreadsheets?

Is this the end of the world...run on spreadsheets?

In episode #3 of our podcast, we ask - Is it time for businesses to end their relationship with spreadsheets and ‘start seeing other people’? We chat to Mark Bodger and Chris Harman from ICit Business Intelligence. A pair of industry veterans in the world of financial and operational planning, who are here to tell you to end your monogamous relationship with spreadsheets once and for all or face the fallout from being a tech laggard in your industry. Listen now.



Blog image - The 4 pillars of a quality website: examples from the experts

The 4 pillars of a quality website: examples from the experts

Your website is a shop window to your business and a cornerstone of your marketing strategy. In our article, we are going to tell you what we think makes up a great website. And we’ve cobbled together examples from some of the leading B2B technology organisations to show you examples of a quality website in action.   

These organisations are leading Microsoft partners who are successfully putting the qualities of a great website build into actionWe’ve taken these examples from our Top 50 Microsoft Partners website, which ranks partners on the quality of their inbound marketing strategies.  

So, if you’re currently designing or building your website, and could do with some advice or inspiration, this is a good place to start.  


Pillar 1: Functionality and purpose

When we talk about the functionality of a website, we mean the functions that allow a visitor to achieve what you want or intend them to achieve. Whether it’s to buy a product or request a demo, you need a website that allows your audience to complete a journey and respond to your call of action. So, make sure to include a form if you want your visitor to submit information. There should be simple and clear navigation, intuitive enough to allow your visitor to find their way around and consume the information you’ve created for them. 

Nintex 

Nintex, a global leader in business process automation, provide a good example of a website with strong functionality. As we mentioned above, it’s important for a website to be easy to navigate, contain quality content and include clear calls to action. And Nintex ticks all these boxesThe layout of the site is well executed considering the volume of solutions and content that they want to showcase. 

 

 

Along with good practical functionality (and a clear purpose)its also important to convey who you are and what you value as a company. 

One of the key takeaways from Nintex’s website, that I particularly like, is their positioning of people across the siteIt’s important that your brand echoes or compliments your product or service. For Nintex, who operate in the world of process automation (and the potential negative headlines of automation replacing people), it’s vital that they put people at the centre of their site. This idea of combining the practical elements of website build with branding and ethos, can be a tricky balancing act – but Nintex pull it off very well.  

 

Pillar 2: A clear user journey

There’s more to a website than a homepage. The mark of great design and the right build is the user journey that the visitor is taken on. As we mentioned when discussing functionality, clear navigation is key to this journey. You want your visitors to understand what you are offering. By making it easy to access the various areas of the site, you improve the user journey, keep visitors on the site longer and provide them with the expertise they are looking for. 

Veeam 

It is clear from the outset that Veeam are a collective of IT experts who are speaking to a specific audience (namely, IT professionals). They have a clear user journey laid out that begins with ‘how to’ video content, ends with a ‘buy’ call to action and contains a free trial and expert support along the way. That’s about as straight forward a buying journey should be, and Veeam do it well.

 

 

The other take away from this website is the clear sense of Veeam’s expertiseExtensive, detailed and valuable content is packed into this website and speaks to a specific audience, and in turn, leads them on the right journey.

 

Pillar 3: Quality content

Content is the key to any great marketing campaign  and it should be central to your website. When content is effectively, we should see succinct and concise language that avoids relying on technical or business jargon. The best content is clear and to the point and tells the reader something, whether that be marketing advicea ‘how to’ guide or thought leadership. 

ShareGate 

ShareGate pride themselves on making the Microsoft Cloud easier to use for organisations of all sizes. This focus is reflected in their website—in the look and feel, language and navigation. ShareGate are clear about what they do and why their customers choose them.

 

 

This simple and helpful ethos is consistent across their design, and is also consistent across their blog and social media profiles. Their content is always helpful, articulated in a clear and colourful manner.  

 

Pillar 4: Consistent brand and design

Your website needs to be visually appealing if you want to engage your audience. That means your designers need to think about the right colours, the visual structure of the site and how it all works together to produce branding that defines and sets your business apart. The language you use should fit your audience. If your visitors are IT developers, you can use more technical language. If they are business leaders, you should focus on the business benefits of your product or service. And remember, consistency across your site is essential.  

LiveTiles

Getting your tone of voice ‘right’ can be tricky. It takes is a clear understanding of your audience and their needs. The LiveTile tone of voice is spot on, right from the first words on their website to the latest blog they’ve posted on social media. It's a combination that shows these guys aren’t messing around. Clear, consistent and full of value, their website is a great example of how effective branding can differentiate you from your competitors. 

 


Podcast image - How we did it. The inside scoop on the Microsoft Partner Top 50

How we did it. The inside scoop on the Microsoft Partner Top 50

Episode #2 of our podcast is about the Microsoft Partner Top 50. For the last six years, Fifty Five and Five have produced an annual inbound marketing excellence report, celebrating the marketing efforts of organisations across the Microsoft Partner Network. In this episode we speak to Fifty Five and Five’s Barnaby Ellis (Head of Creative) and Stephen Reilly (Head of Content), about the release of the new Top 50 website, the transformation from hard copy report to a digital website. We also discuss the origins of the Top 50, from a piece of marketing in its own right to a solution that helps partners of all sizes improve their inbound marketing.



Blog image - The power of negative thinking

The power of negative thinking

One of the worst-kept secrets of the B2B writing world is that persona-writing is everybody’s favourite job. Fleshing out this ‘semi-fictionalised’ outline of our target audience is a unique opportunity to bring a little bit of fantasy and creativity to the writing process – and we love it.

Not too long ago, I found myself once again living my best life writing about Brenda, the absurdly overachieving CIO of a multinational corporation. Brenda was the kind of person everybody wanted to know. Her technical knowhow was first rate, her management skills incomparable - she knew exactly what was needed to be ‘ahead of the curve’, and she was wasting no time in getting there. Brenda, in a word was perfect - and that was exactly the problem. In a moment, my marketers’ fantasy was shattered as I realised I’d fallen into the classic writers’ trap: My persona was a Mary Sue.


Mary who?

‘Mary Sue’ is a term used by writers to describe a character who’s unnaturally and infuriatingly perfect. She’s a staple of internet fanfiction and young adult novels; a character with unnatural talents, beauty, ingenuity – and usually far younger than anyone with her skills and experience is likely to be. Once you know what to look for, you’ll start seeing Mary everywhere.

Brenda was textbook Mary Sue. She’s nothing like a real CIO; she’s a personified pastiche of various absurd B2B marketing clichés. I was being too positive about my character – to the extent where it barely resembled the target audience at all. Luckily it didn’t take much tweaking to tone Brenda down a bit – but I’d learned something valuable in the process.

There’s such a thing as too perfect

When creating personas – and indeed all marketing content, it’s easy to fall into this mindset of overly-idealising your ‘ideal’ audience. When your perfect persona looks nothing like your actual buyer, the marketing material you create will struggle to chime with the real audience’s priorities, pain points and challenges.

As marketers, we like to live in the world of positivity. Our job is to explain to the world why our clients’ products are great. But good marketing needs to have a basis in reality if it has any hope of communicating with the real people that are going to read it. Sometimes, a little negativity can help bring your Mary Sue personas back down to earth.

What does your customer actually want?

A little pessimistic thinking can go a long way in aligning yourself with your customer’s priorities. This is particularly the case when selling technology. Poor B2B writing usually features several clichés, revolving around innovation, digital transformation and the dreaded ‘ahead of the curve’.

These things aren’t strictly wrong, but they’re abstract, and they don’t really chime with the very tangible priorities of your target audiences. A client once put it to me in terms I could never beat: “my people don’t really give a fig about digital transformation, they just want their buggers to do their time sheets”. Applying a little strategic negative thinking can help you better understand the wants, challenges and pain points of the people you’re trying to sell to.

Improve the content you’re creating

But it’s not just about better understanding your audience. Being critical is also a vital part of understanding more about the work you’re creating and whether or not it’s up to scratch.

In any industry and profession, it’s easy to fall into the habit of patting yourself on the back, rather than forcing yourself to engage with the reasons your marketing material might not hit the mark. Is it too jargony? Too dense and overcomplicated? Is it too focused on how great you and your product are rather than engaging with the priorities of the reader? These are easy traps to fall into – we’ve all been there. But by putting yourself in the shoes of your reader and thinking critically, you can force yourself to get out of this habit – and your readers will thank you for it.

Sometimes controversial is ok

Being blithely uncontroversial is another positivity trap that marketers often fall into. It’s easy to justify not being offensive. But there’s a danger that in seeking to offend nobody, you also end up engaging roughly the same number of people. Sometimes, a little tactically-placed controversy can give you something unique to say, letting you speak a different language from your competitors.

To put this into practice, let’s pretend we’re marketing a videoconferencing app, which we’ll call WeTalkr. The inoffensively uncontroversial way of promoting the software could go something like this:

“WeTalkr allows you to seamlessly catch up with your colleagues any time and any place.”

There’s nothing wrong with this. But let’s be honest; it’s a little bland. Realistically, every competitor is going to be saying roughly the same thing. Why not try this instead:

“We know virtual meetings can be a faff. Are you tired of wasting ten minutes at the start of every meeting fiddling with cables and sound settings? Check out WeTalkr – for meetings that you actually want to attend.”

If you look beneath the surface, the second one isn’t all that different to the first. There’s nothing particularly offensive there, either. But by taking just a little extra risk and engaging with the less-than-perfect reality of your customers’ real lives, you can start to create content that’s better targeted to your reader, and better differentiated from your competitors. And, after all – isn’t that every marketer’s ultimate goal?

Creating content that really sings

Of course, there’s a line between a bit of well-placed negativity and being straight-up unpleasant – which isn’t going to impress anyone. It’s not always easy to work out where the sweet spot is for you and the people you’re speaking to, but it is possible. And sometimes, a bit of tactical negative thinking can help get started.