Mouse pointer outage – the dawn of Everything as a Service

Technology tends to creep up on you. Bit by bit, if you’ll excuse the pun. Little innovations appear all the time, added conveniences that barely register in your mind’s eye, part of the gradual tectonic drift that is our shift toward new technologies. It seems to me that our ascent into the cloud has been a journey so smooth that we don’t even realise we’re moving. Rarely do I actually stop and think: where are we right now, and where are we headed? It took an earth-shattering incident recently to make me take stock and think seriously about one particularly prevalent tech trend: Everything as a Service. Things I never would have imagined now live in the cloud. And sometimes they go offline.

The Great Windows 10 Search Bar Fault of 2020

OK, so maybe in twenty years people won’t be asking each other: ‘Where were you when Windows 10 Search Bar went down?’ But it seemed like a pretty big deal to me at the time. My younger, less grizzled colleagues took it in their stride, but my generation grew up on MS-DOS and 3.5-inch floppy disks (aka 3D-printed ‘save’ icons). Technology years are like dog years, which makes me a tech boomer to them.

I reacted to the Great Windows 10 Search Bar Fault of 2020 like an eighth century serf would to a total solar eclipse. A fundamental part of the operating system abruptly stopped working, because it was connected to something out there, in the mysterious and uncontrollable off-premises world. To me, this was akin to suddenly encountering a mouse pointer outage and discovering that I’m now living in a world of Cursor as a Service. An odd moment of technology vertigo, when you look down and realise just how high we’ve gone.

Old man yells at cloud

You may be thinking: ‘OK tech boomer, get with the times.’ But I assure you, this isn’t just a case of resisting the future: I love the cloud. I love the fact that I’m writing this article in Warsaw, Poland (dzień dobry!) on Office 365, storing it in Fifty Five and Five’s cloud platform of choice, using Microsoft Teams to stay in touch and share stuff with everyone back home while I’m away from the London mothership. I love the fact that this kind of tech-enabled flexibility is becoming the new normal.

But, after the Windows 10 Search Bar fault event, I can definitely understand why some business leaders still have a degree of nephophobia. There is a lingering sense of risk in relying on services that exist only in the intangible ether of the cloud. Nobody likes the idea of losing control, and events like last year’s huge Capital One hack haven’t helped to assuage cloud security concerns. But, the cloud is here, and we all need to get used to it.

You can’t hold back the tide

The simple, unavoidable facts of the matter are that the cloud isn’t going anywhere. Everything as a Service is only going to become everythinger and the majority of businesses are going to have to confront it head on, embrace it and make it work. Otherwise, you’re selling cassette tapes in the age of Spotify. Let me know how that turns out for you.

For some, digital transformation to keep pace with this technological sea change may be a hard sell. But it’s a necessary one. And it requires getting into the mindset of a cloud-sceptic: understanding their concerns, their worst-case scenarios, but also the crucial, unique business benefits that motivate them to make the change.

How I learned to stop worrying and love the cloud

So, maybe the search bar outage was a blessing in disguise. I needed a reminder of how much I rely on the cloud and what I’d be missing without it. I’ve grown as a person. It’s made me a better writer. Thanks, Microsoft. Just please, don’t take away my beloved search bar ever again. I’ve learned my lesson.

Get in touch with our team today.

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How to effectively communicate and create your USP

What makes your business stand out? In the world of B2B technology this question is particularly important. Yours is a world where a lot of businesses provide similar services or promise the same results. Being able to communicate your USP and showing how you’re unique could be the difference between business growth and stagnation—or worse.

This is where your unique selling point (USP) comes in.

What is USP?

USP stands for a unique selling point, and if you don’t have it, you should definitely create one, so that the business to differentiate from the competitors.

If your USP doesn’t quite nail what’s special about your business, you can improve it. The first step is to understand your organisation and the value you provide your customers.

You need a good value proposition to communicate your USP

A value proposition helps you define the purpose of your business, the relationship with customers and the benefits of your product or service. Your value proposition plays an instrumental role in helping you to effectively communicate your USP.

Here’s what should make up your value proposition:

  • Competitor analysis

When defining your organisation’s USP, it can be helpful to understand how your competitors communicate theirs. Competitor analysis should include a high-level look at the positioning of two or three (or as many as you want) companies that provide similar solutions to your own. Learn what to avoid and look for elements you can adopt.

  • Personas

Personas help you understand your customer. This means you can put yourself in their shoes and more effectively communicate with them.

  • Brand slogan

A brand slogan helps people identify you in a few short, snappy words. More than a supporting statement to your product or service, it encapsulates who you are, what you do and how you do it.

  • Twitter/elevator pitch

Long before Twitter, an elevator pitch was a popular way of verbally summarising a product or service into a 30 second statement. Though still important and worth doing, a short, pithy (let’s say 240-characters) statement offers an invitation for potential customers to engage with you.

USP examples

We will share a couple of USP examples of well-known companies, such as Nike and Apple, and how they've become the top leading brands because their creativity and innovative solutions paid off.

  • Nike

Nike's USP focuses on collaborating with famous athletes, and this automatically associates Nike with those same outstanding qualities and places them as the go-to option in the sports world. It was founded by a track-and-field coach and his former student, which gives Nike even more credibility.

  • Apple

Apple's products are unparalleled in ease of use. It has one of those operating systems that do not have too many customizations when compared to Windows, so they do not confuse the user too much. Additionally, other USPs include a modern and sleek design that iPhones and MacBooks became known for.

How to write a value proposition

When building your value proposition, you need to embark on an information-gathering mission. I’ve taken inspiration from the classic ‘Five Ws and a H’ questions to give you a good place to start.

  • Who is your audience?

Who are you talking to? You’re targeting the people involved in the purchasing decision, so you must research their industries, define their needs and their motivations and understand their pain points. This is where your buyer personas come in handy.

  • What do you do?

Seems obvious, but consider what your business does and distill it down to a few concise sentences. What do you do differently from your competitors? Determine your niche and explore it. It could be your technology, service, people, cost, etc.

  • How do you help customers overcome problems?

You identified the problems your customers face in question one, and here you’ll determine how you’ll solve them. Don’t restrict yourself to just the product. Think about the intrinsic value you can offer and the factors that set you apart from your competition.

  • Why should the customer choose you?

Avoid simply listing the features of your product or service. Skip the technical jargon and jump straight to the business value. Customers deal in value, and many aren’t interested in the jargon-heavy ins and outs of your solution.

  • How do you want your customers to perceive you?

You cannot underestimate the power of a nailed-down marketing voice. It creates consistency in every piece of content you produce and resonates with your audience. Contemplate how you are perceived, how you want customers to see you, and spend some time studying how other companies project themselves.

You’ve got this

When you can effectively communicate your USP, people take notice. You set yourself apart from the competition. And your target audience tends to be more receptive to your big picture message. So, sit down and work out what makes you special. You might just open up doors to prosperous relationships that will see your business thrive.  If you want to find out more about how we can help you, get in touch today.  


Illustrative digital marketing Icons

Expensive digital marketing costs – busting the myth

Here’s something I hear a lot: ‘My business is held back by digital marketing costs.’

I think, ‘That’s a shame.’ And then I almost immediately forget about them. Not to be unnecessarily harsh. It’s because I’m busy helping businesses who realise how important their marketing is. When done right, digital marketing is the most effective way of reaching your target audience. This means more leads, which turns into more conversions, and in turn more customers, better revenue, etc., etc.

But then I thought, maybe I shouldn’t just forget/ignore businesses who believe they don’t have the resources to showcase themselves.

Consequently, you’re reading this. Sorry about that.

I want to show you that the price of great digital marketing is not extravagant and if anything, it’s more costly for your business to neglect. So, tear this page out, roll it up and stick it in your back pocket for the next time you need to remind yourself (or your boss):

  • Why you need digital marketing
  • The roots of the cost myth
  • How you can market effectively on a tight budget

Keeping up isn’t optional

The B2B buying process has drastically changed over the last few years and grown in complexity. More stakeholders are involved in the decision-making process and the movement through the sales funnel from awareness to purchase is no longer linear.

Gartner research shows that customers need to complete six different ‘buying jobs’ before finalising a sale. The key to winning their business is to simplify this operation, as buyers are more likely to feel like they’ve entered a ‘high-value, low-regret’ deal when given information that helps them advance to purchase – which is where digital marketing shines. It nurtures buyers through the sales funnel by getting the right information in front of the right people, at the right time.

So, what are some of the reasons behind the myth of high digital marketing costs?

Bad past experiences

There are a lot of cowboys in every industry and this goes for marketing too. Don’t let bad experiences define your opinion forever.

Throwing money at it

Digital marketing isn’t reserved for those with big budgets. Start small. Write some content, optimise it for the right audience, offer that audience value, shout about it on your social channels and you’re well on your way.

It’s confusing

It really isn’t. Creating goals and measuring results is straight forward. Plus, there plenty of tools out there to help you along. We recommend this one we made ourselves.

Ready to get started?


The simplest way to market on a budget is to start blogging. Time is the only currency you’ll need. Write two or three posts every month. Put yourself in the shoes of your target audience, ask the questions they want answered and deliver the answers.

Learn the fundamentals behind great blog writing here.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

If you’re delivering high-quality, keyword-optimised content that matches the searcher’s intent, it won’t take you long to catapult your way up the search rankings. Here’s an SEO crash course with your name on.

Free platforms like Moz and Semrush offer a suite of SEO tools that allow you to perform basic keyword research (note: you’ll need the premium subscriptions to get more advanced data).

Email campaigns

Email marketing is an effective method to get your brand in front of your target audience. In fact, it has the highest ROI of any marketing channel available. And it’s not expensive to get started.

Social media

Like email, budgetary constraints are no excuse for the absence of a social media presence. While email has the highest ROI of any marketing channel, social selling offers a lot of potential. These channels put you on the front line with direct communication and access to customers. Check out our blog to discover more about social selling and how it can help get you more leads.

Measure your success

Difficulty understanding how to measure success can stop businesses from investing in digital marketing. However, tracking the progress of a digital campaign is much easier than you think.

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are a perfect way to discover what’s working and what isn’t. They’re metrics that you measure regarding your content: your content wants to talk back to you, and KPIs are the best way to let it. Let’s look at some popular KPIs you can choose for your campaign:

Click-through rate (CTR)

CTRs offers valuable insight into which content is the most effective, allowing you to tailor your strategy based on this data.

Website traffic

An obvious metric to determine the success is the bump in the number of visitors to your website. More traffic means more eyes, brand awareness and eventually sales, so driving people to your site should be an important KPI.

Conversion rate

The journey through your sales funnel has begun and interest is piqued, but you want prospects to jump to the next stage. How many enquires are you getting? Compare the number of visitors to the number of people who contact you to understand the adjustments needed to achieve your desired results.


Whichever social channel you choose to host your content will have its own set of metrics you can judge your performance against. Understanding how many leads are generated per channel is key. Insights into which channels are under-delivering can highlight a need for a change of tactic, or an understanding of what to concentrate on.

The myth of expensive digital marketing costs busted

You shouldn’t ignore the instrumental role digital marketing can play in the growth of your business. It doesn’t need to be expensive, especially when starting out. Take this blog as your starting point, get your marketing journey going and see how far you’ve come in six months. You’ll be amazed, I guarantee it.

Forget counting how much digital marketing costs. Count the wins instead.

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Why you need to document your marketing campaign plan to succeed

  • The importance of documenting your marketing campaign plan
  • Why, and how, to document your campaign strategy

Marketing campaigns are often self-contained parts of your overall marketing plan that are concerned with a specific product or service or launch. But that doesn’t mean all your hard work on one campaign or project should only exist in that campaign, expiring once it’s over and its goals have been met. And you certainly shouldn’t reinvent the wheel the next time another campaign comes rolling around. Instead, take the hard graft you’ve put into the strategy and document it. That way, people have a handbook to guide them before they build a new campaign plan, so they know what to do and when.

A quick reminder why you should always document your marketing campaign plan

According to a Content Marketing Institute report, 65% of the most successful marketers had a documented strategy, while just 14% of the least successful get it on paper. Clearly, writing down your campaign plan has a dramatic impact on your marketing performance.

Just throwing out content and hoping it attracts the right audience is a recipe for disaster. You need a cohesive, well thought-out plan, distributed to meet the brand mission and cater to the needs of your audience while ensuring all stakeholders are reading from the same script.

Marketing strategies afford everyone in the organisation visibility over why and how campaigns come together. When everybody understands how team members collaborate and communicate, you’ll see the alignment of the different components and teams that exist in every campaign, which can also assist buy-in from senior members of the organisation. This makes the collective stronger than the sum of its parts, creating the ideal environment that encourages teamwork.

Acknowledging your content plan by writing it down and reviewing it is crucial to making sure it stays in line with your company’s goals. This way it becomes a living document that can change and evolve with time and experience.

Here’s how to gain momentum

Make it a priority

Marketers who fail to document their content marketing plans and strategies fail to make it a priority. Often, pressure means that we’re more inclined to ‘get down to business’ and try to produce something as fast as possible. This method can produce fast results (if you are lucky) but it also risks leaving gaps in campaigns and ups the likelihood of mistakes.

Make time

Leading on from our first point, one of these perceived pressures is that we can’t seem to find the time to document our strategies. But then, if it was important enough, time would be provided for it, wouldn’t it? Well, this just isn’t the case – you’re going to have to make an active effort.

Take responsibility

Responsibility can be a fine motivator. If no one currently oversees documenting the content marketing strategy and issues arise from this lack of documenting, then ‘the buck’ can be passed around and no one really needs to care. Taking it on as your duty will help motivate you to do a great job: think of it as your legacy.

Where to start?

Lack of knowledge gives people the perfect excuse to kick a task further down the to-do list. The reality is that procrastination is not your friend, and the internet is packed with guides to help you document your marketing plan, which renders this excuse null. In fact, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of it right now.

What goes into a marketing campaign document?

The first thing to do is think about how your content marketing strategy will address several areas—areas that are very similar to what you might ask yourself when planning a marketing campaign. Like target audience, goals, the ‘big picture’, and how to know if you’re on the right track.

Target audience

You need to set this one out in stone. Who are you trying to attract? Write it down. Better yet, turn your notes into specific distinct buyer personas. That includes names, photos, wants, needs, and pain points.

How does content push leads?

When, where, how and what kind of content to create will all depend on what you want your target audience to do at a point in the marketing funnel. Do you want them to download a free eBook or subscribe to your services on a monthly rate?

Align marketing and campaign goals

You already have your goals. Now you need to actively think about how your marketing strategy will enable those goals. This is where you need to know how your content will have to perform to achieve what you want. For example, how many leads would be considered a successful campaign? And by previous analytics, what volume of content or how many PPC ads need to be produced, and what platforms do you need to build a presence to achieve your goal?

Put goals on the calendar

An editorial calendar should be part of every content campaign. You have your content ideas, now you need to make sure you push the right stuff at the right time. It’s not an exact science, but it’s something that needs to be considered. Check on your social media platforms when your highest engagement times are and aim to post accordingly.

Control your strategies

The real difference between documenting your content strategy and not doing so comes down to control. Nothing is guaranteed when you’re trying to capture people’s attention, let alone encouraging them to buy goods or services, but with the right amount of planning and attention to detail you can at least give your organisation the best possible chance of making an impact.

A little about us

Fifty Five and Five is a full-service digital marketing agency with a focus on technology and IT companies. As specialists in the field, we deliver services that seamlessly blend our expert knowledge with our unbeatable marketing experience. We execute campaigns ranging from blogs, social and paid media to web build, web design and video production (read about our Strategy and Campaigns Service). Our goal is to help technology companies generate more leads through quality marketing campaigns.

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7-Step guide on how to benchmark your marketing activities

What do running a successful sports team and managing a B2B marketing department have in common? Quite a lot, in fact – if you know the value of digital benchmarking.

Michael Lewis’s book Moneyball is the famous story of how Oakland Athletics – a small and relatively poor baseball team – went on to have huge success in the 2002/2003 Major League Baseball season. Their achievements are widely credited to manager Billy Beane. Beane introduced the (then unheard-of) sabermetric approach – which involves using intensive objective benchmarking to understand performance.

Moneyball has been heralded as a ‘business bible’; and when it comes to knowing how to benchmark marketing, the book’s themes offer a lot of inspiration to digital marketers. Let’s look at how B2B technology marketers can benefit from digital benchmarking.


How to benchmark marketing?

Benchmarking is a method of objectively evaluating your company’s digital marketing activities. You need to carry out an assessment of your existing digital marketing activities, tracking how often they are carried out, how much they are engaged with and what effect they have. Once you have a snapshot of the quality of your digital marketing today, the next step is to use this information as a reference to help you keep on improving.

Let’s explore some of the best methods of gathering the objective data that can give you a snapshot of your digital marketing efforts. Below are seven steps to take that will ensure you can effectively benchmark marketing activities at your organisation.


1. Narrow down the digital marketing activities you want to focus on

There are countless variables that you could use when you benchmark marketing – from email open rates, to the length of time customers spend reading your blogs, to how many times your latest whitepaper has been downloaded.

So, how do you decide what you’re going to benchmark? We recommend choosing between one and three marketing activities you carry out – be that your blog, social media, emails, website analytics or anything else.

Deciding which activity to focus on ultimately depends on your wider marketing goals. Do you want to increase the number of visitors to your website? Or the amount of engagement your tweets receive?

2. Choose the right metrics

There are thousands of potential data points you could choose when measuring your digital marketing. Don’t be tempted to go overboard! Your benchmarking needs to be detailed, yet also provide you with enough clarity and simplicity to support action. We’d recommend choosing between three and five metrics to monitor. Examples would include:

  • How often do you tweet/blog/send emails?
  • How many people react/read/open your content?
  • What do people do once they see your content?
  • Where do readers come from?
  • How long do people interact with your digital marketing content?
  • How often do people click on your call to action (CTA)?

3. Do your initial benchmarking against these metrics

Once you have the focus for your analysis, plus a selection of metrics you want to measure, now’s the time to use powerful tools to carry out your digital benchmarking.

You also need to choose a reasonable time period in which you are going to review your digital marketing. Most companies carry out their analysis based on the three previous months.

You might begin your analysis by simply tallying up numbers – of blogs, of tweets, of emails sent, etc. But, for more detail, the following four tools give you a lot of powerful extra detail for digital benchmarking.

Google Analytics

Analyse visitor traffic and paint a picture of your audience. Discover the routes they take and devices they use to reach your site, and track what they do while on there. Reporting features display this in a clear and actionable manner.


MailChimp lets you build your email campaigns with ease and monitor their effectiveness. Features such as A/B testing and campaign reporting help you get an understanding of what’s drawing your audience in, and what’s getting ignored.

Twitter Analytics

Twitter Analytics help you understand how the content you share on Twitter is being received. Month-by-month statistics on the ‘success’ of your tweets and audience insights give you better knowledge of your audience and how best to attract their attention.

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Partner Benchmarking Tool - Our very own free benchmarking tool scores your current marketing efforts based on your blog, website and social presence. The Partner Benchmarking Tool helps you better understand your areas of strength and weakness, and how you can improve. Try it out for free to get an independent and objective overview of your digital benchmark.

4. Carry out competitor analysis too

Of course, you can’t use Google Analytics on your competitor’s website (although the Partner Benchmarking Tool does let you test any website you like). Nonetheless, you should carry out a basic analysis of your competitors’ digital marketing in the areas you focus on. Compare how often they blog, tweet or otherwise promote themselves during the same time period.

5. Create a report that summarises your marketing benchmarking

Once you have completed your first round of analysis, you are now able to take stock of where you are objectively. Create a report that gives an honest view of where you are today and include comparable data from your competitors.

6. Create a digital marketing strategy to improve your metrics

Now you have your digital benchmark, the next natural step is to create a strategy which will help you improve on those metrics. Now’s the time to aim high:

  • Double click-through-rate from your emails
  • Treble inbound web traffic
  • Increase leads from your blog by 50%
At Fifty Five and Five, we know how important creating a B2B marketing strategy is. Learn how we work with clients on campaign strategy here.

7. Review then repeat

A one-off benchmark is pretty pointless. To get real value from digital benchmarking, you need to carry out regular analysis to get a feel for how you are improving and to get a taste of the impact your strategy is having. If you use our Partner Benchmarking Tool for digital benchmarking, you can track and record all your analyses over time.

Don’t wait to benchmark marketing

When you benchmark marketing activities, you get a transparent and objective way of tracking the effects and impacts of your work. This should help you develop your marketing strategy and generate more leads. And remember: once you have an idea of where you are, it’s a lot easier to plan where you’re going.

How to plan your B2B marketing campaigns: A step by step guide

  • How to plan your B2B marketing campaign
  • Defining your marketing goals and measuring your success
  • 4 simple steps to get the foundations in place

You’re a B2B marketer, perhaps an IT software or service provider – and you want to build hype about your new product or service. You want to promote original, inspired content that wins likes, gains impressions and drives leads. You need ads that people can’t help but click… but where do you start. It may seem obvious to say that planning and strategy are key to successful B2B marketing campaigns. But many marketers rush through these stages – often to the detriment of the overall project.

There could be plenty of different reasons for this. Many falsely assume that it’s a better use of resources to dive straight into the work, rather than waste time on planning. This is particularly the case if they’re getting pressure for fast results from the C-suite or boardroom. But corners cut today often result in leads not won tomorrow. For that reason, if you want to ensure success for your campaign, you can’t afford to take shortcuts in the planning stages of your campaign.

What are B2B marketing campaigns?

B2B marketing campaigns are something we all basically understand – but it can be difficult to put that understanding into words. However, if you want to publish content, get leads and drive sales, it can be helpful to take a step back and understand what the whole thing is really about.

Any type of marketing campaign can be defined as ‘a series of marketing activities designed to achieve clearly defined goals within a specific time frame’. This isn’t the same as simply posting regular content to promote your services. The content should be tightly related and all pointing towards a single, often time sensitive goal: get this promotion, service or new product release.

For most marketers, this will be pretty self-evident, but it can be helpful to take a step back and consider the bigger picture when planning your strategy.

Asking the right questions

Once you’ve worked out exactly what the point of your campaign is, there are a few steps you need to take to define what success will look like and consider how you’ll achieve that. In short, you need some concrete goals.

  • Who

Your audience is the most important part of any campaign. The key to success is effectively understanding who your audience is. The best way to achieve this is to build an audience persona – a fictional representation of your average or ideal customer, based on market research and existing customer insights. To gain a better understanding of your customers, it’s helpful to define the persona’s demographic, location, job role, likes and dislikes, as well as the challenges and pain points they face in their daily life.

  • Why?

The ‘why’ of your B2B marketing campaigns is probably the most important element. You might understand who your customer is, and what they want – but why they should buy your product, service or promotion is far more difficult to nail down. This requires an understanding of what their needs are, and how your product fits into that backdrop. More importantly, you also need to understand how and why your products or services differ from those of your competitors.

  • What?

The goal could be anything from a set number of marketing qualified leads (MQLs) to be generated over a series of time, an increase in the amount of contacts on your email marketing list or simply a defined amount of content to be produced over the campaign period. It helps in these situations to be specific; establish a clear numeric target that you want to hit. Even if you don’t ultimately end up hitting that number, having a clear target will help provide the motivation you need to make a success of the campaign.

  • How?

Now you’ve determined your audience and built your personas, it can be helpful to develop a clearer understanding of how you’re going to convert them into customers. To identify this, it can be helpful to create a marketing funnel, which tracks the content and marketing tactics you’ll aim at customers as they progress through the buyer’s journey. This involves three main stages; becoming aware of your solution, exploring and researching further, and finally deciding whether to make a purchase. Your campaign should seek to target content that supports and encourages the right choice at each one of these stages.

Of course, asking yourself these questions is the easy part – finding the right answers can be a little trickier.

What makes up successful B2B marketing campaigns

Once you’ve outlined some of the who, what, why and how of your campaign, it’s time to start creating some more detailed tasks and objectives.

  • Create the messaging

It can be easy when running your campaign to jump straight into creating the content – particularly if it’s time sensitive. Before you do that it’s important to identify your key messaging. Drawing on your competitor research and audience personas, you need to develop a series of marketing messages that will run through all the content you create.

One way of doing this is to create a value proposition, which outlines the key messaging of your campaign, your unique selling point and the reasons why customers would be convinced to buy your product. This is a good way of ensuring that everyone on the campaign is on the same page. This document doesn’t necessarily need to be pages long, but it definitely should outline the main strategy, how you’re going to achieve that and the messaging you’ll use to drive it.

  • Outline the deliverables

Once you’ve done this, you need to work out exactly what content you’re going to use to populate your campaign. Will it include a series of blogs? An eBook and a landing page? Emails? Paid media? The list goes on and on. Ideally, you want to produce a wide range of different content, that links together and targets audiences in different places. Obviously, the more content you create, the better you can expect it to do. But with the right messaging, and effective targeting, you can still achieve impressive results with a small amount of content.

A successful content campaign might look something like this;

  • A ‘lead magnet’ – an eBook or Whitepaper with a corresponding landing page
  • A series of perhaps 2-4 blogs which support and direct traffic towards the lead magnet
  • Accompanying social media posts on Twitter and LinkedIn that push out the blogs and eBook 
  • A series of paid media ads on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google search 
  • Email marketing that can communicate with leads generated across the rest of the campaign, and encourage them towards a sales conversation 

Of course, the demands and objectives of your campaign will mean this could change – this isn’t a one size fits all approach. But if you’re stuck for where to start, this should give you a good idea of what you’ll need to achieve.  

  • Plan your resources 

If you want to hit your goals, and create all the right content on time, you need to be realistic about the resources you have available. If you haven’t got the amount of people you require to successfully complete the project on time, you’ll have to remove some work from your campaign or extend your deadline. And it’s better to proactively make that decision now than end later down the line.  

To do this effectively, you’ll have to create a schedule, so everyone is clear when deliverables are to be expected, reviewed, optimized and ultimately published. You should set out the amount of time that each person working on the project should expect to spend on each task, preferably some kind of project management software that everyone can easily view. 

And of course, if you’re going to be producing content together with an external agency, you need to create mutual deadlines and priorities that everyone can be happy with. That requires making sure your agency is aware of work due dates, and your internal staff have the time allocated to edit, review, optimize and publish it when it arrives.  

If you want to discover more about getting help from an outside agency – check out our full range of B2B marketing services for technology providers.  

If you successfully plan all your resources in advance, the rest of the campaign will hopefully fall quite smoothly into place from there.  

  • Measure success 

The final step before you get started putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) is to identify how you’re going to measure the success of your campaign. It’s important to demonstrate to your stakeholders that the work you produced paid off.

Naturally, the way you measure success will be closely tied to the objectives you set out at the outset of your B2B marketing campaigns. If you’re simply planning to increase leads, then the amount of email signups and MQLs will be the metric that judges this.  

But it can be also helpful to look into a series of other analytics, via Google Analytics or Data Studio. Analysing click through rates, page views, and bounce rates can give you a more three-dimensional picture of how your content is performing. These can show you how many people read your marketing materials, how long they spend on it - and whether they choose to proceed to the lead magnet asset or provide their contact details.  

This means that if during the campaign you’re not receiving the leads you need, you can effectively isolate the problem and work to resolve it. Let’s say you’ve got a lot of page views, but a low click through rate, it could be a sign that you need make your CTAs more eye-catching; perhaps moving them further up the page so users are more likely to see them. And if you’re not receiving many page views in the first place, it could be a sign that you need to increase your SEO efforts or tweak your paid media strategy to get more eyes on the page in the first place.  

Either way, having isolated the ways you’ll measure your strategy, you’ll be able to quickly identify how successful you’re being and make more proactive changes to improve your results throughout the campaign. And when it’s all over, you’ll have the information you need to provide better results next time – regardless of how effectively you did.  

Specialist B2B marketing campaigns for technology providers 

Here at Fifty Five and Five, we work on B2B marketing campaigns every day specialising in technology providers. That means we know a thing or two about creating winning strategies that find new audiences, drive leads and ultimately qualify new sales. We often discover clients have the will and understand the need for good quality marketing – but struggle with the internal resources to effectively complete all the steps we outlined in this blog on time, on budget, and to a high quality. 

That’s why many of them choose to work with us, because we specialise in creating the marketing strategy that earns you those all important marketing leads. If you want to find out more about how we can help you, get in touch today.  

IT marketing strategies

IT marketing strategies: Your end-to-end guide

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Today, more and more B2B IT providers understand that marketing can make or break a product. And there's no doubt about it - good marketing is digital. Whether you’re selling an IT solution, a managed service or a reseller license, your digital presence is the most important tool in your arsenal to set yourself aside from the competition and drive sales.

B2B inbound marketing is a crowded field. It’s more difficult than ever to find that unique brand message that can drive an all-important conversion. So, what’s the solution? With end-to-end IT marketing strategies, you can create a clear pathway through digital content that will support and encourage a conversion.

Easily said, less easily achieved 

There’s a lot of information online about how to create content, drive sales, use your CRM, write personas and much, much more. But if you’re trying to create a marketing strategy that supports customers from first awareness right through their customer journey, it can be difficult to understand how these different IT marketing strategies link together to create a bigger picture.

IT marketing strategies illustration

Good B2B marketing isn’t simply about creating a great piece of content. It’s about identifying the customer you need to target that content towards, allowing them to easily find it, directing them to explore further, then supporting and guiding them towards a conversion. It’s also about using the information you acquired through the process to create a sustainable and positive relationship with the converted client. Creating that journey isn’t easy – but it’s the key to standing out in a crowded sellers’ market.

On this page, we chart a journey through planning to conversion that will allow B2B IT marketers to improve the quality of their marketing, sales and conversion cycles.Whether you’re planning an entire strategy, or simply improving a small part of something wider, this is everything you’ll need to know to succeed with your IT marketing strategies.

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1. IT marketing challenges in 2020

IT marketing challenges in 2020

In the 21st century, marketing isn’t easy. Customers have never been more diverse – and buying has never been more democratised. There’s so much choice and competition in every sector that marketers have a tough job on their hands standing out from the crowd. This is just one in a range of IT marketing challenges that make a successful digital presence more difficult to achieve than ever before.

In the IT world, however, the challenge is even harder. That’s because the average IT buyer has specific needs, challenges, and pain points that must be addressed. As well as this, the complexity of the technology being marketed creates a whole new level of difficulty.

IT technology challenges

Luckily, IT marketing strategies have never been more advanced or effective as they are today. That’s because modern day digital marketing practices are uniquely tailored towards the sceptical IT buyer – since they specialise in educating users and building trust. The rise of effective and targeted digital marketing material has been among the most noticeable IT marketing trends.

But that doesn’t mean that it’s plain sailing for B2B IT providers. Challenges still remain – and effective digital IT marketing must address these if it hopes to target the right audience. In many ways, the recent success of the inbound approach has in itself created new IT marketing challenges. That’s because the more B2B IT marketers that join the inbound bandwagon, the more difficult it is for any one of those to stand out from the crowd.   

1.1 The most important IT marketing challenges

Today, there are four main IT marketing challenges that B2B IT marketers should seek to navigate if they want to stand out from the crowd and achieve their marketing goals.

  • Senior management

Senior management illustration

Managers and C-suite officials might have the best interests of the company at heart – but they’re rarely marketing experts. And since the managerial ranks of a company are often populated by more experienced employees, they’re less likely to be experts in the recent inbound marketing innovations. For someone who cut their teeth in the era of traditional ad-based marketing, the ‘educate first, sell second’ focus of more modern practices can be a difficult pill to swallow.

Getting management buy-in and managing their expectations is one of the most difficult parts of B2B marketing. The trick to doing this successfully is being up front about the challenges and realities of the sector. There’s no point selling digital marketing as the hot new way to generate leads in seconds because you’ll end up looking pretty silly when results take longer to materialise.

  • Finding the right audience

Find the right audience

For most marketers, particularly in the B2C sector, it’s enough to simply target your marketing material towards ‘those who are interested in buying your services’. In the B2B world, and even more so in the IT world, the situation is much more complicated. B2B IT audiences are hyper specific. Marketing must be tailored not just to a particular business in a specific sector, but down to the individual decision-maker in that landscape.

Most B2B IT companies will find there are several different buyers within a company that might make purchasing decisions. This includes the C-suite officials, HR managers, line of business managers, or IT staff. Each of these workers will have different priorities that marketing material should aim to isolate and target. This is easier said than done. To achieve this, IT marketers need to define these different buyers, flesh out their needs and pain points, and carefully aim different pieces of marketing towards them. Jump to our section on personas for more detail on this process.

  • Turning coding into marketing

Turn code into marketing illustration

Almost by definition, technology is complicated. The challenge for marketers, then, is to turn these incredibly technical concepts into simple, digestible language that wins people over and drives sales. Easier said than done.

It can be easy to get bogged down in listing endless features; talking about how your solution has the best package of integrations, customisations, or mobile compatibility on the market. These all have their place. But to be effective, you need to drill through the noise. That means referring back to your personas and user information and identifying the specific user’s problems that your software or service addresses. The key to translating your coding into good marketing is to explain how your product achieves that, using simple, accessible language.

  • Creating an end-to-end customer journey

End-to-end customer journey illustration

As we mentioned earlier, B2B buyers are more likely to take time over a decision, knowing they’re answerable to other people in the company for the decisions they make.

When considering the complex nature of IT services, this is even more likely to be the case. Buyers want to do their research, and technology isn’t simple. That’s why IT marketing trends for some time have been moving towards content that’s more targeted, but can also act as part of a larger, more thorough digital strategy.

The challenge for the B2B marketer is to allow customers the space to complete this research in their own time, without risking losing a valuable lead in the process. The best way to do that is to create a clear and structured user journey that progresses from awareness (via social and paid media), through content, case studies, and in-person conversations. The customer journey should then continue as the lead becomes a client, allowing marketers to promote new products and services, assess satisfaction over time, and approach happy clients for accreditation, testimonials and case studies.

These four IT marketing challenges represent a helpful overview of the difficulties that modern day marketers face. But to construct comprehensive end-to-end IT marketing strategies, there’s plenty more that you need to know. In the remaining sections, we’ll discuss and outline how to plan, create, execute and measure your marketing plan for IT services.  

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2. How to create an IT services marketing plan

How to create an IT services marketing plan

When a B2B customer identifies a potential solution, there's a good chance a few key factors are on their mind:

• Does this solution do what I need it to?

• Is it worth the price?

• Is there another solution that does it better or cheaper?

If you want to successfully identify how to sell managed IT services and software solutions, you’ll need to define the answers to these questions. That requires a little bit of research before you put any words to a page.

In marketing, preparation is everything. There’s no point shouting about how great your product is if you’re discussing the wrong features with the wrong people. You need to understand who your audience is and what they’re looking for from your products or services. Vitally, you also need to do some competitor research, so you can understand exactly what similar companies are selling, how their products differ from your own, and how you market yours against them.

2.1 Competitor research

Competitor research is a vital part of discovering how you’re going to position yourself. Without it, you risk marketing the same products in the same way as everyone else – and getting drowned out by the noise.

The first step involves requires identifying your competitors. There are plenty of sophisticated tools out there to help with this, but a lot of the time a simple Google search will suffice. After all, that’s how customers are most likely to find your marketing. Use Google Trends or Keyword Planner to identify popular search terms, then run these through Google to identify who is best ranking for them. Alternatively, if you don’t mind paying for a premium service, a number of tools like Moz and SEMRush will crawl your website or your competitors’ to deduce what keywords the website is ranking for.

Google Trends competitor research

Once you’ve done that, it’s helpful to complete a thorough analysis of their strengths and weaknesses. These questions are a useful guide to get you started:

  • What is the unique selling point of the product?

  • Which buyers are they targeting?

  • How effective is the content strategy and website design?

  • What content types and channels are they using?

  • What messaging are they using to promote their product?

Once you’ve got the answer to these questions, the next thing you need to ask yourself is ‘how can I do this better?’. That’s the key to understanding how to sell managed IT services and will provide you with the important basis for a unique and successful IT services marketing plan.  

2.2 Customer research & personas

The next step is to identify your own customers. This should involve information you currently hold on existing customers, as well as identifying potential customers and markets to target. You should ask yourself who they are, what position they hold in their company, as well as what their priorities and pain points might be. It can be helpful to get in touch with existing customers for this, perhaps offering a discount in exchange for help and guidance.

The goal here is to flesh out this customer research into a series of personas, which can be defined as ‘fictional representations of your ideal customers’. Give your character a name, a job title, and consider the reasons why they’d be interested in your product. Then, flesh out the ‘pain points’ - the reasons they’d be reluctant to purchase, and consider how you’ll address this.

Ideally, you’ll want a persona for three or four of your most frequent customers. With these in mind, you can then effectively tailor the marketing material you create to the needs and pain points of your personas.  

2.3 Value proposition

A value proposition should take the information you’ve learned across competitor and customer research, and create some messaging based on it. It outlines the basis for all the consumer facing marketing material that you’ll produce from here onwards - across your various IT marketing strategies. The value proposition should define how you’ll stand out from the competition and address the pain points of your ideal customers. Then, you need to ask yourself:

  • What messages will you use to target your customer?

  •  What language will attract them?

  • What content will most appeal to them?

This is the document that sets out the fundamental basics of your IT services marketing plan and provides the cornerstone upon which the rest of your campaign can be built.

Once this research in place, you’ll be ready to think about creating the content that will make up your strategy.

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3. Creating a B2B buyer journey

B2B buyer journey

Once you’ve completed your market research and defined your messaging, it’s time to develop a content plan. This requires some consideration of the marketing material you’ll create, how that’ll be targeted and how different pieces of content will work towards a larger B2B content strategy. For managed service providers and software vendors, it’s particularly vital that content can contribute to a clearly defined customer journey. For all the reasons we outlined earlier, B2B buyers want to take time over their decisions and have all the facts at hand. When creating your B2B buyer journey, it’s your job to guide them through this process.

3.1 The buyer journey

When creating your B2B content strategy, it’s important to consider where your customer is – as well as who they are. There’s no point creating a great product page if the reader isn’t ready for that kind of information.

People often think of a buyer’s journey as a linear timeline, beginning with awareness and ending in a sale. If this is the basis for your B2B buyer journey, you’re missing a trick. An effective journey should be considered more of a cycle than a line – the relationship doesn’t end with a sale. Effective marketers understand the value of their existing customers, both to help advocate their services to new leads, and upmarket new services outside of their current package. When you take these factors into account, the B2B buyer’s journey begins to look a bit different.

Let’s consider a fictional example. Tim is an IT manager who needs some help from a managed service provider to help maintain and optimise his IT systems. The B2B buyer journey he goes through looks a little like this:

The circle of B2B marketing life

By the time he’s reached the last stage of the journey, Tim is helping to create content that can reassure new customers in the first two stages. And thus, the circle of B2B marketing continues. The challenge for B2B marketers is to create the content that will convince Tim to progress through the B2B buyer journey at each individual stage.

This is where the content strategy comes in. It’s vital that before creating any marketing material, you plan out a customer journey that will allow Tim to progress seamlessly from prospect to advocate. To do this, you need to target different types of content to his needs and pain points - as they change over time.

3.2 Planning the B2B content strategy

Different pieces of content lend themselves to different stages in the buyer’s journey. So, the next step in developing your content marketing plan is to identify which content to create. Here are some ideas.

1. Paid media

Paid media B2B content strategy

Paid media is helpful for targeting users in the early stages of the buyer’s journey, making that first point of contact and encouraging users to access further information and content. Paid media is generally good for getting a short term initial push to a campaign that can be supported by other media later down the line.

2. Organic media

Organic media marketing mix illustration

Organic content, such as social media on Twitter and LinkedIn, is good for increasing awareness and attracting potential leads. It generally works better on a long term basis, since it takes time to build an effective organic presence.

3. eBooks and whitepapers

eBooks and whitepapers - marketing illustration

eBooks and whitepapers are detailed outlines of your product or service, and why a customer should consider it against the competition. Customers will generally access them during the research and assessment stages, when they’ve already identified your business as a prospect and want to further explore their options.

4. Blogs

Blogs - marketing illustration

Blogs fulfil a similar function as eBooks and whitepapers, but in more specific cases. If you’re looking to expand on specific users, features or industries for your product, the blog is the form for you. These will also be invaluable to customers in the second, third and fourth stages of the buyer’s journey. Blogs can also be a good way of marketing further services to existing customers in the later stages of the buyer’s journey.

5. Case studies

Case studies - marketing illustration

Case studies are even more specific than the content you’d put in a blog. Using a real life example of an existing customer, you can tell the story of how your services or products have been used in practice. The case study is useful for customers in the third or fourth stages of the marketing journey, who are aware of your services, but want to explore further and accredit your marketing messages.

6. Email marketing

Email marketing - illustration

Email marketing is uniquely qualified to target customers at any stage in the marketing journey. Since messages can be sent directly to individual customers, they can be microtargeted to their needs and pain points.

These are the main types of content that should influence the B2B content strategy you create. Of course, there’s much more to it than this – and if you want to get even further into the details and complexities of creating a content marketing plan, take a look at our recent eBook: A fool-proof guide to content marketing.

But if all you’re looking to do at this stage is put together the fundamental bones of a campaign, this information should stand you in good stead to get started.

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4. How to convert leads into clients

Converting leads into clients

The goal of IT marketing strategies is to generate leads – preferably high quality and lots of them. But finding leads is only half the story. If you want to turn that potential into business, you need a clear process that will allow you to convert leads into clients.

Essentially, this involves encouraging your readers to move along to the next step in the customer journey – all the way to conversion. There are several ways you can do this:

4.1 Traffic vs. value

Marketers often mistakenly think that to get more leads, all they need is more website traffic. That’s easy enough in theory – most people can generate a bit of website traffic with some decent SEO strategies and a paid media campaign. But if 98% of those people read your content and then leave your website, you won’t increase your lead generation by much. That’s why it’s more important to turn to conversion rate optimisation (CRO). This involves increasing the percentage of people that move on to the next stage in the customer journey.

Creating a B2B sales funnel is a long-established way of identifying how effectively traffic flows through your website, from the first contact to conversion. It maps a route to conversion through the content you create, assigning specific pieces of content to each stage in the marketing journey - from awareness to conversion.

What’s the value of this? The logic follows that by mapping the ideal process that your customer should take, you can more accurately assess and optimise how many do make that journey. And if your website analytics tell you that successful leads are arriving to conversion via a different route, that gives you the information you need to improve your funnel and the content that forms it.

Let’s take a look at a sample B2B sales funnel based on the first four stages of the customer journey that we outlined in the last section.

Marketing funnel illustration

This is designed to be a very basic outline. In reality, there’s a whole range of different types of content that could contribute to each stage of the process. And on an individual level, the journey will undoubtedly be more complex, with viewers progressing back and forth between various types of content before making a conversion.

Once you’ve identified the customer journey your prospects should be taking, it’s time to decide how well they’re doing it.

It’s at this point in the process that many people consider whether it’d be better to create the content they need in house or look for some expert help from an external agency. As a specialist external agency for B2B marketing companies, we’ve got a lot of ideas about how we can craft a winning content strategy that drives readers where you want them to go. Check out our services if you want to find out more.

4.2 Where are your customers going?

Most of the decisions you make when optimising your conversion rates depend on knowing a bit more about your website visitors:

  • How many people are viewing your website?

  • How many view individual pages?

  • Where are people travelling to from those pages?

  • Which pages are readers leaving your website from?

  • Where are they arriving on your website from?

This crucial information will allow you to understand how effective the flow of traffic is between constituent stages in your customer journey. Luckily, almost anybody can access this data for free with Google Analytics.

Google Analytics is a big repository of data about how people interact with your website. This includes everything you need to know about how effectively users are progressing through your website.

One particular Google Analytics feature allows you to visualize where readers are travelling to and from between pages on your website. This is called the User Flow, and it looks a little bit like this:

Google Analytics Pages Flow Screenshot

The different pages can be customised based on your requirements. For example, you can create a different pillar for each piece of content you think should lead to conversion or contact, allowing you to easily see how effectively you’re achieving that.

As well as this, you can also set up goals in Google Analytics that allow you to isolate and measure specific metrics, such as the amount of users that progress from one page to the next, and track overall conversions. Once you’ve got that information, the next step is to optimise, optimise, optimise.

4.3 How to convert leads into clients - step by step

We’ve covered why it’s important to optimise your conversion rate, and how to decide where optimisation is needed. Now, we’ll consider how to go about optimising those pages, CTAs, emails and social posts. If you’re a savvy marketer looking to get the most possible leads out of the content you produce, there are a few options open to you:

  • Creating content campaigns

Step one involves ensuring the route you want people to take is a desirable one. Think about your average customer for a moment; they want to find out more about your product or service before getting in touch with you, preferably through content that addresses their pain points in increasing levels of detail. It’s important to ensure that the information you’re drawing them towards is relevant and elaborates on what you’ve already told them. Make sure the next stage you draw your readers towards is going to deliver value.

  • Leverage high performing pages

Consider the following situation: You’re setting up a short campaign to drive interest in a promotion or product. Perhaps you’re offering a discount on the latest upgrade to your SaaS solution. The content you’ve produced for this campaign is ranking well - but perhaps not performing well. One way to boost focused traffic to your new content is by drawing attention to it from existing high-performing pages. The best example of this is a homepage, where many of your visitors will end up at one point or another. Consider creating some banners or CTAs that draw attention to your new content, and direct traffic through your B2B sales funnel.

  • Calls to action

If you’re struggling to encourage readers towards the next stage in the customer journey, you can have another think about your CTAs. The traditional way of doing CTAs involves putting a link at the bottom of a piece of content. But often people skip over this or click off before they get to it. For this reason, many marketers have found success in improving their conversion rates by making these CTAs easier to see, with more eye-catching messages.

For instance, instead of writing a simple piece of text, why not create a banner or image that can catch the viewer’s eye? And consider moving the CTA higher up the page, perhaps integrated within the content so that viewers can access it sooner.

content marketing guide for B2B

  • Landing pages

Landing pages, by their very definition, are designed to attract attention and channel it in a specific direction. This could be towards a particular piece of content, a trial or demo, or a contact form. If you’re trying to get as much traffic as possible towards your latest content, creating landing pages is a great way of doing that.

Landing pages work because they’re simple and stand apart from the rest of your website - meaning they can rank well in Google, and viewers don’t get distracted and end up clicking elsewhere. Either they go to the place you want them to, or they leave – simple. If you want to improve your conversion rates, create some landing pages for your hero assets. With some SEO keywords and a little paid media, you should get the traffic jam up cleared in no time.

Including banners and links to the landing page from other parts of your website, social media and email communications is also a great way of focusing travel back in the right direction.

  • Email marketing

As we move into the later stages of your customer sales journey, email marketing becomes increasingly more important. Compared to other types of content, emails are unique in their ability to target customers right down to the individual. That makes it absolutely great for retrieving potential customers who have fallen off the customer journey. Consider, for example, if a user downloads an eBook or whitepaper, giving their contact details in order to do so, reads the content, and then doesn’t proceed any further. There’s every chance that they’ve found value in the content, gotten distracted and never got around to proceeding any further. With their content details, you can follow up and drive them back to a conversion-focused conversation with your sales staff. Email marketing is a key driver in ensuring you can convert leads into clients at a better rate than before.

  • A/B testing

A/B testing - marketing illustration

A/B testing is a great way to test which messages work for your customer base, whether that’s landing pages, CTAs, social posts, or email newsletters. Finding the right language is a vital part of encouraging potential customers to take the next step in their journey. A/B testing allows you to find winning messages that will improve your conversion rates. This involves comparing two similar versions of the same email, newsletter or social post, and seeing which is most successful. Once you’ve found the most successful messages, you can focus your efforts on that, and use your learnings to improve your future content.

This is particularly successful in email marketing, where you can easily segment your marketing list at random. With webpages, it can be more difficult, but there are tools such as Google Optimise that allow you to create variations of the same page, which can be shown to different users at random.

If you're looking to convert leads into clients at a better rate, these methods should give you a great idea of how you can get started. Of course, no trick or tactic can substitute for good marketing and great content. But if you’ve got a coherent marketing strategy, good messaging, and a product with real value, then a little tweaking around the edges with CRO can make a real difference.

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5. How to get started selling to existing customers

How to get started selling to existing customers

Of course, getting your leads to convert into clients is only one half of the customer journey. Effective marketers know that nurturing existing customers is as important as acquiring new ones. Too many companies take their existing customers for granted, only realising the perils of this approach once it’s too late. Selling to existing customers is just one part of getting the most out of your customer relations, but there’s plenty of other ways you can do this as well.

In this section, we’re going to discuss the final part of the IT marketing cycle: customer relationship management. Getting this right is the key to developing a marketing strategy that not only sells, but also sustains.

5.1 Customer relations: How and why?

If you’re not making customer relations an integral part of your IT marketing strategies, here are three good reasons to start.

  • Accreditation

As we mentioned in the first section, B2B buyers are considerate, deliberate and want to make sure that they’ve made the right decision when deciding whether to invest in a product or service. That’s why it’s so vital that you make the best use of existing satisfied customers to create case studies and testimonials that can reassure new customers that they’re about to make the right decision.

  • Contract renewal

At some point, the original contract you negotiated when your client converted is going to be up for renewal. When that happens, you’ll want to ensure the customer is in a position to enthusiastically renew. If not, you risk undoing the hard work you put in during the earlier stages of their journey.

  • Expanding services

If your client has downloaded your product or is using your managed service, they’re infinitely more likely than an unqualified lead to be interested in the rest of your offerings. This makes selling to existing customers an invaluable way of generating more business.

5.2 Selling to existing customers with a CRM

Over the last two decades, one type of tool has become an established way of allowing companies to better manage their customer relationships at every stage of their journey: customer relations management (CRM). Essentially, this is a large database that records every interaction made with a customer from anyone in your business. This includes responses to emails, customer service queries, contract details and much more. The idea is that when a client, customer or lead gets in touch with somebody from your business, staff members should be able to easily view and update the entire history of their interactions with the company.

CRMs come with the powerful potential to improve your customer relations. This remains the same whether you’re trying to upsell new products, manage difficult client relationships, or recruit advocates for case studies and testimonials. Let’s look at some of these in practice.

  • Client surveys

Client surveys illustration

For any company, it’s vital to understand what your customers think of you. To do this, many companies circulate a regular survey for their existing customers. But with a CRM, you can take this information to the next level, by storing each individual clients’ responses, perhaps even ranking them on a satisfaction scale.

Compiling and storing this information in a centralized location provides a lot of opportunities to improve the customer experience and drive effective upselling. Most importantly, it allows you to identify which customers need more support and better customer service in order to improve your customer reputation and improve rates of the contract renewal. It could also be helpful to incentivise less satisfied customers to renew by targeting discounts on future contracts.

  • Upsell tactics: Using your CRM effectively

Upsell tactics: Using your CRM effectively illustration

Selling to existing customers can be a profitable but risky game. Sending a blanket email to all your existing customers every time you want to market a new service can do more harm than good. If customers feel like they’re being spammed or excessively upsold to, your business relationship with them will likely suffer. For that reason, it’s important to target correspondences, so communications will be sent to those customers that are most likely to respond effectively. One of the most vital upsell tactics is knowing when not to market – as well as when to.

The benefit of a CRM here is clear. Effective CRMs can be configured to automatically record how people respond to communications. This allows you to target marketing messages to those customers who have clicked on, responded to, or otherwise expressed an interest in your products or services. As well as this, you can use information from your customer satisfaction surveys to target messages to those customers who have already expressed satisfaction with their existing products or services.

  • Creating case studies

Creating case studies illustration

Creating case studies is a great way to encourage new prospects to become leads and for leads to convert into clients. Unlike most other types of content, they provide a real-world application of how your solution or services have helped real businesses. But finding the right client to approach for a case study can be difficult. You need to find a client whose problems and pain points reflect those of a particular target customer, so that the final case study can work as an effective piece of marketing material. As well as this, you need to find someone with enough good will to put their name to a piece of marketing material and offer the time required to help create it.

This is where your CRM information can help. Using information derived from customer surveys and past interactions with your company, you can effectively identify those clients that are more likely to agree. Additionally, by accessing information that the sales department inputted when the client was themselves a lead, you can identify the problems they faced when they were approaching conversion. This information allows you to identify which clients are likely to be both successful at and amenable to creating case study material.

A CRM is an enormously versatile tool, for both marketing and sales – and the potential applications are endless. It’s vital to understand and appreciate the value of this knowledge when identifying what your customers are looking for – and how you can provide it.

At Fifty Five and Five, we work every day to create this end-to-end marketing journey for our clients. We’ve learned that creating great marketing messages and supporting content is only the first step. If you want to stand out, you need to consider your customer’s context, situation and problems – and how you fit into that backdrop.

Creating effective IT marketing strategies is rarely easy, but it is worthwhile. If you can follow the steps we outline in this page, you’ll be well on your way to achieving that oft-spoken but rarely achieved phenomenon: Standing out from the crowd.

At Fifty Five and Five, we’re experts in creating dynamic IT marketing strategies that are unique, valuable and informative. Working with clients such as Microsoft, Nintex, MessageOps, and ShareGate, we know how to create a truly end-to-end, user-focused marketing journey that will drive up that all important conversion rate.

If you’ve made it all the way to this point, there’s a good chance you’re serious about creating about creating an end to end IT marketing plan that will generate those all-important leads. And if so, we want to help. Take a look through full package of digital marketing services for tech providers – and see what we can do for you.

Conquering the challenges of managing remote employees

  • From all-on-prem to providing remote working
  • How we enabled our first remote employee
  • Proving remote working for our Seattle office
  • Managing remote employees: best practices

More and more businesses are waking up to the possibilities of remote working, although few have gone as far as ‘all-remote’ like GitLab or adopted distributed teams as enthusiastically as Atlassian. The traditional model – having all your employees on site – is still prevalent - but we’re moving toward a landscape where, in order to find and retain talent, you have to accommodate your people when they need to relocate or be able to bring in new employees who work remotely from the start. And this comes with the many challenges of managing remote employees.

It’s no mean feat to make the shift in your business from having everyone on-premises to employing remote workers. I know that because I’ve done it myself. Well, ­­­­­‘done’ may not be entirely correct – like most things in life, it’s a work in progress. There are always new things to learn and improvements to be made. I’d like to share what I’ve learned during the journey with my own company, Fifty Five and Five.

Closing distances between people

Fifty Five and Five has grown a lot since we began in 2014 – both in terms of numbers and the geographical distance we cover. We’ve gone from a small group of talented people in London to having offices in Britain and the USA as well as numerous full-time, part-time and freelance team members spread across many different cities and countries.

Once upon a time, maintaining this kind of setup – and doing so productively – would have been like herding cats, but we overcome the challenges of managing remote employees through our culture and how communicate. And, of course, as a digital marketing agency, tech savvy and early adoption are deeply coded into our DNA. That means picking up the latest digital workplace tools and making the fullest and best use of them.

To start with, let’s look at the story of our very first remote worker:

Our woman in Oslo

Enrika has been a crucial part of our marketing team for many years now. She knows our business inside out and has become a big part of our marketing strategies, SEO projects, PPC campaigns and more. Enrika also runs our website and internal marketing – she’s probably the reason you’re reading this blog right now.

So, when she decided she wanted to move from London to Oslo in Norway but was keen to keep working for us, we were determined to make that happen. When you find talent of Enrika’s calibre, you hold on to it.

At that point, we were already using cloud services to store all our documents and other business data, so Enrika could – and can – always reach the information resources she needs to work. If we still kept everything on-prem, there’s no way we’d be able to provide that.

And, as keen adopters of Microsoft’s cloud-based productivity and collaboration tools, we’ve given her and everyone else the full Office 365 suite and made sure they’re using it effectively. That includes Microsoft Teams, with its indispensable set of video, voice and messaging functionality.

It’s been a year since her move, and Enrika’s success story spurred us on to provide more remote working opportunities – including our very first remote hire, who’s based on an entirely different continent.

The Seattle connection

When we decided to open an office in Seattle, so we could be closer to our North American clients, I knew was perfect to take the wheel. As our stateside Account Director, she grows and manages much of our US business, as our first point of contact for clients there and in many other countries worldwide.

Liz’s role demands close contact with clients in the USA and overseas, as well as with her colleagues in the London office. We knew we had to provide her and other workers abroad in the future with the same remote working foundation that enables Enrika to work remotely. But that in this case there were also new difficulties to be met.

For one thing, we needed to grapple with time zones. Oslo is only one hour ahead of London, which is pretty easy to manage. But London is eight hours ahead of Seattle, which increases the challenges of managing remote employees.

With such a geographical distance and time distance between us, we quickly discovered it could become difficult for everyone to work well together. We needed to prevent our people in the USA from feeling isolated and disconnected from our business and our culture.

To make sure everyone can work together, feel part of the same team and stay on the same page, Fifty Five and Five developed a set of principles for the whole company to adopt. These key pillars define how we should work, to make sure remote working really works.

Managing remote employees: best practices

1.   Automatic sharing

So that nobody misses anything or gets left out, everything has to be shared with everyone, all the time. All internal meetings are captured on video in Teams, recorded and stored, along with any notes, in our cloud-based information repository. Anyone can access them and catch up.

That includes our weekly Learn and Share sessions, which provide a vital part of our collective knowledge and skills base. Enrika, Liz and others have already presented Learn and Share sessions attended by people in both offices via video chat. As well as knowledge-sharing, these sessions are also a great way to bring everyone together and get us all engaged.

We also use dedicated Teams channels to share useful and interesting articles, and other handy links. And our Thank You channel ensures that praise and credit are given in a public forum without having to resort to a formal all-company email. It fosters a culture of encouragement and unity – everyone appreciates getting a shoutout at the end of a long project and seeing their colleagues’ hard work being recognized.

We’re making it fundamental to Fifty Five and Five’s company culture that this kind of sharing happens automatically, in a way we can all benefit from – not just the ones within earshot.

2.   Document everything

With our roots in content marketing, we’ve always known the power of written communication. But the challenges of managing remote workers mean we’ve had to double down on developing that skillset and strive to communicate in writing even more effectively.

Now, we’re committed to writing down and recording knowledge rather than relying on verbal explanations. Setting things down in words means they can be shared, referred to later and – crucially – not simply forgotten as soon as they’re heard. This also extends to our processes – instead of just on-the-job-training, we are now much more thorough in documenting our processes and making this documentation available.

This mindset means information that’s useful to everyone isn’t as likely to be automatically siloed in need-to-know access limitations, which only need to be applied to sensitive data. Instead of top-down control of documents, they’re open for access and editing by anyone in the company, so they can contribute and increase their own knowledge. And that means we can all understand our projects and our clients better and work more effectively for them.

When building up your internal knowledge repository, tools like OneNote and Notion can be invaluable. We write up the notes of every meeting and make them available like this, with a central index, so all team members everywhere can find answers to their questions and get to grips with new projects and accounts easily

3.   Asynchronous and synchronous comms

I think of all this as asynchronous communication: a more inclusive, multi-directional way to communicate that can be less linear and limited than traditional synchronous (real-time) communication such as face to face or phone calls. Both kinds have their place in modern business and need to be harnessed properly.

Real-time, synchronous communication, whether it’s in person or via Microsoft Teams, will always be needed. A two-way exchange in real time allows the participants to expand and direct the conversation in the moment, asking important questions as they occur. But now this can all be easily recorded and shared. We’ll often record client meetings (after asking their permission, of course) so that we can refer back to that recording and share it to help other team members. This is synchronous and asynchronous communication used together to achieve the best possible results.

A great asynchronous communication tool we use is Asana. Accessed via your web browser or an intuitive mobile app, Asana helps us to stay on top of our individual tasks and priorities, as well as managing and tracking projects. As soon as one member has finished playing their part in a task, the next person is alerted so they can take over. We all check on our task lists and calendars regularly, and Asana has become firmly embedded in our processes and communications. I can’t recommend it enough – it really works. Our project manager Alessandra would agree, as the company’s resident Asana evangelist/superfan.

Something else we’ve introduced more recently is the ‘employee user manual’. We each write one, available for everyone to read, explaining how we like to work and our preferred methods of communication (e.g. some prefer Teams chats, some may prefer a phone call). This has given us an insight to the different ways that our co-workers like to operate, and it’s really helped us all to communicate more effectively.

4.   Always think about how you speak

Although written communication has some advantages over spoken, it also has weaknesses. With a lack of visual cues such as expression, or vocal tone of voice, nuance can be lost and responses can be misinterpreted, seem cold or even rude.

Luckily, the ‘consumer-grade enterprise comms experience’ of Microsoft Teams includes emojis to put the smiles back into text-based communication. But I think it’s also important that we promote positive communication in general within Fifty Five and Five’s company culture.

We always assume positive intent, as well as assuming a lack of knowledge (‘crossed wires’) on the part of the other person instead of intentional negativity: ‘ignorance before malice’. And, where such misunderstandings do occur, a colleague is only a Teams video call away, which is sure to clear everything up.


Use everything available and set up to win

In conclusion, if there’s anything I’ve learned from the challenges of managing remote employees, it’s that it’s relied on three things: the right tools, the right approach and the right attitude. They’re all important, but often it’s the last one that makes the biggest difference. You, your people and your business itself need a can-do attitude if you want to make remote working really work.

If you’d like some help making your communications more effective, get in touch with the team at Fifty Five and Five today.

How to hire the right people for your company

  • Tips for hiring the right team members
  • Why hiring the right people is important
  • The most common reasons companies don't end up with the hire they intended

A whole array of technologies are being shouted from the rooftops as the key to unlocking the potential of your company. Artificial intelligencesocial media, big data and cloud computing... the list goes on and on. But you can’t forget those that hold these keys—your people! You need to hire the right people.  

People are the most important aspect of your company, responsible for how you operate, how you present yourself to clients and customers, and ultimately how successful you are. When it comes to hiring the right people in your company, look for those with similar values and work ethics while diversifying the workplace in terms of gender, ethnicity, and skillsets. 

You need to create a cohesive workplace but also identify what every employee can bring on an individual levelAnd it can be a tricky balancing act. In this post, we’ll explore the importance of hiring the right people for your company and throw in some tips to help you out.  

Why hiring the right people is important

As companies grow, it can be increasingly difficult to put enough focus on the hiring process. But if you let your search for talent dip, it can have serious consequences for the business.   

Financial implications

The numbers surrounding bad hires and their associated costs are quite startling. report from the Recruitment and Employment Federation found that 85% of HR decision-makers in UK businesses admit their organisation has made a bad hire, and that a worker with a salary of around £42,000 could cost a business more than £132,000.  

Where does this cost come from? You might have to pay for employee training if they turn out to be underqualifiedIf that doesn’t work, there are the costs associated with employee offboarding and onboarding if you need to start the process again 

A drain on employee morale

A workplace where every member of the organisation works in perfect harmony may be an idealistic one. Conflicts are bound to happen, but with the right people they won’t have a long-lasting negative impact. But bad hires can be a catalyst to a tense, disconnected and disengaged workplace. And spending time to correct the mistake of a bad hire can leave the rest of your team disheartened 

Decrease in productivity

If bad hires bring with them the potential to disengage the workforce, and it’s costing time and money to rectify their mistakes, you can be assured this will cause the productivity of workers and the overall business to fall 

Why do organisations hire the wrong people?

No company sets out with the intention of hiring the wrong person. We’ve identified the most common reasons companies don’t end up with the hire they intended, and how they can be avoided.  

• Hiring is outsourced

You shouldn't be outsourcing the hiring process to external recruiters. It can be tempting to, especially in large organizations, but recruiters don't know the personalities currently within your organization, or the ideal hire you have in mindWhile it does take more time to hire internally, you can see it as a time (and money) saver when you pit it against hiring the wrong person and having to restart the process.

If you feel like you have no other option but to outsource hiring, make sure you take the time to find recruiters that know your industry and understand the type of person you're looking for, as well as the role. 

• The pool of talent is too small

With uncertainty and instability around employment levels, it can make sense for companies to make their talent search quick and painless, fearing that the ‘best talent will get snapped up quickly. While candidates may not take long to find a new job, you should make sure your search is as broad as possible. Post on major job boards (online and offline) to attract as many potential candidates as possible, giving you the best chance to hire the right people for your company.  

• You exhibit a lack of patience

In the same vein as narrowing your talent search, not giving the process enough time can result in you taking someone who is not an ideal match for the role. Patience can be difficult principle to live by, especially if you feel like you need a new member of staff to start immediately. But you should give yourself as much time as possible to conduct the hiring process, so you can wait until the perfect hire finds you!  

5 hiring tips to employ the right people

Plus, what to look for when hiring someone. People are the most important aspect to the business. So, we thought it would be good idea to get some first-hand insight from the leaders that have made Fifty Five and Five what it is today. Here’s their most important advice to help you hire the right people 

1. Avoiding unconscious bias

Chris Wright – Founder, Fifty Five and Five

When decision-making, our brain tends to try and make shortcuts to make us take on less decisions. This is objectively a good thing, but there’s a negative side, too. This can cause an unconscious bias to hire ‘the same type of people’ because you know it’s worked in the past. In a diverse workplace, everyone brings a uniqueness, whether in terms of background, culture, life or work experiences, and so on. I think diversity is vital to valuing people as individuals, rather than a ‘group of workers’, which will help the business grow naturally.


2. Onboarding and offboarding is vital

Aidan Danaher - Account Director, Fifty Five and FiveAidan Danaher

Try and put yourself in the shoes of a new hire. It's your first day in a totally new environment with new people. It can be overwhelming, particularly if you’re trying a completely new or different role, even more so if it’s your first ever job! As an employer, you can’t assume that new employees will know exactly what you expect of them. So, you want to get on the same page as quickly and clearly as possible. The right onboarding process can help new hires feel welcome and help them integrate into the workplace. Formal induction programmes exude professionalism but are also a great way for new hires to get the lay of the land. Communication is of course the key in this – weekly reviews are important as the new hire gets the hang of their role and can be extended to bi-weekly, monthly, and so on as time progresses.


3. Cast as wide a net as possible

Stephen Reilly, Head of Content, Fifty Five and FiveStephen Reilly

The employees you hire are crucial to your success. But finding the right ones is not always easy. You need to consider skills and experience, obviously. Yet, I think personality is an even bigger factor in how successful a new hire will be. You can always teach the right person the ropes. And that right person will have a positive long-term effect on the rest of the business. Cast your net wide. Don’t rely strictly on experience written in a CV. Look for a mix of candidates. Talk to as many as time will allow. Advertising job openings on the major online job boards has worked well for us at Fifty Five and Five, as you can get a wide and varied selection of candidates to choose from. The challenge is narrowing those set of candidates down until you find the perfect fit. Create a shortlist based on specific criteria. Use the face-to-face interview as well as you can – meeting people is where you’ll get the best idea of whether a candidate is right for your company.


4. Look for a strong culture fit   

Sophie Pallott – Digital Marketing Manager, Fifty Five and Five

I’ve noticed throughout my career that employees who can identify with their company and are a good culture fit tend to experience heightened job satisfaction and bring more to the business. You can have the most qualified candidate out there, but if they don’t feel connected to the needs and values of your company then work and morale may suffer. This isn’t to say that everyone you hire should be the same, rather that you should look for individuals who fit naturally with the nuances of your business.


5. Understand assessment criteria for the role  

Barnaby Ellis - Head of Creative, Fifty Five and FiveBarnaby Ellis

The key to hiring the right people is in having assessment criteria for the role and then mapping candidates’ answers against it. This way, you will remain consistent in your approach and you can compare the performance and competence of a wide range of interviewees. What’s more, having an interview assessment form makes it easy to compare notes with colleagues who may have interviewed other candidates for the same role.

The biggest b2b digital marketing trends in 2020

The biggest B2B marketing trends for 2020

  • The trends for digital marketing in 2020
  • Getting up close with personalisation
  • New tech, new opportunities

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Like all industries, B2B digital marketing is constantly changing. Inbound marketing has become well established and won’t be going anywhere any time soon. But the way we create content, and the ways we aim to deliver better marketing are markedly different than they were even five years ago. Such is the nature of changing B2B marketing trends.

We’re currently in the midst of several important transformations, most of which are grounded in technological developments and changing SEO trends. In this blog, we discuss some of the most important current developments.

1. End-to-end personalisation

As technology gets smarter, so does marketing. Today, both B2B and B2C consumers increasingly expect the marketing material they consume to be personalised. Gone are the days when a simple template email would suffice.

Personalisation means that the content of marketing material is tailored to individual users, customised for their unique interests, activity and interactions with your organisation. You’ll notice we use the term ‘marketing material’ instead of email. As time passes, we’ll start to see personalised user experiences begin to influence a customer’s interaction with your company, at every stage of their journey from awareness to conversion, and the ongoing customer relationship from there onwards.

The most significant transformation in this field, however, comes with the ability to automate data analysis using AI and machine learning. Techniques like clustering and natural language processing (NLP) mean algorithms are getting increasingly sophisticated at analysing consumer data. And by learning more about the customer, we’re also discovering new and innovative ways to tailor marketing material more closely to their needs, tastes and preferences.

2. Long form content is on the up

In the digital world, there’s a long-held mantra that content should be short, immediate and to the point. After many years, this logic is starting to become a little more nuanced – and long form content is becoming more popular for marketers who are looking to achieve more with their SEO efforts. Content getting longer and more detailed is one of the clearest B2B marketing trends that we’re currently seeing.

The main reason for this is that it ranks well. Google has more recently come to favour long form content on the assumption that the information within it is more analytical, useful and valuable than its shorter counterparts.

When you publish long form content, you’ll likely experience very slightly different results to what you’re used to. The sheer length of the content is always likely to put off a certain type of reader – those that want quick answers to easy questions. But as marketers, these readers are generally less useful to us anyway. What you’ll be left with is a smaller, more focused group of readers with a genuine interest in your ideas, who are willing to make a time investment for valuable information.

But it’s not just Google that’s beginning to prefer long form content. Readers who feel buried under the weight of endless content are increasingly finding that long-form content is better researched, more analytic and more informative. Regardless of the time it takes to read, it’s far more likely to have value than something that’s shorter. Google likes it, readers like it – and B2B marketers are loving it.

3. AI drives new levels of customer experience

Powered by artificial intelligence, chatbots can be used to automate basic customer service requests, meaning customers can solve simple queries for themselves without having to speak to the business.

These have recently become quite prolific on B2B websites, but there’s every opportunity for the technology to develop and find new uses in the new year. So far, it’s been used as a tool to aid user experience and optimize customer service. In future, there’s potential for it to develop into a direct marketing tool.

Could artificial intelligence identify what marketing materials to direct the user to, based on their queries? Could it combine this with identity resolution technology, creating an increasingly pesonalised user experience? The possibilities for this new technology to revolutionise B2B marketing are vast.

4. Is gated content out?

Well, probably not quite yet. But steadily, B2B marketers are moving away from the old methods of locking valuable content behind a contact form and hoping customers take the bait.

With gated content, you can only ever see one side of the picture – the amount of people who filled in the form. What you’ll never see is the potential viewers who gave up on seeing the contact form. That’s why it’s so difficult to compare a gated vs purely inbound approach. Recently marketers have begun to realise that the lead form may not be their best friend. After all, how many of the people that even submit their contact details can be relied upon as genuine leads? How many can even be relied upon to give their contact details? When you start to look into it, you begin to realise the evidence in support of lead forms is at best shaky.

It’s a big leap in the dark to get rid of gated content. It’s a big shift in mindset to suddenly decide you’re going to give away valuable content for free now. But if you think about it – is that not the whole point of inbound marketing? Is this not what we’ve been doing with our blogs, social posts and website copy for years now? Our mantra as marketers has always been if we create something valuable then the leads will start to come in. It makes total sense that nowadays this rule is being applied to more content and marketing than ever before.

5. Voice-generated SEO

In the last few years, the rise of Siri, Alexa and Cortana has begun a fundamental revolution in online searches and SEO. More and more people are turning to voice searches as a simple and convenient way of answering their questions. Today, the effects on SEO are limited – but we’re certainly starting to see promising movements that it’ll affect the industry more and more in coming years.

Recently, Google rolled out the Speakable schema markup, which was the first sign that voice searches were beginning to make an impact on the SEO world. In essence, it allowed content creators to mark up or ‘nominate’ sections of their content that would be eligible for a response to a voice search. Typically, that means direct answers to specific queries, in a fairly succinct manner. After that, Google would use its own algorithms to choose how useful the ‘nominees’ were for the voice search. In practice, the whole thing looks and sounds a lot like getting a featured snippet.

Today, marking content up for voice searches is something that marketers can do to give a helpful boost to the right kind of content. It’s very much still in development. But with the direction of travel for voice-based technology, it’s almost certain that it’ll only continue to grow in importance over time.

The future of B2B marketing trends

These trends suggest that exciting prospects are ahead for B2B marketers over the coming years. But it’s only when the strengths of each emerging trend are combined into a broader inbound strategy that the real potential of the future begins to emerge.

Until now, the marketing material different people consume has been largely similar, with personalisation focusing more on the products and services they’re directed towards. The marketing of the future will increasingly use emerging technology to find out more about each potential customer, making the resultant marketing experience more detailed, more personal – and more effective. The question is – will you be making the most of it when it does?