7 Deadly Sins of MadTech Marketing 

It may be obvious, but most MadTech companies don’t market, they do lead generation and demand generation and call it marketing.

There are many reasons for this:

  • Most MadTech founders are engineers and don’t like the squishy metrics of marketing
  • The prospect list is limited and often known, so why do a big marketing campaign when there are only 500~1,000 prospects? Let’s go sell them!
  • Brands are viewed as unimportant in MadTech, so why invest?
    • Maybe they are unimportant since most have names that sound alike and almost all use the same language including “optimize,  reach your audience, performance, unified, programmatic,” etc.
  • Budgets for start-ups and young companies are limited, so better to invest in a feature/function that a prospect or customer has requested
  • Most digital advertising is focussed on performance, so it is what we know
  • MadTech products are impossible to differentiate through marketing because they require a presentation or demonstration to understand.

These are all valid reasons. So what to do? First, what do MadTech companies do? They spend their “marketing” budgets on:

  1. Hiring sales people who have a great “list”
  2. Attending trade shows and conferences
  3. Sponsoring trade shows and conferences
  4. Email campaigns
  5. Running ads in industry publications
  6. Running ads on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter
  7. Spitting out some content

 

DO THESE IDEAS WORK?

Hiring sales people who have a great “list”.

There is no doubt that a great sales person is worth their weight in gold.  And a great salesperson not only has a great list, but also understands how to talk about the technology itself (they may not understand how it does what it does, but they are able to describe the benefits in language a prospect can digest).

It is also true that great sales people are few and far between.  The model of converting a media sales person to MadTech sales person is littered with great lists and no sales. So, most companies play salesperson roulette, swapping the same 300 people (thanks Andrew Kraft), in and out, and paying ever hirer prices.

Alternatively, companies are beginning to hire from outside the industry or people simply interested in tech and starting to invest in training them. This works, but takes time.

Attending trade shows and conferences.

These range from awesome to awful.  From one year to the next the same conference can differ vastly, or simply be picked over, but attending trades shows and conferences works.  The right ones are target rich environments and people are there to meet, network, and do business.

The emerging challenges with trade shows and conferences include:

  • Real prospects, brands, agencies, publishers, are becoming like gazelles on the prairie, they blend in well and travel in herds to protect themselves from technology vendors quietly stalking them.  When separated, they tend to be bounced on by predators from all sides.
  • There seems to be an industry conference almost every day, so deciding what to attend is challenging.
  • Content tends to be broad and shallow.  The people who most benefit from the “content” are end users (brands, agencies, and publishers) and, as noted above, are hesitant to attend.
  • Content is often “pay to play.” Who needs to hears another pitch?

But, to reiterate, conferences work!  People are there to learn and do business. It’s just picking the right ones.

Email campaigns

Email marketing works, if you have a good list, are careful and treat your recipients with respect.

The problem is, few MadTech companies are very good at email marketing.  They track their open rates but not their ROI.  They fail to customize content, and much of their content is overly self-serving.  Also, MadTech companies tend to think in shorter terms. As mentioned in a previous post, the most important factors to email marketing are:

  1. Play the long game. Build a relationship.
  2. Don’t buy lists, build them. Find real people with real connections to your brand.
  3. Humans + Automation is the most powerful combination. It’s not one or the other.
  4. Relevance is critical.

Running ads in industry publications

We all know who raised a fresh round of financing, not by reading Crunchbase, but by reading Digiday, AdExchangerMediaPost, etc.  We know because their ads cover the pages for a couple of weeks.  Other companies use these channels as part of an ongoing branding strategy.  I have done the same myself, with Maxifier, Upfront Digital Media (formerly Legolas Media), Adomik, and many companies on whose boards I sat.  It is hard to know whether this worked.

These campaigns clearly help communicate the companies’ existence. But most of the readers are inside the MadTech echo chamber, so the advertising may work to sell to agencies and publishers, but probably not to brands we are also desperately trying to reach.  Given the industry we are in, it is surprising there is not more online advertising.  Part of the problem is that these campaigns tend to be short-lived and to focus on a feature function approach, not a problem solution.  Any brand manager worth their salt will identify key attributes they want their company to stand for and reinforce those attributes over many years.

 

Running ads on LinkedIn (Facebook, Twitter)

These promoted posts and native ad units clearly work for many companies.

While these data cross all industries, when selling B2B, the ability to target finely in these channels is clearly effective.  The key once again is to invest in these strategies over an extended period of time, which is difficult in an ecosystem that seems to changes every six months.

Spitting out some content

Content works.  Thought leadership REALLY works. However, for content to work it has to serve the interest of the reader not the author.  Most content is glorified sales pitches wrapped up in article.

A 2016 study by The Economist Group and Hill+Knowlton Strategies reported:

The qualities executives most associate with compelling thought leadership are

  • Innovative 40%
  • Big Picture 36%
  • Transformative 36%
  • Credible 35%

The qualities executives associate with unimpressive thought leadership are

  • Superficial 34%
  • Sales driven 31%
  • Biased 28%

Credibility is based on the quality of research, not the brand; nearly half of executives would consider a new source of content if it were a “source of hard facts”

  • Quality or nature of research analysis 55%
  • Credible data 55%
  • Expert opinion 33%
  • Evident or declared interest by the provider 14%
  • Secondary data validation 13%
  • The brand plays an active role 7%
  • The media / public profile of the provider 5%
  • No branding at all 3%
  • Other, please specify 1%
  • I do not trust thought leadership 1%

Much of the content written by MadTech companies is poorly thought out, and driven by the desire to quickly stand out in the market.  It so often rarely does, that people often blame the medium instead of the message.  We all know that the world has changed and we are competing for attention.  Consumers, whether trying to pick a movie or purchase  a $1 million piece of software, are selecting what they choose to consume, pulling that information to their screen, and quickly engaging or passing based upon their perception of the quality, credibility, and insight.

Buyers are also increasing influenced by high quality content.  The study by The Economist Group and Hill+Knowlton Strategies further reported:

76% of senior executives are influenced in their purchasing decisions

67% would be willing to advocate for that brand or organization externally

83% would be influenced in their choice of business partner

 

So, in summary.  MadTech marketing is confused.  It is most driven by demand-  and lead generation, not traditional marketing, and almost never brand building. Many of these decisions are logical and make sense given the different pressures in the MadTech ecosystem.  All 7 of typical responses:

  1. Hiring sales people who have a great “list”
  2. Attending trade shows and conferences
  3. Sponsoring trade shows and conferences
  4. Email campaigns
  5. Run ads in the industry publications
  6. Run ads on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter
  7. Spitting out some content

All these methods can and do work.  Some maybe better than others, but the strategy to employ is often driven by the stage of the company and the maturity of the team.

However, the world is changing.  Success and consolidation have forced many companies to change their strategies. The young and new technologies will continue to be driven by the feature/function, and marketed based upon delivering the next key event in the company’s life. But many of what were “new” tech segments of 3~5 years ago are now established.  Think of the key technologies that were exploding on the scene: SSPs, exchanges, DSPs, DMPs, video, cross-device, etc.  These have all become established parts of the ecosystem, with multiple companies generating hundreds of millions of dollars of business (some much more).  It is now time for these companies to slow down in order to succeed in the next round of growth.

So, in summary.  MadTech marketing is confused.  It is most driven by demand- or lead generation, not traditional marketing, and almost never brand building.  Many of these decisions are logical and make sense given the different pressures in the MadTech ecosystem.  All seven typical responses…

  1. Hiring sales people who have a great “list”
  2. Attending trade shows and conferences
  3. Sponsoring trade shows and conferences
  4. Email campaigns
  5. Running ads in industry publications
  6. Running ads on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter
  7. Spitting out some content

… can and do work.

Author: Jonathon Shaevitz

Jonathon Shaevitz is the CEO of Industry Index.

Posted in Thought-leadership.