The top 10 content trends marketers in IT services need to know
By Pete Winter

The top 10 content trends marketers in IT services need to know

Content is king, but knowing what to produce, and what to do with it, is what will keep it upon its throne”, says Ian Heathcook, commerical and marketing director at Griffiths Waite.

At Griffiths Waite, we have a very specific range of clients we want to target. We work predominantly with large insurance and finance firms, and when we’re looking to take on new projects, we’ve got a pretty good idea of who could benefit from our services.

However, simply knowing your key audiences isn’t enough. The IT services sector has never been more competitive, so it’s vital to know how to give added value throughout the customer journey, and how to stand out in such a crowded marketplace.

Much of our focus is on creating the right content to appeal to our B2B customers, but the tips here will be applicable to nearly every marketer. Content is king, but knowing what to produce, and what to do with it, is what will keep it upon its throne.

1. Always quality over quantity

This should be a marketing essential for every company with their salt, but it’s always worth re-establishing that quality is superior to quantity. Spending millions on an advertising campaign might make more people aware of your brand, but there’s no guarantee any of them will become a client. However, by producing quality work time and again and working with quality content marketers, and by consistently going above and beyond to give added value, you’ll gain a positive reputation amongst people that can help your business to thrive.

This is something we already strive to do, and it’s only going to be more essential going forward. Some companies promise the world before they’ve actually established whether what they’ve proposed will be possible, and we never want to do that, even if it means sometimes losing out on a project. By being entirely honest about what is viable, and delivering value throughout each stage of a project’s life, we’re marketing our capabilities simply by doing a good job. In the long-term, that’s what leads to success.

2. Everything is marketing

I take the opinion that marketing is far more than advertising products or services via an email, newsletter or some other content-driven campaign. These things are, of course, important, but any piece of content needs to be based on the work we can deliver. Absolutely everything we do should be considered part of our overall marketing mix.

However, we don’t want to just market our services; we market Griffiths Waite as a company with employees that care about what they do. I also think it’s important to show clients why they should work with us, rather than tell them. If we do a project well, then we’re marketing ourselves to that particular client. If we then use that project for a case study, that’s additional marketing content. If we come up with an interesting concept in a tender, that’s also marketing our services. If we build a good relationship with someone, that’s another form of marketing. It’s all about taking pride in what we do, making a good impression, and getting people to associate the Griffiths Waite name with positive connotations.

3. Take a targeted approach

This might sound obvious, but it’s still incredibly important to effectively target the right people. The work we do is quite specific, which means we have to market our services to very particular audiences; there’s no value in doing a blanket email shot to thousands of people, because we know it is incredibly unlikely to lead anywhere. Instead, we take time to understand the people within an organisation that we need to entice, and then consider how exactly we should go about doing it.

With regard to the companies we work with, there are only a few that fit the bill. However, within those companies, the content we produce — be that how-to documents, case studies, Q&A pages, or articles — needs to resonate with a range of people, all of whom will have slightly different remits. That means understanding specific pain points and challenges, and then presenting our content in the most appropriate manner. Would it be best to present content in a video, for example? Should a product summary include technical language, or would it be more beneficial to use simple terms? Is there a case study that is particularly pertinent?

The more accurate we can be when it comes to communicating the right messages to the right people, the better our chances of convincing a client that we are the right people to work with.

4. Find the balance between what the consumer thinks they need, and what they actually need

This can sometimes be tricky to navigate, but it’s important that the client ends up getting what they need, rather than what they think they need. Often we find that the client has a very firm understanding of a problem or limitation, but aren’t as clear when it comes to figuring out exactly what improvements are required. Sometimes a client will have a vague idea, while another may have a more detailed project outline.

It’s our job to come in and develop an appropriate solution, and that means understanding the current issues, listening to concerns, working out what needs to be done, and communicating all findings and outcomes to the client. Sometimes that will mean convincing the client that one method or route is better than another, even if the option is more costly or more time-consuming. Being able to convey this sort of information in an unambiguous and convincing way is crucial to ensuring a project gets off on the right foot.

We’ve been hired because a client needs our expertise, but we can only achieve the best results by working closely with the client, setting expectations, and making them feel at ease throughout the process. A lot of the projects we work on can take a couple of years to properly implement, and so we try to establish a relationship that is akin to a partnership. We are all working towards the same goals, and so it makes sense that we operate in as cohesive a manner as possible. We don’t come in and ride roughshod over a client’s ideas just for hell of it; we want to give them the best solution possible, because that it what will make them want to work with us again in the future. In this regard, the relationship we build it our marketing.

5. Showcase expertise

This is central to everything we do. We want to ensure every project we take on, and every liaison we have with an external party, paints Griffiths Waite in the best possible light.

I think it’s also important to go out and actively showcase expertise by doing things such as speaking at events, and being featured in publications that are read by our key audiences. Being proactive is incredibly important when it comes to staying ahead of the curve.

It’s only possible to properly showcase expertise in this manner if the individuals that represent to company are both passionate and knowledgeable. Trends and developments in the IT space occur on an almost daily basis, and keeping on top of everything isn’t easy. Luckily, we have a few people who absolutely live and breathe the industry, and can’t wait to get on a stage and discuss what we do, or debate how organisations such as ours will evolve in the coming years.

However, it’s also essential that we don’t stretch ourselves too thin. The people that go to speak at events are essential to keeping the company operating efficiently, and so we are careful to assess each event before agreeing to speak at it. Basically, we need to ensure that we can justify taking one of our senior management members out of the office for the day. If there’s the opportunity to entice a client we’ve been looking at for a while, we’ll usually give it the green light.

We’ve found that speaking at events is a fantastic way of not only giving potential clients a better understanding of who we are, but of making our brand more visible. And, the more people that know what we do, the better.

6. Ensure content is relevant and consistent

There’s often a thin line that separates the content you want to write, and the content your audience wants to consume. This goes back to understanding your audience, and giving them exactly what they need, precisely when they need it.

Sometimes it can be difficult to know exactly what people need to hear, so why not ask them? Use social media, or have a quick chat on the phone. Get to know your clients, understand their challenges and pain points, and you’ll be better positioned to give them something valuable.

This also works when deciding how to reach people. What content do they like to consume, how often do they tend to consume it, and what channels do they prefer? It’s also worth researching what competitor organisations are pushing out, because not only will this give you an idea of what is topical, but it will show you where content gaps are that you can exploit.

7. Appeal to employees, future and present

When somebody talks about marketing, they normally associate it with selling products. However, marketing is also one of the best ways to appeal to future employees. We take recruitment very seriously, and we’ve found that being able to successfully market our brand is key to bringing on board the best talent.

Of course, you need the right foundations. We have developed a company culture that we’re very proud of, and we value work-life balance. We don’t want people coming in tired because they worked 14 hours the previous day, or to wake up on Monday morning dreading heading into the office. It’s in everyone’s best interests to have a work environment that is happy, supportive, and productive.

As a business, we have to be able to give candidates the working environment they’re looking for. We also have to be able to tell people how we can help them progress and develop their skills, so we make that clear from the outset.

If there’s an issue, we want people to raise it with us, and that will generally only happen if trust has been established. It’s far better to have an employee be comfortable discussing problems with the company, rather than having good people leave and work for a competitor. Building a positive employee-employer relationship begins at the first meeting, and remains a priority throughout our association.

We also take the time to visit universities and engage with students that are considering working in IT services when they graduate. We have competitors that are much larger, and therefore far more recognisable, so we stand out by taking a personalised approach. We speak to them about how we can help them progress and develop, and let them know that if they want more responsibility, that option is available. We make certain to be open and transparent, because that’s how we want employees and candidates to be with us.

8. Utilize partner organizations

We work very closely with Oracle, and that partnership has given us access to clients that perhaps we wouldn’t have been able to reach otherwise. Oracle has a huge reach and a lot of influence, and by constantly delivering good work on time and on budget, we have been able to position ourselves as a preferred supplier. So, when Oracle comes across an organisation that requires a project that we have the capacity to deliver, we’ll very often be first in line. Again, all of this comes back to choosing quality over quantity; the better the work we deliver, the more positive our reputation becomes, and the more likely we are to be recommended to prospective clients.

9. Stay in everyone’s good books

I can’t overstate the importance of this enough. There’s no sense in falling out with people, or taking something to heart if there’s a disagreement or difference of opinion. You never know when an organisation is going to need a product or service that you offer, so do all you can to remain on good terms with everyone. The last thing you want is for your organisation, or the people that represent it, to get a reputation for being abrasive, argumentative or unhelpful. This is marketing your business without actually doing anything. By being nice, and not making enemies, you’re ensuring that you’ll always remain an option for potential clients.

10. Build sturdy relationships

We tend to work with only one or two major clients at a time, and so it’s absolutely vital that we can build strong relationships based on foundations of trust and respect. Of course, our primary ambition is to give the client the very best service and support as possible, but we’re also very aware that by creating an association that is valued, we’re in pole position to be hired for future work with the same client. As I stated earlier, we have found that one of the most efficient ways to market ourselves is simply by doing our job well.

Though some of our competitors are bigger and perhaps more recognisable, we have the mentality that by focusing on building strong relationships with all clients, and by actually taking the time to get to know who we’re working with, and letting them get to know us, we’re able to give clients a bespoke service they couldn’t get elsewhere.

Want to find out what other marketing leaders think about the future of content? Read The Future of Content Marketing: 10 interviews with leading CMOs on the trends they’re using to disrupt in 2019.

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