Our five marketing themes at ITQ
Now, I did not study marketing, but I try to read about it and understand it as much as possible. I created this blog to share our experience with anyone interested, because at ITQ we believe in knowledge sharing: we think power is gained by sharing knowledge, not hoarding it. My co-writer Bertwin has no marketing background as well. But. That is why we are not bothered by existing conventions and are open-minded about everything. We think more creatively and out-of-the-box. And, we do have some common sense 😊
So, if you are looking for content with substantiation, theories etc., then please stop reading. But, if you want to know how we use five principles when marketing our services, then I am curious about your opinion after reading: our theory and practice change on a regular basis and is influenced by our own experiences and opinions of others as well.
Let me briefly introduce ITQ. We are an IT-Consulting firm focusing on consultancy and professional services around the complete VMware-product portfolio with a strong focus on Product Leadership. Our “WHY” is “With our passion for IT, we enable our customers to accelerate through agility”. We have always been driven to deliver the most innovative IT solutions and infrastructure. Today, we have a team of 75 handpicked, passionate IT professionals and we are a fully independent business offering the best advice to our clients. Do you want to know more about ITQ; please visit our website.
Before I tell you about our five principles, I first want to tell you about the goals of ITQ marketing. Oh. By the way: our marketing team is relatively small!
First of all, marketing at ITQ is responsible for generating qualified leads and (qualified) opportunities that will generate additional business. A percentage of the qualified leads are converted into qualified opportunities. In turn, a percentage of the opportunities is converted into deals.
The second justification for ITQ marketing is to brand the ITQ name and to make “ITQ” as widely known as possible with the right brand image towards customers, (potential) employees, partners and vendors.
So. The goals are pretty straightforward. Only two: lead generation and brand awareness; how hard can it be? 😉Actually, we do a lot more, but these tasks are the core of our activities.
As said, ITQ is a Services Organization and we have to conduct marketing as such. This has specific characteristics, because we do not sell anything tangible (compared to products, as other companies do). That is why we need a specific marketing approach. How did we find out we need such an approach, you ask? Well, we got wise by trial and error: we consulted several marketing companies over the years and challenged them to market our knowledge-based propositions and services. Several of them found this challenging. Also, we want to stay away from generic statements like “being the best”, “we make a difference”, “we are faster, better, etc.”: none of that helps. These are claims based on nothing and you have to prove them: we have only our name and reputation to show for us.
That's why we started further investigations. We experimented for quite some time (still are actually) and we found several best practices, based on our experiences and also some theoretical models. Now, we have an approach based on five themes we call the 5 “Services Organization Themes”. All our marketing content is created with these themes in mind. I will explain them one by one.
Marketing for Services Organizations is all about being outcome focused and indicating final results. We want our customers to imagine how their life (business) will get better after they have started working with us and we endlessly list benefits of our services to customers. Therefore, we focus on the "end state": what will be ready when the project will be finished? Which problems are going to be solved? What will be possible then, which isn’t possible now? We were inspired by the 5S model of Pivotal. We execute our projects and evaluate whether they were successful; if so, we create reference cases. We highlight customer benefits with concrete and tangible examples. We indicate their current situation and what it may be like in the future. This mostly holds a promise where we believe in: we want to help our customers achieve their business goals and stand out in the market they operate in. To sketch the end state even clearer, it may be important to do this in a virtual, branch situation describing different realistic scenarios and outcomes.
We really believe in storytelling. Because of what a customer buys from us is not tangible, we try to create an image that appeals and is understandable, approachable. This means we describe practical examples. An example of this, is “VDI by Day, Compute by Night” where data center resources are used for operating a digital workspace environment during the day and rendering investment data of scientists during the night, thus making optimal use of the infrastructure. Read this article of Pat Gelsinger for more information or take a look at this presentation held by our own Johan van Amersfoort at last years’ NLVMUG. It is an example of what customers can do in the future and what they could not do in the past and present. Furthermore, it is important to tell what problems were solved, so we provide evidence of our ability and insight. This is where reference cases and testimonials play a vital part: it's stories like these, that appeal to customers and are proof of our capabilities. One other important thing when telling stories: make sure your message is true and authentic, because if anything is less than true, stories will back-fire immediately. Also, the tone of voice and level of the stories is a challenge: we have a pitfall of getting too technical, where we really should be focusing on “what’s in it for me?” for customers.
ITQ solves complex IT issues from strategy to execution. To that end, we market high-end, and often expensive services. So, we have to constantly pay attention to (potential) clients and tell why their investment in ITQ provides the right value for their money. This means you have to understand our message has to do its work before a client has found us, but also during an engagement and afterwards. Therefore, we give our customers permanent attention and it is important to realize, people are not going to buy something based on a one-time ad or because they have read an onepager. That's the same thing as asking someone to marry you after a first date; you just don’t do that 😉 This is why we have a touchpoints strategy. During these touchpoint moments you present yourself to (potential) customers with content, ideas, presentations, etc. Customers usually make decisions after 7 to 12 contact moments. Our touchpoint strategy differentiates contacts based on cold, warm and hot. We start with customers at a level they don't know about our existence (cold), up to a warm and close ‘friend’ they consider a trusted advisor (hot). The touch points are tailored in terms of frequency, value, intensity and change when the relationship with our customer changes. Also, it is a close collaboration between Marketing and Sales; this is why it is one department at ITQ and they cooperate seamlessly.
Once you start with the execution of your strategy, marketing is following a process: execute, monitor, follow up, repeat, evaluate, adjust, etc. Every marketing initiative, from a single social to an entire campaign is going through a small of large(r) journey: every step adds to the visibility of a message and creates touchpoints with your audience. You must systematically address the execution of marketing and embed it in your organization. Everyone in the organization participates: we all perform marketing and sales activities and the Marketing & Sales department is not an island within ITQ. I think it is important to report that this must also fit with your company philosophy. But, as previously written: this is our way of dealing with marketing.
You don't have to be present everywhere as a company. Your customers aren't everywhere either; they do specific things and you have to be there to get noticed. Ignore the rest of the environments, avoid distractions and stay focused. Research your potential customers and find out which platforms they are active on. We believe you should spend time on this. For example: why would you advertise on Facebook, if your customers are primarily active on LinkedIn? As such, we measure various KPI’s like clicks on (paid) ads, webpages, socials, newsletters, etc.: we research the data and adjust our content and strategy to achieve the best exposure of our message to the right target audience. Also, we ask for feedback through surveys and find out what our customers think of our message, tone of voice and visuals.
So. There you have it. Five principles we adhere to. They form a circle around the core. First, monitor everything you do. Every campaign, social, you name it. You only know if something works when you monitor it. Another thing is that you have to continuously learn and adjust your strategy. That applies to our themes, but also to the content, channels, target audience, etc.
Remember from the beginning: we are not marketeers. This is our vision of marketing for a service organization. Obviously, this is not our whole plan and our marketing ideas go way further: I just wanted to give an insight to WHAT we are doing, and I realize this does say little about HOW we are doing it. The length of this blog is a bit limited to maintain readability and whether we are going to deepen things, depends a bit on the comments. Please let me know, if this is useful for sharing or not. If so, we can go into depth per theme and maybe write some blogs about how we approach marketing campaigns, or how we have turned marketing into a machine in addition to the creative part. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I want to express special thanks to Ron Grevink (@RonGrevink) for proofreading this blog and providing me with professional feedback.