By Corey Moss
Call them marketing pros, experts, mavens. However you identify them, they’re the people who work behind the scenes to make your company shine. They’re tasked with the day to day promotion of the company and their solutions, backing up the sales efforts and in general working morning through the evening delivering the message. Their efforts never stop, while everyone shuts down at the end of the day, their day continues on social media. And yes, they even work on the weekend whether required or not. I do a good bit of tweeting at night and on the weekend and lo and behold, I get favorites and retweets from many of those sitting behind the virtual marketing desk. I do a lot of posting to LinkedIn over the weekend as well, and there they are again posting case studies, articles and even commentary in groups. They do a wonderful job of keeping their companies in the public eye and with this, the company has a much better chance of prospering in its efforts.
Now there are some out there that are considered gurus, I even have my own (yes, she knows who she is). In this blog interview series, in four parts, you’ll be hearing from experts in the collaboration solutions field. In this first part, the three participants all give their views based on three questions that were posed to all of them. You will now hear their different perspectives on their marketing efforts.
My participants for this blog are:
CM: Tell us about your company’s marketing strategy and how you support these efforts.
MD: Everything we do is calculated to deliver greater value to our customers, consequently our over-arching strategy is to ensure that the StarLeaf cloud video conferencing and calling service and video endpoints continue to exceed user expectations and more importantly outperform all other competitive products and/or services. From a user experience point of view, we certainly have the wow factor on our side! However, in such a crowded market the only way to see the StarLeaf difference is to experience its ease-of-use, management and deployment first hand. To support this, marketing looks to reach end users, and talk to them directly through a variety of media, we do not want to explain why video is good for business, but why StarLeaf is the best business solution; covering off meeting rooms, desktops and mobility. At every stage our proof point is a free 30-day trial, http://www.starleaf.com/try-now. We also publish our product and service prices on our website, we are the first and only manufacturer to do this.
AL: Pexip is a relative newcomer to the Unified Communications industry, only being founded in 2012, and making its market appearance in June 2013. We announced our first product, Pexip Infinity, at InfoComm that same year, making it available on September 1. As such, we are just celebrating our anniversary this week!
Pexip is founded on the grand idea that we can change how people work and collaborate, and how they can do it more efficiently. Pexip overthrows conventional thinking in UC, taking a very direct IT-centric approach rather than the traditional AV and video based. The future of visual communications sits with IT departments and in the virtualized and distributed space, not in specific hardware or custom solutions. For the enterprise, it is interoperability, cost of entry and usability that are key to adoption rates of visual communications. At the heart of it all is simplicity. Simple to use, simple to manage, and simple to understand. If it is not made available to the user in a simple and useable manner, adoption rates will not increase exponentially, like that we have seen with smart phones or tablets.
We believe very strongly in value generation in our marketing. In that, creating content that has value to the user and customer, a strict informational approach. If the customer does not see value in what we provide of information, he or she may well look elsewhere. The simple part with value is – don’t talk about yourself. Talk about what you solve for your reader, why would he even bother reading it? We are always asking the “so what?” question when we create. “What’s in it for me?” Unless the reader sees answers – and recognizes them quickly, he will not read any further, and we will not be able to tell our story.
PB: We made a choice early on at Zoom to focus on early adopters of technology as our primary strategy – getting them to try the product and then spread the word. To gain these early adopters we have used a variety of methods. First we focused on “word-of-experience” marketing. I’m sure you’ve heard of word-of-mouth, well this is a twist on that. Zoom allows up to 25 participants to meet for free. We know our solution is solid enough that anyone who tries it will love the experience and want to share it with others. We also emphasize strategic partnering. We partner with many companies to offer the best experiences for our customers. If customers need single sign-on or wants help choosing a camera or speakerphone, we’ve got that covered through our partners. We cooperate with our partners on various marketing activities such as press releases, blog posts, webinars, and tradeshows. Our partners often love Zoom themselves and end up using us with their own customers. We put a lot of effort into our social media. This is where we distribute our content, connect directly with our users, and hear feedback (which we push directly to our engineers).
Finally, we showcase our product live. Anyone can say “we have the best video” or “we are the easiest and most intuitive platform,” but when that’s actually true – as it is with Zoom – it makes sense to get in front of people with the product and let them try it for themselves. Unlike traditional vendors who spend thousands on souped-up booths and pre-recorded marketing videos, we rent a basic booth where we show our solution live in HD and invite anyone join on-the-fly. We’ve also been doing webinars to showcase our new product – Zoom Video Webinar. Again, people won’t really know how it’s different until they get on to the webinar and see it for themselves.
CM: How do you implement the approach for the company and how does supporting marketing (i.e. brochures, whitepapers, blogs) and social media play into this strategy?
MD: As we continue to grow and our momentum accelerates, brand visibility and SEO (search engine optimization) remain top of mind. Yet I come back to the fact that this is an increasingly crowded market and there is a need to help potential buyers understand vagaries and avoid any pitfalls, when they are looking for the right solution for their business. We aim to be very transparent and use social media, white papers, blogs and our own website to clarify what’s on offer and how we compare. With these tools we talk to the non-technical end user, where our message resonates around the need for video to be as easy to use as a smartphone and that with StarLeaf they can reach anyone on any other system. On the flip side, we use the same tools to connect with the technical buyer, here we go to great lengths to explain the benefits of the StarLeaf Cloud and how it replaces the need for costly and complex network infrastructure, and we also choose these methods to address issues such as privacy, security, interoperability and ease of administration.
AL: Being a start-up company, we do not have the huge marketing budgets of some of the competition. As such, we are unable to engage in large costly awareness campaigns, but rather try to generate value through content, creating the right “buzz” in the channels available to us, such as earned and owned media. In this, some social channels play a larger role than others. We like to challenge, and we like to provide topics of general advice and broader interest – not only talk about our own product all the time. We like to listen to the customer and provide solutions, rather than “only product”.
It is important to Pexip to gain 3rd party objective recognition. The value of this cannot be overstated. One way we gain this through constantly engaging with opinion and thought leaders, individuals that see overall trends and directions, and are not limited by their own opinion, knowledge or vendor connections.
PB: Much of our content marketing revolves around our blog (http://blog.zoom.us). That is our primary tool for letting our users know what’s happening at Zoom (new partnerships, tradeshows, webinars, and new version releases) and helping them get the most out of our product (such as spotlighting features they may not be using yet). We also produce case studies, videos, and other content that gets cycled through our blog. We bring people to all of this content mostly through our social media channels. This way, a piece of content like a case study, has many lives on our website, our blog, social media, and even as an article if we can attract the attention of the press.
CM: Can you give some advice to all of the marketing professionals working for AV solutions providers and integrators as to a strategic marketing and social media approach?
MD: For decades marketers have relied upon capturing vast quantities of personal data and then repeatedly sending out promotional marketing blurb. Those days are over! The only way to captivate your target audience is to engage with them on a much broader basis. That’s why in today’s marketing mix, CONTENT IS KING, getting it out there, making it informative, and ensuring it’s consistent, will pay dividends. Content is the key to visibility, builds awareness, keeps you positioned and top of mind, aids SEO and delivers the platform to acquire new customers and communicate with existing ones. Of course, any content marketing strategy needs to be aligned with the overall business strategy and marketing mix. We have a growing community across Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook and for more information check out http://www.starleaf.com
AL: The first word of advice would be to not think and talk about yourself. The reader is not interested in you. He is interested in him or herself, and his or her challenges and problems. Not you or your product. If you can convincingly tell them that you can help with that, and solve their problems, you are on the path to something good. Furthermore, look outside your own comfort zone. Solutions to problems customers have may be right in front of you, but not readily visible. Pexip has such a solution that seems odd to some AV integrators, simply because it is outside the traditional scope of AV. This is where the AV/IT convergence comes in. AV integrators must widen their perspectives and see that IT is coming on strongly in their space – and there’s no stopping it. So start looking at slightly different approaches, target customers and buyer persona. You may not see the forest for the trees…
PB: Sometimes people just don’t get the idea of a social media marketing job, like how hard could it be to Tweet? In truth, doing social media for your company effectively takes a lot of time and effort. You need to use the optimal #’s and @’s to help your tweets find the right audience. You need to monitor all of your accounts for customer feedback and respond promptly. You need to create and share images, which are more eye-catching than text on most social media. Social media shouldn’t be an afterthought; work at it every day. Don’t underestimate the power of partners. You can double your audience simply by reaching their customers. Get the most out of your content. Repurpose it in every way you can think of (as discussed in question 2).
There you have it, the information that these companies consider to be near gold, the efforts managed by those tasked to put forth the message on a day to day basis. While the company sales team goes out to visit partners and end users, they pack this information to disseminate to them. What happens without your marketing team to back the efforts? I think that’s an easy answer…