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Time to check if your marketing to retailers is working

Chris Field
Chris Field

You know the old joke about marketing – I know half of it is working, I just don’t know which half. Well maybe the other half isn’t working either. In marketing, you have to test your own (and your agency’s) assumptions from time to time. And you’re not always going to like the answers, as our recent piece of research shows. But it’s well worth the investment. 

We asked 12 retailers and brands about their tech buying journey. They were all CXO, a mix of IT, marketing, operations and HR. Now, a straw poll of 12 people isn’t going to hold up in court, but there were enough elements common to most that suggests some things need fixing.

The good news is, they are all things that can be fixed easily, although it will need someone to crack the whip to ensure compliance. (I hope it’s clear to everyone that cracking the whip is a metaphor.)

Marketing assets in a mess

Tech companies are not very good at building customer journeys, which is ironic as so much of the tech they sell is based on understanding and easing the customer journey. They show up with marketing material in all sorts of different places, but the moment that the buyer decides to go on that journey, it can be very hard to navigate and the retailers we spoke to said that they usually ended up having to do most of the work themselves.

Difficulties with basic comms

The real crime was, when they were actually ready to reach out and have a conversation with someone, in most cases, no one actually called them back. Those companies that did respond generally appointed a very low-level executive to the task, and in every single case, these individuals knew little or nothing about the retailer’s organisation or seemed to not really understand the nature of the enquiry. Their excuse was that they were really only a handling resource in order to track down the right person. These call handlers were helpful and polite but again, the retailers complained that they had to do too much of the work before a capable salesperson got in touch.

Focus on the easy fixes first

So, in short, tech companies kill to get inbound enquiries but are not managing them well when they actually arrive. That surely is an easy one to fix.

Another area we looked at, because it is so close to what we do at Fieldworks, is about how companies talk about themselves and communicate that. It is clear that most tech companies are falling over themselves to try to express the value of what they do, by talking about how they make things better in the world, by talking about the mission that they are on; but according to the retailers we spoke to, they often fail because the language they use and the sentences that they construct are impenetrable, certainly opaque but sadly in many cases are simply a repeat of what everyone else is saying, with the result that they are completely forgettable.

Address the lack of depth

And so, retailers look for validation for the solutions they are reviewing – testimonials, references, case studies, awards – and although most vendors feature logos on their websites, the retailers said that there was a distinct lack of depth.

Most technology companies have invested significantly in specific areas of marketing – created amazing looking websites, videos, got senior executives speaking at major tradeshows, and lots of other positives, but they often fail to deliver on the basics, namely the logistics of managing the buyer journey.

And with so much competition and an associated fall in differentiation, it is more important than ever for vendors to manage all the elements of that journey.

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