8 Sales & Marketing Strategies for IoT Companies

Thorstein Nordby -
Illustration: © IoT For All

B2B buying has changed. The availability of quality information through digital channels has made it easier for prospective buyers to gather information independently. In fact, Gartner’s research finds that when B2B buyers are considering a purchase, they spend only 17% of that time meeting with potential suppliers. Simultaneously, the set of options and solutions is expanding as new technologies, suppliers, and products emerge. These dynamics make it increasingly difficult for customers to make purchases.

What does this mean for sales and marketing? Essentially, we must provide prospective buyers with information that’s specifically designed to help them complete their buying jobs. As buying jobs don’t happen sequentially, it will become increasingly important to make it easier for buyers to navigate the purchasing process.

This article introduces seven sales and marketing tactics for IoT companies who want to grow their business in 2021 and beyond.

Helping Buyers

The typical buying group for a complex B2B solution involves six to ten decision-makers. To understand how to best help customers advance through a complex purchase, Gartner identifies six B2B buying jobs that customers must complete to successfully finalize a purchase:

  • Problem identification
  • Solution exploration
  • Requirements building
  • Supplier selection
  • Validation
  • Consensus creation

B2B buying doesn’t play out in a predictable linear order. Instead, customers engage in what one might call «looping» across a typical B2B purchase, revisiting each of the six buying jobs at least once. The bouncing from one job to another means that buyers are likely to value businesses that make it easier for them to navigate the purchase process.

Therefore, we should provide customers with information that is specifically designed to help them complete their buying jobs. Unlike IT, there often isn’t a single buyer for IoT solutions. Therefore, companies selling IoT will need to offer much content, education, and nurturing to influence multiple decision-makers.

The B2B buying process has changed, and your marketing and sales strategy must too. Try these strategies:

Targeted Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

HubSpot defines account-based marketing as a focused growth strategy in which marketing and sales collaborate to create personalized buying experiences for a mutually-identified set of high-value accounts. There are several benefits associated with ABM.

The process allows you to align your marketing and sales teams from the get-go to promote long-term business growth, delight customers, and boost revenue. Why is account-based marketing particularly relevant for IoT companies?

Marketing and selling IoT can be complex, often involving a wide range of stakeholders with different needs and interests. The vast majority of companies don’t have a centralized organization, such as an IoT office, making the buying decisions for these solutions.

Therefore, to be successful, we need to educate and nurture multiple buying roles within a target company. We need to find ways to deliver unique, personalized messaging, and overcome obstacles. ABM is a great opportunity for IoT companies because it targets individuals or small groups specifically.

Leverage Co-Marketing Opportunities

Getting others to market your business isn’t a new concept, but surprisingly few do it actively. In a co-marketing partnership, companies promote a piece of content or product and share the promotion results. By leveraging a partner’s relationship and reach, co-marketing campaigns are designed to deliver more leads and buzz with less work.

Maybe you’re familiar with the Uber and Spotify co-marketing partnership? A couple of years ago, users hailing a ride on the Uber app received a special prompt to select a pre-made Spotify playlist for their trip. There was no new product involved, but together, their services offered value to the customer.

IoT companies should leverage co-marketing opportunities, as well. Are you aware of other vendors selling complementary services or solutions? Co-creation of webinars, guides, or articles could all serve well to enhance your brand. You could also strategically cross-promote on a partner’s email lists and social platforms. Co-marketing is a powerful referral generation tool and something that can be employed with minimal cost.

Build Bottom-of-the-Funnel (BoFu) Thought Leadership

Top-of-the-funnel (TOFU) content is commonly used as part of a content marketing strategy to target prospects in the awareness stage of their buyer’s journey. But at some point, you also need to explain why your company offers the best product or service.

Are you creating content that helps your sales team close deals? It’s striking how little we focus on creating and sharing bottom-of-the-funnel (BOFU) content. At the bottom of the funnel, leads are nearly ready to make a purchase decision.

They need some convincing of why your option is the best. Using content types such as case studies, product walk-through videos, and live demonstration webinars, you can show how your product or service solves specific pain points.

One key thing to remember is that even though you are trying to inspire a lead to convert, BOFU content should not be a direct sales pitch. You still want to prove that you’re here to help, not to sell.

Examples of content for the bottom of the funnel include case studies, testimonials, product demonstrations, live demonstrations, free trials and more.

Kill Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) and Invest More

For the last 10-15 years, marketers have followed the lead generation waterfall model promoted by HubSpot, Salesforce, and Marketo. Unfortunately, the MQL will drive poor results for your company; it will also give potential customers a bad experience and lead to your company’s negative perception.

Just think about some of the negative touch points a potential customer goes through with this model:

  • Seeing a “cold” ad on Facebook or LinkedIn, then get sent to a poorly optimized landing page with a long-form and horrible user experience (especially on mobile)
  • Having to fill out a long-form that redirects you to a generic PDF
  • Receiving a lead nurturing email over several weeks or more while being called by a salesperson within 1 hour, even if you just wanted the information in the offer.

While you might be successful with generating many contacts for your contact database (not actual leads with an intent to buy), it is likely not leading to increased revenue. If you observe how you buy products or services yourself, you probably do not buy due to the process described above. Buyers hate this process, and as a result, the lead generation waterfall has become less effective for companies trying to grow.

Instead of focusing on getting more downloads for an ebook, marketers should be optimizing for more sales opportunities and revenue. The remaining budget should be spent on building brand awareness and educational content

Drop the MQL as a KPI. Have both sales and marketing focus on KPIs close to revenue, such as a number of inbound opportunities, revenue from inbound channels, sales cycle length, and account coverage.

Distribute content with targeted advertising on Facebook and other advertising channels. A steady stream of content will build brand awareness and educate your target market, and it can be very cheap to reach a bigger audience quickly. Over time, your ideal customer will be ready to request a demo of your product without pushing them through a funnel.

Leverage Assignment Selling

Assignment selling is another marketing tactic suited for IoT companies. In a decentralized procurement environment for IoT solutions, you need to ensure that all departments and organizations understand your solution.

The purpose of assignment selling is to have prospects and leads work alongside you during the sales process. This proves they’re committed to finding a solution and allows you to move forward towards a solution together. As an added benefit, your sales team will spend less time answering the same questions over and over again. Sales conversations become more efficient and exist only with prospects that understand your offering.

The theory behind assignment selling posits that the more educated the prospect, the faster the sales process, and the higher the close rate. By involving IoT buyers in the sales process, you enable them to complete critical buying jobs, including solution exploration and consensus creation.

Create Great Product Videos

Data shows that 72% of people prefer to watch videos to learn about a new product or service. Now that visual content is more accessible to people than ever; it’s the perfect time to incorporate it into your marketing strategy. What kind of videos should you create? Well, it depends on your business objectives.

Brand videos, expert interviews, explainer videos and case studies have become increasingly popular in recent years. But have you considered creating a product video? We often tend to forget that our buyers sometimes don’t fully understand what we’re selling, and product videos can further explain what written specifications details and pricing cannot.

Additionally, using great product videos in the sales process can radically improve trust and revenue. A product video should explain why the product is relevant, how much it costs, and how and when to buy it. An IoT video should also include information that facilitates consensus creation, including getting everyone from IT to operations and engineering onboard.

Build Topic Clusters to Improve SEO

Building topic clusters has been a popular trend in blogging and SEO for quite some time now. If executed properly, topic clusters can be the catalyst that launches your website to the top of the search engine results pages.

Simply put, topic clusters are a collection of interlinked articles or pages around one umbrella topic. As a whole, these pages offer comprehensive coverage of a specific subject. Content that’s structured in this way that interlinks and is optimized to include relevant topic keywords will help search engines recognize that you are the authority on that particular topic.

Second, you can become a helpful resource connecting the reader with the most relevant sources on a topic. For example, this can be collections of articles on the most critical buying jobs of your prospective buyers. How do you get started? First, you need to identify a core topic, for example, artificial intelligence (AI). Next, identify relevant subtopics such as AIoT, and connect these through a series of hyperlinks. The Content Marketing Institute has published a useful guide on the subject.

Use Post-Click Automation to Maximize Conversions

According to WordStream, more than 96% of ad clicks do not convert. Why is this happening? Advertising targeting technology allows you to serve personalized ads to your audience. This helps maximize ad clicks.

But once a user clicks, and for you to maximize conversions, users deserve a matching post-click experience. Affecting the post-click experience are things like visual hierarchy, conversion ratio, retargeting, and message match. As marketers, we need to create post-click experiences, and post-click automation (PCA) enables us to maximize conversions by automating the post-click stage in the advertising funnel.

This is accomplished by delivering 1:1 personalized experiences at scale. How does it work? It’s like marketing automation, but instead of sending out emails to lists based on behavior, PCA makes it possible to deliver a unique post-click landing page experience to all of your audiences. By using post-click automation, you create a coherent experience for your prospects, leads, and customers.

Author
Thorstein Nordby - Managing director, Nettly

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Guest writers are IoT experts and enthusiasts interested in sharing their insights with the IoT industry through IoT For All. If you're interested in contributing to IoT For All, cli...
Guest writers are IoT experts and enthusiasts interested in sharing their insights with the IoT industry through IoT For All. If you're interested in contributing to IoT For All, cli...