Blog: Marketing Technology, Software and Services
Affiliate marketing might seem like a poor fit for high value Information Technology service and software providers. The term ‘affiliate’ usually brings to mind direct to consumer retail; pile-it-high, sell-it-cheap, voucher codes, intrusive banners, discount electronics, travel, slimming aids and the rest.
But take a closer look and there could be opportunities to apply techniques from this cut-throat world to promote your IT business, products and services.
The basic premise of online affiliate marketing is that you pay an affiliate for each sale (or sales lead) that results from a visitor to your website. You pay a commission for each lead, and give up a measure of control over the marketing techniques used. Often, affiliates run websites to attract potential customers, but they can also bring to bear the full range of digital marketing techniques including email and paid search.
Why should the IT industry consider affiliate programs?
Resource. For small and even mid-size IT companies, marketing budgets and resource are usually at a premium. A well-run affiliate program can be used to outsource selected marketing activities. You pay on results with little or no up-front investment.
Reach. Instant access to a pool of talent; tech-savvy digital marketers with experience of competitive industry sectors. This is turn can give you a presence on a much broader range of websites in terms of geography, demographics and target industry sector.
High value products and services. Luxury goods, travel and real estate are all sectors awash with affiliate programs. Why? Affiliate programs are usually commission based, with the affiliate taking a percentage of the sale. High value products are always going to be attractive to affiliates.
Dangers of Affiliate Marketing
None of this is to say that affiliate marketing is risk-free. One fear is that a poorly managed affiliate program will damage your brand, for example with email spam. I’d argue that this is less of a concern in our sector. Information technology services and products have a niche audience. Provided you pay on results (not visitors), damaging affiliate techniques – which are usually aimed at the general public – simply won’t work. That said, any affiliate program should be carefully managed with restrictions on exactly what techniques your affiliates may or may not use.
Affiliates in the Hosting Industry
There is of course one IT sector where affiliate marketing is a well worn (maybe too worn) path. The online marketing landscape for hosting providers is highly competitive, and merges into the direct to consumer market at the lower end. Affiliates have been used by hosting providers for years.
Affiliate Marketing for the IT Industry
So, if you work in the hosting industry, you no doubt know all this already.
However, if you are promoting more specialist IT products and services, then maybe it is time to give affiliate marketing a try!
Credibility And Trust
Case studies build credibility and trust. A good case study enables a prospect to step into the shoes of a satisfied client. They are one of the most passed around, discussed and referenced materials within IT decision-making teams.
There is nothing as powerful as having someone else ‘wax lyrical’ about your products and services. Forget anonymous product reviews and data sheets; what today’s IT decison-maker really wants is a personal recommendation from someone in a similar situation. According to a recent report from Nielsen Online (2009), personal recommendations are the most trusted form of advertising. Bar none. (http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/pr_global-study_07709.pdf).
The Case Study Puzzle
A case study is both a recommendation and a detailed account of what a company has delivered and performed for its customer. One effective technique is to do this in the form of a a puzzle which needs to be solved, rather than a mere description of events. This helps the reader to understand the problem and empathise with the decision maker. The reader sees clearly how the solution resolves the problem, perhaps even anticipating benefits before they are explicitly stated. I believe this makes the case study one of the most effective sales tools an IT company can use to build credibility.
Case studies come in a variety of formats. For print, I usually recommend a double-sided A4 page. This is well-suited for trade show handouts, direct mail inserts or supplemental pages to Web sites. It can also be used as sales collateral that can be emailed or faxed to hot prospects.
PR & Publicity
Case studies can also perform a key role within your PR and social media marketing campaigns. Many publications and media web sites prefer user stories and endorsements to direct self-promotion, which can be perceived as advertising. With an increased chance of coverage in the right publications, the profile of your organisation will be raised. Social media in the context of B2B IT companies should be approached with care. However, by careful targeting it is possible to create a buzz around your products and services.
Repurposing Case Studies
Case studies can be repurposed in a variety of ways:
- Core content for eflyers, newsletters, websites, award entries, and press releases
- Hook/opener in direct mail letters and eflyers
- Social media content in your corporate blog, twitter account or facebook page
- Podcast or webinar content
- Focus for a speaking opportunity pitch, which can even land opportunities to jointly present with the end customer
Regardless of how you repurpose case study content, the of promotion through your prospects are certain to find the actual real-world experiences both relevant and compelling.
To find out more about IT case studies go to www.itcasestudies.co.uk