5 Common Mistakes ISVs Make with B2B Marketing

Don’t underestimate the importance of investing in a well-planned marketing strategy as a part of a successful overall business strategy.

B2B marketing mistakes

Independent software vendors (ISVs) can be technical wizards.  You inspire with innovative solutions that have changed our daily lives, improved the way we do business, and how we communicate with our peers.  But while many ISVs are visionaries, they don’t always see the bigger picture when it comes to marketing their products in the B2B space.

In order to avoid the pitfalls, be aware of the top five most common mistakes that ISVs make when marketing their solutions to other businesses:

1. Marketing without a Strategy

Many ISVs simply don’t take the time to develop a proper marketing strategy before they go to market.  Taking the time needed to write down your B2B marketing plan, outlining key tactics, milestones and KPIs will serve as a roadmap and help drive your business forward.  It’s important not to set random objectives that have been pulled out of a hat but ones that are carefully thought-out and realistic to achieve.

2. Content is Too Techy

Just because an ISV is addressing technical decision-makers doesn’t mean their content should be dry and uninteresting.  Tapping into emotion in order to engage prospects is essential, and needs to be an inherent part of the content creation process.  Using effective storytelling when creating case studies can help a prospect relate to the pain points your solution can address and will enable a prospect to better visualize the benefits behind your value proposition.  Avoid fancy marketing-constructed phrases that don’t mean anything—get to the point without getting too technical.

3. Believing There is No Competition

ISVs often believe that their solutions are so unique they are the only players covering a particular niche; while this may be the case, that doesn’t mean you don’t have competitors. There is always an alternative, even if that alternative is not to purchase a solution at all (or one that is completely different).  It’s also not an advantage in-and-of itself NOT to have competitors because it makes it more difficult to explain by comparison.  (It is a lot easier for a marketer to explain how your solution is better than another product than it is to create a need for something that a prospect didn’t know existed).  You’d also be surprised at all the new players that come on the scene every day—it’s important to monitor your competition regularly through effective market intelligence so that you can stay one step ahead.

Conducting win-loss analysis to pinpoint why your clients chose you over someone else (and vice versa) is a sure-fire way to improve alignment between marketing and sales.  By understanding how you compare to other ISVs when it comes to the evaluation process, you will be able to make concrete improvements to your sales process (and perhaps to your product as well).

4. Not Investing in Marketing

Overlooking the importance of allocating budget for marketing is another common mistake. Many ISVs prefer to invest the budgets they have into making a bigger and better product, but it’s not enough to believe your product will sell itself because chances are it won’t.  That’s not to say that by only throwing money at marketing you are sure to become the next top-selling brand, but there is a big difference between investing in an effective marketing strategy and doing nothing at all.  It takes time to establish a presence for your brand both on and offline, to educate prospects about your product, and nurture them in order to convert leads into sales. Of course, making sure you have effective ROI is important, but even a small budget can go a long way at increasing visibility for your brand across channels if it is spent in the right way.  Don’t confuse spending a fortune on advertising with a well thought-out marketing plan because the two are like night and day.

5. Running Campaigns in a Silo

It’s fine to set quarterly objectives, but keeping the bigger picture in mind when it comes to the buyer journey is essential when executing a successful marketing campaign.  Education and nurturing take time, and the most effective marketing strategy is a holistic one that capitalizes on an agile approach.  Designing and implementing a pilot campaign on a small target audience, then testing the reactivity to your messaging before rolling it out on a larger scale is a better approach then the big bang campaigns of the past that started and finished in one quarter before going on to the next (which often meant zero continuity with the first).  Having an “always-on” mindset to marketing will yield more fruit then a stop-and-go one.

Final Thoughts

ISVs with B2B offerings should not solely rely on word of mouth recommendations as the cornerstone of their marketing strategy.  While that can be a great way to get new business, more should be done to establish thought leadership for your brand across channels. Many top-level decision-makers within ISVs use the, “I’m not a marketer,” statement as an excuse to explain why they’re no good at it (or why they refuse to do it at all).  Developers and tech geeks alike may not be the best communicators, but just because you are not a marketer by profession, doesn’t mean you should neglect it entirely.  Choosing to outsource part or all of your marketing can provide great benefit to small and large ISVs alike; outsourcing provides access to resources you may not be able to recruit internally and can help you significantly lower your costs.  But whether you do it yourself or rely on a partner, B2B marketing is a fundamental tool when growing your ISV business that cannot be ignored. 

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Liz Lemarchand
Liz Lemarchand is the Chief Operating Officer of MediaDev, a global IT marketing firm. She has 20 years of marketing experience and provides strategic counsel to software vendors both large and small.