The introduction of technology to media has caused an evolution that has changed the face of business-to-business (B2B) communications.
The fragmentation of earned media, growth of social, prominence of branded / owned content and commercial pressures of shifting advertising revenues have forced an evolution of how we reach audiences and sparked innovation.
Yet the enterprise technology sector has remained curiously immune to much of that change over the past decade. While smaller and more pressured to engage and monetise readership, technology-focused earned media is still central to how technology brands reach business buyers, influencers and specifiers.
We are now finally starting to see this huge shift in tech PR – and rapidly so. It’s not so much an evolution in the media landscape that has prompted this, but instead the business operations of technology companies.
Many would argue that the phrase B2B tech is no longer relevant. Tech purchasing influence is now increasingly direct-to-department, rather than business-to-business. Gone are the days when the IT team selects products and services on behalf of the organisation and act as the gatekeeper. Now buying decisions are in the hands of departments, with each team focused on support and maintenance for their specific function.
Welcome to the age of BYOT – Bring Your Own Tech. It means a radical rethink of how tech brands communicate to engage hearts and minds, not just extoll the virtues of technology.
To understand just how things have changed over the internet years, we consulted the tech leaders of business’ best and brightest in partnership with leading UK news site The Memo (recently snapped up by Forbes).
The report reveals three top tips to help today’s communications professionals navigate today’s fast-changing technology landscape:
1) THE BOUNDARIES HAVE BLURRED
Technology and innovation have become part of the very fabric of our lives as consumers, business workers, entrepreneurs, parents and so on.
While the conventional IT department still has responsibility for specifying, buying and running some of the core infrastructure and services, that needs to align with how everyone in the organisation wants to work.
Influence has dissipated because there’s a vast swathe of technology services that people across the business now use without even consulting IT people. “Nowadays, consumer products are better,” says Rhymer Rigby, author and business journalist who writes for the Financial Times. “There is more innovation: the iPhone, Dropbox, WhatsApp. These were all products you used at home before people suggested they would be great for business.”
And Jonathan Lister, CTO of PensionBee, outlines how this has impacted the procurement process: “In the process of selecting technology, we will have a conversation with the people who are going to be using it and what they want to do with it.” This has fundamental implications for the way technology brands communicate and engage with their audiences, and for media covering technology in myriad of different ways.
2) THE BUSINESS PURCHASING CYCLE IS SHRINKING
Influence and persuasion for business technology purchases used to be driven by fundamental business or legislative change, but also by the payment terms and lifecycles of the products.
Now the buyer journey ebbs and flows in different ways, fragmented by the rise of social media, a shift to cloud-based subscription models and people simply caring more about technology. Consider today’s minimum average sales cycle of three to six months for software - that’s down from 12-18 months from a few years ago.
This means being data-driven in communications planning has become paramount, ensuring your brand can drive relevance at all touchpoints in the journey.
3) INFLUENCER MARKETING IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF THE MARKETING MIX
Reaching business decision makers is difficult; they’re sophisticated, well-educated and extremely sceptical about marketing. The way to overcome this scepticism and capture attention? Influencing their decisions through trusted third parties.
Decision makers trust people like themselves and seek third party validation. Influencers in the business world aren’t celebrities. They are consultants. Technologists. Engineers. Developers. Entrepreneurs.
When they talk, others listen. When they create content, it gets shared. When they express their point of view about a topic, it’s documented and respected. Influencer content resonates with their readers, and the influencers are referenced by others when the topic is relevant.
All this points to brands taking a more expansive approach to their comms, beyond just media relations. And understanding what makes a technology story today for every audience, in what is a very different media landscape.
To see all the latest findings (and our recommendations for today’s tech brands), check out our new report here.