For technology services firms, automation tools and the inclusion of AI into products and platforms makes this a time of tremendous opportunity – and increasingly complex challenges. As the marketplace grows more hypercompetitive than ever before, effective IT marketing becomes absolutely essential.

But which challenges are most pressing for technology services firms, and which initiatives are they prioritizing in order to get ahead? Hinge’s ongoing High Growth Study is tracking those trends — and identifying the evolving strategies and tactics favored by high-growth tech firms compared to their slower-growing peers.

Download the 2018 High Growth Study: Technology Services Edition

Consider, for example, the top five marketplace threats cited by technology services firms.

When compared to results from across other professional services industries, increased competition from both legacy players and newcomers is a shared perceived threat. This will only grow to more of a challenge as more and more competitors enter the technology marketplace to vie for a limited number of buyers.

There’s a major difference between technology services and other industries, however: the two-sided impact that automation and AI brings to the fore. One the one hand, these innovations help firms bring new and better offerings to market that can be delivered faster/better/cheaper than ever before. On the other, the very innovations that help propel legacy firms forward also make it easy for newcomers to enter the market, who either can or purport to match the offerings of more mature firms – thus the downward pressure on price as the marketplace crowds and feels, at least to the buyer, more commoditized.

6 Essential IT Marketing Strategies

How do tech services firms address these threats and build competitive advantage? We find there are six key strategies that can help firm win:

  1. Research

By conducting research on your marketplace, you’ll know your clients’ needs and expectations better — which puts you in a position to serve them more effectively. Market research also gives you insight into how your processes are performing. You can develop a more objective, thorough understanding of which aspects of your firm are performing best, as well as insight into which services you should offer.

This is a philosophy that should be familiar to many in the technology services industry: with more data, you can make more effective decisions. Our own research has shown that firms that conduct systematic research on their prospects and clients grow three to ten times faster – and are up to two times more profitable.

  1. An Impressive Website

In the past, many tech firms grew by word of mouth. The technology almost sold itself, so they didn’t have to market much – which is why many tech firms have poor websites with poor user experiences.

These days, though, particularly in the technology services industry, your website must be impressive. For clients, it is a direct indicator of your credibility. Our research on referral marketing shows that an unimpressive website is among the top reasons that buyers rule out referrals.

But your website isn’t just a tool to help you avoid getting ruled out. It serves as the hub for your online presence, joining expert content, explanation of your services, social media platforms, and more. That’s why, according to our research, 80% of buyers use your website to check you out – making your website the most common source for information about your firm.

Remember, too, that your website has to look impressive however it is displayed, whether on a phone or a tablet or a desktop. Mobile browsing has become so important that Google is making mobile-friendliness a factor in search rankings. For these reasons, you should ensure that your site leverages responsive design to adapt to the form factor of a visitor’s device.

  1. Cultivating Visible Experts®

blogoffer-middle-2018highgrowth-Tech-ExSummRemember the importance of client education? In addition to satisfying an audience demand, producing educational content helps build the profile of individual experts within your firm. In fact, this process is essential for technology firms. By building the profile of professionals within your firm, they can eventually become Visible Experts – the sort of industry rock stars who headline conferences, attract both business and talent, and come to define a firm.

Visible Experts are such a powerful asset because of the “Halo Effect.” When audiences view one of your experts as authoritative, that glow transfers to the firm as a whole. Your firm’s increased status transfers in turn to other individual professionals within the organization, who can use the added credibility to build their reputations as Visible Experts. It’s a positive feedback loop, and it’s a powerful advantage for technology services firms.

  1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Like the technology services marketplace as a whole, SEO is constantly evolving – and it’s crucial to keep up. Yesterday’s best practices can become today’s cause for penalty. But in a hypercompetitive environment where visibility is critical, effective use of SEO is mandatory.

What do firms need to know about SEO? The key is this: “on-site” SEO (in a nutshell) increases your site’s relevance through strategic use of targeted keyword phrases associated with your services and expertise, in combination with a strong technical SEO foundation on your website.

Download the 2018 High Growth Study: Technology Services Edition

“Off-site” SEO increases your site’s perceived authority through earned links, social media, brand mentions, and external thought leadership pieces like guest articles. For a more detailed plan of action, we’ve developed an SEO strategy for B2B firms.

  1. Content Marketing

Again and again, we return to educational content – and that’s because it is the engine behind your entire IT marketing strategy. In fact, the “content funnel” is key for IT services marketing, attracting relevant audiences and working to drive closer and closer engagements that qualify leads and ultimately generate new business.

Content marketing encompasses a variety of content types across a variety of channels, including your own web properties – your website, blog, and social media presences – as well as other web properties. Through media, professional partners, content syndication, and guest blogging, you can spread your expertise to a range of new audiences.

And this is the core goal of content marketing. By educating target audiences and addressing their challenges through content, you will build credibility and visibility that will ultimately lead to new business and to growth.

  1. Social Media

It’s a fact: social media is a key factor in the growth of B2B firms. It’s an essential channel for not only networking with people in the marketplace and participating in industry conversation, but also sharing your content and driving engagement with your audience.

As we discussed previously, a more mature social media environment means new challenges, and drives the need for new rules. In order to take advantage of the benefits of social media, IT services firms must learn how to do it effectively. At its best, social media is an environment to demonstrate your leadership in the industry while engaging with other expert content and sharing your own.

With the six strategies above, your firm will be well-placed for IT marketing success. Do you have thoughts on the trends reshaping the technology services marketplace? We’d love to hear your perspective in the comments.

Additional Resources:

How Hinge Can Help:

Hinge has developed a comprehensive plan, the Visible Firm® to address these issues and more. It is the leading marketing program for delivering greater visibility, growth, and profits. This customized program will identify the most practical offline and online marketing tools your firm will need to gain new clients and reach new heights.

Elizabeth Harr