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Technology Marketing: A Conversation with Mike Braatz

Posted by Devin Cole  October 24, 2011 11:34 AM

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Not all business-to-business (B2B) technology marketers have to contend with an 800-pound gorilla in their market. In segments with a number of smaller, nimbler companies, there can be quite an interesting competitive dynamic as they each fight to get their message heard. To lead the way, companies have to work to keep up with the technology and innovate. In this kind of rapidly changing environment, one of the most important things a marketer can do is focus on the basics—segmenting the market and finding their position and message.

Mike Braatz.jpgMike Braatz is Senior Vice President and General Manager at Memento, Inc., a Burlington-based company that provides fraud prevention solutions to the financial industry. This is the fourth early-stage B2B technology company he has worked with in the Boston area in the past eleven years. Even with his experience in business development and product management, Mike is a marketer at heart. He shares his thoughts with Manya Chylinski about industry trends, what technology marketers struggle with, and his vision of the future of marketing.

What works for marketing in the technology space today?

Two things are working really well for us. One is that we have effectively become our own content publishers. Because of consolidation of media and analyst outlets across the B2B and technology landscape, there are fewer opportunities for us to get our message in front of customers. Rather than bemoan this change, we take it upon ourselves to hire subject matter experts to create interesting and compelling thought leadership.

We publish a blog and create more white papers. We also wrote a book about employee fraud at banks and published it through our own imprint: Memento Press. This is a very effective way to promote the problem and the solution, and not do it in an aggressive way. There is also a lack of industry events in our space, so we created our own peer bank forums, which we host quarterly so fraud prevention officers can get together and talk shop. Banks generally don’t like to share best practices. But in the field of fraud prevention, they do like to share because they are all fighting the same bad guys. It’s good for us to facilitate and be part of that.

What is the biggest trend in marketing in technology right now?

There are two things. Maybe it’s obvious, but measurement and an analytical approach is a big trend. It’s here to stay and for good reason. Companies can be very precise about how to measure results; and it’s much more effective today than it was five years ago. This is true whether you are measuring market penetration or tracking individual customer behavior. And it can be done cost effectively—there are some good free and low cost tools.

Second is community building; for us that means with our customers and partners. This trend in technology marketing is here to stay because more and more we find that’s how our customers want to educate themselves about new solutions. Technology supports that and a low touch online is appropriate. And then for prospects who want to go to the next level,you can use more high touch means like the peer forums.

How are you taking advantage of social media?

We are doing that a couple ways. We are active in the usual channels: we have two Twitter handles, one for company news and one for bank fraud forum, that feed for our blog. We publish new articles on our blog weekly. We also have the traditional email subscriptions, but the Twitter subscriptions have grown much more quickly. Also, there is fraud in the news every day and there aren’t any good resources to keep track of it. We stepped in as fraud news consolidator and we post fraud news stories on our blog twice a week. We’ve gotten great feedback on that. People look forward to it.

The other thing we take advantage of is LinkedIn. For recruiting of course, but for also for all the different groups related to our market space. It’s a great way to stay involved in the discussion, meet people, and promote events.

What areas of marketing do technology companies typically struggle with?

I think it’s two things. One is trying to be all things to all people. Because all these tools are available and it’s easier to reach mass audience, companies are tempted to try to reach everyone. That gets early stage companies in trouble—rather than pick one thing and be the best, they try to do it all in one fell swoop. It gets back to segmentation and approach. Technology companies still struggle with that.

Second is that there can be too much of a focus on tools. People get enamored of them. But they are still means to an end. It’s about developing the value proposition. If you get too hung up on something like Twitter or video, you can forget what the message really is and who you are trying to reach.

What three things you see in the future of marketing in your industry 3- 5 years out?

At risk of being repetitive, I think marketing to communities is going to be big part of it. The other thing B2B technology companies are going to look to emulate is a focus on great products. That’s not marketing exactly, but B2B technology companies have traditionally won in a market because of a great sales approach or they have really good products. It’s rare in B2B technology that the best marketing wins, like in the consumer market.

Companies like Apple win with a blend great product functionality and great design. I’m starting to see that coming into B2B. B2B used to be nuts and bolts, who has the most features. Now there’s an opportunity to focus more on combining the right set of features, in the simplest way possible, for your target customers. As Steve Jobs said, sometimes your customers don’t know exactly what they want. Sometimes you have to talk to them and understand their problem, and then envision how you can solve it.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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