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What you don’t know about your prospects could put you out of business.

Recently I received an invitation from BtoB magazine to attend a Webcast entitled “Online Marketing Revolves Around Content: When Content IS Marketing.”

I am guessing that the presentation is to educate marketers on the value of using and leveraging content as the focus of their marketing.

I’m sure it will be a good presentation. But it is BtoB’s invitation that I’d like to comment on. It contained four bullet points about what skills and knowledge I would gain by attending. It included:

  • Understand who your customers are
  • Determine your customers’ needs as they relate to your product or service
  • Establish what you want your customers to do
  • Settle on the product and content mix

The fact is that the first two bullets are so critical to all marketing that not having an intimate knowledge of them is a sure path to failure.

Out of BusinessMy partner once accepted a position with a company (that shall remain nameless) that had secured $40 million in venture capital money based on projections of how quickly it could win a percentage of its target market. The market was huge, and all the company needed was a reasonably small percentage of that market to achieve its goal. This company is now out of business.

What didn’t the company know? It only used the size of the market and the perceived value of its product for that market to make projections. The company did not “understand” its target market at all. It didn’t understand how the market made decisions or what its priorities and prime motivators were.

So as BtoB magazine promises in its invitation, understanding your customers and knowing who they are and what their needs are as they relate to your product or service is ultimately the most important thing a business needs to know.

How to handle new B2B leads.

CBR003592There’s hardly been a single marketing conference that did not have at least one session on getting marketing and sales to work better together. Everyone agrees that there have been huge gaps over the years between what sales wants and what marketing delivers. There’s way more intelligence about it today. But I must take my hat off to Ardath Albee of MarketingInteractions. She wrote a guest article for the BMI (Business Marketing Institute) that appeared in its August 18, 2009, Tuesday Marketing Notes. Entitled “The Payoff for B2B Content Marketing is Movement,” it is the all-time clearest and most accurate description of what should happen after a lead is obtained and why that I have ever read. Please, marketers, print it out, share it with everyone in marketing AND everyone in sales.

 Then, for more valuable detail about mapping content to buying stages, see an article by Russell Kern written for Target Marketing magazine called “Leverage the B-to-B Buy Cycle.” Follow what you learn and you’ll never have to attend another sales vs. marketing session again.

In B2B marketing it’s no pain, no gain.

I’m on a diet. No, it’s not one of the official diets like the South Beach Diet® or Nutrisystem®. It’s not Jenny Craig® and it’s not even Weight Watchers®, though I’ll admit I have the Weight Watchers cookbook and it has wonderful recipes in it. No, I’m on the “Duh Diet.” How does that work? The “Duh Diet” 42-15650320requires that I eat less and exercise more. Duh! It’s a bit painful to have to forego desserts, but the exercise isn’t painful at all. So who started the “no pain, no gain” exercise mantra?

According to Wikipedia, “No pain, no gain (or “No gain without pain”) is an exercise motto that came into prominence after 1982 when actress Jane Fonda began to produce a series of aerobics workout videos.”  She was wrong, of course. Walking daily makes a huge difference, and it’s not painful at all.

What does require pain is B2B marketing.
It’s not the pain of the strategizing, the cost, or the effort I’m referring to, but the message. That is, if your message doesn’t immediately identify with your target market’s biggest pain, or a promise to solve that pain, your qualified prospects won’t read your message.

It’s simple, really, as these email or direct mail opening lines illustrate:

“Like many manufacturers, today’s rapidly changing markets and customer demands may be challenging your ability to react and stay competitive.”

“You know how costly it is for your company’s telecom system to go down unexpectedly — productivity stops, customers get frustrated and angry, sales virtually come to a halt.”

“Your school is now under added pressure to please policy makers, demanding parents, and even the media. Part of that pressure includes the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) regulations.”

“Your SalesForce.com is a powerful tool for sales and customer relationship management. But is the data in it telling you all you need to know about the real health of your pipeline?”

“Keeping your cardiac medicine practice successful requires a focus on two critical areas: making the right patient treatment decisions and keeping your practice profitable.”

Whether you’re using email or direct mail or other channels, if you don’t leverage your buyer’s pains in the message, there will be no gains.

B2B marketing that motivates business buyers to buy

Geoffrey James on BNET writes about the “The 7 “Emotional Hooks” for B2B Selling.” It’s a great reminder that human nature plays a role in all decisions. He asks if he missed any in his article. The answer is actually “yes.” His list of emotions that influence buying decisions is not quite complete.

Hero EnvelopeFor instance, as a B2B copywriter, I often use the “hero” approach (which always works by the way). There’s nothing more emotional than wanting to be the hero. I first used it for FirsTel, an early US WEST company (now Qwest), back when people wore ties to the office. It’s an emotional approach that even works on IT Executives.

So where did I learn that the underlying motivation for all decisions is emotional, even B2B decisions? By reading Successful Direct Marketing Methods, originally by Bob Stone, now by Ron Jacobs.

In it are listed all the emotional drivers for a decision. They fall into two categories: 1) the desire to gain and 2) the desire to avoid loss. Here is what is listed in the book:

The Desire to Gain
To make money
To save time
To avoid effort
To achieve comfort
To have health
To be popular
To experience pleasure
To be clean
To be praised
To be in style
To gratify curiosity
To satisfy an appetite
To have beautiful possessions
To attract romantic partners
To be an individual
To emulate others
To take advantage of opportunities

The Desire to Avoid Loss
To avoid criticism
To keep possessions
To avoid physical pain
To avoid loss of reputation
To avoid loss of money
To avoid trouble

Because this is such an important topic to B2B marketers, you’ll see more about it here in the future. But I’m glad others like Geoffrey are spreading the word.

Marketing — it starts with the name.

I’ll never forget the call I received in the 90s from a friend who had been working for Western Electric since the 70s. She informed me, among other things, that her employer had just changed the company’s name to Lucent Technologies. “Huh?” was my immediate reaction.

Until then, the names of the companies I knew either represented what they did — International Business Machines, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, and General Electric — or who started the company — Hewlett-Packard and Metro Goldwyn Mayer.

Of course, today everyone knows these companies as IBM, 3M, GE, HP and MGM. But as Al Ries and Jack Trout outlined in Chapter 9 of their great (and very relevant) marketing classic Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, decades passed before those companies were known by their initials.

But it’s obvious that — with the success of companies sporting names such as Amazon, Google, and Fandango — the naming game has changed. Or has it?

Seth Godin’s wonderful take on the subject in “The new rules of naming” provides excellent guidance for picking the right name in today’s electronic world. In spite of the new naming challenges, however, it doesn’t sound like that much has changed.

In this age of ubiquitous B2B marketing best practices — who do you trust?

Google PageA Google search of “marketing best practices” brings up 52,000,000 links. “B2B marketing best practices” delivers 347,000 hits. By adding a specific channel such as “B2B email marketing best practices” the result drops to 164,000. “BtoB email marketing copy best practices” gets it down to a mere 22,800, and “BtoB email marketing design best practices” is even less popular at 17,700.

The fact is, there’s more than one “expert” out there with products, services, opinions and advice. So if your goal is to follow best practices in your marketing, you’ll have an estimated 6,066 hours of research ahead of you if you spend a mere seven minutes checking out each site.

If you get paid overtime, I say go for it. If not, here’s a way to help judge the validity of the information. Trust the practices that come from resources whose knowledge and advice is based on valid in-market split testing of one practice against another.

Use best practices to develop your marketing programs; but remember, every product and market is different. Ultimately it’s important to test those practices to make sure they lift performance for your product in your market.