A short guide to building a marketing framework for B2B businesses, covering positioning, content and technology
If you are a business leader, the components described in part 1 and part 2 should help you fuel business growth and avoid wasted marketing time and budget.
Fact – buyers are in control
It’s a sad reality that many businesses have disappointing marketing and sales results. Sales people often battle to get in front of enough of the right people, and marketing often struggles to generate enough quality leads.
Today’s accepted truth is that to get leads, you have to create lots of content to inform and convince your market.
Consequently we see companies creating tonnes of content. In fact we’re faced with a deluge of it. Sturgeon’s revelation tells us that 90% of everything is crap. And business content is no exception.
How do people respond to sub-standard content? They filter it out. They ignore it. Unfortunately, our filters aren’t precise and the 10% of good stuff is often filtered out along with the 90% of rubbish.
Velocity Partners’ article, “Crap: the single biggest threat to B2B content marketing”, talks about the “content effluent deluge” that invokes our “marketing defense systems”.
In short, we ignore most emails, blogs*, white papers, articles, infographics, videos, slideshares, etc, etc.
The buyer firmly controls what to choose to notice – not the seller. That’s why marketers now talk about the “buyer journey”. The “sales cycle” is so last century.
Exactly how much are buyers in control? Give me a number
Oh OK then. CEB claim that 57% of a typical purchase decision is made before the customer even talks to a supplier.
And Forrester Research, not to be outdone, found that 66–90% of a buyer’s journey is self-directed.
Both these statistics tell us that buyers don’t talk to suppliers until they’re pretty sure what they want to buy. This raises a couple of interesting issues:
- Buyers gather information themselves. By the time they want to see a salesperson, chances are they don’t need any more information. Instead, they want the salesperson to challenge, consult and help with their decision.
- Since most of the buyer’s journey is self-directed, they are likely to control the timing of the purchase. Buyers will buy in their own time, and won’t tolerate a salesperson pushing for a fast sale.
So how do buyers decide?
The 2015 B2B Buyer’s Survey tells us that “buyers turn to analysts, peers and .. trusted resources when researching buying decisions”. And “more than half of buyers turn to social media”.
Here are the big sources of influence for decision makers. It’s good practice to build a strong case for your business in each of them.
- Personal influence
- trusted people (committee, network, trusted sales people and referrals).
- research: the buyer’s own and other people’s
- brand strength/reputation of supplier.
- The deal
- the upside – e.g. value, ROI, innovation, “small bet”, risk/reward, synergy, best fit for buyer, great potential.
Do you know – in detail – what your clients did before talking with you about your services? What influenced them to talk to you?
Where did they gather the evidence to make a buying decision?
Who do they trust? What sources of information do they trust? What are they likely to buy into? Value? ROI? Innovation?
Have you asked your clients specifically why they chose you rather than a rival?
Are your marketing and sales efforts in line with the answers to the above?
A sale is part of the relationship, not the aim
If you’ve engaged your potential buyer over the long term, chances are they’ll turn to you when the time is right for them to buy. And if they don’t buy, you’ll learn a wealth of lessons from them about why not.
Focus on the purpose and the person
A relationship needs a lot of work. It’ll fizz if it’s valuable, relevant, consistent or interesting, but fizzle out if not. Aim to educate and surprise people. Keep them coming back for more. Here are some tips on purpose and personalisation, which I think are essential for this.
Purpose: be clear about your business’s values – the “why” of your business.
Simon Sinek says that the best leaders and companies – from Martin Luther King to Apple – talk about their purpose before offering a solution.
He claims this works because our brains are wired to seek purpose and meaning first, and then the solution. His excellent TED talk is worth watching.
You can read more about this in my post The Power of Why.
Personalise: know your audience and communicate as if with each individual.
People are more likely to respond if they think they are being addressed personally, as David Trott applies the “Bystander Effect” (the more bystanders there are in a scene with a victim, the less likely any one of them will help) to marketing. It’s so good, I’ll quote a chunk of it:
If we want people to act on what we say, we have to talk to them as individuals.
Not a mass broadcast addressing thousands of people.
It’s a natural response.
If you’re talking directly to me, I have to listen.
But if I’m just part of a crowd, if you’re just addressing a mass of people, I don’t have to pay attention.
To adopt a personal tone, start by building a persona for each audience that you want to engage. In other words, imagine each of your audience types as an individual.
You then address your content to that specific persona. Here’s a helpful persona-building tool from Hubspot.
Purpose – ask a few of your clients why your business appealed to them. What do they think your company purpose is? Do you get clear and consistent answers? Does it agree with your own sense of business purpose? If so, great. If not, what’s causing the disconnect?
Persona – do you base your content on personas? How much of your content is written in a personal tone? Is it engaging?
What can you do to:
– make your purpose shine through and cut through the deluge?
– make your content engaging and interesting?
Thanks for reading. Did you find this useful? Please let me know, and read part 2, which covers
- how to make great content
- content distribution
- measuring, testing and improving
- marketing technology
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