Crafting a Successful B2B Marketing Strategy

For many B2B marketers, the traditional marketing funnel that motivates prospects to self-identify and then move to a sales funnel, is ingrained in our minds. However, in the Age of the Customer, Forrester Research’s phrase for a customer-driven marketing landscape, the funnel has evolved to reflect a new customer expectation requiring sales and marketing to work in tandem.

With this in mind, B2B marketers must evaluate how their current B2B marketing strategy is aligned with the psychology of their buyer journey. In other words, B2B marketers must know how to craft a marketing strategy based on the predominance of the customer.

So, we have outlined a series of steps to follow when crafting a customer-centric B2B marketing strategy. Ask yourself and your team, “have we checked the following boxes when crafting our B2B marketing strategy?”

IDENTIFY TARGET PERSONAS IN YOUR B2B MARKETING STRATEGY

Going through the exercise to develop personas based on market and customer research is fundamental to understanding not only who is your audience but how to engage them in the buyer journey. Incorporating marketing personas makes websites two to five times more effective and easier to use by targeted users. However, only 44% of B2B marketers use buyer personas. So, ensure your B2B marketing strategy includes persona-based experiences that moves buyers forward in their journey with your brand.

MAP A PERSONA-BASED CUSTOMER JOURNEY TO DRIVE YOUR B2B MARKETING STRATEGY

Building out your influencer and decision personas to understand your target audience is only part of the process of laying a customer-centric foundation for your strategy. Next is to map the touch points of your buyer journey through all buyer stages. In order to close the loop from awareness to revenue it’s critical to know the touch points along the journey that are motivators and detractors in order to influence all parts of the customer experience. When developing your B2B marketing strategy answer the following, “How do I craft a strategy with the framework that aligns with your customer’s journey to gain clarity and define priority?”

DEFINE AND MEASURE B2B MARKETING STRATEGY GOALS & METRICS

Perhaps a no-brainer for a data-driven B2B marketer is clearly-defined metrics for success. With a heightened emphasis on personalization and customer experience (CX), B2B marketing goals and metrics must be established to measure the success of the marketing efforts supporting a customer’s progression through the buyer journey. Your B2B marketing strategy must outline how it will create direct contribution to revenue with a return and fuel high growth.

A recent case study example from one of our technology platform and services clients is Viewpointe, a leading private cloud managed services provider. Viewpointe was challenged with continuing to engage customers over the course of a 6+ month sales cycle. After clearly defining their B2B marketing goals, they aligned their content marketing plan with their persona-based customer journey. As a result, Viewpointe stayed engaged with their customers throughout the buyer journey and closed more deals. One way Viewpointe measured customer engagement lift was a 52% increase in persona aligned website content and 164% increase in blog content engagement from organic search referrals.

YOUR B2B MARKETING STRATEGY INCORPORATES ACTIONABLE INSIGHTS WITH SALES

Referring back to our earlier customer funnel illustration, the traditional hand-off from marketing to sales, with no feedback loop when a lead is “flipped over the fence to sales”, causing misalignment between B2B marketing and sales teams. In fact, 25% of B2B marketers have no idea what is their customer conversion rate. In the Age of the Customer, your marketing strategy should outline how to rip out the proverbial fence and instead encourage inter-team collaboration. Ensuring this marketing and sales alignment is crucial to creating a consistent customer experience along a buyer’s journey. Being intentional about sharing insights between teams is one way to encourage broad acceptance of a successful B2B marketing strategy execution.

YOUR NEXT STEP

With only 45% of B2B marketers confident that they have decent, if not high, levels of customer centricity, the time to is now to author your new B2B marketing strategy that elevates you above your competition.

Market Concept Testing – Guerrilla Style

Marketing new products and services is vital for most companies. Many marketers, however, are unaware that fast, low cost guerrilla techniques for market concept testing can easily replace cumbersome market research, saving lots of money and time in the process.

A Simple Model For Strategic Thinking

In order to test a new market concept you need to have one, right? Use this simple, intuitive strategy model for understanding the dynamics in the marketplace you’re considering. At first you simply work through the model applying what you already know or strongly suspect is true about the market. Then you go back and support each and every assumption you’re holding with market data.

– What are the trends in my industry?
– What’s driving these trends?
– What are we currently doing about the trends?
– What are our competitors doing about the trends?
– What could we be doing about the trends to increase our profits?

During this process you’re squarely in the analytical phase of marketing. You’re creating ties between your idea and a market that will welcome or reject it. Do your work carefully at this stage or you’ll wind up with every marketer’s nightmare…a product or service that’s an answer to a question nobody’s asked!

Collecting Unbiased Customer Data
There are a couple of ways to approach this task. It’s recommended that you use both methods so that your information will be balanced between primary (straight from the customer) and secondary (conclusions from experts). The objective here is to clearly understand your WOW! and how you’ll prove it.

The first thing to understand (and many marketers don’t) is that business is a social process. Which means, to do this successfully, you’ll be spending the bulk of your time dialoguing with people…not noodling around on the internet. If the thought of this provokes anxiety you’re in good company. Most people don’t relish talking to strangers but successful people in just about every profession just bite the bullet and do it any way.

Step 1: The Internet Part
To establish a beachhead, and not duplicate effort, spend about 10% of the time you’ve allocated for this project internet research. The objective is to gain a baseline understanding of available information about current offerings and substitutes in this market space. You also want to understand the various marketing and sales channels. It’s especially good to know about substitute choices your prospects could make instead of buying your product. It’s good to look at the whole chessboard, not just the squares immediately surrounding your next-move.

At this stage we’re looking for available industry reports and similar expert analysis of:

• What are the trends in my industry?
• What’s driving these trends?
• What are our competitors doing about the trends?

You’ll find out what’s available by doing these searches:

1. [industry name] or [product/service] or [major competitor], financial analysts
2. [industry name] or [product/service] or [major competitor], market research
3. [industry name] or [product/service] or [major competitor], Hoover’s
4. [industry name] or [product/service] or [major competitor], [name of local newspaper]
5. [industry name] or [product/service] or [major competitor], business news
6. [industry name] or [product/service] or [major competitor], industry news
7. [industry name] or [product/service] or [major competitor], industry experts
8. Run similar searches on your favorite social media in case those entries were not picked up by the search engines.

If something about your subject has been written, pod casted, YouTube’d, tweeted, blogged or discussed at a conference you will find it with these searches. Sift through what you find and plug each piece of key information into the 5-point strategy planning model we’re using. Now you’ll see a shape starting to form around your strategy model.

Step 2: Create A Discussion Guideline
This is what you will use as a guideline in talking with potential purchasers of your market concept. In essence this is the heart and soul of your project. The care and accuracy you put into this step will determine whether your market concept test results are accurate.

These are the objectives:

1. Understand whether your WOW! is really a WOW!
2. Understand industry and purchasing trends related to your market concept…and what’s driving those trends.
3. Establish a view on growth opportunities for your company or division.

We recommend that you structure your guide so that it results in a discussion. People are more likely to loosen up and talk freely about your market concept, and the alternatives, if you’re not reading questions verbatim as in a market research survey. Sketch out five key areas of information that you want. These might include:

• What do you think about the concept I’ve presented?
• Steer them toward their thoughts on advantages and disadvantages.
• Ask them what would make it even better.
• What are the substitutes or alternatives including do-it-yourself and in-house solutions?
• How, when and where do you like to receive information on new products and services such as this?
• Digital
• Traditional (print ads, trade shows, telesales, etc.)
• Colleagues, friends & family
• Where and how would you most like to purchase something like this market concept?
• Steer them toward what’s the ideal venue for them, not just where alternatives are available today.
• You’re seeking every competitive advantage you can get.
• Would terms such as financing influence their purchase decision?
• Who is the final decision maker and who else is involved in making a purchase decision? Refer to your notes on complex sales and remember that large consumer purchases can often involve multiple decision makers and influencers.

It is critical that you not approach this exercise with pre-conceived notions of what your company can or can’t do. You simply want to visualize the best possible purchasing scenario for your new market concept. You can parse internal strengths and weaknesses later. Do not base a go/no-go decision on your weaknesses!

You may think of many other categories of questions. Just remember that most people will limit your time with them to 15-30 minutes so keep the number of categories low and focus on going deep in each category. You can always substitute different categories in subsequent calls with different people. Again, after three or four calls you’ll have a much better idea of which categories of information are the best for your purposes.

Step 3: Create A List of Potential Customers
The next is interacting directly with your market. This is a hugely valuable exercise for product managers, marketing managers and marketing leaders. You’ll learn more about your market concept in a day of doing this than just about anything else you might choose to do, including conjoint analysis and focus groups.

The objectives for this stage are:

• understand who holds the knowledge you need
• understand the role each influencer will play in a complex sale
• understand where, when, how and from whom they get their decision influencing information

The people you need to talk with can hold one or more of the following roles:

• Decision maker
• Influencer
• Approver
• User
• Deal killer

With some products and services, mostly consumer products and B2B products costing less than $1,000, you’ll be talking straight to the decision maker. With most other products and services you’ll be talking to the decision maker plus one or more of the other types of buyer. If you’re not familiar with the mechanics of a complex sale you’ll need to pause the project until you’re caught up. Just do a search on ‘complex sale’ and you’ll find what you need to know. This is critical for B2B and higher-end or more complex consumer products and services.

Your objective is to talk to at least 100 people who have direct influence on the purchase of this market concept you’re testing. If you’re testing a consumer concept (for example tax preparation software) start talking with people in your circle of influence including friends, family members, colleagues and professional contacts. You will qualify your research participants based on who prepares his/her own taxes and whether a software product is used. Once you have the list and their telephone numbers you’re ready to move on to Step 3.

If you are testing a B2B market concept you must go straight to the companies to whom you’ll be selling your products or services. You may have a few contacts in these companies but you’ll spend the bulk of your time talking to people you don’t know. Be up front about your mission and never disguise yourself as a student doing research for a term paper or project. Just be yourself and be honest in describing what you’re doing.

If you’re cold calling a company start where you can get a foothold. If your market concept is a new and better alternative to traditional inventory control systems in mid-tier manufacturing companies, likely you will be talking to people in logistics, purchasing, operations and accounting. Go to the company’s website and list the names of key people in those functions if they’re identified. Then call the main number or department number, if listed, and ask to speak to that person. You may get through or you may not. Regardless of whom you talk with, even if it’s the main switchboard operator, just give him/her your 25 word elevator pitch on what you’re doing and ask who they’d recommend speaking with.

You will find that after calling three or four companies your comfort level will rise dramatically and you’ll start getting through more often to people who have the information you need.

Summary
This sounds like odd work for marketing people doesn’t it? However the advantages of this approach are many.

First, it gets marketing people immersed in the marketplace. This is far better than the superficial practice of having marketing people shadow a sales person for a day or two once a year.

Second, it gives marketing people an affinity for the role of the sales team. It helps them understand selling so they, in turn, can work with salespeople on devising strategies to overcome resistance and objections.

Third it gives marketing people solid confidence and much more enthusiasm for introducing new concepts if they have discovered the marketplace dynamics and purchaser habits and practices. This confidence will spread to other areas of the company, giving the marketing and product teams more support than they would have otherwise.

So yes, it’s a truly different approach but it’s highly effective and takes a lot less time and money than traditional market research.

Case Study
A startup company in California has a new market concept for virus protection solutions for iApp (applets for Apple’s iPhones) vendors. This startup is reluctant to spend $50-100K on formal market research so they’ve decided to do the project in-house.

They plan to assess the current competitive landscape for iApp virus protection by:
• Conducting a search for iApp virus protection vendors, if any
• Interviewing a small number of current iApp creators
o Do the trends they’re seeing suggest a market opportunity for our concept?
o What do they know about current solutions on the market?
o How would our offering solve a current problem or pain point better than other offerings?
o What would they pay to solve that problem or pain point?
o What level of disruption or complexity can the organization handle for installation and testing?

Next, the startup will assess current substitutes for their concept. They’ll do this by conducting a search and gathering product specifications, distribution models and other key information for each of their potential competitors. Some of this information they will already have from collecting customer data from the internet and other resources they used. The rest of it they will need to go after using the same information gathering techniques. These are some possible insights gained from their efforts:

• Their new market concept would need feature adjustments
• Their new market concept would be targeted at iAPP creators only
• They can lean heavily on digital marketing rather than traditional marketing
• A utility pricing model (pay based on consumption) would give them a strategic advantage
• A unique guarantee would give them a strategic advantage
• Acquisitions would not be a source of competitive advantage near term

The team now has enough information to make a go or no-go decision. If it’s a “go” the next step is to make sure there’s plenty of money in the bank, or coming in, to fund development and commercialization. Before the software writers kick in, though, the team needs to create a marketing requirements document and a commercial release process to make sure they won’t run out of money before sales revenue kicks in.

The Attraction Marketing Concept

Have you heard of the term “attraction marketing” along your travels before? Many people have come across this concept and tried to implement it into their business, unfortunately with little to no results. In today’s post, I’ll be taking a closer look at attraction marketing in the hope that you can yield some positive results from implementing the concept into your online business.

How cool would it be to have prospects lining up to get at what you have to offer, instead of having to chase them for their cash? That’s what attraction marketing is all about, it’s simple, yet very effective strategy that can elevate your business onto a whole new level.

Attraction Marketing Concept:

The concept of attraction marketing begins when you lead with value, instead of with your products, business or opportunity. Your goal is to position yourself as an expert when people come searching for what you have to offer. You then aim to provide value to that person above everything else.

People come online each day in search for experts, mentors and/or authority figures. When you came online to make money, did you search for an authority figure to learn the ropes from?… it’s called mentor shopping. You need to position yourself as a leading expert in your field and have people searching for what you have to offer. The truth is though, attraction marketing is a skill that must be learned, but, if you do put the time into learning and implementing this approach to marketing within your business, you will skyrocket your income with very minimal effort.

The Basics of Attraction Marketing:

The basics are pretty straight forward in theory. In practice though, it can be a little tricky for most marketers, simply because the whole concept of giving value before looking for anything in return is alien to them. Your number one goal should be to ALWAYS provide your prospects with value. Anything else is just going to get in the way. Think of all the big name marketers out there at the moment. Are they providing value? Are they fulfilling a need? Are they experts in their niche? Do they over deliver? Have they got raving fans willing to buy their next product as soon as it’s released?

When your goal is to help people get what THEY want, you will see the very same thing being attracted into your life/business. If I sell a crappy product, I can be sure that customer is not coming back. If I give advice that’s useless and helps no one, I can be sure I will not be attracting people to come listen to what I have to say. I know this all sounds very simplistic, but let me tell you, most marketers out there are looking to make money. Their goal is nothing more than that… and they’re failing big time.

I would much rather give incredible value away for FREE to help people get to where they need to be. Only then can I expect them to come back to me for more advice/services further down the road. Think about the power of this. People are naturally attracted to authority figures and people they know can help them. This is why attraction marketing is very important in your online business. If you are just like every other marketer out there selling products, you will find it very difficult to rise above the noise and stand out from the crowd. You MUST have people searching for what you have to offer, instead of YOU searching for them. Imagine that, having people actively searching for what you have to offer… what a contrast to how I see so many others doing it.

If you provide enough value to people they will come back, tell their friends/family and share your stuff within their social communities. People love to buy stuff, they just hate being sold to. Just give them what they want and over deliver every time.

Important: Attraction Marketing is NOT just about providing great products to your prospects. It has a lot more to do with “YOU” as a person. You need to be a person that others are attracted to. Like I mentioned earlier, people look to authority figures for guidance. You must position yourself as that authority figure. If people trust you, they will listen to you, follow you and buy from you over and over again.