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Solving B2B marketing challenges

I got this question from a client

Marketing Association Training Courses

Our challenge is the digital marketer who may not be well-versed in the requirements and realities of B2B. Often they have come from a B2C/retail environment, and might get stuck on things like 3rd party seller integrations that we don’t offer, rather than the deep integration and B2B functionality we specialise in. These personas are generally NOT committed to passing on our story, because they’re telling themselves a different one.

Common situation – where you know more than the (junior) client marketer, but you need them to be willing to implement your solution.

How to solve for ignorance

Easy fixes.

Find a partner who LOVES those 3rd party seller integrations and agree to collaborate with them. So you can confidently say that “yes we integrate with everything” and bypass these objections. [BTW Zapier does pretty much everything with an open API.]

One thing you can also do is offer deep hands-on training when you implement so you will be up-skilling the digital marketer who doesn’t have a B2B marketing background… leaving them skilled in both using and implementing good tactical campaigns. If this can be aligned with a public certification as well (See the CIM courses or NZ Marketing Association Diploma) then there’s a side-benefit for the individual getting a recognised qualification along the way.

conversation, art of conversation, problem conversation, issues conversation

Conversation as a marketing tactic

At the weekend I was teaching a class on The Art of Conversation and it was such an enlightening experience.

Firstly, the topic intrigued me because I wondered who wanted to learn – and I soon found out that the group was a complete mix of people.  Some wanted improved networking for work and some wanted to make new friends and others who found it hard to keep a conversation going. 

Marketers and sales folks all use conversation in our daily work.  Step back and take a read of the insights below and challenge yourself to improve or work out solutions to these situations.

How Conversations are Structured

Conversations are unique – but they are all underpinned with a framework which can be easily learned. The 4 Fs which give ideas about how to ask initial easy questions around four themed topics.

Because I like to balance teaching theory with practice we spent time face-to-face with each other trying out the techniques – a bit like speed dating!  Then we moved into practicing “branching” which is when the topic of conversation can move to adjacent topics. 

As a tutor, I delight in the unique learning experience every class has and so the second day began with feedback from overnight practice of “The Conversation Game”.   The students had chatted with parents, relatives, people at the bus stop and supermarket.  Each was a special and individual insight into their new confidence gained by practicing the framework.

Our final task was to learn how to disagree.  This is difficult because many think an argument is not a conversation.  I think learning how to respectfully disagree is an art form and a useful skill to balance with listening and really hearing the message in a conversation.

What our conversations lack

In researching the topic I asked the crowd what they thought was lacking in good conversation and the top picks were:

  • balance in exchanges – time speaking
  • listening deeply
  • ensuring the next topic is related to the previous one
  • bringing in spectators to the dialogue
  • interpreting body language successfully
  • don’t propose a hypothesis – ask a question
  • know how to conclude a conversation graciously
  • listening to understand, rather than listening to respond

Some good insights on conversations [forgive me if I don’t attribute]

Dialogue is like a good game of ping pong or a satisfying volley. Full of questions, quick 2 sentence exchanges, more questions. Good conversation is Not about serving aces, or hogging the ball (pontificating). That’s boring for both players as well as anyone watching.

In Howard’s End E.M.Forster has that great phrase ‘only connect’ which can be read many ways, but the art of conversation (rather than the art of debate) is about connecting and listening, and making your contribution to a conversation relevant to those of others. It is about connecting with their point of view or description or anecdote, being appreciative of what someone is sharing with you and listening, even if you don’t agree, and even committing it to memory – even if only as an exercise in concentration.

In the Steve Martin film, LA Story, he’s at a trendy dinner party and says to the woman next to him, “I hear you’ve just finished your masters in conversation”. She says “Yes” and then just sits there.

Reframing can be helpful or follow up questions to check what they really mean. In a group of more than two, take care that it doesn’t become a spectator sport for the rest. Ask the third person if they can describe a similar experience to draw them in.

Indicate that you are committed to spending some time in this conversation and talk about random stuff. Never ask a woman what her husband does for a living or show other gender discriminating assumptions. Ask a lot of ‘what made you..’ ‘how did you manage to..’.  Ask for opinions and advice from the field of strength of your conversation partner. Go a bit crazy and don’t be predictable. Make the person feel accepted and belonging, not patronised or alienated.

Conversational Challenges

Some of my correspondents play games during their conversations – especially if they think the dialogue is not balanced

Sometimes I have even stopped mid sentence just to see if they noticed and they don’t they simply use to gap to jump in as that’s all they were waiting for. I see this a lot at work and especially in meetings. If I call them out on it gently we laugh and it resets the exchange. Most don’t even know they do it.

Others presented situations which are worthy of our thoughts and so put your insights in the comments.

I particularly notice that many men do not ask open questions, and if they do, they are significantly less likely to actually listen to the answers. Of course #notallmen, but there is a strong correlation. They often just expect to be interviewed about how brilliant they are, and the idea of putting in effort to develop a conversation seems alien to them. I honestly think that there are plenty of men out there to whom it has never occurred that this might be a specific responsibility to be shared equally.

Here’s a problem that I don’t know how to solve: providing honest feedback has about zero if not less than zero benefit to the person providing the feedback. And so most feedback is dishonest – either superficial or irrelevant or in what may be the most misleading and useless cases, inaccurate. What to do?

Make your B2B proposal stand out

One of the joys of being a freelance consultant is that sometimes I get to act on behalf of my client and hire specialists to work on their B2B marketing campaigns.

I recently advertised a job and was stunned by one of the proposal submissions. As a new business specialist I know how hard it is to make your proposal stand out from others. This one hit all the gold stars for me.

Integrate proposals and CRM

I was sent an unique URL to view the proposal. This makes everything trackable – it was on a sub-domain of the B2B marketing agency’s website and so I know they will be able to track:

  • How many times I opened it
  • Which sections I browsed (they are distinctly separate)
  • How long I spent reading each part
  • Which sections I expanded to read further

All in all it was a pleasure to read and to be “sold” to. I felt engaged in the process and I know my actions on that page enabled the agency to get better insight into me as a prospect.

Screenshots from the marketing proposal web page.

And a final note, there’s a Squarespace service Qwilr which offers this on a 14 day trial.

seth godin, purple circle, marketing easter egg

Marketing using easter eggs

Little surprises that reward your customers are a really nice way of helping them to feel special.

Today I got a marketing easter egg from Seth Godin.

The benefits of careful reading

The message was short, barely formatted and it’s one I have waited a year to receive. Hidden in the fourth line was a surprise.

Don’t forget to look for the purple circle on the website to get the best price.

Seth Godin, The Marketing Seminar

…. and so I took a look.

It looked like a pretty piece of graphic art. But one of the circles had an embedded link. NICE….

Seth Godin, purple Circle, marketing easter egg, link hidden,
Hidden Marketing Easter Egg Link

How do you reward your loyal customers?

Sometimes I get frustrated when we make an offer and few people take it up. I think “That’s an AWESOME deal – why isn’t everyone paying attention and buying?” But I realise that I’m looking at it the wrong way around; I should be delighted that only the most savvy, the most loyal and most deserving customers are the ones who take up the offer.

I think of these as my “ultra-loyal” customers. They care enough to read. They don’t skip my messages and so I can give them a reward that others don’t take up.

Can you use an Easter Egg Marketing Strategy for your best customers?

Get insights into Seth’s thinking with his latest book This is Marketing – the course above is based on it.

Followers on LinkedIN, How to use LinkedIn, Social Selling, B2B marketing

Who’s your LinkedIn Follower?

LinkedIn hides some of its best features – deliberately.

So here is my quick tip of the week to help you grow your connection base.

Do you know about your followers and following feed?

Thought not.

Log into your LinkedIn. Then paste this into your browser and take a look at this URL.

It lists everyone who is following you. The image below shows Philip Goffin – he’s following me. But I’m neither connected to him, nor following him.

Woo Hoo – lots of followers, Famous fellow.

Now for the inverse, Following. These are the people you are following.

What’s the use of following on LinkedIn?

Well, many times you want to see the News Feed updates from people, but you don’t actually know them and so connecting isn’t appropriate.

Or you just think you will see their updates for a while before approaching for a connection request.

Or you are hoping to quietly bring yourself to their attention without being too pushy – so follow them in the hope they notice you and send a connection request.

Go forth…. try it for yourself.

P.S. You can no longer export contact information from LinkedIn and so I’m advising clients to build contact lists outside of the platform for every new contact they make.

Why I’m not signing up with DesignRush

There are lots of agency listing websites and directories – I have long been a fan of Chuck Meyst at AgencyFinder.com and Tom Holmes’ Creative Brief in the UK.

DesignRush logo, agency search service,

DesignRush is a nicely designed website for listing agencies allowing filtering by country and skillset.

I found three New Zealand agencies there – none of them competitors for us.  But instead of reaching out for our profile and submitting it, I decided not to go that route.

Why??

The main reason is that the site lists agencies with a price per hour as part of the filtering.  This is WRONG on many levels.

  1. Firstly, buying creativity is not like buying socks – a commodity.
  2. We sell by value, not by the hour (I’m not a solo-preneur or just getting started)
  3. This encourages viewers to buy based on price and that demeans the whole industry of creative agencies

So thanks, but no thanks for us.

Make your own mind up by answering these situational questions

  • A client approaches and asks your price to solve a problem situation.  You know the answer and how to solve it.  Does it matter if you solve the problem in five minutes of 50 hours?  Will the client be happy that the problem was solved or unhappy that you did it in 5 minutes?
  • You are asked to respond to a brief in some detail.  You do it with a written proposal which the prospect takes and uses as a bid document to ask other firms to submit prices.  You don’t get hired as a result.
  • A marketing director asks for your credentials and whether you have experience in a particular industry.  Does this matter to her – is it an exclusion or inclusion filter?  Does it affect your ability to do the work?

Coaching and learning how to navigate the new business development minefield is available.

first marketing, first sales, new business success

Who starts first – marketing or sales?

I wrote this email to a client today.  I have been working with them to set up and activate the things which will move them towards sales.  And I answer the Chicken and Egg question too…. read on

I think you have made significant progress in understanding three things which are essential to a successful new business development process.

  1. Deep focus on the target prospect companies and how to find individuals and make contact with them 
  2. Validation that there is a flow through activities from awareness, interest, desire, action (AIDA)…. e.g.XYZ is moving down that funnel well.  Also you have closed off the funnel for ABC and won’t waste time with him – he got returned to a ‘holding pattern’ in the newsletter mailing list.
  3. Recognition that we need to get to know more new people and to find ways of becoming relevant to them – from personal chat / email to newsletter subscription to face to face meeting.  
My guidance is being acted upon and you are seeing results which will bear fruit.  Also it’s forcing you to challenge presumptions and to run little experiments to see what the market responds to.  These both change over time and so I have learned never to guess.  But you knew that, didn’t you?

New Business is a Process

Creating a set-up that delivers a stream of leads for your business is how successful sales and marketing combine in a B2B organisation.   The underlying principles are the same for every firm yet the implementation and the diligent persistence of action is frequently what sets apart the successful from the rest.

first marketing, first sales, new business success

Who starts first? Marketing or Sales for new business success.

Can I help you?

If you’d like an appraisal of your current situation and recommendations for improvement which you can implement yourself, get in touch.

What we will do is

  • Review your recent new business success (or otherwise)
  • Assess the process
  • Research the possible bottle-necks, gaps and successful elements
  • Guide towards an improved method

Chicken or Egg; which comes first?

So to answer the question – it depends.  No, that’s not a cop-out.

Marketing comes first when the firm already has revenues and is looking to grow average size of sale, launch new products or new markets.

Sales comes first when the firm has a product and is not yet profitable enough to invest in intensive marketing or isn’t converting enquiries to revenue.

Trendosaur SaaS, retail find products

My SaaS has 7% conversion rate, how to improve?

My eCommerce SaaS has a conversion rate of 7% (2 new subscribers a day). I only get 1200 page hits a month though. How can I get more traffic?

The service is called Trendosaur. It helps online retailers make money by showing them the most profitable products to sell. My subscribers love the service. I’ve been running it for just over a year. The landing page is converting really well, but now it’s time to scale up the traffic numbers. Finding it really hard to get more than 40-50 page hits a day. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

I know you should not rely solely on inbound traffic.  That’s a fool’s errand in today’s crowded market.trendosaur logo

Other marketers will suggest SEO, Content Marketing, Lead Funnels, Keyword search terms, LinkedIn Content, SEM, Social adverts, remarketing.  All good ideas and definitely part of the marketing mix needed – but they miss one fundamental comprehension of how modern marketing works.

Inbound and Outbound is the key strategy

When you take a product to market you need both awareness and targeted prospective buyers.

The joy of inbound is that if someone is looking, with good SEO, Keywords and Content Marketing you can appear in search results.  But for B2B markets, rarely is someone looking and the search volumes are so small, so niche that these volumes won’t deliver you the customer buyers in any great size or at scale.

I recommend  2 things

  1. Outbound Selling. Research a list of retailers who could use you and approach them direct. Direct sales is very powerful – it draws attention to you and then your content marketing / SEO will serve to bring them back to your site.
  2. Sponsor a retailers podcast like Ecommerce Fuel with a landing page / special sign up deal.

I used both of these to grow Rowperfect.co.uk/shop such that we now have a paid Christmas promotion page based on that list which is a great case study for this method.

How To Make Your Anniversary Promotion Campaigns Better

posters for anniversary campaigns

posters for anniversary campaigns

Celebrating an anniversary whether it be one, ten or a hundred years is certainly something to be proud of. You, as a company should almost be bursting at the seams to tell potential and existing customers the news.

Of course, for customers to get as excited as you, they expect something in return. That’s how the system works. They support you for x amount of years and at each anniversary expect a little appreciation. As Mark Twain astutely noted: “It is better to give than receive- especially advice” and following this I will offer my own – He’s right. And this is why businesses offer sales; they give a little in order to gain a lot. 

The question of course is how to celebrate and promote your anniversary. This can depend on a variety of facets such as the length of time of existence, the size of the company and the type of company.

It is for this reason I have come up with 4 simple categories.

4 types of anniversary campaigns

  1.  Sales & Giveaways
  2. Promotions & Interaction

  3. Reincarnation (Sticking with the religious theme)

  4. Internal Appreciation

1. Sales & Giveaways – Clever discounts and freebies

This one is relatively straightforward. Simply reducing the final bill for the customer will obviously get them interested – more bang for your buck has traditionally been the ‘go-to’ strategy. Giveaways however can work equally effective. The total bill may not reduce however the value perceived would still have increased. Better yet, it means more of your product is being consumed by your customers.

A common tip often acted upon is to link the number of years celebrated to the sale/gift. Whether it be 10% off if you’re celebrating your tenth anniversary or every 5th item is free for your fifth, linking the years to the deal instils that number into your customers brains, meaning they will be more likely to associate your business with success and longevity. As has been hugely publicised, customers who associate success and longevity with your business are more likely to purchase from you.

Remember, you can be clever about it – 40 years 40% off may be too much of a discount for some stores so be clever! 40 = XL in Roman numerals so have an XL sale, whether it be just a larger sale than usual or a sale focused on extra-large items, it will most likely prove cheaper than 40% off but have a similar effect.

2. Promotions & Interactions – Get the word out there

This deals with how your company reaches out to your customers and the general public. Obviously, if no one has heard that it’s your anniversary no one will be excited. This therefore is critical that it is done right. Larger companies may not have to worry about it and let word of mouth do the work. Smaller companies however have their own competitive advantage – personalization.

Personalized, handwritten notes prove effective time and time again. These interactions will obviously be critical to making your customers aware of your anniversary. Under interaction I have associated cut-cost ways to deliver value to your customer – tours. Customers are always interested in how their favorite good is actually made, so offer it! They aren’t expensive to run as attendees would actually prefer to see the business running as normal as possible and give your business greater exposure to the public..

3. Reincarnation – Bring back the past

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the reincarnation of old products and methods when companies celebrate birthdays or anniversaries so I won’t go into any detail about it. However, many don’t even consider replacing current prices with the traditional ones. An example would be if Coca-Cola were to sell cans for 5c each – their original price. You may be thinking, this should be under the sale category and you’re probably right, but as it refers to the original price, it could be seen as the rebirth of the price; okay compromise, it’s both.

4. Internal Interaction – Celebrate your team

They say nothing is more important than the customer; if that’s true then employees can’t be far behind. When celebrating an anniversary, celebrate your employees’ efforts. They are just as much a part of the company as the customers and therefore, deserve similar recognition and perceived benefits. Traditionally a party always goes down well, however ensure that at least the long-time employees receive a memento, something which they can be proud of and something that will portray your eternal appreciation.

Most successful anniversary campaigns utilize more than one of these categories so for greater success, try and aim to hit at least two. And remember, no matter what strategy you choose, conveying your appreciation for the past and enthusiasm for the future never hurts.

Need help brainstorming and planning ideas? We’d be glad to help. Click here to get in touch with us.

 

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