B2B marketing and sales is still about people.

Paul Mosenson, President of NuSpark Marketing, is a very handy colleague to have. As a content aficionado, he frequently forwards valuable B2B marketing info that I might miss seeing otherwise.

Recently he sent me a copy of a report from 2009 loaded with interesting insight into the behavior of business buyers. The 202 pages in the document are part of “The Buyershere Project” put together by Gord Hotchkiss of Mediative (formerly Enquiro).

As he explains, the Project started with wanting to know how business product and service buyers make their buying decisions. He began the research by just talking to over 100 B2B buyers and asking them how they buy within their organization. Then he added insight gathered from a panel he moderated at the SES San Jose that included representatives from Google, Covario, Business.com, Demandbase and Marketo.

Here are highlights of a few items the report covered that I found most interesting:

At their core, buying decisions are not rational. Regardless of the RFPs, RFQs and vendor approval processes in place to make sure that buying decisions are purely rational, the fact is that, after all the information is gathered, decision makers and influencers make gut decisions. I think this is why personal “relationships” are one of the most important elements in the decision.

  • 50% of B2B budgets go to purchase common items that we buy frequently and repeatedly
  • 46% of these repeat purchases are made from a single preferred vendor
  • The opinion of an existing vendor was the most in?uential factor in business purchases

¬†“99% of B2B buying is about covering your butt.” Buyers typically reduce risk based on these channels:

  • Personal experience with existing vendors
  • Word of mouth from co-workers and peers
  • Credibility and position of the vendor (Remember when buyers thought, “You can never be fired for buying IBM”?)
  • Online research
  • Price

After price/value, the second reason B2B buyers bought was the sales rep. This was true for influencers as well as decision makers.

Winning sales seems to be nearly as much about smart, likeable sales people as it is about the product being offered. It tells me that, maybe, B2B marketers should bring sales into the picture earlier.

As I reported in an earlier blog post, “How B2B marketers can help prevent lost sales,” Kathy Tito of Call Center Services, Inc. explained, “I have seen instances of companies that allow sales leads to become stale by not transitioning them to sales quickly enough to develop interest on the next level. If you have to err on one side or the other, keep in mind that the ‘premature’ hand-off can be managed to have little to no downside. If the lead is not ready, they can always be cycled back into nurture mode.”

The final answer to a big B2B marketing content question.

In business, I have grown up in a direct marketing world, where a response to an offer is the goal of every B2B marketing campaign. So the concept of giving any offer away free was a big leap for me to accept.

This new concept of giving some content away free vs. requiring contact info has become a big subject of discussion — and rightly so. How does one decide which educational content you’ve spent time and money creating should be given away with no strings attached?

Well, I personally judge that discussion closed thanks to Ardath Albee’s authoritative insight on the subject in her recent blog “The Art of The Ask in Content Marketing.”

On her Marketing Interactions blog, she takes B2B marketers through a very sound review of the prospect’s thinking and their actions based on the type of content. Here’s what she presents is going through their minds when faced with any registration form:

“How important is this going to be to me?

What are the chances that they’ll call me?

Is it worth the risk?

I always wanted to be Mickey Mouse…

Maybe I can just alter one digit in my phone number…

And I can use my throw-away email that I ignore…just in case they send a link to the PDF instead of letting me download it right away.”

These are so accurate. I know because it’s exactly what I think when I am faced with registration for content (only I want to be Minnie Mouse).

My response to clients asking whether they should “gate” their content or not is always, “Just ask for the very minimum of information,” that being a name and email address. Unfortunately, the marketing director I work with must then fight sales, which wants to get titles, phone numbers, decision-making authority and so many other pieces of information.

Now, however, thanks to Ardath, I am fully educated on the rules. They are loosely summarized here but I advise my readers to please read all she has to say on this subject because it’s valuable knowledge:

1. Don’t gate the old stuff. If it’s over two years old ungate it.
2. Judge what to put behind a form on its importance and substance. If it’s a quick, early buy-cycle offer, give it away free, then gate the more detailed and substantive white papers, etc.
3. If there is a form, let the prospect check a box if they want to be called by sales. This is a great way to make sure you don’t miss those who may already be in a product evaluation stage. You can also assure others that they won’t be called.
4. Limit any questions on the form to the least information you need — that is, no more than one or two questions.

Material that is not gated definitely positions your company as a resource of information on its area of expertise. It may delay your first contact a bit, but, as Ardath says, “The point is, the sooner prospects start using your ideas to think about solving problems, the better off you’ll be.”

Two B2B marketing rules that cross all forms of communication.

After back-and-forth email discussion with a client today about subject lines on a particular email, I got to thinking about how what I was saying applied to all types of B2B communications.

The fact is, we want to be effective communicators whether the platform is an email, letter, PowerPoint presentation, Website, post card, brochure or who knows what else. If B2B marketers forget all the other rules and best practices of communication, they must remember these two as the basics of getting their messages read. They are simple to remember — but can make a powerful difference.

1. Keep it short.
People are multitasking. They may be reviewing their emails while on a conference call. Schedules are often booked solid all day long. Often they don’t have time to do more than take a quick eye scan of the communication.

B2B marketers are not usually in the same room with the reader when the messaging is being read. They aren’t there to see the person yawning, looking at their watch or not giving the message any more than a glance. The trick to keeping it short is to write the communication. Then let it sit overnight. Then review it the next day and remove every word and sentence that is not critical to its purpose.

Don’t go on and on about product details in a communication inviting attendees to a Webinar demo. Don’t give away all the details of a case study you’re asking prospects to download.

2. Forget your big vocabulary.
B2B marketing communication is always more effective when it uses simple, direct language. The easier it is to read by anyone, the better. Some assert that one should use formal language when talking to, say, academics. However, everyone, regardless of education level, prefers simple, straightforward language. This is especially true when learning about products or services they might want to use. Clearer, more basic language also helps keep the communication short.

This isn’t new advice. In fact it’s been said over and over and over again by me and others. What’s disappointing is how often I still see these rules broken. B2B marketers have a better chance of standing out from their competition in this crowded marketplace by just following these two simple rules.

B2B marketing tip: Targeting prospects on your Web site

All smart marketers agree that reaching the right people with their B2B marketing message and content offer makes the biggest difference in the success of marketing efforts. Sending the wrong message to the right market, or the right message to the wrong market, is a complete waste of money.

That’s why automated lead nurturing is such a rapidly growing B2B marketing approach. By automatically emailing a new offer to a lead/prospect — based on the action that person has last taken — boosts the targeting and gives marketers a better chance of sending the right message and content offer to the right person.

Web sites are different. Although B2B marketers use multiple channel options (SEO, SEM, email, social media, direct mail, banners) to generate Web site visits, they do not have control over who gets their messages.

If a company’s targets come from multiple industries, multiple departments, or multiple titles, who should the messaging on their Web site speak to?

If the decision maker is the CFO, should the focus of the introductory message be on cost, ROI, and the bottom line? What if the product is actually a sales or CRM tool? It’s then recommended by the sales manager, but the CFO has to make the decision due to cost. Wait a minute. If IT has to install and manage the tool, IT needs to have a big say in the decision.

So now the B2B marketer is back to the Web site. Who the heck should it talk to?

Most companies serving multiple industries do a good job of providing navigation to information for each industry. But it’s surprising how few provide specific navigation by individual target or title.

In 2007 I wrote copy for the Web site of a company selling inventory management software to healthcare facilities. The home page navigation included navigation by department, which is, in essence, navigation by the needs of the titles in that department. Under “Advantages” it included:

  • Compliance Benefits
  • Financial Benefits
  • ¬†Inventory Benefits
  • IT Benefits
  • Process Benefits
  • Quality Control Benefits
  • Nurse/Patient Benefits

Each target has different goals and motivations. Each item can link to a page dedicated to the specific benefits the product or service brings to that title or department.

The more a Web site can reach out to the individual needs of decision makers and influencers, the better chance it has of engaging its prospective buyers. Navigation by title or department is a simple, but effective addition that makes Web site messaging more targeted and more effective.

WordPress Themes