‘Tis The Season
The end of the year is always interesting. It's a time to reflect on the past, while we look toward the future, and many of us are giving and getting presents! Having moved to a new city, many of our presents are coming and going via Secret Santa Trucks (White = FedEx, Brown = UPS, and Blue = Amazon).
It's kinda like a gift exchange. If someone sends you a gift, generally we feel obligated to send them one of equal or greater value in exchange.
One gift sent to us was a box of Chicago food. It included Portillo's Beef and Lou Malnati's Pizza. It took a little searching around the packaging that it came from our daughter in Chicago. Since the food down here in Raleigh is not as good, we have to be creative to reciprocate.
Another box was from Chewy. Santa Doggy (or Santa Paws) sent our dog Layla a gift box with toys, treats, and tennis balls. That one has no card or sender information. It's a puzzle that we feel obligated to solve.
We called both the kids and they confirmed it was not them. I posted a picture to social media, and so far everyone said it was not them. So it's still a very sweet mystery that needs to be solved.
It's gonna be a very exciting Christmas morning for our 4-legged daughter!
The Past & The Future
Another thing that happens this time of year is meetings and parties. In the course of a couple of days, I met a marketing person who was looking for some guidance, and a professional expert who speaks around the world on B2b marketing. The newbie was exploring a strategy to use Instagram and TikTok to build a brand, while the pro said she works in the “Boring World” of B2b marketing.
Neither of that is totally true. B2b marketing is totally not boring, and B2b audiences rarely make buying decisions on Instagram or TikTok. But, both conversations got me thinking.
The young person was using a consumer mindset to try to brand to a B2b audience. I believe the expert used the word boring because the world of B2b tends to focus on data capture and analysis.
B2b marketing is neither flashy nor boring. I consider B2b marketing as a way of helping salespeople connect with current and past customers, and engage with new prospects. It's only flashy if it gets people to start conversations, and it's exciting when salespeople help solve a customer's most challenging business problems.
Consumer marketing strategies tend to be more flashy so they can become bright and shiny in the eyes of B2b companies. Unfortunately, I have found that this often tries and fails to reap valuable data when it comes to the only thing that really matters in B2b business… and that's SALES!
What follows is a list of four ways I have seen marketers, experts, and agencies try to use flashy and trendy consumer tactics to build B2b sales.
The Social Strategy
Social media success is measured around engagement. Engagement often is measured by likes, comments, and shares. If that happens, your brand is trending and it excites everyone.
In my book ‘It's Not About You… It's About BACON' I decipher Know, Like, and Trust as – a Like equals KNOW, a Comment equals LIKE, and a Share equals TRUST. If you get people to engage with your content, you are building KNOW, LIKE, & TRUST!
What's missing from the B2b side is the CTA (Call To Action). If you can't get people off of social media and into your database, they are just engaging in an echo chamber. Yes, it has benefits to build your brand, but all B2b sales (that are not e-commerce based) require a human to interact with another human.
The Brand Strategy
Don't get me wrong. The brand is important but branding is one leg of a three-legged stool. There is always a journey to Know, Like, and Trust, but in the consumer world that journey is more like a crosswalk than a trail. More often than not, people are already using what you are selling, you just need them to switch brands (or go the other side of the street).
All you have to do is convince them you have a better mousetrap. Your messages will fall on deaf ears if people don't have a mouse problem. So often branding is designed to tell everyone about your mousetrap so the rodent repulsers will pay attention.
Branding requires the why and the how with equal emphasis to complete the customer journey to sales. In my book ‘Toilet Paper Math” I expand again on Know, Like, and Trust. Know equals Awareness (Branding), Like equals Education (Thought Leadership), and Trust equals Sales (Decisions). That can be like a funnel but not quite.
B2b customers need education, thought leadership, and some discussion of the solution process in order to build some trust that your brand can deliver the results they need.
The Sales Funnel Strategy
Sales Funnels are all the rage (and have been for years). It's often like a system salad that includes, social media ads, landing pages, freemiums, email drips, VSLs (video sales letters), and more. Landing pages are often filled with FOMO (fear of missing out), proof of concept, VSLs, and offers sprinkled throughout a 5000-word diatribe designed to persuade you to BUY NOW!!!
Generally, they use a low-cost item (known as a tripwire), to identify leads and trigger sales. Then they will use upsells in the checkout process, or email drips to convince them to spend more.
First, it works for consumers, but business people have the attention of a goldfish. (that's because they don't have time to consume all that stuff). Second, it assumes you will bring a wide audience into the funnel and they will self-select who wants to follow the concepts. Finally, It's transactional. People use funnels to NOT have to spend time with the audience or purchasers (unless they are upselling a coaching group).
The Black Friday Strategy
Scarcity is another form of FOMO (fear of missing out) dressed up in a Black Friday suit. You see this being used successfully by Amazon (Prime Days), and retailers (Kohl's) with 30% to 50% off coupons or one-day deals. It's a use-it-or-lose-it mentality. The funny thing is that Kohl's sends me 30 to 40% off coupons at least once a month.
It's a very effective consumer tactic to get people to buy things (especially things they may not need now, but will later). I bought TVs, security cameras, and other technology back in July when I knew we would not use them until September (when we closed on our house).
In the B2b world, scarcity scares people even more in this environment of supply chain shortages. You don't want to lead with fear, you want to build confidence that you have what they need, you can deliver it now, and that you are in it for the long haul.
I often talk about bridging the gap between marketing and sales. I find that marketing that supports relationships between salespeople and customers leads to sales. Not every interaction ends in a profitable exchange, but having someone who needs what you sell, can afford what you sell, and has the time to engage in discussion, often has a better chance of ending up in a long-term B2b relationship of mutual benefit (kinda like a gift exchange)!
“The only people who steal are thieves, and that's a very small percentage of civilization. Most people want to have some way to make the economic transaction valid. They want to return the favor, if you will… return the benefit and reciprocate.”
– Michael Nesmith
Comment below and share your thoughts, ideas, or questions about the marketing strategy you use to build business relationships. Have you found any consumer tactics that work for B2b? What tactics have you tried that failed? What do you exchange that makes others want to reciprocate with you?
To learn more about this and other topics on B2b Sales & Marketing, visit our podcast website at The Bacon Podcast