Do you remember the good old days of getting in your car and going from store to store to store to find what you wanted to purchase? I do. I remember needing computer parts and I would go to Best Buy and then TigerDirect and then Circuit City to find the best deal.
Sure you could shop online, but it wasn't like today where you simply go to Amazon and it's delivered to your front door the next day.
In a recent blog post, I talked about AI, but one of the things I didn't cover was data bias.
Consumer Data Bias
What I mean by data bias is this, when you program in information, if the data is biased (leaning towards one belief or outcome), the artificial intelligence will make decisions based on that biased data. Well, similar to that, we're all consumers and we tend to think the same way most other consumers think. But when you're trying to market to B2B businesses for better sales, data bias can get us thinking more like a consumer and less like a business.
Today, I want to talk about marketing to B2B businesses, three things it is and three things it is not.
Lead Gen vs. Human Connections
First, it's not for easy lead generation.
A woman contacted me and she said right off the bat, “I don't have time for marketing.” What she wanted was to find somebody to train her assistant, who had no marketing experience, how to find insurance buying customers for her. As I started exploring the concept, one of the things that she sold was individual plans and group plans. Individual plans tended to focus on consumers, and group plans focused on businesses.
When I asked which one took more energy, she said, “Well, they both are equal, right? Consumers, I have to sell more of them, but with group plans, they're bigger and better.” What I tried to do was help her to focus on the fact that what would give her the best return on investment was to create awareness and referrals from other people in group plans she had already sold. That way, she could have more of a B2B focus. What I tried to emphasize is that her marketing could get better results by creating better human connections.
The Bottom Line
Rather than trying to focus on getting cold leads and spending all the time chasing a bunch of individuals, which she said she didn't have, she should focus on the long game of selling bigger group plans.
Promotion vs. Awareness
The next story is about the difference between creating customer and prospect awareness, as opposed to self-promotion. B2B marketing is not about shameless self-promotion.
There was a president at a company I was working with who said, “I don't like email, and I don't want to create new content all the time and add it to my website. Since I only like getting emails once a month, that's what I'm going to do. I'm just going to send out an email newsletter once a month about all the great things about our company.”
Well, frankly, if you only send it out once a month, that means you can only create 12 touches per year. And secondly, if all you're doing is talking about yourself, you are going to get less than the desired results. I mean… really, who cares?
Basically, what he wanted was to create and market with email ads. He wanted people to read his newsletter and buy from that. But what he really needed was to create new and interesting content to help clients and prospects become aware of what made his company better and different. And he needed to show them what was in it for his clients and prospects. Also, he needed to do it more often than just once a month.
By utilizing email on a more regular basis to promote individual, single stories, rather than this compilation email newsletter, the company could reach a broader audience who would engage with the more frequent targets information. Plus he needed a way of getting those people back to the website and capturing their data. Instead of trying to do shameless self-promotion in an email, which marketing is not, it should be more of a thoughtful client interaction and engagement tool.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, he wanted his sales team to have a conversation with someone. With B2B marketing, you have to take them through a path during the buying journey. You can't just email somebody like a hot item in Amazon, expect them to jump on board, click, and buy right then and there. B2B sales take more nurturing and more time, and you have to be willing to invest in your customer relationships.
Ecommerce vs. Bulk Sales
The last concept I want to talk about trying to use more of an e-commerce model, online marketing, and advertising to build customer awareness of their product.
B2B marketing is not about consumer or e-commerce amplification. This particular company made hot sauces, which they imported from another country, and they wanted to increase online sales.
Now, the big challenge with that is you can buy Google or Facebook ads, but the profit for small bottle orders was so low he needed ads that cost pennies per sale to make it worth his time and money. Yes, he might get repeat customers, but selling individual products to individual people is much harder and it's really hard to recoup ad costs.
What he wanted was more traffic to his website to increase awareness and create individual sales, but what he needed was to create a buzz around his product.
There's no better way to do that than to have it in more restaurants where people can actually try it on food and then prompt them to order individual bottles online. Even better, if he can get them into smaller restaurants and show a restaurant chain how popular his product is becoming, he can create custom-branded bottles for each business. As a bonus, if they have multiple locations, he can sell more cases at a time.
In smaller restaurants, he could put his website and email address or even a QR code on the bottle so people could figure out how to get it themselves.
The Bottom Line
What he was really trying to do was get more people to purchase his product, but he would've had a much better chance of doing this by using his network of connections in the restaurant business and getting them to purchase his product to provide to consumers. That would've given him a platform to be able to grow his business organically, not only through B2B by selling cases but getting more consumers who wanted to buy his brand individually.
Let's go over those three things one more time. Number one, B2B marketing is not for easy lead generation because dealing with leads takes time, and usually, leads end up with a 1-2% close rate. What you want to try to do in B2B marketing is maximize the relationships that you have to generate additional referrals that can bring in bigger business in one fell swoop. Yes, it takes longer, but the payoff is better.
The second thing that B2B marketing is not for is shameless self-promotion. I hate to say this, but really nobody cares. What customers and prospects want is thoughtful, creative, good information that's going to help them do their job better and in the process prove that you're the right choice for their business.
Then finally, if you're trying to create consumer demand, the best thing to do is get it in front of more consumers where they can actually use it. Try to use B2B connections for your product that allows more consumers to try and test your product.
Although our brains may be biased to consumer methods in marketing, we have to remember B2B is more complex, more relational, and takes more time.
I would love to hear your thoughts on your relationship marketing system. Comment below and share your thoughts, ideas, or questions about marketing for B2B sales.
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