b2b tech marketing

Value Propositions – what you do, why it’s important, how you do it

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What are you good at? What can you do better than your competitors? Why should I buy something from you? Many companies think they know the answers to these questions but often they don’t or cannot communicate them clearly. Technology companies in particular often emphasise a list of unique product features without clearly tying these back to a business problem they solve for their customers. According to the Forrester Research paper “Six essential elements of an effective technology marketing pitch”, only 34% of business professionals indicate that their best IT providers are able to articulate the business value of their solutions.

Another common problem is lack of a single definition within a company – if you ask two different sales people you get two different answers as to what they do and why they’re the best. Is this a big problem? Well, yes if you want to sell anything. From the outside, a lot of companies look the same to their potential customers. The more complex the product or service, the harder it is for buyers to understand how to differentiate between the available options. You have to make it easy for buyers to quickly understand how you can help them and why you are better than your competitors. You do this by defining a clear and compelling Value Proposition. Read More

The future of sales and marketing?

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Marketing will become more technical, sales teams won’t be on the road so much, and there’s going to be more overlap and, hopefully, alignment.

The web, online advertising and online marketing are having a big impact on how Business-to-business (B2B) companies sell.  But in some ways this just reflects the fact that B2B buyers now buy things differently too. Ten years ago, buyers started their selection process by talking to vendor sales people, often at industry tradeshows. And there were fewer people involved in the buying decision on the customer’s side.  Today buyers do much more initial research online, so they know much more about a vendor before that vendor becomes aware of them and before direct contact is made.  Who initiates the research and who participates in the buying decision is more complex, with more people involved even for deals in the $5k to $50k range.

This means that to be successful, companies need to meet the research and information needs of prospective customers at as early a stage in the buying process as possible.  They need to be easily found online by the various people who contribute to a customer buying decision, and when they are found they need to provide compelling information that addresses the specific questions of each type of buyer or  influencer. Read More

Creating content that generates awareness and demand

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People don’t buy things they way they did 10 or 15 years ago.  Whether it’s a hotel room, a house or a $200k software system, their search begins online. This means that your prospective customers need to find you online, and when they find you there needs to be enough compelling information (a.k.a. “content”) for them to choose you over a competitor. Creating demand for your products and services depends on creating the right kind of content for your potential customers, meeting their information needs as they move from being aware of a potential problem they want to solve through to selecting a particular solution and vendor.  You put that content online on your website, on your blog and on third party sites and then take steps to ensure it’s easily found by your prospective customers.  As your prospects access that information you interact with them, establishing your relevance and persuading them to choose you as their preferred solution provider.

In the last post I highlighted advice from the MarketingSherpa B2B Lead Generation Handbook on the ‘information need’ phases through which buyers move as they begin to consider a product purchase (from Awareness, through Consideration and then to Risk Avoidance/Decision).  (We will come back to the question of modelling buyer behaviour in later posts, using a technique called Buyer Persona Analysis).

Once you understand the ‘information needs’ of your buyers at different stages in the buying cycle, you can start to match that up with corresponding types of content.  The output will be a table or matrix that lists

  • each of the buyer types who are involved in a typical purchase of your product or service,
  • the phases they go through during the purchase cycle, and
  • the specific types of content you should offer them at each point in that cycle.

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What kind of content should you create for B2B Marketing?

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Business to business marketing depends more and more on creating ‘content’ – material that provides information that is not necessarily sales or marketing related. Examples include business articles, technical white papers, YouTube videos and presentations. The purpose of generating this content is to indirectly influence your target audiences – if they think what you have to say is interesting and insightful then they’ll come back to talk to you when they’re buying your kind of product or service.
MarketingSherpa (www.marketingsherpa.com) provides some great tips on the kind of content you can use to promote your business in their B2B Lead Gen handbook. They provide some important points to consider:

  1. the content you create should always be about your audience, their interests and their industry, not about you, your company or product
  2. you should create different types of content targeted at different audience segments
  3. you should create content for each stage of the sales cycle (or buying cycle, if you think of it from the prospective customers’ point of view).

On this last point they recommend your content should suit the information needs of potential customers as they move through three broad stages:

  • Awareness: at this stage you are trying to make them aware of the problem you solve, persuade them it’s a problem they should be concerned about, and make them aware that you’re the best vendor to solve it
  • Consideration – here you’re trying to provide information that helps them educate themselves in a bit more detail e.g. what do they need to know to pick the top 3 vendors; what information do they need to finalise a purchase decision for your product type
  • Risk Avoidance/Decision – how can you convince them that you are a safe brand; that you are the best fit for their needs; what do their peers or market commentators say?

I think this is a great starting point when planning the kind of content you will need to generate to support your marketing plans.  It also prompts you to think about the information needs of the different buyers you are trying to influence.  Does a technical buyer move through Awareness, Consideration and Risk Avoidance/Decision the same way someone working in procurement does?  Do you have to provide content for both of them? In the next post I’ll summarize the types of content you can generate to meet the information needs of buyers.

7 Reasons Why Marketing Automation Projects Fail

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Jep Castelein has written an excellent post, “7 Reasons Why Marketing Automation projects fail” on his Lead Sloth blog.  Some of his points are to be expected e.g. No. 1, know who you’re trying to target and ensure your marketing is relevant to them, No. 6, don’t try to sell the wrong products to the wrong people.  He also cites “Lack of Expertise” i.e. you may need to get help to get the most out of your marketing automation system.  The blog reinforces some points from the recent DemandGen report on Marketing Automation,which also highlighted that ease-of-use is a big factor in success or failure, and that you need to clearly define your objectives and processes in advance of adopting a solution.

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