B2B Marketing Tactics For Startups
In a previous post I talked about how B2B firms are overly influenced by consumer marketing techniques. So what marketing tactics are appropriate for B2B firms? There are lots of other sites that will talk about B2B Marketing 101 and the hot new trends in B2B (Social Media currently tops these lists). It’s worth mentioning some underused tactics.
B2B firms, particularly start-ups, typically need only a handful of clients rather than thousands. So that means marketing spend should be laser focused on likely prospects. Besides, all the money you could spend on an expensive media campaign will be needed to pay commissions to your sales people. Companies almost always underestimate the cost of acquiring a new customer. This is doubly true for new firms without a reputation or a network of promoters and evangelists.
So you may ask: ‘if I am not advertising how do I make people aware that I exist’? Before the Internet, or even pre-Google, that question would have forced a B2B firm to advertise. However, B2B companies sell ‘high-consideration’ products. In other words, the customers will do a lot of research and evaluation before purchasing. The buyer’s most likely first step will be to search for a solution on Google and Bing. Search is by far the best marketing investment a B2B firm can make, especially if you are small or a start-up.
For the web-savvy marketer, Search won’t seem innovative. However B2B firms have been slower to move in this area than consumer firms. This will change very quickly as the mainstream and late adopters finally move into the 21st century.
When a prospective customer does come to a B2B what is the best way to engage them?
Despite the now defunct adage that ‘No one ever got fired for buying IBM’ business customers usually do a lot of investigation and research. They often make decisions counter to the dominant brand. Business buyers will buy based on 2 things: 1) their own reearch, and 2) what other customers are saying. When prospects come to a B2B site education needs to be the focal point, with references a close second.
The best way to educate a customer is a strong Interactive Demo on the web site. A good 30 second demo is far stickier than well crafted copy describing what your product does (which few will actually read). A majority of B2B web sites still do not offer interactive demos. The reason for this is usually the expense. For a start-up business the cost of developing a demo may be more than the cost of launching the rest of the site. Typically the cost will start at $50,000 and go up from there. Another common mistake is to create a demo and then hide it on a product page. If you have a good demo, seriously think about putting it on the home page.
The best way of proving your value is by highlighting what your customers are saying. Most web sites offer case studies and testimonials. These are a good first step, although surprisingly time consuming to create. An even more effective technique is offering links to blogs and articles by and about customers’ successes with your products. You may even want to challenge your customers with a contest to post articles about their innovative applications of your product.
If you are selling to businesses you probably want to establish thought leadership, i.e. establish yourself as an expert in the field. The web site is a starting place for this, but you don’t want to overload it with information. So link the web site to a blog, and make sure you maintain it so it doesn’t get stale (which often happens after a big deal is closed). The next thing to do is micro-blogging, better known as Twitter. Tweeting about issues of concern to your customers is a great service to provide. The tweet topics can be about your industry and area of expertise, but they can also be about your community and other helpful information. I knew a sales rep. for bicycles who simply communicated jokes. Maybe this wasn’t too business-like but his distributors loved him and it kept communication channels open.
As your business grows a CRM system is a necessity. It’s not just a Rolodex. It’s an account planning tool, it should feed email campaigns, and house basic business intelligence on customers. This is just as important for consumer companies, but the difference is that B2B companies can have this information for 100% of their customers. Most importantly, the CRM system can be used to measure the degree of customer engagement for every account, and to spot accounts that are in trouble.
An NPS score is the most important leading indicator on the health of your customer relationships, and by extension, the health of your balance sheet. NPS (Net Promoter Score) is the percentage of customers who would recommend you to a friend minus the percentage of customers who would not. If you have even 10 customers it’s worth monitoring this number on a quarterly basis.
This certainly hasn’t been an exhaustive survey of B2B marketing techniques, but hopefully it’s covered the more interesting ones.
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