Are you using the right marketing materials when targeting business-to-business (B2B) buyers?
A one-size-fits-all approach to get new clients doesn't usually work in business-to-business (B2B) marketing, especially when you are selling to medium-to-larger sized companies.
Because the size of the purchase is usually larger than that of a consumer purchase, the decision-making process is often more complex in two ways:
- it involves more steps of evaluating, approval, etc. -- usually resulting in a longer period of time before a purchase is made
- it involves more than one decision maker -- often a team of people including both influencers and a final decision maker.
If you want to secure the order from a prospective client, you'll likely need to convince both influencers and decision makers at the company during the selling process.
This means you'll want to consider tailoring both the messages in your marketing communication and the the formats of your marketing materials to the individual needs and concerns of both.
Influencers in the buying process usually fall into two categories:
- "Users" Influencer - these influencers are typically the ones that will be the most affected by your service in the company. They are often the individuals that initiate or recommend that a service be used. They might have been the contact that originally called you and gathered information from your website.
- "Technical or Operational" Influencer - Their primary concerns are knowing the technical or operational consequences to a purchase. These influencers can initiate a consideration of buying a service, but more often than not, they usually search for alternatives (perhaps your competitors) and also specify how the service would work for the company -- technically, operationally, or both. They are often the ones that make a more final recommendation to a "higher up" decision maker after gathering information from the users.
Marketing materials and sales messages should answer the following questions when targeting influencers:
- What will this service do for us?
- How will it help me do my job and fulfill my responsibilities?
- How will this service solve my problems, pains, and challenges?
- How does this service compare (or how is it compatible) to others that we have used or use now (either internally or externally)?
- How will staff use it or benefit from it?
- How will it change our work flow?
- How will this change my own job? (will it improve it, or will it maybe even eliminate my job at some point?)
What marketing formats work best for influencers?
- Newsletters (both print and email) in which you can produce content that is of value to influencers. Sending out bite-sized tips, advice or other useful material on a regular schedule can solidify and tighten the relationship with those that may recommend your service in their company. (Note: if you use email, be sure that they have given you permission to email them your newsletter).
- White papers or informative special reports that can help them do their work. Offering material that is useful and relevant to them on-the-job can reinforce your credibility.
- Articles in trade journals, magazines, or newspapers. Influencers often devour the content in trade publications in their marketplace. Position yourself as an expert by writing an article or becoming a regular columnist.
- Fact Sheets and FAQs. These are normally in print, but can also be produced in electronic formats (such as web pages or PDF files). Traditionally, these are 8-1/2" x 11', two-sided materials that give more technical information of the features and benefits of your service, or the process in which you perform it.
- Case studies from other clients that demonstrate the measurable advantages of your service from an operational perspective is usually effective with influencers.
These individuals usually make the final purchase decision. The key: they have the authority to spend money -- to allocate company funds to make a purchase. They usually are in upper-middle or upper management positions (perhaps CEO, CFO, etc.). They also usually have limited time to read volumes of marketing materials and proposals, so they heavily rely on the information from the users and technical/operational influencers to make decisions.
Their concerns are usually strictly focused on the bottom line: the return on investment. They are motivated by the value your service brings, not price you're offering -- or even your credentials, per se They will pay for value.
Your marketing materials and sales messages should answer the following questions when targeting decision makers:
- What are the overall economic outcomes or results if we invest in using this service?
- How does using this service move us toward the company's overall goals and objectives?
- What measurable return can I expect from this investment?
What marketing formats work best for decision makers?
- Articles in publications read by executives in your market. This is a similar concept to to writing articles for influencers, however it's important to choose the right publication and topic that have more of an leaning toward business strategy.
- White papers or special reports that discuss strategies, trends or other relevant information appealing to an executive in the market you serve.
- Case studies that have measurable ROI results from another client and/or have testimonials from someone in their peer group (ie., another CEO, CFO or executive manager).