Posts Tagged b2b

Playing to customer emotions in B2B

emotions picThis post is in reaction to an interesting blog from @econsultancy. If you read through it, though I don’t advocate the notion of attacking a competitor, you’ll likely find it common sense. But the thing about common sense is that its often rare in practice. How often do we really consider how our customers feel emotionally about their problems or our products in the B2B environment?

It seems to me we, as marketers, spend way too much time articulating features / benefits and not necessarily about what drives customers emotionally. Some key emotions that come to mind relevant to B2B –

1) Security and peace of mind
2) Fear of complexity (and a need for simplicity)
3) Fear of obsolescence
4) Disdain for the big, evil OEM or corporation (that could even be you)
5) Need to be top dog or seen as a thought leader (not necessarily as an organization but as an individual)
6) Fear of unpredictability, inconsistency or failure (not at the product level but as a team or organization)
7) Desire to be perceived as charitable or benevolent

Obviously not every customer in your world is going to share all (or even one) of these emotional needs (that’s where the segmentation comes in).  But when it’s all said and done, hard as we try, people are irrational decision makers.

How often have you tried to rationalize a purchase that in your head you knew was irrational? We see it all the time in the consumer world – products and services become emotional extensions of ourselves and we rationalize in our heads why we need something that we really don’t. I refuse to believe the same can’t be said in B2B. Buyers are still people, and people are still irrational.  There are just different emotions at play.

In my current role we are commercializing a new solution playing to some extent on #s 4, 5 and 6 from above. That said, we’re still in the early phases so I won’t try and convince you of my genius…yet. In the meantime I would love to hear about what others have seen or done to tackle emotional needs in B2B.  I’m all ears, so what have you got?

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B2B is so 1999

brick wallI remember the first time I heard the term “B2B” – I was a senior in college. Any company that made the slightest reference to it was being touted as the next big thing. Looking back on it, I didn’t really get what all the fuss was about and before I had time to stop and think about it, the millennium came and went. Now here we are, 10 years later and I still hear people referring to it like there’s some mystifying secret to it.

Let me shed some light on the matter…

There is no esoteric meaning behind the term because there is no “B2B”. B2B IS DEAD! PEOPLE (not businesses) buy from other PEOPLE (not businesses). And while I don’t think anyone would openly dispute that, there are still those trying to market to businesses!!!

If you were a sales person, you might start with a business target in mind, but you don’t just walk up to the entrance and talk to the bricks on the building wall?  So why as marketers would we target businesses?!?!

Don’t get me wrong, to engage in a conversation we need to start at the business level, but we also have to go deeper. There’s the question of who is the decision maker (VITO) that will ultimately decide whether or not to conduct business with you. And then there are your key influencers, who, being among VITO’s most trusted advisers might be someone who could influence on our behalf. This might be a person within the organization or it might be a particular external thought leader, but either way it’s about a person.

It’s about touching individuals – which means talking to them as individuals, NOT as businesses. Everyone has their own motivations, and just because something is good for the “business” doesn’t necessarily make it good for the individual.

So don’t be a B2B marketer. Be a “people” marketer and always keep in mind what’s in it for them!

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Some further thoughts on Thought Leadership

As my involvement on this blog stems directly from my continuous commenting on this blog, the straw that broke the camel’s back, as it were, was Kris’ recent post on Thought Leadership and the Freemium Concept.  And although the last thing I want this blog to be is Point/Counterpoint, I would like to build on a few points Kris made.

I’m pretty sure Kris and I are saying the same thing here … that at some point content isn’t the thing that you’re selling; at some point, content is the thing you give away to build the credibility it takes to sell the thing that makes you money (the "solution" in the "B2B solution organization" he mentioned).

Should iTunes be free? To that I’d say 2 things: first, iTunes is the "How," not the "What." Second, the music (the "What") is essentially free these days. Even a few short years ago we had to pay $12-$15 for the CD if you wanted 1-2 songs from an artist. Now we pay $1/track. The revenue from that content is shrinking at an alarming rate. The smart artists have figured out that the songs are the tools they use to lure people to concerts, to get them to buy DVDs, to get them licensing deals in movies and on TV shows. Moby, Sting, Dave Matthews … all of these are artists that understand the value of diversifying away from the canonical content. iTunes/Apple, for its part, essentially gives away the content for free (they take 30% of the tx, spending most of that on infrastructure and delivery costs), with the goal being to sell more iDevices.

Whether Netflix should be free is a slightly trickier question, mainly because they’re not the content producer, they are the content delivery mechanism. I’d go so far as to say that Netflix *has* made the content free; for one flat rate I get as many movies as I can watch (remember that Netflix streaming is no incremental payment and unlimited streams per month). While the major studios have clung to the idea of monitizing the actual movie (ticket sales, DVD sales), Netflix has essentially given away the content in an effort to make money on the delivery mechanism and the idea of "entertainment whenever wherever."

Contrast both those situations with the UK Times, where they are still stuck in the mindset that the content is the thing that’s going to make them money. Sure, the stated goal might be "readership," but there’s not much chance that ad revenue is going to make them any sort of real money. And now compare that to Bloomberg and WSJ, neither of which sell the content so much as up-to-the-minute access to the content. Subtle difference, but both the WSJ and BB are actually making money.

In his book "Free," Chris Anderson goes through exactly this sort of debate. As a matter of fact, when the book first came out, he gave it away, looking instead to make money on the lecture circuit. Jeff Jarvis discusses many of the same concepts in "What Would Google Do?" although he directs most of his analyses towards the Google products (another example of a company that gives away the content in favor of generating revenue through other means).

So I guess my point is that I completely agree with Kris’ closing paragraph and would add that, regardless of whether its B2B or B2C, The Change is already happening. Those that can recognize and admit that the change is happening can adjust and thrive; those that cling to old and outmoded business models will not fare as well.

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B2B data capture, tool or customer repellent?

Stumbled upon a very interesting blog that really resonated with me. Having many moons ago come from credit card marketing, I believe customer intelligence is king. The more we know, the more we can deliver the right product and message…but of course, in financial services, customer information is a given. Quality and risk inherently justify the collection of personal information.

So what about in B2B marketing? Do the same rules apply…if not, when is it acceptable to gather data? B2B marketers talk about things like “Thought Leadership”, we push whitepapers and case studies, and ultimately hope people read them. But if we want people to read, share, evangelize, then why do we create obstacles like data capture?

Short answer, in my opinion, is that its what we’ve always done. The problem is that the rules have changed. There is so much content out there. Google is a one-way ticket to information overload. If you don’t get me what I want, I’ll go somewhere else. End of story. So if you need to collect information (or at least*think* you do), here’s some tips…

1) Is it information that I would be comfortable giving – Once you ask for my address, that’s just broadcasting your intent to send me junk mail. Unless you are uniquely positioned to provide crucial, relevant information, I will probably close the window. And as a colleague of mine pointed out yesterday, how many of us have NEVER given fake email or mailing address?

2) Is the information quick to provide, or am I going to have to think about it? Example – I HATE long drop-downs… I never know which of the bajillion options to choose, so I usually just randomly select one or skip the capture all together. Which again, goes back to the actual integrity of the data capture. The more complicated, the more useless the information will ultimately be.

3) Have you given me a preview of the content first? Do I know what I’m getting myself into or am I going to give you a ton of information only to find that you’ve handed me over a brochure promoting your company and product? Talk about ruining the customer experience. This among all things is a big peeve of mine. Data capture is a trade, a business transaction, and my information is worth more than a lousy, self-promoting, brochure.

Wrapping up, I will admit that I am guilty of data capture, but only as a means of timely, relevant follow up. Always take a customer-back approach and consider how your customer will feel. This is not rocket science, but judging from all the registration screens I see everyday, its something that B2B marketers sorely neglect.

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B2Bers in social media revisited

I realize that my last blogging was a little harsh on B2B marketers in social media. The fact is that b2b marketing via social media can be done right, with the right community of followers, with the right content.  But more often than not, it’s done wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong… of course those of you reading this are probably well aware of all this already. Still, its worth repeating.

http://blogs.wsj.com/biztech/2008/06/30/most-corporate-blogs-are-unimaginative-failures/

This is a bit outdated, but I thought I’d share the above link. Forrester did some work that evaluated what b2b companies are doing to take advantage of social media and blogging. Not really surprising it found most corporate blogs to be complete failures as they were too busy talking about themselves and not enough time was spent getting to know their customers. The best place to really start immersing yourself in social media is to just start reading what your customers are saying about you.

 Twitter, Google Blog Alerts, RSS feeds, etc. enable you to take a pasive role in social media while stil gathering invaluable customer insights. If after this you think there’s an opportunity to engage your customers via social media, think about what your customers want to see from these vehicles. I guarantee you its not your latest press releases and product brochures. In my opinion the worst thing you can do is become a blatant self promoter. 

Part of the appeal of social media / web 2.0 is that content is virtually infinite and on-demand… it has in large part become what its become because people were not getting the content / interaction they wanted from traditional mass media… The sooner we can stop looking at social media as personal commercial networks, the sooner we can get on to creating meaningul and collaborative content.

 

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Social Media in a B2B Marketing

Is there room for social media in B2B marketing? Everyone seems to be on the bandwagon, but bottom line is that there is no true line of site to revenue growth. Now as a consumer business, I get it… You’re creating a consumer touch point, gathering insight & feedback, and creating customer advocates. But as a B2B marketer, whats my motivation? Note: Let me say this is more from the perspective of larger companies. Small to medium enterprises are obviously (usually) more nimble and risk seeking.

Consider the facts…

  • Twitter has a 60% abandonment rate.
  • The B2B sales cycle is generally too complex to trace back social media efforts, making it difficult to demonstrate financial impact.
  • Big corporations take on added liability if they blog or twitter. And when companies do twitter, its generally a blatant self-promotion of how great you are, and the tweets end up only being followed by employees (a lot of good that does).
  • And even if you succeed in getting your messaging out there, if your customers are 50 y/o white male executives, how many of them do you think are out there (the exception of course being linked in)?

I’m not saying Social Media is not the way to go… but I think there is a long way to go before I become a social media evangelist in B2B marketing. These vehicles need to prove themselves as revenue drivers before companies will take on the added risk of exposing themselves in an uncontrolled social environment.

So some questions for my readers (however few you might be)…

  • When will that happen and what will it take for this to happen?
  • Is it just a matter of waiting for a younger, technically savvy generation to move further up the corporate ladder?
  • Will folks seeking this sort of digital interaction even work for large companies? Or are large companies doomed to be the dinasaurs that some of us already see them as?

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