More Stuff B2B Marketing Needs to Break

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Last month, I attended the Break Sh!t event hosted by Terminus. It was a fun format and the short sessions from standouts including Andrew Davis, Katie Martell, Oli Gardner, Sangram Vajre, and more, were compelling.

I could say a lot more about how great Jay Baer was as host or the wonderful saxophone intermissions played by Saxsquatch, but you can go see for yourself.

Ever since, I’ve been thinking about a few more things that B2B marketers need to break.

Break the Personalization Assumption

Marketers are all wrapped around the axle on personalization. But, in B2B, it’s not as much about knowing their shoe size as it is understanding their industry, role, and use case. In fact, proving you know them can decrease purchase intent by 4%. If you do so without helping them advance their thinking about solving a problem. Research from Gartner found that helping B2B buyers advance increased purchase intent by 16%.

So perhaps we need to think more about understanding and helping than knowing about more personal stuff.

Here’s an example: Rather than making an assumption that has a high probability of backfiring, such as “As a [title] you’re challenged by X…” I can’t tell you how many of these I get, and they haven’t been right yet. It’s annoying.

Try this instead: “In our work with [title], we’re hearing that X…” This is much more effective because it triggers the voyeuristic and curiosity tendencies that motivate people to engage. They want to know what people like them are thinking, seeing, doing.

Break the “If I don’t like it, they won’t like it” Evaluation Process

This one is a never-ending source of frustration. Unless you ARE the persona you’re selling to, what you think doesn’t matter. The content isn’t for you. It’s for your audience.

The flip side of this can be even more irritating. How many times have you had an exec tell you to do something (create content, change your messaging, etc.) because they think it’s cool? They just LOVE the concept so you should go create it because who wouldn’t LOVE it?

Whoever “they” are, it’s unlikely that they’re your persona, either. Irrelevance is only an idea away. Marketers need to get out of their heads and into the shoes of their personas. The only thing that matters is what’s relevant to them.

Instead, Robert Rose made the point beautifully in his Note in the CMI newsletter recently where he advised “Don’t Fall in Love with Your Content.” He related an experience from early in his career where he created a story about his company’s product as “true SaaS” and competitors as “fake SaaS.” The team kept trying to evolve the story and couldn’t figure out why their audience wasn’t engaging. Turns out, they weren’t the least bit interested.

Break the Illusion of Control

In case you’ve been under a rock for the last five or so years, buyers have taken control of how they buy. Most of them don’t want to talk to your sales rep. They don’t buy linearly, and they expect consistency across all interactions with you on whatever channel they’re using. And they now prefer digital to face-to-face.

So, rather than creating linear programs, think about how to enable a “choose your own adventure” experience that gives them what they want. For all that’s good in the world, do not leave them at a dead end should you gain their attention and engagement. Give them choices. Always!

Instead of control, think about how you can help buyers build confidence in solving the problem. The inability to reconcile competing information and build the confidence to justify a buying decision is impacting the skyrocketing rate of no decisions and stalled deals, according to Gartner.

At the Gartner CSO conference, Brent Adamson said, “The single biggest driver of purchase likelihood in a B2B sale is the degree to which customers feel confident about their own decisions.” This is a much better focus than trying to control or force buyers to go down the path you want, rather than what they need.

Break the Campaign Constraint

Campaigns are a marketing construct that’s no longer relevant. No interested buyer ever said, “Please give me enough information to engage me and then leave me hanging.”

The problem with campaigns is they end. They assume that after three or four touches, a sales call is warranted. If buyers don’t respond on the timeline you lay out, it’s time for a new campaign.

I think we do this because we get bored, we’re under a mandate to create #X “leads” in a short timeframe (month or quarter), the company launches a new product, and for other handy excuses.

The short-term focus of a campaign limits our thinking, so we don’t give the storyline the thought it takes to tell it from start to finish—across the entirety of the buying process, no matter how long that takes on the buyer’s timeline.

Instead, think about all the things a buyer needs to learn to shift their thinking from status quo to embracing change. From solving internal concerns within the buying committee to defining requirements, learning what they don’t know, gaining consensus, and justifying the decision, there’s a lot of jobs that need to get done for them to advance to the point of purchase.

Go Forth and Break B2B Marketing Stuff

If you’re afraid to break B2B marketing stuff, your marketing will stay where it is. To evolve, we must learn to let go of the tried and true as it loses its luster…and relevance. Marketers need to experiment. We need to try new ways of reaching and engaging our buyers because they’re gaining new perspectives and expectations about the experiences they want and are willing to engage in.

Most of all, spend the time to really get to know and understand your buyers. Marketing KPIs may be about what your company wants, but the execution that will help you achieve those outcomes is grounded in what your buyers want.

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