My posts here over the past several weeks have focused on providing information and discussing concepts that can help marketing leaders develop more effective marketing plans for 2022. By now, many marketing leaders will be in the final stages of their planning for next year, but there's one more important point to make.
It's undeniable that the landscape of B2B marketing is constantly changing, and successful marketers must be prepared to adapt their strategies and tactics to fit those changes. But it's equally important that marketers recognize and be prepared to leverage what hasn't changed. Here's a personal anecdote to illustrate the point.
Wisdom from the Past
Early in my business career, I was fortunate to meet and get to know a great B2B salesperson. I met William in 1988 and talked with him frequently until he retired in 1995.
William sold printing presses and other production equipment to commercial printing companies and businesses that had an internal print department. The company William worked for was (and is) highly respected in the printing industry, and William was a very successful salesperson.
William told me that one important key to his success was identifying which companies in his territory were ready to engage in a serious evaluation process that could lead to a buying decision. William also told me that at any given time, only about 10% of the prospects in his territory fit this description.
William realized that he could use his time more effectively and close more deals if he could consistently identify which prospects were ready to begin an active buying process. So he spent a fair amount of his time "taking the pulse" of his prospects.
How did he do this? Well, he devoted two or three days of almost every week to visiting prospects. In most cases, the business owner or another senior manager would be willing to spend thirty minutes or an hour with William even when he showed up unexpectedly.
During these visits, William and his prospect would talk about what was happening in the prospect's business and in the overall printing industry. William's company regularly sponsored research regarding important printing industry trends, and he would share the research reports with his prospects. Most importantly, they would discuss any issues or problems the prospect was having with his or her equipment.
Through these visits, William could get a pretty good idea of which prospects were ready to have a meaningful conversation about buying new equipment. When he identified the "sales-ready" prospects, William would shift to a more focused selling process.
Recognize What Has and Hasn't Changed
I frequently write in this blog about the many ways that B2B marketing and B2B buyers have changed and why these changes require new B2B marketing techniques. So it would be easy for me to devote this post to a discussion of why William's approach won't work in today's environment. But when I think about what William taught me, I'm struck by how many things haven't really changed all that much.
In 2022, as in William's day, B2B companies will need a way to determine which prospects are ready to begin an intentional buying process . . . and which ones aren't.
In 2022, as in William's day, B2B companies will need to be engaged with prospects who aren't ready to begin a buying process . . . because some day many of those prospects will be ready. (Note: For more on this point, see my recent post explaining why astute B2B marketers don't ignore "out-of-market" prospects.)
In 2022, successful B2B marketing will be more about connecting with potential buyers empathetically, emotionally and rationally, demonstrating value and nurturing buyer confidence, and less about "persuading" unprepared prospects to buy. This, too, was largely true in William's day.
The pace of change in some aspects of B2B marketing over the past two-plus decades has been breathtaking, and those changes have been discussed ad nauseam in the B2B marketing literature and in hundreds of webinars and conference presentations.
But marketing leaders should not lose sight of the reality that many of the core principles of marketing and buyer psychology have changed very little. The tools and techniques that successful marketers will use next year will necessarily be different from those used in the past, but the thoughts and emotions that marketers need to evoke in customers and potential buyers haven't changed much in decades.
So as marketing leaders finalize their plans for 2022, it's vital to consider both what has and what hasn't changed.
Image courtesy of R. Miller via Flickr (CC).