B2B Marketing

To Your B2B Marketing Success!
Join us for actionable business-to-business insight that will help you get B2B sales and marketing results. You will find many valuable ideas here across a broad spectrum of B2B marketing topics and issues.

Time – Your Most Valuable Marketing and Sales Asset

Time DeadlineNot sure about you, but I am at a place in my life where I would choose more time over more money. The list of things to do grows longer and the time seems to pass more quickly. And while many marketing and sales managers wish for bigger budgets, sometimes what we really need is better allocation of our time. Here are a few characteristics about time you may not have thought about:

  • You get exactly the same amount as the world’s richest and most powerful people. Although someone like Bill Gates can use his money to make his time more effective, he can’t buy an extra second more time.
  • It is easier to waste time than maximize time.
  • Given the same amount of time, Person A can accomplish multiples of what Person B accomplishes.
  • It’s often easier to tell other people how to use their time effectively than doing it right yourself.

Some people are better at talking about doing things – while others are better at actually doing things. Yet marketing and sales – in fact all parts of business – reward the “doing” more than the “talking.” In marketing and sales, there is a time to plan and a time to act — and the extra time planning, pondering, and deliberating can often be better spent by taking smaller actions, learning from these actions, and then scaling activities based on results, not speculation. Or as Andy Warhol put it: “They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”

I often write blog posts to address my own issues and remind myself about what is important. As a marketing and sales consultant, I am selling time and expertise.  The only way I can scale my business (which we have done) is to build a team of gifted people who have something of value to offer clients, and to make our collective expertise increasingly more valuable to more clients. So how does this all impact what I do every day?

For one thing, I need to revisit a simple tool like the following (popularized by Stephen Covey) that organizes activity into four categories based on the degree of urgency and importance of a particular use of time.

Marketing Time ManagementWhen you perform this exercise, you will be amazed at the number of potential activities that fall into quadrants 3 and 4, which can be eliminated or delayed. This gives you/me more time to spend on the urgent and important items in quadrant 1 – and more important, those important items in quadrant 2 that so often get delayed due to seemingly urgent but unimportant tasks that divert attention.  In my case, this means concentrating on activities that forward the goals of my clients, build our business, and help our team grow and prosper. Of course, focusing on the top priority items also leaves me more time for the other things that matter: family, friends and fun activities.

The bottom line is that, as a professional in the marketing and/or sales profession, you/I don’t want to be:

  • A person who complains about how busy they are but accomplishes little.
  • A person who wastes precious minutes/hours griping about people or situations that are not going to change.
  • A person who talks a good game but doesn’t get onto the playing field.
  • A person who wastes their company’s or their client’s money by not giving full effort for the compensation received.

Finally, we don’t want to be a person who is busy but not productive.

Seth Godin wrote about this in a short post titled Is productive the same as busy?

“No one complains of having spent an entire day doing ‘productive work’. Busywork, on the other hand, is mind numbing. It’s possible that if you have a job where your tasks (your busy-ness) is programmed by someone else, that being busy is your job.

For everyone else, though, busy might be precisely the opposite of productive. Maybe the best exhortation isn’t to “get busy.” Instead, perhaps it involves slowing down enough to feel the fear. The fear that we might only hear in the quiet moments, in the gaps between crises.”

Good advice…

Marketing Specialist or Generalist – Which do You Need?

One of my favorite business writers, Bob Bly, published an intriguing article in an October, 2015 newsletter on the topic of whether a marketing generalist or specialist is preferable. Bly opened his article as follows:

Robert Heinlein, the great science fiction writer, despised the idea of specialization. “Specialization is for insects,” wrote Heinlein. “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.”

I think I will skip the parts about setting bones, pitching manure and dying gallantly (at least for the next few decades) but I have some thoughts about whether you need a generalist or specialist when it comes to marketing. For one thing, I agree with Mr. Bly about how the explosion of data and new technologies makes it much harder to be a good generalist. But I would argue that a generalist has advantages because he or she understands every function, at least to some degree – and this ensures that you have a better chance of recommending the right mix of media and techniques.

One of the problems with marketing specialists is that they tend to revert to their area of expertise (like the proverbial man with a hammer that sees everything as a nail).  But of course there are advantages to working with specialists, particularly if the specialization is in the specific domain of your company. For example, a B2B marketer who spent a decade or more in the enterprise software industry will have more value to you than someone with equivalent experience in consumer goods marketing – if you happen to be an enterprise software company.  Also, if your business model is based on inbound marketing, a person with strong online marketing skills can be quite helpful.

Perhaps the best option is to hire a marketing generalist who has a couple of identified areas of specialization that are most relevant to how you attract prospects and sell new customers.  If you have a solid generalist on board, you can outsource the critical skills you lack, often at a better rate than hiring internal personnel. In fact, you can outsource the entire marketing operations to a marketing-as-a-service (MaaS) company.

By the way, in my own case, I am considered to be an overall B2B marketing generalist who is very strong in a few key areas; strategic alignment, business modeling, lead-to-revenue, pull marketing, content marketing – and fair in a few other areas like public relations and pay-per-click marketing. This seems to serve my clients well and I am fortunate to have a great team to fill in any needed specialization gaps. You no doubt have your own unique set of skills that can be enhanced with outside specialists.

The Importance of Processes in Effective Lead-to-Revenue

Process OptimizationComponent 3 in our recent eBook The Essential Guide to Building Your Lead-to-Revenue Machine is optimized marketing and sales processes. You can read lots of articles and white papers about the various technology options – CRM, marketing automation, sales enablement etc., but in my experience, unless you get the processes right,  even the best people and technology will just help you fail faster and more expensively.

This is why we always recommend that our clients start with processes as the first component of a well-oiled, end-to-end marketing and sales infrastructure – and only then make sure they have the appropriate technology and people to run the lead-to-revenue (L2R) machine.

Here are some important keys to creating and optimizing your marketing and sales processes:

  1. Concentrate your efforts on finding the companies and individuals that have a genuine need for what you offer. This a much easier and less stressful way of doing things—for both you and your prospects? Response rates will be higher, close rates will be higher, and you will not have to manipulate anyone.
  2. Keep things simple and focused on as few priorities as possible. A good way to kill the productivity of a sales force is to throw too much at them. Too many products, too many offers, and too many messages equate to too many chances for the sales team to lose sales.
  3. Treat sales leads with care and respect. It really offends me when sales departments mishandle the leads/inquiries given to them by the marketing department. I have seen sales reps ignore leads, denigrate leads, and follow them up in a half-hearted manner. Often this occurs because the VP of Sales speaks poorly about what marketing is doing, creating a culture where reps feel it is okay not to work the leads they are given. Leads cost money, and few of us have extra money to waste. If the lead quality is not where it needs to be, please review my post about creating a service level agreement (SLA) between marketing and sales.
  4. Build effective sales lead management into the process. One of the best ways to follow the advice from the previous point is to carefully qualify the inbound inquiries and then create an ongoing drip-marketing program to nurture these leads until they are ready to engage in the buying process. Quality sales lead management can boost sales performance by 100 percent or more.
  5. Allow for a highly flexible sales process. While “flexible process” may sound like an oxymoron, sales is both an art and a science. If you over-engineer the process, you can end up with a group of sales reps that will do anything you tell them, except the most important thing — close business. Sales is a game of technique, but also one of instinct and intuition. Thinking and acting outside the box is okay as long as it falls within reasonable limits.
  6. Create a culture of accountability and support. Many sales managers are good at telling their people what to do, but not so good at supporting them. However, the more you try to direct someone’s actions, the more the ownership is retained by you, instead of by the rep, where it belongs. The sales rep’s job is to produce his or her revenue targets. Your job is not to tell your staff how to make their numbers; it is to support them in every way in achieving their goals.
  7. Remain consistent. One of my clients had great technology, but also had a very bad habit of changing their product offerings and value proposition every six months or so. The sales team was encouraged to spend their time on the newest offerings instead of what had worked for them in the past. This required extensive retraining of the team, and they never found their rhythm. In a tough selling world, consistency can be the attribute that keeps your team on top.

Get your processes right to boost your lead-to-revenue success.

Are You a Dirt Road or Superhighway Marketer?

SuperHighway MarketerCompanies have different objectives, work styles and temperaments. Unfortunately, what is needed to achieve marketing success often contradicts what the organization is willing or able to produce from a marketing standpoint.  Here are the five barriers that keep companies stuck on the marketing dirt road and keep them off the fast lane:

Barrier 1: Fear The tendency to avoid making mistakes is quite natural, but many marketers and company executives are so paralyzed by this fear, they stifle action

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Be an Outcome-Based B2B Marketing and Sales Professional

Outcome-Based MarketingA long-time client (and friend) mentioned that I had told her something some time ago that has helped her several times over the ensuing years. My advice was to stop focusing on what she didn’t want for her business and instead focus on exactly what she did want. In other words, start with the outcome in mind, and then work backwards to figure out the strategy, tactics, and so forth.

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Attracting More B2B Buyers by Focusing on Their Interests

What problems are your buyers looking to solve?


b2b-buyers-interestLike you, I’m frequently bombarded by online ads and self-promoting emails from companies trying to convince me to buy their products. The drumbeat of self-promotion is incessant. And like you, I ignore the vast majority since they’re not relevant to my current business needs.

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Why Timing is a Critical Factor in B2B Marketing Success

Timing is EverythingEarlier this year, Bill Gross, founder of Idealab, spoke at TED on the topic of top factors in startup success.  Since Mr. Gross has founded and funded many successful ventures, his advice is worth listening to. After studying 200 startup companies (both successful and not) it was determined that, of the five most important factors, timing was the most critical to the eventual success of the venture. You can watch the TED video for more details, but a summary of the data is shown in the chart below. 

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Disturbing Marketing Trends

I just read an interesting article by Dillon Baker published in The Content Strategist.  It’s titled 13 Stats That Should Terrify CMOs . These trends should not only terrify CMOs, but also CEOs, CFOs and CSOs.  In fact, anyone with a “C” as the first letter of their title should be concerned.  You can read Baker’s post to see all of the disturbing marketing statistics, but I would like to comment on three that were particular red flags to me.

Standard Banner Ad Click Through Rates have Dropped to 0.12

As you can see from the chart below, banner ad click through rates (CTR) have been dropping precipitously over the past decade.

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How to Get Invited to the B2B Sales Dance

Why Market Awareness Often Trumps Sales Skills

Invited to Sales DanceMy friend and client, Richard Hoffmann, just published a really great white paper on behalf of his company, Trade Only Design Library (www.TODL.com). The purpose of the paper was to tell manufacturers how to grow their market awareness among the architecture and professional design community. I was intrigued by the first two paragraphs of the paper:

Have you ever heard your VP of Sales say something to the effect of, “When we get invited to the dance, we can beat our competitors, but too often, we just don’t get invited because our prospects don’t know who we are”?

It can be frustrating when other manufacturers get the business not because they have better products, but because they were only better in another respect: name recognition. The marketplace leaders get invited because potential prospects know who they are, but they did not know your company, let alone the quality or suitability of your products. Even if your sales force is just as talented, you can only win if you have the opportunity to compete. So the first order of business when it comes to building a strong sales channel is to create enough market awareness to get your products onto the consideration list – to get invited to the dance!

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For B2B Companies, Selling Better is Not the Answer

Sales Growth on a blackboard with Thumbs UpWhen challenged, we humans have a tendency to resort to the known and familiar path (not taking “the road less traveled”).  And in the B2B arena, this can often mean figuring out a way to sell faster, harder, more aggressively, etc. This can mean upgrading sales skills, hiring more sales people, changing comp plans or finding a new system to move prospects through the sales funnel.

I understand this — my first job in the computer software industry was with a company that was then a startup, but became an industry leader that was later sold for about half a billion dollars. Our software ran on mainframe systems and there was no email, social media or smartphones to conduct promotions. In fact, the PC was just appearing, and this little company called AOL was introducing us (at a snail’s pace of 300 baud) to the joys of being online – with virtually no commerce involved. Many, if not most, readers will have no idea of what I am talking about in the last two sentences, but that’s okay. The point is, if you spend a lot of your career in a sales model that depends heavily on direct sales reps to find, educate, engage and close prospects, that’s how you will tend to approach the future quest for revenue.

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