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.

The big-picture outcome is the strategic guidepost for the company – what it will be in one, five and ten years. The first step is to understand and communicate exactly how your department, marketing, is an enabler and accelerator for achieving your organization’s BHAGs (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals).

However, it is not enough to theorize about your role in achieving your company’s objectives. Unless you can explain concisely how your department measures and reports on work output, you will not be recognized as a good marketer, let alone be viewed as indispensable in a tough economic climate. Start the evaluation process by asking yourself the following six questions.  Note that some of these are soft/qualitative measurements while others are hard/quantitative measurements. Both are important.

  1. Do you have a well-defined value proposition that is communicated in all your marketing messages and promotions? Can your entire team express this message in a concise and compelling elevator pitch?
  2. Are you targeting the right individuals at the right companies? Do you know who these people are and have you captured them in a system (CRM or database) that allows for ongoing targeted communications?
  3. Is your brand/image being accepted by the marketplace? Are you viewed by your prospects and customers in a way that is consistent with the way you see yourself?
  4. Does every part of your end-to-end marketing and sales model work? Are you both effective and efficient at every phase of the process or are there gaps that keep you from achieving your goals? If so, do you have a plan for addressing these gaps?
  5. Do you have a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with the sales department that specifies the quantity and quality of leads you will be delivering? Is this a sufficient quantity for the company to achieve its revenue objectives?  If you need more information on how to determine lead requirements, read my article: How Many Sales Leads Do You Need?
  6.  Are a reasonable percentage of the leads that you deliver to sales truly qualified? Do they meet the agreed-to criteria and have the potential of actually buying something from your company?

In a later post, I will dive into the specifics of the quantifiable metrics that comprise a solid B2B marketing dashboard. But this will give you a good foundation for becoming a successful outcome-based marketer.

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.

In B2B marketing and sales, we frequently look at the seller’s perspective, considering sales stages, the funnel, conversion metrics, and more. Certainly this is critical to a business since the sales funnel efficiency has a significant impact on revenue. Much has been written about getting more inquiries, the B2B sales funnel and the buyer’s funnel. In fact, I recently wrote a post about how to use Marketing to shrink the B2B Sales cycle. There’s much a company can do to optimize and shrink its effective sales cycle.

The B2B Buyer’s Perspective

But let’s look at the sales funnel from a slightly different perspective — from the buyer’s vantage point. In the B2B marketplace, the buyer has increasing control over the sales process. And buyers are using that control to manage the entire engagement on their terms. Given this, more buyers are hesitating to engage with sales until they’re ready or have a need to engage. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, nearly 93% of B2B buyers would rather buy online than from a salesperson. But we know they will engage if we can help address their needs.

Get a Higher Percentage of Sales Ready Leads through Better Education, Not Better Sales Messaging

It can be harder to come up with good topics that appeal to your buyers. The sales team is a great source, as they frequently hear needs and objections from prospects. Other good sources for ideas can be test marketing with PPC, search analysis, and trade publications. Here are some example questions:

Why are your buyers looking at your products?

What problems are they looking to solve?

What will motivate your buyers to engage with the sales group?

b2b-messaging-focusBusiness buyers are looking for answers to these types of questions before they’re ready to engage in the sales process. By focusing on the buyer’s perspective, you attract, nurture and engage more prospects through educational messaging instead of sales messaging. We continually see this supported with higher email click through rates, better landing page conversions ratios, and most importantly, more sales qualified leads.


An Example – The Buyer’s Perspective Wins

Here’s an example of the change based on our experience. We ( worked with a client that was frequently emailing to their large house list. Led by the VP of Sales, the focus of their emails was self-centered: their solution, why buy from us, why we are so great, etc. As a result, their emails were getting a low percentage of views and almost no click- throughs. In fact, they were performing well below ratios for their industry — an average open rate of 16.8% and average click-through rate of 2%.

By changing to an educational theme narrowly focused on their target market’s pain points, we saw a significant increase in email engagement. In this example, the numbers improved dramatically as people were much more interested in topics they cared about. This is just one example; using this type of messaging strategy, we’ve seen email open rates as high as a 50% and click-through rates as high as 33%.

At the Top of the Sales Funnel, Focus on the Buyer

This focus on the buyer’s needs and perspective is especially critical at the top of the sales funnel. Even if a new inquiry isn’t ready now, informational offers continue to be an effective method of nurturing and reengaging prospects.

Every situation is different, but by switching to a problem solving and educational style of messaging, prospects are more likely to engage with your company. When you focus on their point of view, you’re more likely to move prospects through the top of the funnel and deeply into the sales process.

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. 

Read More

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.

Read More

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 ( 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!

Read More

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.

Read More

Digital Disruption and Disintermediation – Key Drivers for B2B Companies

Digital DisruptionOne of our super-smart clients sent me a really interesting article titled The Battle is for the Customer Interface. The article talks about how the customer interface (usually web-based) is where the action and the big profits are.  To quote from the article: “The new breed of companies are the fastest-growing in history. Uber, Instacart, Alibaba, Airbnb, Seamless, Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook, Google: These companies are indescribably thin layers that sit on top of vast supply systems (where the costs are) and interface with a huge number of people (where the money is).”

So what does this trend have to do with “disintermediation” and “disruption,” and why should you care?

Read More

How Do Potential B2B Buyers Find You?

B2B BuyerThere are hundreds of articles, blogs and papers on the subject of finding B2B prospects.  The conversation goes something like this: “Let’s find out where our prospects hang out and sell them something.” This is the essence of push marketing. On the other hand, we practitioners of pull marketing (or inbound marketing, if you prefer) know that it is almost always better to be the one found than the one doing the finding.  (I’ve written a bunch of blog posts about pull marketing – you can see one example here.)

There are all kinds of ways for B2B buyers to find you, including:

  1. Walking past your trade show booth.
  2. Doing a Google web search for a particular category of product.
  3. Seeing your banner or sponsored ad at a website.
  4. Running across your company on a social media platform.
  5. Learning about you from a friend or colleague.
  6. Reading reviews from online rating sites.
  7. Seeing your ad in an online magazine or content syndication site.
  8. Receiving a requested (opt-in) or non-requested email.
  9. Hearing or seeing your ad on a broadcast medium (e.g. radio).
Read More

Why Pattern Recognition is so Important in B2B Marketing

B2B Marketing Pattern RecognitionYou might think that pattern recognition is an unusual subject for a B2B marketing guy to be discussing in his blog post. But stay with me and you will see that I have a very important point to make.

In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. This is a statistic that is often quoted to show that true expertise usually doesn’t come cheaply. But that being said, there is wide variation in how long it takes individuals to master their craft, assuming that they ever do indeed achieve mastery.

For example, compare two individuals. The first person attends a prestigious culinary institute, followed by apprenticeship at a five-star restaurant. His or her goal is to learn from the best and get to the top of the profession as soon as possible. By contrast, individual two attended a couple of cooking classes at community college and went to work at a diner where he or she has been a short-order cook for the past several years. Both individuals have invested the same amount of time but the outcomes and skill levels are very different.

Read More

Can You Really Use Marketing to Shrink the B2B Sales Cycle?

new-sales-model-thumbnailIt seems at least once a week that I talk to a B2B company about how to shrink their sales cycle. Sales executives and CEOs get especially frustrated because their quarterly sales forecasts become much harder to predict when the sales cycle timing is all over the map. For example, we have one technology client where it seems half their deals close in days or weeks, while the other half can take six months or more. So what is going on and what can us B2B marketing types do about it?

Read More