Five useful B2B marketing tips in a time of stress

Rod Griffith

By Rod Griffith
September 16, 2022

Five useful B2B marketing tips in a time of stress

“Houston, we have a problem.”

If you know the story of the Apollo 13 near-tragedy in space, you recognize that when something unexpected happened to the ship, the astronauts never panicked. Nor did they attempt a fix right away. The first thing they did was stop everything and examine all of their instruments and gauge readings. They assessed the situation carefully before making any moves.

As B2B marketers facing a more complex, less predictable market that’s constantly challenged by changing pandemic situations, rising costs and inflation, supply chain issues, and potentially permanent shifts in how customers interact with your company, we must not panic or make sudden changes.

Like the Apollo 13 crew, we need to stop and take the time to read all of the gauges around us—and then revise our plan to adjust to the new challenges and environment.

As you pause to reflect on your current course—and prepare to make the necessary adjustments to better keep your marketing goals on track—here are five useful tips to help you think more strategically.

Keep It Simple on laptop screen. desk shows plant, glasses, mouse, book, pen, and hand holding coffee mug

1. Simplify your message.

Very few B2B products are not impacted by the introduction of innovative technologies and processes. As products become more complex, B2B marketers (and their product managers) are eager to showcase the product’s technology and sophisticated innovations. However, there’s a tendency to use a barrage of technical jargon and deep-dive explanations.

Are your sales tools bogged down by pages of details? Are your explainer videos far too lengthy? Do you have complex infographics that look like the schematics to the space shuttle?

Can visitors to your website understand who you are, what you do, and for whom you do it within a few seconds of visiting your website? If not, you run a significant risk they’ll leave before fully understanding your basic value proposition.

The bottom line is simple: Complex products do not require a complex explanation.

(Learn more, in our guide, Marketing Simply In An Era Of Complex Products.)

2. Know your true competition.

If you were asked to write down the name of your biggest competition—the one to whom you’ll likely lose the most business this year—you’d probably pick one or two of your biggest competing companies. And you wouldn’t be alone. But if you’re like most B2B companies, you’re going to lose the most business when:

  1. The customer decides to do nothing (the status quo).
  2. The customer decides to do it themselves (solve their problem with current resources).

Yet, how much time do you spend creating marketing strategies, messaging, sales tools, and sales training programs that are designed to compete against the status quo or customer DIY? Consider putting your resources into strategies, messaging, and sales tools that help you overcome your true competitors.

3. Prioritize efforts on the customer journey segment(s) that need the most help.

Take the time to assess your current marketing initiatives, campaigns, and sales tools. Are they truly helping to accelerate the segments of the customer journey where sales are most often thwarted?

Here’s the total customer buying journey:

customer buying journey, showing aware, inform, consider, evaluate, decide, use, and retain

Everything that marketers do should directly or indirectly focus on accelerating customers through this journey map. But not every journey segment needs the same attention.

For example, if your biggest challenge is converting leads from the “Consider” stage (where the customer reviews their vendor options) to the “Evaluate” stage (where the customer invests time and resources in testing your product against others), creating sales tools and campaigns to generate awareness with new prospects isn’t going to help because those efforts are designed for an earlier stage of the journey.

Take the time to gauge the full customer buying journey to determine where your sales opportunities are most slowed or blocked. This will help you redistribute and refocus your energy and resources on marketing initiatives that more directly impact the acceleration of the customer’s buying journey.

shining brain shaped light bulb floating above hand on black background

4. Seek customer mindshare—not just awareness.

Most B2B companies—especially those with complex products—don’t have the luxury of short sales cycles. The time between when a prospect becomes aware of your product and when they purchase it can be weeks, months—or even years.

Most B2B lead-generation campaigns are developed to create awareness for your offering, communicate critical sales messaging, and then entice a response via your call-to-action (“request a demo,” “talk to our expert,” “let us tell you more,” etc.). The hope is that the campaign will reach a qualified prospect actively seeking a solution and ready to engage in a discussion, presentation, or demonstration. By launching campaigns that rely on the luck of good timing, we consider ourselves fortunate if we garner a 3% response or click-through rate. The 97% who don’t respond are defined as not interested.

But here’s the challenge: there are numerous solid prospects in that pool of nonrespondents—they’re just not ready to engage in early discussions. For example, you may have reached a prospect two years before they’re ready to purchase.

That’s where “mindshare” campaigns come in. Campaigns focused on mindshare generate awareness—and then maintain that awareness over an extended period of time through a well-designed, carefully synchronized series of outbound marketing initiatives that entice customers to establish an opt-in relationship with you that allows you to communicate with them regularly.

By establish an ongoing relationship with your prospects (via e-newsletters, blogs, tutorials/videos, and other free resources and engagement tools), you lessen your dependence on the luck of timing to generate qualified leads.

5. Leverage your personal value messaging.

There’s a tendency to assume that individual consumers base their purchase decisions on emotions, whim, and personal desire, while savvy business decision-makers base their procurement on research, analysis, data, ROI calculations, and strategic business goals. Personal needs and emotions, we believe, don’t typically play a significant role in business decisions—especially for significant business purchase decisions.

However, researchers are proving this notion of the impersonal business buyer to be a myth. Research indicates that the personal value that buyers perceive in a B2B product has far greater impact on the decision process than most marketers have thought.

A study conducted by the CEB Marketing Leadership Council, in conjunction with Google, found that the perceived personal value in a product had almost twice as much impact on the purchase outcome as the perceived business value. Personal value can include professional, social, emotional, and self-image benefits.[1]

business meeting around table

To identify the right personal value messages for your products or solutions, start by talking with your customers (something B2B marketers don’t do enough). The following questions can help structure the conversation and identify the personal value your customers perceive in your products or solutions.

  1. Has our product/solution helped to accelerate your career?
  2. Has our product/solution helped you gain professional recognition?
  3. Has our product/solution strengthened your visibility in the company or impacted company success?
  4. Has our product/solution improved your reputation as a leader or out-of-the-box thinker?

Once you’ve defined the personal value messages for your product or solution, infuse your messaging—including value propositions, elevator pitches, and sales stories—with personal value and emotion. This will enhance customer appeal and both strengthen and differentiate your overall sales messaging.

Safe splashdown

Ultimately, as we know, Jim Lovell and his crew of the Apollo 13 used innovate ways to solve daunting problems to make it home safely to Earth. But it all started with a pause, a deep breath, and the calm efforts to assess the situation and develop new plans to revamp their journey.

And so, as we face our own turmoil and changing market conditions, take this opportunity to pause, take a deep breath, and then begin the assessment process necessary to keep you on the track to success.

(A version of this blog previously appeared on Agency Spotter Marketing Matters.)

[1] Corporate Executive Board (now Gartner), “From Promotion to Emotion: Connecting B2B Customers to Brands,” October 2013.

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