Ludovic Gougat (pictured) is senior vice president of experience strategy at RAPP, a direct marketing agency with U.S. offices in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and San Francisco.
When they market their solutions to potential clients, IT companies often lose sight of one simple fact: All organizations, no matter the size, are composed of people. Today’s business leaders expect more than a generic message; they expect a personalized relationship with your brand that puts the focus on what they need, when they need it and where they need it.
Thanks to the latest in data and technology, we have the ability to go beyond B2B and approach the realm of “B2ME;” that is, building a relationship with the individuals behind the brand on their terms, and delivering on their needs and motivations.
When it comes to marketing IT products and services to B2B customers, three specific challenges affect almost every company in the space.
The first is that today’s B2B buyers are more knowledgeable, independent, and self-directed than ever. So. sales and marketing teams must keep up with the social, technological and economic trends empowering enterprise buyers.
Secondly, there’s the issue of the consensus sale. A typical enterprise purchase requires 5.4 people to approve it, which means that those decision makers often disagree from the very beginning of the buying process.
Finally, the siloed nature and vertical structure of most IT companies results in an incomplete view of the customer they’re trying to reach. That’s not ideal, because marketing and sales campaigns across every industry must be increasingly focused to be effective, and these campaigns can create that focus only when customer profiles are clear.
Fortunately, these problems are solvable, and for companies seeking to thrive in the ultracompetitive B2B space, they must be solved. Here are five steps that solution providers should take to improve enterprise sales.
1. Engage customers earlier. According to Forrester Research, up to 90 percent of the B2B customer’s journey is over before sales is contacted. This means that by the time a prospective customer talks to your sales rep — which isn’t a given since most buyers prefer not to engage one — he or she presumably knows all there is to know about you, your competitors, and the options that are available.
Yet, 74 percent pick the first vendor that identifies a solution to their problems, regardless of whether that solution is the right one. This tells us that marketers need to rethink the messages they send to prospective customers and the channels they use to engage them. For most customers, those communications aren’t resonating or even registering. To reach customers earlier, sales reps need to position themselves as resources for potential customers, not as obligatory stops on the buyer’s journey. Much of this is cultivated through content, both on the company blog and through guest-contributed content across various channels.
2. Use a customer-centric marketing strategy. Don’t default to the traditional approach of pushing leads through a pipeline with content that focuses on your solution. Instead of using product demos, case studies, ROI calculators and other gated pieces of content, companies should seize opportunities to help customers settle on the right solution — whether it’s theirs or someone else’s. Admitting when a competitor’s solution may be the best goes a long way toward earning the customer’s trust.