Is your business marketing mimicking consumer marketing

A recent interview with Jeff Bezos on CBS's 60 minutes alluded to today's
prevailing trends in business marketing.

The implied message was ominous for business marketing.  As Amazon and the
like are more mass marketing than enterprise type businesses, they thrive
with the new paradigm.  In the world of business marketing this plentiful
arsenal of "go to market" consumer methods are causing overreliance on brand
building, rather than applying agile tactical marketing.

While these branding techniques revolutionized the marketing of simple to
use products and services, they did not significantly increase the
efficiency of complex solutions and services marketing, that is partly why
almost every industrial or technology giant is posting revenue declines.

The still valid fundamentals of building trust and relationships in business
marketing are shoved to the background.  While in the consumer, household
and micro-business we can reliably determine the traits which will cause
demand in larger businesses, their operational dynamics are too complex and
difficult to uncover with the same methods in business marketing.

Additional factors in businesses marketing are over reliance on historical
financial performance metrics, which, while still a key measure, is not
sufficient in itself to indicate longer term growth.  As market competition
in all sectors is relentlessly increasing with stress on the cost of doing
business, enterprise companies need effective methods more than ever.

This new vast business battleground will be won by companies with the best
trained (special force type) troops armed with relevant tools (insight)
practicing agile marketing. They will win new business and thrive long term.

You do not have to alter core business marketing tactics as they are the
same for every business and can be illustrated as a highway where most
businesses choose to send large volume of their branding messages.  They
rely on the fact that some of the accounts will always contact them without
prompting.

However, most accounts have too limited time and amount of money to properly
evaluate this high speed marketing highway's traffic in order to identify
the right vehicle to solve their problem. So accounts with mild cost pains
delay the decision.  The ones with high cost pressures simply reach out to
the incumbent vendor, maybe a big name brand, or a rival which happen to be
closest to their entrance.  Even if perfect matches are rarity, in this way
both better matched parties may lose heavily, kind of Pyrrhic victory: a
better suited seller by not winning new account and the account by not
getting a better solution.

Despite not winning new business accounts at the needed rate we continue
driving on this highway because it is easy and less costly, but we remain
unsure where to land a new business accounts and continue to miss many good
and viable opportunities.

My next blog will explore ways of acquiring more new business accounts.
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Why aren’t there more Analytics in Marketing?

A recent issue of Information Week carried a factoid that 500 million users generate 340 Million tweets, daily!  It also commented that in this deluge it’s hard to identify the real experts in any discipline, and in this case they referenced Business Analytics.

Because we are particularly interested in the linkage between integrated marketing and sales enablement, I reviewed the LinkedIn skills of Integrated Marketers and the skills listed in their biographies which enable sales.  When we compiled the data on 100 Marketing Executives, or Integrated Marketing (those more extensively describing their duties) at technology companies (but relevant to all industries) what was absent in a huge majority of biographies was the phrase “I am skilled in use of analytics”.

The dominating skills mentioned were branding, social media, social media marketing, events, webinars, speaking, white papers, success stories and other soft skills.  No-one disputes that  these skills play a very important role in one’s job, but when a company buys a technological solution it is most interested in the solution’s impact on costs, ease of use, price vs. performance and maintenance costs – all requiring quantitative analysis.

My conclusion is that marketing (and also sales), in addition to the soft skills, must also be able to utilize analytics to produce data for such things as productivity gains, cost reduction, environmental improvement, low rate of failures, etc. and how their solution compares to competition in important attributes.  [By the way, how many marketing managers in technology or manufacturing companies know the term “MBTF”?]  There is lack of evidence that analytical techniques are used by marketing folks in the execution of educational, branding or sales enabling campaigns.  By the way, on a personal level, I dislike the word “demand generation”. A much better term would be “awareness creation”. At least one could sleep a little bit better knowing that they are differentiating themselves from the deluge of 340 million tweets!

Not every marketer has the luxury of working with a highly recognizable brand.  So analytical skills (not only with data but also market or account/product/service insight) about both the seller and buyer side will allow us to better identify and assess where and when our products and services a solid winning chance.

And let us not forget that in the end we all operate on a “shoe-string” budget as the Global Fiscal Crisis has shown.

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Do you know what a “smart list” is?

Business marketers often face the dilemma whether to buy, rent or build a list for a marketing campaign. We receive a fair number of requests to build business lists and usually the requests are not clear about the target criteria and have unrealistic pricing in mind, no doubt influenced by purveyors specializing in generic lists, rarely refreshed and highly inaccurate.

Most of these requests to list build we decline because there is too large a gap between the specification and cost. One common discrepancy is that list buyers want what we label a “smart” list, but their pricing expectations are for simple lists with no smartness involved.

When do you need a “smart list”? The rule is not complicated. If you need better than 85% accuracy and need more than three variables (criteria such as geography, vertical market, function) then you need a smart list.

There is one other factor in “smart lists” which is often overlooked:
You need to distinguish between “visible” and “embedded” titles. “C level” names found on websites are visible names. All you have to do is find the email (not as simple as you think). Embedded names are a different story. These are the decision makers hidden in the bowels of the organization, such as Director of Clinical Trials in a pharmaceutical company. You may want also to rank contacts based on how long have they been in their job, their educational background and longevity with the company because those datum points may help find contacts with a greater propensity to buy your solutions. Now the “smart list” is shaping into a valuable marketing tool.

Next starts the fun, or pain. What you choose matters, just like the Ryder Cup this past weekend.

Do not be surprised if you have to pay in the double digits per contact if you want to avoid lynching by your sales team. When your task is developing a “smart list” make sure what your (internal) buyer expects in terms of quantity, quality, accuracy and their budget determines just how “smart” a list you need! The “smart list” approach applied to targeted markets and titles/functions may cost more but is absolutely worth it because the ROI is magnitudes higher!

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I have a Shoe String Budget – What Do I do?

I committed to updating this blog regularly after I heard the umpteenth suggestion that I write a book. It struck me that a blog is a much more direct communication vehicle and I won’t need to struggle with lots of words, which works for me because English is not my first language. Years in B-2-B business have hardened me – so I am direct and to the point. Anyway, here are my condensed thoughts for this week.

Recently I took a call from a VP of Sales of a smallish enterprise about our revenue development services for his enterprise-impacting software solution. He was honest and stated that he called because he could not find a vendor who was well versed in his market, and Impole came recommended. After introductions, I asked him about his goals and he eloquently described his needs.

In itself, this would have been a routine inquiry – if it was not for what he was asking to get!  His simple ”I need leads” objective boiled down to sophisticated market segmentation, account intelligence and of course, sales opportunities. Furthermore, he wanted detailed reporting on the process, influenced no doubt by his earlier vendor experiences.

My shock came when he revealed his budget. It was a fifth of what he needed to get decent results and I told him so. Now he had a shock so he started telling me that he has several vendors saying that they can deliver on his budget. (No surprise since they charge based on activity and not on results). So why contact us? During our conversation several important facts emerged about his offering: the software solution suite is good but not comprehensive, the company has a couple of well-recognized clients but not a brand name and, of course, there are several competitors with deep pockets. Sound familiar? It was immediately obvious that simple “lead gen” was not going to work for him.

This was not the first time we’ve received this kind of inquiry. I carefully explained that he has two options: a.) Select one of the other vendors and whatever happens, happens, or b.) Bite the bullet and structure a scaled back program with a vendor that understands his solutions and market. A successful outcome requires either more budget or scaled back deliverables but, if scoped carefully it will still result in valuable account insight and leads. We have seen this many times over!

If you have a “shoe-string” budget it doesn’t mean you have to pursue the low-cost approach, or break your budget.  Adjust your expectations, be ready to structure the campaign in guerrilla warfare style and you CAN win!

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