B2B marketing and sales tips are a dime a dozen, but the barrage of information and continual developments could leave your head spinning.
Help has arrived.
Over the past several months, we interviewed several top B2B leaders to hear their take on how things stand today. They came back with many gems. Much of it falls into a few broad categories: marketing, sales, strategy, and mindset. We’ve boiled down all that goodness into this post.
Read on for fresh ideas, advice, and cautionary tales to get the most out of your B2B campaigns, no matter where you are in your journey.
We hope you enjoy it. Let’s go.
#1 - Put the human experience into B2B marketing
“Your customers - they’re made up of human beings.
On the other side of that company probably is a mum and dad, daughter or son. They have all the same ambitions, aspirations, and challenges in their life that you do. But the way [marketers] pitch makes it almost feel like we’re talking to a robot. Bring in some of that human element, you’ll probably do better with your work.”
– Leandro Perez, Vice-President & CMO, APAC at Salesforce
You might be a B2B business, but companies are not buying from you. People are. You are there to solve a human challenge. You may be selling the most niche B2B product imaginable; customers want to be listened to, emotionally moved, and entertained. Regretfully, many marketers are trapped in their own worlds. They’ve been using the same strategies and tired phrases for years.
Always remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a popular theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow. Maslow asserts that human actions are driven by an inborn desire to meet needs ranging from elementary to complex. The theory considers that people don’t always act rationally, and their decisions aren’t motivated solely by their business interests.
With that in mind, enjoy the process of finding the human angle behind your products and create marketing campaigns that connect and resonate with your audience. In times of uncertainty, the ability to see people as human beings is a boon.
#2 - Start with your audience’s needs
“Always start with your audience’s needs.”
– Iris Lou, APAC Marketing Lead at Zoom
B2B audiences come from all walks of life, which means you need variety in your campaigns. People change jobs and even careers. Businesses grow and transform. Budgets come back and increase. The needs change fast, so you have to learn to move at the speed of your prospects.
You’ll find it much easier to direct your marketing and sales efforts with need-based insights in tow. That’s how you can stand out from the competition and win in the long term.
#3 - Who and what is involved in the decision-making process?
“Know who is influencing your customers in their decision-making processes because we are all being influenced by influencers.
Knowing who is influencing your customers, from the marketing, sales and post-sales perspective is critical to survival. Because they can shape your market, they can kill your market, but more importantly, they can grow your market by advocating for you.”
– Malcolm Hamilton, Global Marketing Director at SAP
There are tons of things we take into account when choosing a new solution. One of the first steps is to reach out to those we follow for guidance. Reviews and recommendations matter a lot.
49% of people say that they trust recommendations by influencers to make their purchase decisions. Identifying the right influencers gives you a massive advantage over your competitors trying to reach out with a similar message.
So analyse your ideal prospects. Chances are you’ll begin to see an overlapping connection between the things they like and the people they follow.
Knowing what makes your audience tick is a way to understand their desired outcome, which guides the strategy development process forward. That’s how you gain empathy and the proper context of the challenges your audience is facing.
#4 - Produce results, even with limited resources
“I always say, your CFO could have put the money towards product development. They could have hired another salesperson. They could have given it back to shareholders as profit. But they gave us that money. And they gave us that money so that we create a preference for our brand.”
– Ray Kloss, Director of Marketing, ANZ at Cisco
First, respect the budget and know your limits. Then do everything in your capacity to achieve results. Your job is to drive better brand preference and contribute directly toward revenue. Also, don’t forget to articulate what you accomplished so people know the value of what they helped create.
Use the budget wisely without complaints. It’s not about “how much is assigned” but rather how much you can deliver.
Signalling that you are prepared to be held accountable will earn you more trust. Successful marketers know this key to winning respect - it’s all about accountability.
#5 - Keep your pipeline full
“Keep your pipeline full. The rest will look after itself. If you’re going to employ someone, employ someone who can actually keep the momentum going, keep that pipeline full.”
– Hayley Hopwood, Head of Growth AU & NZ at Stripe
A large number of B2B professionals often struggle with a lack of new opportunities coming in. The growth plans get stuck since your pipeline may groan and grumble.
Combined with a disciplined sales process, a full pipeline will ensure a flow of new opportunities. That’s how you drive revenue and promote business success. Without enough opportunities, businesses will feel the heat and risk missing their ideal targets and quota. The domino effect can be disastrous.
Here’s the solution. Even if you’re turning a profit, your marketing and sales strategy should constantly be optimised to keep the pipeline full. You will enjoy the endless supply of prospects at every stage in the buying cycle, giving you the peace of mind you deserve.
#6 - Persist through the silence
“One of my colleagues came up with this phrase that I think is beautiful, which is; persist through the silence.
Just because someone doesn’t want to talk to you doesn’t mean they don’t want to hear from you. And give generously with the expectation of very little or nothing in return, and people will appreciate that.”
– Jon Panker, Managing Director APJ at TechTarget
B2B selling is hard and feels like banging your head against a brick wall. You’ve had a great conversation, and the prospect expressed interest, and then all of a sudden, they disappear, deciding to disengage and become unavailable. Maybe you were thinking about the outcome all along.
If you get caught up in the outcome, you’ll introduce sales pressure into the conversation and destroy any trust developed. Don’t push, or they will leave. Just enjoy the process. What matters most is how you feel while doing something, not whether or not it was successful.
Here’s one simple choice: provide value and then persist through the silence. It’s not easy, but it can make all the difference. It’s a skill you have to develop for consistent long-term success.
#7 - Be bold and get outside of your comfort zone
“You’ve got to be willing to be bold and take a step out on a tightrope without the safety net.”
– Nickolas Kontopoulos, APAC Regional Head of Growth Marketing at Adobe DX
“Step outside of your comfort zone” may be a well-worn phrase, but it’s still critical advice for killing it in sales. A regular conversation with a stranger you just met could lead to an introduction to your next big client.
It isn’t easy, though. You’d have to embrace the latest tools for tracking and engaging with buyers, which will mean getting comfortable drawing outside the lines. But the more you challenge yourself to embrace such experiences, the better opportunities you’ll come across.
#8 - Has intuition had its day? Certainly not!
“Go with your gut! If you believe something, go and test it. Don’t sit there and vacillate and try to find data that validates your position because you’ll find as much data that invalidates your position. The only way to test it for your market, for your customer base, for your company, is to go and try it.”
– Darren Reid, Director - Marketing & Alliances at Interactive
Data-driven marketing is probably the best thing that happened to B2B marketers. With hard numbers at your disposal, it’s easier to streamline your work and predict why a campaign might work or not.
But the human element is critical, more than ever. With so much information bombarded from all sides, professionals need their judgment to interpret, compare, and make decisions.
Interestingly, the best judgment calls are usually based on both data and experience. Data helps you uncover the opportunity while experience, intuition, and gut act as an interpretation tool. The ideal path is when you feel it is the right gut decision, and the facts support it.
So never underestimate the infamous gut feeling. The mantra is simple. Use your data, trust your gut feeling, and test it for your market.
#9 - Expect rejection and don’t take it to heart
“One of the things that I wish I could have done sooner in my life is not to take no or rejection so personally at a campaign level.
When [a campaign] something doesn’t work as a marketer, because you’ve designed it and you’ve created it, you feel bad, right? And that’s why I think we rely on vanity metrics - something to make it sort of seem like a success because you’re thinking ‘I worked really hard on this’.
And actually, [this is] something that I’ve observed sales folks do really well; they do not take ‘no’ so personally. And I think that’s the level of persistence we need for marketing as well.”
– Lubaina Rangwala, Global Account-Based Marketing Lead at Thoughtworks
The fear of rejection sometimes is greater than actual rejection. But rejection is a part of the game. It can be challenging to deal with, but it isn’t something that should keep you up at night.
Reframe rejection as the blueprint for success. Embrace it as a challenge to make things even better than before. It helps if you maintain emotional distance and know that much of the rejection is all in your head.
Try to put your focus on executing the processes and then create a distance from the outcome. If things don’t go your way, just rise again to try new things tomorrow.
#10 - Publish audience-centric content
“You’re not marketing or selling to a business, you’re talking to a person. So create content that you would want to read and create and deliver presentations that you would actually enjoy sitting through. Just because the business is telling you to do it doesn’t mean you have to suck the life out of it.”
– Cath Brands, CMO at Flintfox International
Create content that you would personally want to read and be part of. Make topics unique by adding your perspective. Including anecdotes and weaving personal stories will make the reader laugh, smile, or at least engage. Humour is always a great way to inject some levity into otherwise dreary topics.
You can establish credibility and make people listen more intently by providing a real narrative, rather than parroting what other sources say without adding any insight. Always try and make your experiences detailed and useful, so readers reference them (and hopefully include a citation to your piece.)
Lastly, you could always reverse engineer the kind of content your audience likes and then create a piece that is bound to get their attention. Crafting this kind of high-quality material is both art and science. It isn’t easy, but plausible if done correctly. You will get better at it after some practice.
B2B marketing and sales today is not a numbers game. To be successful, you can’t just go after all prospects with one idea and hope they’ll come back for more. It would help if you had an entire bouquet, so there are still other things to choose from when something doesn’t go right.
Use these ideas to connect on a personal level and create experiences around the needs of your audience, turning them into advocates of your product or service.
Hopefully, these nuggets of wisdom can help make things easy for you. You’re always welcome to check out the recent episodes on the xGrowth podcast. Real talk with practical tips (no fluff!)