Speaking as a B2B buyer, I don’t answer my phone anymore. I don’t read cold emails – in fact, thanks to overcoming “inbox zero” tendencies, I don’t even take the time to open/delete them anymore. I used to, but with the insane influx of new technologies geared toward marketing, too many people were trying to reach me pushing their “life-changing” solutions. It was too much noise, and it wasn’t sustainable if I wanted to get my job done.
So how can you reach me or one of my peer B2B buyer executives who have been forced to completely ignore the noise?
Well, let’s consider the various go-to-market approaches that sales and marketing organizations are using . . . (hint, they are organized from least effective to most effective)
The channels that will and won’t reach your B2B buyer
Traditional interrupts sales and marketing – This would be a big no. Beyond not answering cold calls and emails, I also use ad blocker. I do attend some tradeshows, but I won’t stop by your booth unless I’ve heard of you and have identified that you meet a need or solve a problem I have. Which means, tradeshows don’t work for top of the funnel lead generation. And let’s face it, TOFU leads are way better than BOFU leads because you can shape the deal without competitors.
Content marketing – There is no question that good content that addresses a problem I or other b2b buyers have will be eye catching. But it has to be really good. No fluff. No product pushing. Give me real data I can use or specific action items I can take to solve my problems. But even if you create the perfect piece of content, you are still just crossing your fingers that it reaches me. For content marketing to work, it has to be combined with influencer marketing to have a hope of getting in front of the intended audience.
Account Based Marketing/Selling – I’ve been a big fan for over a decade of identifying target accounts and developing campaigns to go after them. Now there are software solutions that make this a bit less manual to do so it feels new again. Fundamentally, this targeting helps the efficacy of the above sales and marketing efforts. If you can create content that is more targeted to your buying personas or better yet account-specific content, this has a much better chance of getting my attention. And if a seller is researching me, engaging with me in social media, learning about my business and personalizing their approach there is a much greater chance they’ll get my attention. But remember, I don’t read emails nor answer my phone so direct mail and social media are the only options here and unfortunately many companies are “adopting” ABM/ABS playbooks and skipping these more resource intensive steps.
Referral Marketing/Selling – Salespeople (particularly those who are good “farmers”) inherently understand that an introduction is the best way to get business into their pipeline. As a buyer, there is no question that this is the most effective way to get my attention. If I’m approached by a former colleague or a trusted adviser (like a salesperson from a vendor I have a good relationship with), I pay attention. If they tell me there is a solution out there that could solve my problems, I’m clearing my calendar to take a meeting. The good news for sales and marketing is that the process for referrals can be done at scale thanks to business-focused referral software. Marketers can establish referral programs to leverage partners, influencers or even customers to make peer-to-peer introductions of your solution to their network.
While not a separate go-to-market approach, it is worth mentioning that a combination of ABS and Referral Selling is highly effective. When your sellers are armed with their target accounts, they can have a conversation with a customer or partner to specifically ask for an introduction into a particular contact at a particular account. The more specific the ask, the higher the rate of success.
The buyer has changed and sales and marketing have to change their approach if they want to drive revenue growth.
I’m sure I’ll still get 20+ calls and emails tomorrow that I’ll immediately delete, but here’s hoping that next week it decreases. To see research on the B2B buyer journey and how to adapt to it try reading the blog, How to adapt to a more complex B2B buyer journey.