Overcoming the challenges of reaching the B2B buyer

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.

b2b buyer, referral software

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.

referral software, b2b buyer

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.

b2b buyer, referral software

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.

SiriusDecisions Summit 2017: It’s all about ABM

Account Based Marketing (ABM) is no longer an emerging category. At the 2017 SiriusDecisions Summit it became clear that ABM is now a foundational part of how B-to-B companies go to market. It’s not just that every ABM session was packed to the gills, nor the existence of the many vendors who play a role in the ABM process. What really convinced me that ABM was here to stay was the new Demand Waterfall that SiriusDecisions rolled out.

Demand generation waterfall, siriusdecisions summit, ABM

There are two major changes that can directly be attributed to ABM. The first major change is the addition of two new layers at the top.

Stage 1 = Target Demand: This is your total addressable market. TAM is defined by filtering down to target account attributes which include industry, company size and buying center. Lots of data vendors now sport ABM messaging to help you identify this target.

Stage 2 = Active Demand: This is a further filtering of your TAM to determine buying intent. In fact, SiriusDecisions has a new category for vendors in this space called “Intent Marketing”. This is understanding the behavior of your targets relative to online researching or experiencing an event that would cause a need for your product or service. This further refines your TAM to who might be ready to buy.

Stage 3 = Engaged Demand: This is where the old Demand Waterfall began; with inquiries. But now there is a need to map these inquiries to who they are, what they are interested in and to a buying center within your Active Demand. All individual hand raisers for a buying center are mapped together.

The benefits of the new Demand Waterfall with ABM

The remainder of the waterfall hasn’t changed much, but the top three stages alone mean a fundamental pivot for many organizations. The benefits are easy to see if you can pull it off. With this model you’ll get:

  • More focused marketing spend and better marketing ROI.
  • Tighter alignment between sales and marketing.
  • Higher conversion from lead to opportunity because business development will have more than one lead to call on within an account to convert them into an opportunity.
  • More high quality pipeline with a higher close rate.

Outbound marketing and prospecting can no longer be a volume game. It just doesn’t work anymore. And the new Demand Unit Waterfall is clear evidence of this. In fact, SiriusDecisions has eliminated the term “lead” from their vocabulary. It isn’t about individual leads anymore. It is about engaging with target accounts (or demand units) and stimulating interest. And ABM is the process to help you do that.

Since many of our blog subscribers are running referral programs, you may wonder how this applies to you. The answer is that with an ABM strategy, your high quality referral leads will sky rocket. Why? If your salespeople have a list of target accounts and you are enabling your sales team to ask customers and partners for referrals, the ask just got much more specific.

Asking if that partner or customer has ties to a specific list of companies will result in triggering an extended thought process on the part of that advocate. You might hear “I don’t have ties to ACME, but I’m pretty sure that Joe used to work there. Let me introduce you and I’m sure Joe can direct you to the right person there.” That’s more personal than LinkedIn and faster too!

ABM is good for demand generation. Period. Whether you are focusing on inbound, outbound or referrals, your efforts just got much more focused. And that will improve your pipeline.

No matter what your marketing role, it’s time to embrace ABM!

smarketing maturity model