At Savvy B2B Marketing, we thrive on different perspectives and new ideas, which is why we are thrilled to welcome today's guest blogger, Susan Fantle. We enjoy Susan's blog, B2BMarketingSmarts, for its, well, B2B marketing smarts! More fantastic guests are planned for the weeks ahead, so stay tuned.
For a few years earlier in my career I was in commercial real estate. It was hard work. But the reason I left that field was that I couldn't handle the often long gap between my effort and the reward.
Most B2B marketers are in pretty much the same boat, enduring a buying cycle that can take many months — and unfortunately it's getting longer.
In this challenging economic time, not only are decision-makers more careful about making new investments, but now more than ever everyone in a company who is affected by the purchase decision is getting into the act.
As a B2B marketer, you can't change the speed of the buying decision, but you can make certain your message reaches these essential players in the decision:
- Decision-makers – they may not actually use the product or service being considered but have a strong interest in its bottom-line benefit(s).
- Influencers -- individuals at many levels who have a problem the product can solve.
- Stakeholders -- historically they have little or no say in the decision but are acutely affected by it (e.g., the decision to add online chat to a company’s Web site may not involve the telemarketing manager, but it's this manager's staff that has to handle the inquiries).
- Preventers – individuals who have the authority to say "no" but may not be actively involved in the buying process (e.g., CFOs may not use a product but, if they don't understand the bottom-line benefits it provides, can stop the purchase).
Here are several strategies you can use to make sure your message targets all these players and that they actively wield their influence on the decision.
- Versioning: By versioning individual marketing messages (in search ads, banners, emails, direct mail letters, etc.) you can communicate how your product or service alleviates the specific pains of each of the titles and players influencing the decision.
- Pass-Along Sales Sheet: When emailing or sending a mailing to influencers, attach or enclose a benefit-loaded sales sheet that the target prospect can forward to the decision-maker along with their comments.
- Web Site Targeting: The beauty of direct marketing has always been its ability to focus a message directly to an individual. Unfortunately, this ability is often forgotten when company Web sites are built. By adding a sidebar with links that states the prospect titles or the benefits for that title group, your site can direct individuals to the page that addresses how the product can end their specific pains.
- Kit Offers: Instead of offering a white paper that appeals to a single title group, compile a "kit" with multiple components (white papers, ROI calculator, checklist, reports, solution brief, etc.). Then you can use the same offer with all target groups, as your "kit" will have at least one component that appeals to each group of influencers and decision-makers.
Reaching all of the players is no different than reaching decision-makers. The key is to understand and communicate the specific benefits your product or service brings to each group, then to provide them with the information and tools necessary to assert their influence on the buying decision. It's a proven and effective way to boost B2B lead generation and sales.