B2B Marketing Strategy in Three Dimensions
Last time I mentioned the importance of marketing as well as selling to all of the buying influences in an account. These days, it’s common sense to cover all the economic, technical and user buying influencers in an account if you expect to close a deal without a lot of rework or to have it taken away by a better organized competitor.
You can think of that as a two-dimensional matrix strategy with one axis the various people and positions you need to address and the other the content or programs you need to get the job done. This means marketing content about what your product does, of course, but also things about ROI, implementation, and ongoing use. Very often marketers quit at the how-does-it-work stage and salespeople, who typically need the other information later in the sales cycle, have to come up with it on their own.
When marketing stops short, salespeople are put into the position to put together things that reassure the customer but have little relationship with the vendor’s or the product’s reality. While the initiative is admirable, it often creates a disconnect that could result in an unhappy customer later (But, hey, we got the deal!). All this can be avoided if marketing’s role is extended to include all phases of the sales process and not just figuring out how to get customers to express interest.
Moving Beyond Two Dimensions
Now let’s add a degree of complexity starting with our two dimensional matrix. If your company has a more or less horizontal product line that can be used in several industries, you need to be able to market to those industries in terms that are relevant to the people and processes found in each. This effectively adds a third element to our previously simple two-dimensional table.
That means having programs and content for each buyer and/or stage of the buying cycle. It includes relevant ROI and case stories for each industry and, as much as possible, things that go with them like references, and for reasons outlined above, you really don’t want sales to have to invent any of this on the fly.
Three Dimensional Enablers
Performing in all three dimensions helps in multiple ways including the following.
Cater to Your Audience
More importantly, it also requires some sensitivity to the industry. One industry might see your product as a differentiator and so operational people might be the ones you initially court with how does it work programs. However, another industry might see your solution as a cost containment device hence the finance organization might be the group that asks for a sales call. Can your marketing programs and content bridge that divide? Chances are that you’ll need some modifications.
Uncover Opportunities for Upsell/Cross-sell
It might sound like a lot of work and it is, but you have resources in your organization that you might not be aware of that could help guide you. No doubt you have a lot of data about previous successes in each of your vertical markets stored in your CRM, SFA, or marketing automation systems. While we’re at it, don’t neglect your customer service systems because a cross-sell or an upsell opportunity has many of the same characteristics that indicate customer need. Your job in those situations is not to blow the lead you have from incumbency. (No pressure.)
Prior data can at least show you what works in similar situations and analyzing it will give you a model and a significant boost in figuring out how to stock your marketing arsenal with content and programs.
Rein in the Complexity
Old school marketing and selling was much easier in that vendors had relatively undifferentiated products and sold them horizontally. But as markets mature, we all know that complexity builds up — products verticalize and the sales response has to follow suit. Sometimes the last group to discover the need for verticalization is marketing which makes sense since its job is to start with undifferentiated noise and come up with a strong buy signal. But a signal is not a guarantee and it may not come from the right buyer.
If your salespeople are complaining that the leads they get aren’t closeable or they’re just not “good enough,” don’t automatically attribute it to lazy salespeople who are unwilling to work the leads they’re given. That’s certainly a possibility, but in an increasingly complicated marketing and sales world, the ways that we refine leads along all three dimensions of my imaginary table, can spell the difference between continued success and a plateau. Or worse.
Image Credit(s): Sudhir Srinivasa