Why B2B needs to target smarter

27 Aug, 2014

By Andrew Blackwood, Director, CrimtanB2B.

Inbound marketing and selling to decision makers who have requested a brochure has become the holy grail for business marketers today.

Today’s buyers happily research products, visit your website, and select products or services without any direct contact; while individual decision makers have become an endangered species, replaced with decision making units in many organisations.

But what about finding new customers who know nothing about you, or who are blindly loyal to your competitors? For many businesses, simply reacting to enquiries is not going to be sufficient to enable growth because there may be many potential customers that are simply not looking for you, or your solutions.

As Henry Ford is once thought to have said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses” to describe his views on his customers’ inability to communicate their needs for new solutions. For many marketers, reaching new customers can seem like an uphill struggle. Channels are ever more competitive and expensive, and simply waiting for your customers to call is not enough, while trying to sell after a website visit can be a sure fire way to end up on blocked ID lists, or in junk mail. Even if you do get to speak to a prospective customer they are often distracted by the demands of their workplace.

So how can B2B marketers be more proactive? Targeting business markets requires a strategic approach and the right data together with an acceptance that it is marketers, not sales teams, who are best placed to deliver a smarter approach.

Proactively target the buying team

In the past, your sales team would have controlled the entire sales process; finding buyers, pitching product benefits, following up and closing the deal. However, the B2B buyer has become more obscure to the sales team and harder to contact. For marketing teams however, the B2B buyer can be discovered through the infinite wealth of businesses that the internet has spawned that can profile buyers, as well as monitor and interpret behaviour.

So while your sales team may not have full control of this ever evolving sales process, display advertising gives marketers the opportunity to do what a traditional sales team would have done. This includes proactively conveying your message and influencing buyers by delivering relevant advertising and information

Inbound marketing is ideal for buyers who are actively looking for solutions – your solution. Content marketing is also extremely important for businesses, but with all the competition for search, your buyers might not even find you.

If you have something new or wish to win business from your competitors you must be more proactive and take a strategic approach.

Target smarter, not harder

You should be communicating with your target audience throughout the buying process which means that the advertising messages need to be varied depending on the audience and the impact required.

When you identify and make contact with prospects, you need to interact with them regularly, throughout the purchase cycle. This is what the sales team would do. If you do not – your competition will.

So, marketing messages need to be consistent and relevant throughout the buying cycle. Intermittent, occasional marketing messages will neither impact, nor replace sales activity. You need to have a strategic approach, know your objectives, understand your audience – and the process they will go through to buy your services – and how you can influence their actions at each stage.

When a prospective customer is actively buying, marketing becomes a simple matter of delivering the right message at the right time. However, when a decision making unit is not even aware that they have a need for your product or, worse still, that there is a solution available, then your marketing team needs to make some noise and create a sense of urgency around the concept or product.

Pinpoint the buyers

The advertising creative that you use, the call to action and the landing pages should be relevant to the audience and to where they are in their decision-making.

Using the internet enables you to communicate directly with your target audience and the specific segments you want. You can control the messages that you deliver – perhaps more so than when you work through a sales team.

Placing adverts on specific websites that meet your audience demographics is fine, but in practice this means that you are only addressing that site’s typical visitor and its visitor numbers can limit you. If you take a strategic audience approach, you can focus on the specific characteristics of the targets that matter to you. Demographic profiling is the key to audience targeting and accessing good data from multiple sources to ensure validation is vital.

If you want to win sales from your target audience and steal them from under the nose of your competition, then you need to win attention. That is exactly what proactive sales people used to do for you.

In this day and age of technology and big data, the marketing team has the tools to steer your B2B campaign. If marketers embrace such a strategy, they can ultimately target smarter and glean more efficient results.

This article appeared in The Marketer.