CEOs and Founders, I’m opening the article with a stat you should know: 95% of B2B buyers are not in the market at all and it should affect our strategic approach to B2B Tech Marketing.
According to the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute‘s Professor John Dawes, this misleadingly basic fact has a huge consequence. Companies alter their service providers every five years. This implies that 20% of those services are purchased in any given year and just 5% in any particular quarter.
Let me repeat – the remaining 95 percent are not purchasing those goods or services at the moment!
“It’s true that many firms haven’t yet fully recognized the fact that most consumers aren’t looking for anything at any one moment. You need to approach them with a long-term perspective,” Jann Martin Schwarz, Global Head of the LinkedIn B2B Institute, adds.
John Dawes agrees: “There aren’t very many business clientele who’ll say, ‘You know what, I’m OK signing a contract with a company I’ve never heard of.’”
The majority of advertising works by establishing and refreshing brand memories, rather than immediately driving sales. This implies that when consumers are looking for something, they will recall brands that have been effectively advertised in the past, often over a long period. Brand recognition is critical. To advance a brand, you must advertise to people who aren’t presently shopping so that when they do buy your product, they are familiar with it.
This may have an influence on the type of marketing messages utilized in campaigns to achieve the desired result, depending on the category. The contention also backs up my argument that companies should not decrease their marketing budgets during a recession to save money because this allows competitors to improve their own profiles with customers.
If you’re the company leader that wants all of your marketing projects to show a positive return on investment inside of the next two months, you’ve already lost the game. You’re mismeasuring what success means, and as a result, you’ll mismanage your marketing efforts. There’s a lot of it going around; it needs to change. Marketing, in particular, has the ability to deliver enormous value to businesses. I’d estimate that only about 20% of enterprises worldwide recognize this fact.”
Many businesses have not yet realized that the majority of people are not in the market for any product at any one moment. You need to think long-term when targeting these individuals.
And we’re here to help you understand in a language that you can understand.
If you’re a leader of a B2B tech company, I hope you know that it takes a lot of effort to stand out in today’s competitive landscape. I hope that you also know that it takes more than just good products and services to succeed. A lot more actually.
You need an effective marketing strategy in place because as you already know, marketing is what gets you seen, heard, and chosen by your target audience.
But how do you go about setting up your marketing for success and using it for what it should actually do – connect business and customers by providing a go-to-market strategy and the unfair advantage your company has? What steps do you need to take to ensure that your marketing efforts will be successful?
Well, that’s exactly what we’ll be talking about today.
You see, at Funky Marketing, we take a research-driven, holistic approach to working with B2B tech companies. It is the way we do B2B Tech marketing.
We believe that customer research and strategy should be the foundation of any successful marketing campaign, and we also believe that the best way to create effective marketing for a company is to start with research.
That’s why, in this blog post, we’ll walk you through our process, from start (research) to finish (strategy), explain how we work with our clients to create effective marketing strategies that achieve their desired results and how you can do the same for your business.
Relationship Centric Era is coming, and you need to be ready.
So, without wasting any more time, let’s get started.
Where do we start when it comes to B2B Tech Marketing?
When we start working with our clients, the first thing we do is go inside the company’s CRM, Google Analytics, and Google Search Console to see what is the present situation and what you’ve been doing before when it comes to marketing. Does it align with what they have told us on a discovery call?
You can’t know what to do if you don’t know where you are and what you’ve done in the past, right?
And because marketing is not one size fits all, this deep dive is of immense importance. It allows us to have a clear understanding of your marketing efforts up until now, what’s worked, what hasn’t, who’s converting, who’s not converting, what is the reason for that, and so on.
If we know that, it becomes much easier, but not every company has been investing in marketing. So we find out that many companies didn’t do anything marketing-related, and we need to dig more to find out the right information.
On the other hand, if they did do marketing, it turns out that they have been doing digital sales disguised as marketing aka going after leads and only closing the demand instead of creating it.
Once we do that, we go and listen to or organize calls with clients and customers, to find out the way they call your product or your service, what kind of experience they had buying and working with you, and what their main needs and challenges are.
Doing this is essential if we wanna get to know the target audience better and understand how they think, feel, and behave.
We also look at what your competitors are doing. Not to copy them, but to understand their strategies and see where they might be better than you, why they might be getting more traffic, or why they might be seen as a better option by your target audience.
This market analysis allows us to understand what you’re up against and where you have the best chances to succeed.
After we have all this information, we know what we’re not gonna do and what we should be doing to get you the results you want.
But there’s still one more thing we need to do before we can start crafting your marketing strategy and that is understanding what you want to achieve.
The next step is to sit down with you, as a CEO and a leader, and discuss your business goals. What is it that you want to achieve with your marketing efforts?
- Are you looking to increase brand awareness?
- Generate more clients?
- Increase your pipeline and your revenue?
- Retain those customers and turn them into advocates for your business?
- All of the above?
Your marketing strategy will be different depending on what your goals are, so it’s important that we have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve before we can start putting together a plan of action.
Because of this, we work closely with our clients to develop a comprehensive understanding of their business goals and objectives so that we can identify the best ways to reach their target audiences.
Once we know your goals, we move on to the next step: Crafting your strategic narrative.
Where to play and how to win?
You see, if you don’t have a good strategy, all the tactics in the world aren’t going to help you achieve your desired results so needless to say, this step is of utmost importance.
In essence, strategy creation is pretty simple.
After having defined your vision and set clear goals and objectives, building a strategy comes down to making choices: where to play, and how to win where you choose to play. Choices about your markets, customer target groups, product or service categories, and distribution channels.
We won’t go into too much detail here because each of these choices could easily fill an entire blog post (or ten), but needless to say, these are important decisions that need to be made and that will have a direct impact on the success of your marketing efforts and your business as a whole.
Another reason why we won’t go into too many details about these things is that there is something even more important we need to talk about and that is how to win where you choose to play.
The reason we are saying this is even more important than choosing where to play is that wherever you choose to play the chances are very high that you are not the only one.
There are probably many other “players” that are selling to that market, targeting those customer groups, or offering that product or service category, which means even if you make all the right choices about where to play, it won’t matter much if you don’t know how to win.
And how do you win?
Well, you win by being different.
Not just different for the sake of being different, but by being meaningfully different.
Different in a way that is relevant and valuable to your target audience.
Different in a way that differentiates you from your competitors and makes you the obvious choice for your target market.
So here we also must first decide how we will differentiate ourselves and what our unfair advantage is to lay the groundwork for everything else that will follow.
This is what will allow us to win.
After we have chosen where to play and how to win, it’s time to start thinking about strategic narrative.
Set the overall picture with narrative
A strategic narrative is an overarching story that you want to tell with your marketing.
It’s the big picture, the overall theme, that ties all of your marketing efforts together and gives them purpose and direction.
A well-crafted strategic narrative will guide all of your content marketing efforts and ensure that every piece of content you create supports your larger goals, and objectives, and it will also help you stay focused on what’s important.
It’s important to note that your strategic narrative is not just a tagline or slogan, but it’s the foundation for everything else you do from a marketing standpoint.
At Funky Marketing we like to use Andy Raskin’s approach to strategic narrative (tnx Andy, we give you a lot of credits for coming up with this whole strategic narrative framework), and it goes in 5 steps.
Step 1: Name the most significant change in the world
When creating your strategic narrative don’t begin with a statement about the world, but rather with a change in the world.
Instead of starting with a problem, we start by defining the major shift in society.
The reason for this is that when people realize that there’s a change that’s bigger than their business and their problems, they’re much more likely to listen.
It’s important to make this change relatable to your audience and illustrate how it affects them, their business, and everything they do.
When they realize that they are not the only ones with the problem, they are more willing to open up and talk about it. They’ll become defensive if you start with a problem because they either don’t think they have an issue, they’re in denial, or they’re afraid that if they admit to having the problem, you’ll try to sell them something.
Because of that, we must name the change, which is usually the most difficult part.
This is where we depart from conventional thinking and create our own category. Doing so allows us to build significant stakes and a strong sense of urgency for your prospect. I’m talking about opportunity and risk in equal measure.
When naming the change we need to make sure that it’s not just an interesting story; it has to be true and as we said it has to be something that affects their business, whether they’re aware of it or not.
For example, the change could be “Digital is eating the world.” We’re seeing this happen all
around us, as more and more businesses are digitizing.
Once we’ve named the change, we need to explain why it’s happening.
What is the underlying cause?
For our example, the underlying cause could be that customers have changed their expectations. They’re used to getting what they want when they want it, and how they want it. They’re used to interacting with businesses through their smartphones and other devices, and they expect the same level of convenience from all businesses, regardless of size or industry.
What does it mean for businesses?
In our example, it means that businesses must digitize in order to meet customer expectations and remain competitive.
The final step is to explain what must be done to win in this new environment.
What are the specific actions that businesses need to take?
In our example, businesses need to adopt a digital-first mindset and approach. They need to invest in technologies that will allow them to interact with customers on their terms, and they need to make sure that their processes and systems are designed for the digital age.
This is how we take a complex topic and make it simple. We start by identifying the change, then we explain the underlying cause, the implications, and finally, what must be done in order to win.
The transition must take your prospects from the old world to the new one, where everything changes for them. The change that starts your pitch should not be a change you wish to bring about, or believe should happen, but an objective, observable change that’s already underway.
Objective changes are much easier to talk about than subjective ones. They don’t require you to make an argument or persuade anyone of anything. All you need to do is state the change and its implications, and your prospect will do the rest.
When you’re able to do this, you’ll find that your pitches are more effective and that your close rate will increase.
To put it another way, rather than describing something as being a change that has yet to occur (or is happening and unstoppable), it’s more accurate to say it’s a shift that has already taken place (or is happening and unstoppable). It isn’t the result of your business, product, or idea, but something that is happening in the world around us and that will affect us all regardless we choose to act or not.
The change you’re referring to must also elicit an emotional reaction in your prospect. Whether it’s fear, anger, or excitement, the change must be something that they feel strongly about.
The reason for this is that we make decisions based on emotion, then justify them with logic.
This means if you can tap into your prospect’s emotions, you’ll be much more likely to get them to take action.
This is how we turn a research-based message into a marketing strategy. We take the time to understand the change that’s happening in the world and we craft a message that speaks to it. If you can do this, you’ll be able to win more business and have a bigger impact on the world.
That’s not to say you can’t talk about a new future you want to make real for your audience once they’ve accepted the shift. This is what I call the Promised Land (We will talk more about it later on).
Teams avoid the problem of developing an effective change statement by claiming that something is changing, but without providing further detail.
I frequently come across “how-less” statements followed by a long list of supporting adjustments, such as “consumers want to pay in new ways,” “consumers demand everything fast,” and so on (which, by the way, are no changes).
These statements may or may not be true (often they’re based on a single data point), but without an understanding of what’s causing the change, there’s no real way to know how to address it.
In other words, if you can’t identify the cause of the change, you can’t develop an effective strategy to address it. And if you can’t develop an effective strategy, you’re not likely to win.
When we work with B2B tech companies, we start by helping them understand the changes taking place in their industry. Then, we work with them to develop a marketing strategy that speaks to those changes.
When you’re swimming in a sea of related changes, you have two options: (1) pick the best one among the ones listed above, or (2) make a master change statement that encapsulates all of them under one roof. We always recommend the latter if possible.
When you can find the one change statement that ties all of the others together, you’ll have a much more powerful message. It allows you to show that you have your finger on the pulse of what’s happening and that you’re well-positioned to address it.
Now, how can you tell if you’ve got this crucial part of your marketing, sales, fund-raising, or leadership narrative right?
- You’re prepared to swap out the traditional mission and vision statements (“We aspire to be the most trusted ____”) with the change—as well as the future you promise to create for your audience.
- You might infer that the bulk of your material—CEO speeches, content marketing, and so on—will be about transformation and its consequences. (By the way, this is the key to thought leadership.)
- Audiences nod in agreement when you name the change. They discuss how the modification affects them, terrifies them, and how they see it providing new possibilities.
So, as I said, don’t start with why you get up in the morning if your why is about why you get up in the morning. Unless that is, your reason for getting up in the morning is to implement a change that will create stakes for your audience. Then go right ahead and do it.
Step 2: Show that there will be winners and losers
There will always be winners and losers in any market shift, right? But do you know when the most significant shift occurs between the two?
When there is a fundamental shift. And that is exactly what we are discussing here. When there is a fundamental shift, the playing field changes. New rules are written and the game is no longer the same.
This is called a market inflection point, and it’s the most important type of change to be aware of.
A market inflection point is a time when the demand for a product or service changes dramatically. This can be due to several factors, including new technology, changing customer needs, or a change in the competitive landscape.
It doesn’t actually matter what it is, what matter is that it happens and you want to audience to realize it and to start thinking about how the new rules will affect them.
You want to show that those companies that don’t change will be left behind and that the new winners will be those who are prepared to embrace the change and adapt their businesses to the new landscape.
When it comes to change, there are three types of companies: those that drive it, those that are disrupted by it, and those that don’t see it coming.
In order to be a company that drives change, you need to be aware of the shifts that are happening in the world and be prepared to adapt to them. You need to have a message that speaks to the change and you need to be able to show your prospects that you understand the new world they’re living in.
Define the good guys and bad guys
Here you can also go and define the good guys and the bad guys, this will allow you to show your audience that you are on their side.
Of course, the protagonists should be our clients, customers, or target market. They are the ones we want to help. Their customers are also heroes. Good guys always band together to fight the common enemy—in this case, the status quo.
The bad guys are anyone who stands in the way of progress. This could be the competition, but it could also be the government, regulations, or even the natural order of things. It can even be an internal department that doesn’t comprehend what it is they’re striving for.
We’re all familiar with the story of the little engine that could. It’s an underdog tale that we love because it’s relatable. We see ourselves in the protagonist and we want to root for them.
This is the same principle at work here. If you can show your audience that they are the little engine that could, that you understand what they’re up against, and that you’re on their side, you’ll be in a much better position to win their business. And the purpose of this step is exactly that—to position your company as the best ally your target audience could have in their quest to succeed.
Step 3: Tease the Promised Land
To get someone to make a change, you need to show them what’s possible. You need to give them a glimpse of the Promised Land, the land of milk and honey, where all their dreams come true, where their problems have been relieved, and where they have leaped forward.
You want them to realize that amazing things are possible and you want to make it simple for them to imagine themselves in that ideal world.
However, be aware that the question “OK, so how do I win?” is planted in audiences’ minds and it can tempting to reply to that question right away by going straight to your product and its features, but you’d be wise to resist the urge. That will come a little later, for now, you want to focus on painting the picture and making it as bright and attractive as possible.
Remember, audiences will lose interest if you don’t give them something more to think about. So you need to provide a new framework for thinking about the problem.
A great way to do this is to challenge the old method by declaring it to be a failure. You want to show your audience that the current way of doing things is no longer working and that it’s time for a change.
This method works because it gives your Promised Land a sense of thoughtfulness (“what we realized was that”).
However you do it, your Promised Land should be a utopia where the problem has been solved.
This is the land of marketing gold. Marketing messages that give audiences a taste of their Promised Land are so much more effective than those that don’t. By showing your prospects what’s possible, you’ll be able to win more business and have a bigger impact on the world.
Step 4: Introduce New Features as “Magical Gifts” for Overcoming Obstacles to the Promised Land
After you’ve introduced the Promised Land, it’s time to start talking about your product. But instead of just listing off features, you want to introduce them as “magical gifts” that will help your target audience overcome the obstacles they face on their journey to the Promised Land.
We introduce the features here because people will be more receptive to hearing about your capabilities once they’ve been persuaded of the Promised Land.
It’s the same dynamic that occurs in epics and fairy tales.
We appreciate Obiwan’s gift of a lightsaber because we realize it will play an important role in Luke’s efforts to destroy the Death Star. Yes, you’re Obiwan and your product (service, proposal, whatever) is a lightsaber that aids in the battle between Luke and the Stormtroopers.
Or, to use another example, you are Tala, Moana’s grandmother, your product is ancient knowledge that leads Moana to vanquish the Lava Monster. (both Luke and Moana are Andy Raskin’s examples)
Whatever the case, your challenge is to recognize that you’re in a story and find ways of making sure your audience understands that too.
People love stories. And when you can tell a story that engages your audience and speaks to their needs, you’ll be able to win them over every time.
It’s important to mention here that your product is not the star of the show, it’s a tool that aids in the quest. And because of that, it needs to be introduced in a way that is both helpful and inspiring.
Step 5: Present your best evidence
The final step in creating the narrative is presenting your best evidence.
Look, even if you’ve established a flawless tale, audience members will have doubts. As they are entitled to; your Promised Land is necessarily an ambitious objective. So you must provide evidence of your ability to bring about happily ever after. Stories told in the voice of those who claim that you assisted them in reaching the Promised Land are the greatest evidence you can provide.
Backing up your stories with data is also helpful, but nothing beats a personal account from someone who’s benefited from your product or service. If you don’t have any such stories to tell, consider whether you’re really ready to take on the Promised Land.
These could be clients, employees, or even just people you’ve helped in some way. If you can get them to tell their story in their own words, you’ll have an incredibly powerful tool at your disposal.
Think about it: when was the last time you were persuaded by a faceless company’s marketing materials? It’s much more likely that you were swayed by a friend’s recommendation. The same is true for your audiences. So make sure you have plenty of real-life examples to back up your claims.
Now that the strategic narrative is in place, it’s time to move on to the next phase: POV.
POV (Point of View)
When it comes to your marketing, impacting people with your message and winning them over starts with having the right POV.
POV stands for Point of View and it’s your opinion on what the current state looks like, what are the problems and challenges that are out there, your view on how “winners” are winning and losers are losing, and what you believe to be true, and your vision for the future.
Your POV is your chance to show that you really understand the market, the challenges people are facing, and what it takes to succeed.
In order to persuade people, you must have a strong POV. You need to be able to articulate your view of the world in a way that is clear, concise, and convincing.
It’s not enough to simply have an opinion; you must be able to back it up with evidence.
Your POV should be based on a combination of your observations, experiences, knowledge, and research. A strategic narrative and the change you named should equip you to go to the battle, aka argue strongly about your point of view.
Here’s what our friend Trent Anderson has to say about the 7 critical characteristics of crafting your POV so you can stand out in any space.
While your positioning describes where you compete (the problems you solve, the organizations you solve them for, and the expertise you bring to them), your POV describes a better way to solve them. At its core, a POV describes how you see the world.
Sometimes a POV emerges from collective experience, but more often POV is the byproduct of a process of research, analysis, and insight gathering. So onto the critical 7..
1. ATTACKS CONCEPTS. NOT PEOPLE.
Throwing rocks at people = petty. Throwing rocks at ideas = provoking.
2. ATTACKS CONVENTIONAL WISDOM
Imo this is the crux of Strategic Narrative. Old way vs. New way. The old way isn’t for losers, but the New way is definitely for winners.
3. ATTRACTS AND REJECTS
Not for everyone, by design. You don’t want to drag people kicking and screaming thru the status quo. Rather, you want to light a match under those predisposed to change.
4. STIRS EMOTION
Tough to inspire change if your message rings flat. Have conviction. Amplify conviction with powerful words.
5. SOLVES REAL PROBLEMS
If you’re not solving meaningful problems, you’re not solving any problems at all. Pro tip: even if the problem is small, make sure the meta problem / meta outcome is BIG.
6. OFFERS REAL SOLUTIONS
A broken process/technique/strategy can’t be fixed with an idea. You gotta give folks the right tool to fix the machine. Firms like Refine Labs (HIRO Metric) and Challenger (training) do this well.
7. BACKED BY EVIDENCE
POV without evidence is just a hypothesis. Your POV ought to be spun thru the scientific method (observe/research/hypothesize/TEST/analyze/report/repeat).
It’s also important to keep in mind that your POV is not set in stone. As you learn more about the market and the people you’re trying to reach, your POV may change.
And that’s perfectly fine. In fact, it’s necessary if you want to stay ahead of the curve.
The key is to be flexible and willing to adapt your POV as new information comes to light.
As we’ve established, to persuade your audience, you need to have a strong POV. But what comes next?
The next step is to take your POV and use it to develop a positioning strategy.
Positioning is all about differentiating yourself from your competitors. It’s about finding that one thing that sets you apart and making sure your audience knows it.
Here’s how we did it.
For example, let’s say you’re a law firm that specializes in environmental law. In this case, your positioning might be something like: “The only law firm in the state that focuses exclusively on environmental law.”
This is a strong position because it tells your audience exactly what you do and why it’s important. It also sets you apart from your competition, which is always a good thing.
Once you’ve found your position, make sure it’s reflected in all of your marketing materials. This includes your website, social media profiles, business cards, and anything else that potential clients might see.
If you can effectively communicate who you are, what you do, and why it matters, you’ll definitely be able to attract your target audience and differentiate yourself from your competitors.
Now that you know who you are and what you do, it’s time to start talking about it.
What are the most important things we want to communicate to the target buyer that is compelling and relevant, aligned with their priorities and problems?
This is where messaging comes in.
Messaging is all about communicating your value proposition to your audience. It’s about finding the right words to describe what you do and why it matters.
Your messaging should be based on your target buyer’s needs, not your own. What are their needs and desires? What are their pain points? What keeps them up at night? Once you know what they’re looking for, you can start crafting a message that resonates with them.
Keep in mind that your message should be clear, concise, and easy to understand. It should also be compelling and relevant to your audience.
If your message is all over the place, or if it doesn’t address their needs, you’re not going to be able to persuade them to do business with you.
The bottom line is this: your message should be carefully crafted to appeal to your target buyer. It should be something that they can relate to and that speaks to their needs.
If you can do that, you’ll be in a lot better shape to win their business.
I had a chat with wonderful Diane Wiredu about messaging, you might wanna check it out.
What’s the best way to say that?
Now that you know what you want to say, it’s time to figure out the best way to say it.
In this step, we take that messaging and turn it into a copy.
This is where we really get into the nitty-gritty of how to communicate your message in a way that is clear, concise, and persuasive.
Since copywriting is a bit of an art and it’s too broad of a topic to cover thoroughly in this blog post + if you are reading this and come this far, you probably know a thing or two about copywriting, so we’ll just give you few things you should keep in mind:
- Keep it simple. No one likes to read a wall of text. So, make sure your copy is easy to read and understand. Use short sentences and simple words. And don’t forget to break it up with headlines, subheadlines, and bullet points.
- Be clear and concise. Again, no one likes to read a wall of text. So, make sure your copy is clear and to the point. Get rid of anything that’s extraneous or that doesn’t add to your message.
- Focus on the benefits. When you’re writing copy, it’s important to focus on the benefits, not the features. Your target buyer doesn’t care about your features. They care about what those features can do for them. So, make sure your copy highlights the benefits of doing business with you.
- Use persuasive language. No one likes to be sold to. But everyone likes to buy. So, use persuasive language that speaks to your target buyer’s needs and desires. And make sure you’re not making any unsubstantiated claims.
- Tell a story. Stories are powerful. They’re also something that we can all relate to. So, if you can tell a story that speaks to your target buyer’s needs, you’ll be in a much better position to persuade them to do business with you.
- Use calls to action. People need to be told what to do. So, make sure your copy includes calls to action that tell your target buyer exactly what you want them to do. However don’t put a call to action everywhere, that will just be annoying.
If you can keep these things in mind and apply them to your copywriting, your copy would be better than most and you’ll be well on your way to persuasion.
I’m not including strategy examples here, but check out this video below to find out the way we set up the content strategy and content distribution for your B2B tech company, and create a B2B content machine.
Time to execute
Now that we’ve covered the fundamentals of how to develop a successful marketing plan, it’s time to put it into practice.
None of these things will matter if you don’t execute your plan.
You need to take all these things we’ve talked about and actually do something with them.
Creating a great marketing plan is far from easy but the hardest part is actually putting it into action and making it work.
You’ll be amazed by the number of companies that never actually get around to executing their marketing plans. They get bogged down in the planning phase and never take that all-important next step.
Or they create a 60-pages manual that sits somewhere in the office and nobody cares about it.
Don’t let that happen to you.
If you want to be successful, you need to take action. Find out what works and create a strategy around it. You need to implement your plan and see it through.
Of course, that’s easier said than done. But if you can do it, the rewards will be more than worth it.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this blog post and that you found it helpful. In case you did, share it with someone that needs it badly. That’s why we wrote it.