Why B2B Marketing Fails its Mission (Part 1)

Man writing about B2B marketing

The mission of B2B Marketing is to get Sales on the short list of vendors that a prospective buyer wants to meet with. That is what happens to Top Tier Vendors—they get invited to present anytime a potential buyer has a need.

However, the vast majority of B2B companies are Tier 3 vendors—they compete with hundreds, if not thousands of other companies for the same customer base. Tier 3 Vendors never get invited, so they  must spend a great deal of time and money trying to get noticed for a deal they are unlikely to win.

The first step towards building predictable revenue and high growth is to focus on becoming a Top Tier Vendor in a clearly defined market space.

What Tier Vendor are you?

This concept of vendor tier is critical to the goal of achieving high growth rate. Tier 1 and Tier 2 vendors grow at a high rate. Tier 3 vendors either miss their targets or grow at an anemic single digit level.

Tier 1 Vendors

A tier 1 vendor is the market leader in its chosen market space. It has a deep bench when it comes to products, services, and expertise that are a high fit for its customers. As a result, it is the vendor that most customers want to buy from. It also charges a premium to customers for the privilege of buying from the leader.

There are usually no more than 2-3 Tier 1 vendors for any given market.

Tier 2 Vendors

A Tier 2 vendor is a strong niche competitor, but it probably doesn’t have the same scope and scale as a Tier 1 vendor. However, within its limited scope and scale, its offer is as complete and unmatchable as a Tier 1 competitor. In addition, a Tier 2 vendor typically charges less than a Tier 1 vendor.  Therefore, for customers who don’t need the scale of Tier 1, a Tier 2 provider is a very attractive alternative.

There are usually no more than a handful of Tier 2 vendors for any given market.

Tier 3 Vendors

Any B2B company that is not a Tier 1 or Tier 2 vendor is automatically a Tier 3 vendor—meaning that it is one of many dozens, if not hundreds, of vendors attempting to serve the same customer base with an undifferentiated, “me too” offer. Tier 3 offers are typically seen as “commodity,” and price competition is the only way to win deals.

In this article, we will refer to Tier 1 and Tier 2 vendors as a Top Tier Vendor.

The Real Test of Top Tier Vendor Status

Here is a simple test. If your prospective customers know who you are and what you do, then you are a Top Tier Vendor in your chosen market. On the other hand, if your target customers don’t know you, then you are a Tier 3 vendor as far as that market segment is concerned.

If we have agreed so far, then the mission of B2B Marketing should be to make a B2B company a Top Tier Vendor in its chosen market space.

What we typically see from vendors is an unfocused, highly undifferentiated message that goes something like, “Company ABC, the leading provider of XYZ, has the best…” No one really cares, so that vendor is relegated to Tier 3.

Here is a question for you, the CEO, to ask yourself:

  • Would you rather be a Tier 3 vendor competing with everyone for anyone’s business and earning hair-thin margins with anemic growth, or
  • Would your rather be a Top Tier Vendor competing with less than a handful of other vendors for the business of a market that knows and respects you and invites you to present your solution, so that you grow at a healthy rate and earn healthy margins?

The Power of the Short List in B2B Marketing

From the vendor’s perspective, getting on the short list of a buyer confers two very important advantages:

  • Since the list of competitors is short, the probability of a win is much higher, resulting in more predictable revenue and higher growth rate.
  • Since the list is short, buyer-vendor engagement level is high. Reps can more accurately gauge their chance of winning and can exit early if they don’t see a win. This further reduces wasted sales resources, which reduces cost of sales.

However, from the buyer’s perspective, getting on the short list depends on whether you as a vendor are trustworthy or not.  Can the buyer trust you to not to waste her time? To be honest with what you can and cannot do? And most importantly, is trusting you going to cost the buyer her reputation, or even her career?

If you are a Tier 3 vendor, the answer is simple. You are not trustworthy, and the only thing that would make up for the risk of working with you is rock-bottom prices.

However, if you are Top Tier Vendor, you have proven to be trustworthy, and you are invited in to present.

The purpose of  B2B Marketing is to make your company a Top Tier vendor so that you can get on the short list.

From there, you just have to prove to be the best fit for the opportunity— and that’s Sales’ job.

Read about the three hurdles in proving trustworthiness.

Critical Success Factor 1: Quality Content

person on laptop displaying the words content

One critical success factor in the operations of B2B sales is quality content. Content is how a prospect can determine the degree to which a vendor understands her problem and can solve it. The more quality content you have, the more certain she becomes that you must be on her short list of vendors to evaluate— making it easy for your sales reps to meet with her.

Since this is a journey for the prospect to take, you must have a variety of content types designed to get her started on this journey so that she can acquire more knowledge and conviction regarding your company and continue to an actual sales engagement with one of your sales reps.

TypePurposeUsage
EmailsCreate awarenessEmail continues to be the most effective outbound communication medium. Its sole purpose is to make the prospect aware of a specific problem and what the logical next step might be towards solving that problem.  Ask the reader to take a small incremental step forward, but always have a complete means by which the prospect can get in touch with you if she is ready to engage.
White PapersEducate: the generic problem and solution.The purpose of a white paper is to enable your prospects to clearly see the type and extent of the problem(s) they have, analyze its cause(s), and provide a vendor-agnostic solution to the problem. In other words, your objective is not to sell your product or service, but to establish yourself as a credible partner that can help your prospect solve their problem(s).
WebinarsEducate: specifically about your solutionWebinars are similar in purpose to White Papers. They both require a significant amount of time and effort to produce quality content. However, webinars are typically expected to discuss your product and solution, perhaps with a demo (if appropriate).
Case StudiesProveCase studies give the prospect a practical and relatable example of how your solution solves problems such as the one the prospect is currently experiencing. The power of a case study can be diminished if you are unable to use the customer’s name (especially if it is a highly recognized company). Be sure to do what it takes to get permission to mention the client by name on at least a few of your case studies.
BlogsEducate InterestBlogs are relatively short (1-2 pages), highly targeted, and highly educated opinions. Have your internal experts write them, and then have them polished off by your editor.
Video / AnimationArouse curiosityThese are short (60-90 second) video clips that explain the main issue and the solution. The goal is to create a fun and engaging way to communicate information at a high level.
Product InformationEducateThis is where you get to talk all you want about your products and services. It is best to keep the information simple, factual, and engaging.

Read about the second Critical Success Factor, “Content Distribution”.