As we mentioned in “Why B2B Marketing Fails its Mission (Part 1)”, getting on the short list requires proving to be trustworthy. To accomplish that, a vendor has to pass three critical hurdles.
Hurdle 1: This is a waste of my time.
From the buyer’s perspective, this is a given until proven wrong. B2B Marketing typically wastes a buyer’s time with self-serving information that doesn’t help the buyer. Now that B2B marketing generally has a bad reputation, it must earn the buyer’s trust by doing the opposite of what it normally does. It must focus all effort on understanding the buyer’s world (perhaps even better than the buyer) to clearly understand the relevant challenges and propose useful solutions.
The first sign that B2B Marketing is beginning to pass this hurdle is found in the first metric:email open rates. If the targeted recipients are opening at a rate of over 10%, then at least the subject line appears to have been relevant to the prospect.
Even after opening the email, the recipient still assumes that this is a waste of her time and looks for the first evidence of this fact so she can move on to something else. Gimmicky subject lines designed only to lure the prospect into opening the email are only going to make things worse.
This happens because B2B Marketers don’t conduct the necessary research to know what message they should be communicating. They claim that they don’t have time to do proper research.
Instead, they do what’s easy for them and write about what they know—their own company and their own products.
As the result, the buyer gets this message instead of a relevant one: “Vendor ABC is the leading provider of product XYZ…”
It’s a waste of time for both buyer and vendor.
However, it doesn’t have to be.
Hurdle 2: Is this for real?
If the vendor has NOT wasted the buyer’s time and has instead described her challenges in a clear and logical way, the buyer’s curiosity should be piqued— because where there is smoke, there is fire, right?
On the contrary, her next question is still one of skepticism—is this for real? After all, this point is normally where things start falling apart and turning into the usual self-serving, “Vendor ABC is the leading provider of product XYZ…”
The next step in the buyer’s journey is to turn this cautious curiosity into real interest. This doesn’t happen over one email. It will take several high-quality emails that are consistently on-message to convert curiosity into real interest.
The first sign of real interest is clicking on links that take the buyer to additional relevant information. However, more important than even click-through rates is increasingly high open rates. As a potential buyer begins to recognize the brand of this relevant information, she continues to open communication from that source, strengthening both her interest and belief that this might actually be a different kind of vendor. That’s how a vendor ends up on the short list of vendors that are invited to present.
Hurdle 3: Should I invite them in?
Some sales executives might say, “We can’t wait to get invited. We must try to get the appointment as soon as possible. Otherwise, our competitors will get in there first”.
Though you shouldn’t necessarily wait until you are invited to contact the buyer, the best time to call is when the potential buyer is already seriously thinking of inviting you. Then it becomes a simple matter of scheduling the date that works.
To pass this hurdle, B2B Marketing must make available to the potential buyer (or someone in the buyer’s company) a sufficient amount of evidence to prove you are worth the risk of scheduling a meeting. Sufficient amount means white papers, case studies, blogs, customer interviews, and more that consistently demonstrate the vendor’s commitment to understanding and solving the buyer’s challenge.
B2B Marketing must provide overwhelming evidence that you are a Top Tier Vendor in that segment.
To summarize, the job of B2B Marketing is to get your sales rep onto the short list of vendors that are invited to present to a potential buyer.
In order to achieve this, your Marketing team needs to provide overwhelming evidence that you are a Top Tier Vendor in the buyer’s sector, which is demonstrated by full understanding of the buyer’s problem and the ability to create a viable solution as evidenced by deeply informative content found on your web pages, white papers, social media properties, case studies, customer testimonials, and more.
While Tier 3 vendors continue to put out “ABC, the leading provider of XYZ…”, you, as a Top Tier Vendor, can work on becoming a go-to-resource for your potential customers, giving you relatively easy access at low cost.
The end result is that you enjoy higher closing ratios and shorter sales cycles, which translate into a high growth rate at low sales and marketing costs— which is what we all want in the end.