Today’s B-to-B Marketing: It’s a Lot Like Shark Tank

As a marketer, I understand the challenge of reaching business decision makers like me in a fresh and meaningful way, but I will tell you that as a focus group of one, I despise the direction marketers seem to be headed:

As a marketer, I understand the challenge of reaching business decision makers like me in a fresh and meaningful way, but I will tell you that as a focus group of one, I despise the direction marketers seem to be headed:

  • My LinkedIn inbox is now overflowing with invitations to connect to people I don’t know and now choose NOT to connect to because I know they’re going to simply try and sell me something based on their job description/profile.
  • To download a whitepaper of interest requires me to complete a form that includes my phone number, which means dealing with unwanted calls from a bored sales rep.
  • My regular inbox is stuffed with offers from strangers that want to set up meetings, desperate attempts to sell me data from unknown sources, demands that I click links to view the video about revolutionary new technology that will “change the way I do business.”
  • If I express any interest at all in a product (attend a webinar, visit a tradeshow booth, download a spec sheet), I am relentlessly mobbed by emails and phone calls.

I get that sales folks have a job to do, so what’s the answer?

It’s called Lead Nurturing.

An organized and systematic way of building a relationship that will, over time, help turn a cold prospect into a warm prospect… and from a warm prospect into a hot prospect… and ultimately to a sale.

But excellence in lead nurturing seems to be a lost art form as I haven’t been exposed to many companies that are doing it—let alone doing it well.

Best practices suggest that the marketer try to ask just a few questions at the outset of the relationship to try and determine the prospects pain point (the reason for their download or visit to your website or tradeshow booth), and the role the individual plays in the purchase process (influencer, part of a decision making team, final decision maker).

Based on the answers to these and perhaps one or two other pertinent questions that would help you define your lead nurturing strategy (for example, industry or job title/function), leads should be scored and placed into an appropriate lead nurturing system that will help the marketer deliver ongoing content that will be most relevant to that prospect.

Best practices do NOT include asking questions about intent to purchase timeframes (God forbid you answer “in the near future” as that will guarantee an instant follow up call), budget size (really? Do you think I’ll reveal that I have earmarked$100K on a form?).

Lead nurturing programs should include:

  • Additional assets that can be distributed via email: Content can include a competitive review, an article that’s relevant to the prospects vertical industry, research findings, videos that demonstrate how a product works, etc. These should NOT be sales literature but rather help the company position itself as an expert in their field. This in turn, helps build credibility and trust (key components in a B-to-B purchase).
  • Invitations to webinars where a particular topic is explored. Webinars should include speakers from OUTSIDE the sponsoring organization to give the topic value and ensure the attendee isn’t just signing up for a sales pitch.
  • Invitations to breakfast or luncheon roundtable discussions: Bring in a speaker of interest and discuss a topic that is most relevant to your audience (especially if it’s industry specific).

Over the course of time, you’ll be able to ask additional questions / gain additional insights into your prospect pool that will help you become more familiar with them and the problem they’re trying to solve.

After all, don’t we all want to do business with people we know and like? The reality is, it is highly unlikely that I’m ready to buy after one simple download, so stop treating me like a piece of meat that has fallen into a tank full of hungry sharks.

Do You Target Laptop Loiterers?

You should. I know, I’m one of them. When I’m about to meet a contact in Manhattan (I live in Brooklyn), I’ll often stop at the local Starbucks before or after to check email and work on articles. Sometimes I’m there for several hours. Oh, and I may even get a coffee (sometimes – don’t tell Howard Schultz!).

You should. I know, I’m one of them. When I’m about to meet a contact in Manhattan (I live in Brooklyn), I’ll often stop at the local Starbucks before or after to check email and work on articles. Sometimes I’m there for several hours. Oh, and I may even get a coffee (sometimes – don’t tell Howard Schultz!).

But apparently some coffee shops, though fortunately not Starbucks, are not too happy with us folks. A recent Wall Street Journal report, for example, discussed how many local coffee shop owners are pulling the plug on laptop users during the recession, as we take up seats and drive away diners. Some even cover their electrical outlets as a cost-cutting measure to save electricity.

For online marketers, however, laptop loiterers may be a new target audience. In fact, according to a mobile insights report from JiWire, a mobile audience media company, 38 percent of people using Wi-Fi at cafés or coffee shops make online purchases during their visits, and 77 percent are in the market to make major purchases in the next 12 months. Purchasing plans include the following:

  • 48 percent intend to buy new smartphones;
  • 54 percent plan to travel more than once on at least week-long vacations;
  • 28 percent plan to buy new laptops; and
  • 24 percent plan to buy cars.

Additionally, the report found online audiences in cafés and coffee shops use these venues as their extended home offices or college libraries, with 83 percent connecting locally in their own neighborhoods. What’s more, most are affluent males between the ages of 25 and 49, and 40 percent are business decision makers with management titles. Twenty-three percent have C-level or VP titles, while 44 percent are in small- to medium-sized businesses.

The report is based on data from 275,000 public Wi-Fi hot spots, as well as a survey of 2,057 customers randomly selected in more than 6,500 U.S. café locations that used JiWire’s Wi-Fi Media Channel between April and June.

So, how would you target these users? One idea may be to offer a special coupon — perhaps through Twitter — just for folks working in cafés or coffee shops. Any other ideas? Let us know by posting a comment here.