One Size DOES NOT Fit All in B-to-B Marketing

Here’s a painful truth: B-to-B lead generation takes a lot of hard work BEFORE you execute any marketing or sales program. Work smarter, not harder, and follow these six steps to make a real difference:

Here’s a painful truth: B-to-B lead generation takes a lot of hard work BEFORE you execute any marketing or sales program.

Work smarter, not harder, and follow these six steps to make a real difference:

  1. Do your homework. What do you know about your existing customers? Do they fall into any particular vertical industries? What types of job titles do they encompass? It’s doubtful that they’re all C-level executives—chances are your real customers are well down the food chain. Select your top four or five vertical industries, identify their job titles, and plan your next steps with these verticals in mind.
  2. Find prospects that look like your target. Finding the right target is NOT like finding a needle in a haystack, and if you’ve always relied on renting a D&B list, then good luck to you. Think like your targets. Join their industry organizations, attend industry conferences and read their trade publications—increase the breadth and depth of your industry knowledge. Most of these organizations/events make their lists available for rent, and their data is probably more current and accurate at the levels you’re really targeting.
  3. Determine your targets’ pain points. What problem does your product or service solve? It’s probably different by vertical industry and by job title/function. Rent your list and use an outside research firm to contact prospects to help identify the challenges facing them in your particular area of expertise.
  4. Gather sales support assets. Use the information gathered in Step 3 to reposition your product, create new white papers or industry articles aimed at different functional areas within each company. Review existing case studies and determine how you can refresh and repurpose them by vertical industry based on your new found insights. Create assets digitally and in hard copy so you can use them in fulfillment and follow-up efforts.
  5. Create a destination of information. Before you start reaching out to prospects, create an online destination BEYOND your existing web site. Organize your new assets by vertical industry, as most organizations want to know that you understand and have experience in their category. A healthcare company, for example, will probably not have the same challenges as a financial services organization. And it’s most likely that your solution wouldn’t be identical either.
  6. Execute an outreach program. Now that you know your top four or five verticals, you’re ready to tap targets on the shoulder. Create a campaign by vertical target in order to highlight key benefits that are most relevant to that target (you should know what these are as a result of your research in Step 3).

All your outbound communications to each of these job functions within each of your target verticals should be different. The individual in finance, for example, will want to understand ROI while the individual on the technology side might be concerned about how well your product can be integrated into existing technology.

Your research should have already helped you identify the pain they’re facing, so leverage that learning in your communications. Whether it’s the initial contact, the follow up materials, or the landing page, mirror what you’ve heard to make the conversation most relevant from the beginning. Your participation in industry events and conferences should help you establish the correct tone and language in your communications.

B-to-B marketing should never apply a “one size fits all” strategy. The more relevant your communications, and the more you can demonstrate that you understand their particular industry and business challenges by tailoring your solutions, the more likely you are to engage in a meaningful discussion with your target. Listen to feedback and refine your communications accordingly. And yes, the results will be worth it.

Your Company Does What, Exactly?

“We provide robust, enterprise-wide solutions to decision-makers at multi-location facilities across a broad set of vertical industries that are facing an overarching set of business challenges.” I couldn’t help myself—I broke out laughing before he finished the sentence

“We provide robust, enterprise-wide solutions to decision-makers at multi-location facilities across a broad set of vertical industries that are facing an overarching set of business challenges.”

I couldn’t help myself—I broke out laughing before he finished the sentence.

I was at a business function, glass of wine in hand, looking to meet a few potential business connections that might be a good fit for an upcoming client project. I had read his name tag and politely asked what his company did, since I didn’t recognize the name.

He frowned at me, clearly displeased at my reaction.

“You’ve just described a million organizations,” I explained. “Why don’t you just cut to the chase and tell me, in laymen’s terms, what you do.”

He looked puzzled.

“Pretend I’m a 5th Grader,” I explained, “and your child has brought you to class on Career Day. Now, tell me what you do.”

He looked relieved. “Oh … Our company helps other company’s blast emails to their customers or prospects.”

Yup. I suspected as much.

It seems this guy has sat in the company’s strategic planning meetings and been told that the 5th Grader description was too “low brow” and they needed to enhance their marketplace positioning, if they want to be taken seriously, or play in the pool with the big boys.

Unfortunately, with so many small businesses popping up every other day, it seems this problem is multiplying. I’ve visited too many websites that position their services, on their home page, in such a complicated way that I’ve no clue what they really do. And why? What is everybody so afraid of?

Afraid that a site visitor thinks they’re too small? Not capable of handling the needs of a large, complex organization? Unable to think and work in vertical industries?

Here’s a little insight from a buyer of business goods and services: Your website is your storefront.

  • Step 1 is to make sure your windows are properly dressed to appeal to the traffic that’s strolling by.
  • Step 2 is to make sure that if they open the door and enter, it’s crystal clear that they’ve come to the right place.
  • Step 3 is to provide a logically organized set of links to other places on your site where the visitor might go to find more information. Back to the storefront analogy—if I walk over to the shelf with books on it, chances are I’m looking for a book. If you’re lucky and I ask if you have a particular book, you shouldn’t be leading me over to the clothing section. It’s more likely that I won’t ask … and it will certainly never occur to me that I might need to look for a book in the clothing section. It might make sense to put your book in BOTH sections of your store, if that book was about fashion.

Take a critical eye to your own website. Better still, ask someone who is NOT familiar with your company to take a peek and tell you, in their words, what your organization does just by looking at your home page. You may be surprised by their interpretation.