The more we know, the better we can sell – especially when it comes to knowing what B2B buyers want.
That seems to be the underlying premise of marketing right now.
It’s not a bad premise. It leverages one of the all-time great marketing principles: relevancy.
Relevancy is what turned Google AdWords from an experiment into a trillion-dollar project. It’s why retargeting works and personalization converts. It’s why account-based marketing is so hot.
So, no wonder we like information. It lets us be more relevant.
But has it gotten us anywhere?
Well … Yes!
Reliable data, organized in a useful way, can make a huge difference in the revenue you generate. Information like that powers CRMs and databases all over the world.
This data is very important, but it’s not all the information we need. And too often, all that data clouds some of the basic things our prospects wish we knew. It’s just that most of them are far too polite to tell us.
So we keep marketing at them. And they keep politely ignoring us.
Because we’re kinda tone deaf on some key information about them, more specifically what B2B buyers want.
It’s time to change. No matter how many petabytes of data we have, sometimes we need to see our marketing through the eyes of our customers.
Here are a few ways to do that:
1. Don’t bury them with sales follow-ups.
Now, not every company does this. Some organizations are very savvy about letting visitors download several different white papers or other content resources before they ever start selling.
Many of those same companies even remember visitor information from prior visits, so you don’t have to type your information in again and again and again. Only after maybe your third or fourth visit will they activate a little pop-up in the lower right-hand corner of the screen, with some nice person offering to help if you want to know anything more.
Then there are other companies. They don’t just ask you if you want to be called by a rep ― they ask what you want the rep to pitch you about. And within minutes of downloading any asset, the phone calls begin. The email follow-ups begin.
And they keep coming. Jim Brodo says he got 42 follow-up emails and 17 phone calls after downloading just five whitepapers. That was just in the first two weeks.
I can guarantee that is not what B2B buyers want.
Which is why…
2. Most people hate putting their phone numbers into content-download forms.
Only one in three of us B2Bers are willing to put our phone numbers into lead generation forms when we download content.
That’s not the only report to show this. Huff Industrial Marketing and Ko Marketing found the same thing in their 2015 B2B Web Usability Report.
For my two cents, I’m with the majority here who don’t want to put their phone numbers into lead gen forms. So I cheat. If the form requires a phone number ― and most do ― I enter a fake number.
By the way … about putting email addresses in. It’s not uncommon for people to have a slush or junk email account. Not just an email folder ― an entirely separate account.
According to the Radicati Group’s Email Statistics Report, 2015 – 2019: “Over the next four years, the average number of email accounts per user ratio will grow from an average of 1.7 accounts per user to an average of 1.9 accounts per user.”
3. Your website must have thorough contact information.
While B2B buyers hate giving out their own contact information, they expect a vendor’s website to have ample contact info. Having that information ends up being one of their primary ways to verify a company’s credibility.
That seems like a pretty low bar. But half of B2B buyers say the vendor websites they visit don’t have that contact information.
4. Understand their needs and where they are coming from.
Again ― this is something that many companies just nail. You can tell from the moment you land on their homepage that they get you and what you need.
Then there are other companies. They mean well, but they don’t seem to really know what you need, even when they say they have what you need. Sometimes, they don’t even appear to be clear on what they offer.
Knowing where a prospect is coming from would include:
- Having really done your buyer persona homework. You have figured out who your buyers are (based on data, not opinions).
- Leveraging your sales and customer support staff’s knowledge. You understand the unique needs of each of those groups.
- Developing content and resources (calculators, assessment tools, videos, case studies, and whitepapers) that are solely for each group.
Some of you ― the truly world-class ones ― have created those resources with so little bias and with such good supporting research that prospects can truly trust what you say. Bravo, all you companies who do this. May your tribe increase.
5. “We don’t do that” is a legitimate answer.
If your company doesn’t do certain things, don’t conceal that information. It’s easier on prospects if we just know up front, without hassle, that your company/service/software doesn’t do certain things.
Don’t make us have to quiz you to reveal that information.
Here’s an example:
Last night I was researching survey tools for an upcoming project. I wanted to add tracking code to the final confirmation page of the survey, so I could see which channels (email, advertising, Twitter, LinkedIn) generate the most completed surveys.
Survey tool #1’s site had a help section. When I searched for “’tracking code’ ‘custom page’”, I immediately got a detailed how-to article with screenshots that explained exactly how to do what I wanted.
They even described some other cool things I could do with the tracking. And I could use Google Analytics ― a free, widely-used tool ― to do the job.
In survey tool #2, the help section was hard to find. Multiple searches about tracking codes revealed nothing. So I contacted customer service.
To their credit, someone got back to me within an hour (this is unusual and they deserve major credit for it).
But the person who responded basically said they had no idea what I was talking about and then wrapped up the email with a cheery pitch.
So I replied, and asked my question two different ways. With as much clarity as I could muster.
They emailed me back (again, within an hour) saying, “No, our software can’t do that.”
I get why companies might want to cover up if their software or service doesn’t do basic things a user might expect it to do. But leaving a vacuum of information like that, then making it hard to confirm there is no functionality for that, just makes life harder. Unnecessarily harder.
This isn’t an isolated incident, either. It’s the second time in as many weeks this sort of thing has happened to me.
When I was researching which graphic design outsourcing service to use, I had a specific question about whether or not they would lay out an email for me. That is, I wanted them to set up copy and images to assemble the email message within my email service provider account, using a pre-defined template.
At first I got a breezy, “Yes ― we do emails! We do anything!”
Still not sure that that was a yes, I asked again.
After four emails back and forth, it was finally revealed that no, they won’t do that. Even though my question had never changed. Their rep ignored what I asked and said yes without really reading my question. They even said that much in their last message.
(Of course, if this is the roughest thing I have to deal with, life is pretty good.)
But it’s a pain to do business like this. It turns prospects off.
I would have had a more positive view of both companies if they had just made that information easy to find. If they had told me upfront, “No, we don’t do that.”
6. Your messaging needs to be clear.
Buyers are zooming through hundreds of pages of marketing collateral, trying to develop a short list of products that could solve their problem. They are looking to winnow out companies that can’t help them.
Weak messages, particularly on your home page, can repel potential buyers.
As Gordana Stok says in her article, “5 Things B2B Buyers Want Your Content To Do”
“The short-form messages on your home page and product-landing page help convince buyers whether it’s worth their time to take a deeper look at your solution.
To get your value proposition under 100 words and ensure it truly resonates with buyers, you need to be absolutely certain that you understand what they’re looking for in the first place.”
It’s not just Gordana saying this, either. In a research study from Ko Marketing, “Lack of message” was the #1 thing that B2B buyers said annoyed them and made them likely to leave a site. (Note that lack of contact info, mentioned earlier, was #2.)
You know the golden rule, right? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Perhaps we can apply this to marketing: “Market unto others as you would have them market unto you.”
I sincerely hope that doesn’t offend anyone, and please excuse the religious overtones, but maybe following that credo would help us do our jobs better.
If we truly did embrace the spirit of the aphorism, we’d lose the jargon and the marketing speak. We’d say what we do ― and don’t do ― plainly. We’d be helpful first and sales-focused second. We’d always be thinking about how to make it easier for our customers to work with us, and how to get them better results.
Actually, we’d be following pretty much all of the best practices of content marketing and “customer experience” marketing.
Who knew, right?
Back to you
As a prospect, what do you wish the people who pitch you knew?