RESPECT THEIR INTELLIGENCE, VALUE THEIR TIME
By David Stein
There's a difference between selling to consumers and selling to other businesses. Sounds obvious, right? But how many of you who do B2B Internet marketing have really thought through how that difference should be reflected in your marketing campaign? To start with, think about who reads B2B marketing material: other business professionals, people who are as smart and hard working, careful about how they spend their time, and interested in making a profit as you are. Send these people a marketing piece with a lead designed to instill fear or uncertainty about what they're doing and you're likely to lose them before they even know what it is you're selling. Imagine how you'd respond if someone tried to tell you they knew your business better than you do. A much better strategy is to create opportunities for online interaction with your B2B prospects.
I'm talking here about much more than the standard mailing-after-the-networking-event and follow-up phone call that we all already do. You should see that phone call as only the first step, an opportunity for you to learn a little bit more about what you next series of communications ought to include. An obvious example of what might come next is a white paper or research study that you forward because it's relevant to the prospect's business or job. You could even take this strategy a step further, creating an area on your website to hold documents-in my case, say, on Internet marketing strategies-that you think your prospects might be interested in. You can password-protect the page, making prospects feel special while at allowing you at the same time to keep track of who visits the page, and you can set it up so that documents are emailed to your prospects, saving them the time it would otherwise take to open the file and print it out. An added benefit of this last feature us that the file stays on their hard drive as a reminder of who you are and what you sell.
Another way you can educate your B2B prospects is through an ongoing email seminar about your company. Create a series of issue-oriented emails, including case studies, that illustrate how your solution has helped other businesses to grow or become more efficient. Send the emails at selected intervals, following up occasionally with an email asking if the prospect has any questions and providing your contact information in the event that they do. A related strategy is to set up moderated discussion lists about your products. It involves prospects in discussion not only with each other, but also with the people in your organization who know your product or service best. You cannot underestimate the value of the kinds of nuts and bolts discussions that take place on such a list. Prospects get the sense they're part of a community of users and they get information without the hype-however muted-that is inevitably part of any marketing piece.
A different problem that you run into in B2B marketing is how to get past the gatekeepers who, for perfectly understandable reasons, do not immediately see the potential value of your product or service to their boss' business. An important, but often overlooked, solution is to educate the gatekeepers in the same way you would educate their bosses. I don't mean that you should necessarily give the same kind of information to an executive assistant as you would to the executive, but helping the assistant see how what you're selling can help her or him be more efficient is a surefire way to get your marketing material through the gate and onto the prospect's desk.
When you market to other businesses, you need to think about you like to be marketed to, not as a consumer buying a PC or a car, but as a business owner on whose every decision the success or failure of your company depends. You want your intelligence respected and the value of your time not underestimated. Your online business prospects deserve nothing less.
David Stein is president of Automatic On-Line System, a full service web design, marketing and maintenance company. He can be reached at (718) 361-3091 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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