We asked our fellow B2B marketing gurus for the best advice they’ve ever received (or given) in their careers, and their answers all had one thing in common: that the best B2B marketing focuses on people. It’s about humans connecting with other humans, making them feel engaged, solving their problems, helping them learn. We’re excited to share some of these insights with you, and hope they help you make a stronger connection with your audience.
Know thy customer...really, really well.
Kathleen Norton-Schock, Founder, All Things Marketing, loves this quote from Peter Drucker: “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well, the product or service fits him/her, and sells itself.” To get to know the customer that well, she says there’s only one thing you can do: spend the time.
“I recommend the 2-3-2 rule,” she says. “Spend 2 hours a week with customers and prospective customers, asking questions and listening to the answers. Then spend 3 hours a week looking at what your direct and indirect competitors are doing: their campaigns, digital assets, PR, changes in leadership, new customers as well as the customers they’ve lost. Another 2 hours should be devoted to learning: consume as much industry knowledge as you can. Be an industry expert. Stay curious.”
Put yourself in the shoes of your customer’s customers.
Anita Baldwinson, Director of Marketing at SAS Retail Services, says it’s the only way to develop truly relevant content. We have to grasp that we aren’t just marketing business to business. “Ultimately, we also need to realize that we are marketing human to human,” she says. “And while the steps for B2B may be a bit different, if we uncover the desires and challenges of the person we are talking with and answer them, we all win.”
Don’t get lost in the weeds of “tactics.”
“So many marketers think that the next shiny web tool, Zoom thingy or virtual reality gizmo is going to lead to success,” says Norvin Eitzen, Chief Marketing Officer, Eitzen & Associates. “Understand when it's time for tactics (execution) and when you need to take a step back and look at the big strategic picture.” Start by thinking about what the business is trying to accomplish. Determine what the goals are and how you’ll achieve them from a strategic standpoint. Only then should you pick the tactics you’ll use to fulfill the strategy.
Don’t just focus on ROI: ROE is just as important.
As marketers, we get asked about ROI pretty much every day. And it’s an important question, but according to Angela Cope, Director, Demand Generation at Softchoice, if you're only thinking about ROI, you’ve shifted your focus away from what a marketing campaign should be: getting you closer to your customer.
“Ask yourself this,” she says. "What is the return on engagement (ROE) for my audience after they engage with my content/event/follow on social/read my email? How is it helping them solve a real challenge? Is it creating community? Is it inspiring others? You can track ROE based on time metrics, touches, interactions, and more. When you approach each campaign with a focus on helping your customers find success in their day-to-day, you move into a mindset that puts the customer first. And positive ROI will follow.”
Build a strong team.
For Andrew Green, VP Client Strategy, Mezzanine Growth, it's all about bringing the right group of people together. It’s the only way to get real depth and breadth of experience, fresh perspectives and ideas, and the opportunity to challenge the status quo, evolve and grow stronger. “I've had the chance to operate in both ways,” he says. “I”ve been a sole operator and part of a team, and I benefit so much more from the latter!”
Go on sales calls.
Listening to how a seasoned sales professional can move the needle with a customer is incredibly valuable to marketers. “Sneak your way into sales team conversations any way you can,” says Christina Dong, Account Supervisor at TANK Worldwide. “Whether it's sitting in on a Zoom call, asking to be part of sales meetings, or joining on a customer call, it’s the best way to understand what drives the customer, and how you can build messaging, outreach and strategies that are different from textbook tactics.”
Ask your customers questions. And listen carefully to the answers.
“Practice empathy – and I mean ‘walk a mile in their shoes’ empathy – for your customers/clients,” says Virginia Braile, Growth Strategist & Marketing Partner, ELIM5. “One of the best ways to get good insights is to spend quality time with clients. While quantitative data is vital, nothing replaces qualitative input for hearing about the challenges they face in their own words.”
Mike O’Drowsky, Marketing & Communications Consultant, wholeheartedly agrees. “Let people talk: they’ll tell you all sorts of things about their business they may not even realize are marketing opportunities. One of my favourite quotes is from Lyndon Johnson, who said ‘If you’re talkin’, ya ain’t learnin’ nothin’.”
And Tanner Kelly, Account Director at Ideon Media, sums this advice up nicely: “My first boss said ‘You have two ears and one mouth. Use them proportionately.’Listening skills are key in sales and any other relationship.”
Visit plants and go to tradeshows.
Going to the facility is an excellent learning experience, and something Greg Ulcar, Marketing & Sales Operation Manager at Crosslink Technology, Inc. tries to do as often as possible. He’s also a big proponent for attending trade shows: “It’s a chance to speak with tons of prospects and hear their questions and what they are interested in. It also helps identify people who are just looking for free swag, making it easier to differentiate between good and bad quality leads.”
According to Shannon Dougall, EVP Marketing, Tugboat Logic, it’s important to remember that great marketing takes time – and it needs to be given a chance to work. So many people pull the plug on initiatives when they don’t succeed right away, and that’s a marketer’s biggest mistake. “There is no silver bullet, no overnight success, even though that's exactly what stakeholders want to see,” she says. “So...keep listening to your customers. Keep measuring your data. Keep tweaking and pivoting where necessary. Keep moving forward. And be patient!”
Be a storyteller.
Candace Kane, Senior Director, Mezzanine Growth, shares this nugget with everyone she works with. “Customers connect with stories,” she says. “Tell a great one that evokes emotion, and your readers will never forget you: done right, content can be incredibly powerful.”
Never stop learning.
Being a lifelong learner is key, says Becca Hogan, Group Sales Account Executive at Oilers Entertainment Group. “Not only will there always be new tools, but the old tools will always be changing, so it’s important to always be open to learning something new!”
It’s better to ask for forgiveness rather than permission, advises Katy Bartow, Senior Lead Generation Specialist at Mezzanine Growth. She realizes that won’t apply in every situation, but says that sometimes it’s better to take a bit of a risk and move things forward than to keep asking/waiting for approval.
Be a problem solver.
“Your customers don’t buy products, they purchase solutions to their problems,” says Dom Banguis, Head of Marketing COINQVEST. "Become a solver, create products and services that solve a pain point.” If you can show them exactly how you’ll make their life better, easier, or help them make more money, that will get their attention.
B2B decision-makers are just as humans as the rest of us. So why would you talk to them any differently? They’d rather have the latest toy or gadget than a leather desk set, and would much prefer that you communicate with them in simple, engaging, relatable ways. “The best advice I’ve ever gotten was ‘write like you talk. None of that ‘dear sir or madame’ nonsense! Just say hi,’” says Aimee Kessler-Evans, Senior Content Manager at AppLovin.
Nurture your association relationships.
“A well-crafted association strategy will go a long way for B2B marketers,” says Yvette Byrne-Menard, marketing leader. “Leveraging strong relationships you’ve created with association membership directors can uncover opportunities not included in your sponsorship packages.”
Yvette recommends proactively setting up status meetings with membership directors to share updates, and including support for association activities in your own brand’s communication plan. You can offer up expertise by way of a relevant blog post, provide branded giveaways or connect with an adjacent sponsor to deliver additional value to an event. Ask what your team can help with: you’d be surprised how many new opportunities are uncovered just by asking, and often require little to no investment with mid to high ROI.
Need more insights on smart B2B marketing? The team at Mezzanine Growth has marketing and lead generation ideas and wisdom to spare. Get in touch today to see how we can use that expertise to help you generate more leads and grow your business.