“Trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit,” wrote French thinker Molière, and while it’s unlikely he was ruminating on the nature of successful B2B marketing campaigns, his words could nevertheless be taken to heart by those involved in the sector.
Not for B2B marketers the quick dopamine-hit conversions of fashion or retail. No, selling products or services to other businesses is a long game, requiring much patience and consideration. In fact, one of the key reasons why B2B marketing campaigns fail is that they aren’t given enough time, either to bear fruit or for issues in their design to be ironed out so that they can. While pulling the plug early is anathema to B2B success, it’s not the only reason campaigns underperform. In this post, we’ve looked at five reasons why B2B marketing campaigns don’t go as well as hoped.
Your content wasn’t helpful enough
Progressive B2B marketers have known for a long time that to help is to sell, but find that they can come up against dual challenges when taking this approach. First, internal resistance to offering advice and information ‘for free’ online. This is particularly relevant in B2B professional services firms, whose value to clients may be defined by their knowledge and expertise and who therefore might be reluctant to ‘give it away for free’ before engagement. This feeds into a second, more general challenge that all types of B2B marketers face: how much advice and help is the right amount to provide for people?
Put simply, there is no limit to how helpful you should strive for your B2B content marketing to be. The more you invest in sharing knowledge and becoming the leading source of advice in your sector, the more your reputation will grow and the more long-term marketing benefits will appreciate. As Youtility author Jay Baer puts it, you should aim to create “marketing so useful, people would pay for it.” B2B content marketing provides the perfect environment for this, with consideration and purchase journeys often spanning multiple touchpoints, each one representing an opportunity to further demonstrate your expertise and be helpful for your audience.
But what about the push-back? ‘If we put it online for free, no one will pay for it.’ Not true. Our experience of B2B marketing shows that businesses who create and share helpful content ultimately perform better online. Realistically, anyone who would come to your website to read your advice guides and then go off and do it themselves was never going to pay you for a service anyway. And the people who might will be more likely to do so for having seen the depth of your knowledge and your… usefulness. As Baer says, now more than ever, smart selling should be about help, not hype.
You went in with preconceived notions of the best channel
Anyone working in B2B has heard it at some point: “we need an app”. Do we though? These imperatives, more often the product of individual whim than research-backed insight, have been directed at marketing teams across the sector for more than a decade. We need a PPC campaign. We need better SEO. Let’s explore AI. You never know, some or all of that may be true for your business, but if you’ve made your mind up before consulting a third party, or speaking to your customers, you may end up wasting time pursuing avenues that will ultimately be of limited value.
Nine times out of ten, if you approach a supplier with a very narrow brief – such as “we just want a PPC campaign” – you risk clipping the wings of the project before it’s even begun. While a good agency will respect your input and insight, a better one will challenge and interrogate the brief, encouraging the exploration of a solutions-focused approach. Perhaps a better way of engaging with the challenge might be to ask, “we want a lower CPA from conversions that originate online, what can your agency do?” That way you’re in no way biasing what the agency comes back with, and you’re really testing their mettle when it comes to answering the brief compellingly.
The fact is that most businesses can benefit from a multichannel approach to marketing, or at least their own unique blended approach to channels based on actual customer insights, rather than unilateral demands. How do you know which platforms to market on? Ask your customers which ones they use you when looking for your service. Speaking of which…
You don’t know enough about how customers find you
You may already have an understanding of how customers come to choose your business, but is it detailed enough? Many buying journeys put together for marketing purposes suffer from a lack of detail, either in the number of stages that comprise them, or the level of insight surrounding each of the stages. Some funnels even have the dual ignominy of being neither long nor detailed enough, and require serious work before being useful in understanding the behaviour of buyers.
One of the biggest favours you can do for your marketing campaigns is to take a magnifying glass to your customer journey and ZOOM IN – adding as much information and detail to it as you can. This might mean increasing the number of stages that make up the journey, if appropriate, or adding extra insights to the different stages, perhaps information on people’s triggers and barriers to action, or their in-market interests and behaviours, so as to build a more detailed picture of your audience and what makes them tick – or what ticks them off – on the way to finding your product or service.
A great way to go about this task is to try to split each stage of your current buying journey into three smaller sub-stages, and then note for each of these stages what things are likely to trigger people into moving along the funnel. While you will be able to apply your experience and insight to this, there is no substitute for asking your customers or clients directly. See if you can run a focus group or conduct interviews with some typical or regular buyers, then ask them everything you need to know about their decision-making process and what you can do to influence it.
Read more about expanding the AIDA model and how a more detailed view of your customers’ buying journey can benefit your business.
You didn’t have enough empathy for customers’ challenges
Beyond just understanding the ways in which people use the internet to find businesses like yours, how deep does your empathy for customers and the challenges they face really run? How much do you truly understand about the pain points they encounter and, by extension, how your business can help with them? If the answer is anything less than a deep-rooted sense of the fundamental problems your customers face, the triggers that inspire them to make change, and the barriers that put them off certain solutions, more insight is needed.
B2B marketers often face another pressure in this area: namely the pressure from sales teams and senior stakeholders to TALK MORE ABOUT THE PRODUCT/SERVICE or SAY THAT WE HAVE BEEN ESTABLISHED 40 YEARS, things like that. While these may be sources of pride internally, the chances are that vanity claims will have little to no impact on your audience. People don’t really care about the technical ins-and-outs of your product or business. In the main, they want to know how what you do solves a problem they have got. And your ability to answer this question is vastly enhanced by putting yourself in their shoes, something you can only achieve by taking an empathetic approach.
To help with this you can create buyer personas, giving a name and a face to target customers and detailing their motivations and behaviours. This brings customers to life and helps you keep them in mind when putting campaigns together. Also consider getting in touch with your emotional side and thinking on what your product or service would really mean for people who engage with it. List all of the functional benefits of what you do down the left hand side of a piece of paper, and then, for each one, go down the right hand side adding the ‘so what’. If your product or service saves time, what could the implications be for your audience? More time with their family? More time doing what they love? Both of those are far more compelling sells than “this thing does this thing faster than other things”.
You haven’t been moving with the times
It’s already a cliche to reflect on how much customer behaviours have been influenced by the events of this year – it’s obvious to anyone for who the word Zoom has assumed new meaning – but have you noticed that some of the changes were on their way anyway, they’ve just been sped up by the pandemic? One major area in which this rings true for B2B marketers is in the changing ways people have been researching and even buying products and services online. An oft-repeated stat says that between 50 and 60 percent of the purchase decision has actually already been made by the time a customer speaks to your business, but the pandemic has driven this up higher. In a survey carried out this year, we found that two thirds of people want only-only interactions, even when buying complex products and services.
The B2B world was already moving this way. Sharing all of the information online that a prospect might need to become a customer has been a principle of good content marketing for years (refer back to the first point in this blog post), but B2B marketers are finding a new appreciation for how the use of technology can fit into this to bring benefits to both sales and customer service. Chatbots are emblematic of this evolution, representing a specific tech answer to the question of how companies can help people interact with and buy from them in a way they find convenient and conducive.
Better yet, chatbots can be set up to efficiently handle all the top-of-funnel enquiries and questions that might otherwise tie up your sales people. This is important in multiple ways: first, you’re simultaneously relieving pressure on sales resource while increasing convenience for buyers. Secondly, you’re building a very clear picture in the sales team’s mind that the people they are engaging with are not top-of-funnel. They are likely to be two-thirds of the way to making their purchase decision and have probably already been through the basics with a chatbot. This combats the perennial sales misstep of assuming every new contact is a cold enquiry and requires sales people to engage with people based on exactly where they are in the decision-making process.
If you’re progressive in your approach in other areas, bringing sales and service up to date, by interrogating your customers behaviours and needs, and using tech to meet them, could be a valuable new jigsaw piece for the year ahead.
The more you know buyers, the better you will sell
It’s simple really, but we believe that only a thorough understanding of prospect customers can provide solid enough foundations for successful marketing campaigns.
Learn how we can help profile your audience and build better campaigns by calling 0800 0149 884 or by messaging us