Three Dirty Little Secrets About B-to-B Marketing

You Are Often More Lucky Than Right, and Other Secrets

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Go ahead and get mad at me. Feel free to fill up the comment section below. I'm going to share our closely held secrets with salespeople, skeptics and other critics of marketing. I know you would rather I not, but it is best for all of us. Trust me.

You're often more lucky than right

If you generate leads off the first wave of a new account acquisition or a lead generation campaign for a solution, you're more likely to be lucky than right. Yes, you may have had a compelling offer and the call-to-action was intriguing, but chances are you just happened to hit a prospect at the right time.

Sure, in some industries you can buy data that identifies a company's spend on certain products or services. But you don't know if and what portion of the budget is available or who controls it. And since this is a prospect you are most likely targeting a title, which could be a decision maker, a budget holder, or just a curious information seeker. You won't know the difference.

The issue is that at the beginning of a campaign, you simply don't have all of the information on a prospect to know where they are or how to advance them in the buying process. So if a prospect does put their hand up and says, "Call me!" you most likely hit them at the right time in the buyer's journey.

Your messaging doesn't motivate buyers

The effectiveness of your message is being compromised by the fact that you are trying to motivate an audience to think or feel differently without explaining why. According to Pat Spenner, co-author of a new book entitled "The Challenger Customer," marketers spend too much time focusing on how they want audiences to think or feel without understanding their current mindset first.

Research for the book found that the receptiveness and/or openness to a message depends heavily on an audience's existing belief system that drives their behavior. According to Spenner, marketers first need to understand and break down the audience's current mindset using insights about their business, customers, markets, etc. It's an opportunity to "teach" them that their current thinking is no longer valid and why a new way of thinking is needed. If done well, the new mindset will uniquely lead them back to your product, services or brand.

A great example of this is Merck. The company developed the cholesterol-lowering drug Mevacor at a time when doctors knew little about the effects of cholesterol on the body. The current mindset was that hypertension (high blood pressure) caused heart disease. Merck used clinical research to show doctors the impact of high levels of cholesterol on arteries and the correlation of plaque buildup with coronary heart disease (the "teaching" moment).

As a result, doctors began testing patient's cholesterol levels to see if they were at risk. If a patient had an LDL cholesterol level above a certain point, doctors should start with a therapy regimen that includes diet and drug treatment (the new mindset). The only cholesterol-lowering agent available at the time was, and you guessed it, Mevacor. By getting doctors to change their mindset about the causes of heart disease, Merck was able to lead them back to its product. As Spenner puts it, effective storytelling for marketers should "lead to, not with."

You're doing lead nurturing the wrong way

Changing mindsets takes time. Yes, you've built prospect profiles, aligned content to their interests, and you may even know how to engage them in their preferred communication channel. The problem may not be your content marketing efforts, but the fact that prospects are stuck in the status quo. They may find your information interesting, but it hasn't convinced or motivated them to change their behavior just yet.

Nurturing efforts should continue to break down, or build up, the new mindset across the buying group. The ability to drive specific information aligned to individual buyers' needs may actually be causing more dysfunction within an already dysfunctional group. To advance a prospect, marketers must refocus efforts on driving consensus on the issue and solution within the buying group. If done correctly, like Merck, prospects will come to their own conclusions that you offer the best solution for their needs.

All told, motivating an audience to change doesn't happen overnight. Unfortunately, marketers are under constant pressure to perform and rarely have the luxury of time to change their approach. It's the reason I shared these "dirty little secrets" in the first place: to buy marketers time to create the type of campaigns that deliver insights told as a story revealed over time.

The first wave of your campaign will generate leads, but it's the waves that come after that really count. If marketers can stop telling customers why they need their product and let them come to that conclusion on their own, response and conversion rates will double. But don't tell anyone, it's a secret.

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