Marketing

B2B Marketing Awards 2016

Pleased to have been a judge for this year’s B2B Marketing Awards. Once again I’m astounded by the quality of all the entries. The creativity and the results continue to demonstrate, to me at least, the B2B marketing is in rude health.

Best of luck to all the companies and individuals nominated.

 

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Marketing

Want to really know your customers? Just listen.

It’s not often someone who isn’t family, a friend or a postman knocks on our door. On this occasion it was the local representative of the Green Party. In the run up to this years General Election he wanted to know how I felt about local issues, the council and so forth. Now, this doesn’t happen very often, I can count on three fingers the number of times a member of a political party has knocked on our door in the 7 years I’ve lived in Brighton. To be honest, he put me on the spot. I haven’t really given a great deal of thought to the political climate of late, let alone local government issues. Nevertheless, here was someone from a major political party on my doorstep interested in what I have got say. Some quick thinking provided him with some feedback on refuse, recycling, free schools and rail fares for commuters. I then wished him luck and he moved on to the next house. 

Two weeks later I received a letter from Caroline Lucas MP addressing each of the issues I’d raised. I was, and am impressed. Someone actually listened. A couple of friends quipped how its probably a template, and it could be. It might be that a lot of people and potential voters in my area raised the same issues. But that doesn’t concern me. It was written to me addressing issues I’d raised. And from what I can tell it’s a genuine, hand-written signature. Template or not, effort went into compiling the letter, signing it off and posting it. And that’s what matters. That’s what makes a difference. 
 
The best bit was that this party member wasn’t there to sell me The Green Party, he was there to listen. Only by listening can he understand the issues. Only by listening can he begin to learn what makes his voting audience click. I don’t expect him to have the answers there and then. And to be honest I wasnt even expecting a response. But I do expect him to listen. 
 
As marketers, what can we learn from this?
 
1. Listen more, sell less. 
By listening you are in part selling. You’re selling a human quality that too often gets overlooked. As Stephen Covey pointed out “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” So as marketers, we can learn a lot by simply shutting up and hearing what our customer has to say. And I do mean that in the literal sense. 
 
2. Make listening part of your marketing programme
As modern marketers we are spoilt for choice.  Hashtags and keywords can tell us lot about what’s being said online and the sentiment thereof towards a brand or service. Survey tools like Survey Monkey mean that we can execute surveys in minutes and get responses in hours.
However, I don’t think there is a genuine substitute to replace face to face time with customers. There are many ways to do this from the relatively easy phone call and meet up at a mutually beneficial conference to the more-challenging customer days and advisory boards. In my experience the activities that have included a face to face discussion have been the most rewarding.  You can even add it into your annual KPI’s to meet a customer every three months by joining a sales meeting or simply picking up the phone for a check in.
 
3. Take Action
You’ve listened. Now you need to digest and action, where applicable. For example, to support a Customer Advisory Board programme, you can create an internal support team comprising of key functional heads who are responsible for the investigation, resolution and delivery of the various outputs that would be generated from the CAB. You can then communicate progress on a quarterly basis with the members of the CAB via a conference call and a follow up newsletter.  
 
A clue in understanding the power of listening is that you have two ears and one mouth. Heed that ratio. As B2B marketers we’ve never had it better but we still have many things to learn and improve on. If a political party can get it right, then so can we.
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iloveb2b
Marketing, Things I love

Why I Love B2B Marketing.

I fell into B2B marketing. It was the Video Game Retailer or the B2B ISP. The video game retailer went bust 3 months later. Was I lucky? Perhaps. Did I achieve what I set out to do when I graduated? Yes and No. Yes, I got my first marketing job, proper. No, in so much as I didn’t set out to get in to B2B marketing. Marketing, yes. B2C, almost certainly. B2B marketing, unlikely.

That said, I have no regrets. My career in B2B has had its ups and downs. But it has also given me a wealth of opportunities and experiences and for that I will always be grateful. And that, in part, is why I love B2B marketing. B2B marketing has had a rough time. Throughout my career its always been the slightly misunderstood sibling of B2C. And yet, I continue to work with great people in the space. Great marketers, agencies and partners who are as passionate about the 18-24 month sales cycles as I am. We can see the opportunities in building a relationship and nurturing leads, especially in the days before automation.

And it is the relationship. It’s creating an emotional connection with people. People who have everyday challenges. Who have targets and KPIs. People who make considered purchases, behave rationally. They explore, research, display enormous levels of patience. Seek proof. People who want to know what success looks like in their terms. But also where it will take their department, division, region. Will ask “so, what?” so often, you are always on your toes, thinking, adjusting, amending, learning.

And when that contract is signed. When the direct mail, email, event sponsorship, Customer Advisory Boards, hospitality, meet-ups, case studies and videos have all chipped away at the DMU. When you have reinforced why you have the reliable and innovative service they need. And when you have convinced the higher-ups, the C-suite, that you are the strategic partner, a trusted advisor, that is why I love B2B marketing.

At the end of the day, we are talking to people, other human beings, not businesses in glass buildings. B2B marketing has come a long was since I started out 16 years ago. We can do as much and perhaps a little bit more than our B2C counterparts. Look at what caterpiller, Volvo, Marketo, Thunderhead, Xuber, CBRE to name but a few have achieved and are doing in this discipline. That’s why I love B2B marketing.

#iloveb2b
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Marketing

Three Presentations for the Modern B2B Marketer

Let’s say you woke up from a very heavy 12 month slumber. And, I dunno, the first thing you wanted to do was find out the direction modern B2B marketing is headed. Here are 3 presentations that I think give you a good grounding whilst you sip your first coffee.

#1: A mantra for producing great content as much as it’s a call to arms for the preventation of crap content. @velocitytweets
#2: A great insight into how tracking behaviour can help you develop micro segmentation or segments of one.@jwatton
#3: A great reminder that customer experience in 2013 is as much about what happens before the purchase as it as after the purchase. @maxymiser

 

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