B2B Prospecting is Not What You Think. It’s Personal

During a research interview on behalf of a highly innovative tech manufacturer, I asked a customer, what is this company’s greatest strength. The answer – my sales rep.

B2B is personal.

It’s a tenet of my marketing belief system, and a strong competitive differentiator. The better we understand our prospects and customers as people, the better we can communicate with them about their goals and challenges.

Are we making marketing more personal, or making more marketing?

Here’s Scott Brinker’s ChiefMartec 2015 infographic of the industry’s 1,876 marketing technology vendors. Staggering, and slightly more dumbfounding when you consider that this is roughly double the number of vendors depicted in the 2014 version. Let’s put that together with Gartner’s predictions that the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO by 2017.

Quantity vs. quality

Think about this: according to Microsoft, our average attention span has shrunk to 8 seconds. Goldfish come in at 9 seconds.

Yet, per a 2015 study by CMI and Marketing Profs, 70% of B2B marketers are creating more content than they were 1 year ago (B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets & Trends – North America). While I can’t find statistics to support this, I don’t think there has been a corresponding rise in the number of B2B decision makers.

Perhaps the emperor is buck naked and farting into the wind.

It feels like with all our technology, we’re slip-sliding away, churning out more stuff that is wide of the mark and populating the trashcan in the cloud. There’s a distinct possibility that producing more content doesn’t make marketing and sales more successful, that instead of relishing the pasta that sticks, prospects are turned off by all they see on the floor.

Listen before you speak

There is an answer. We could actually talk to our customers and prospects, and believe what they say. The creation of Prospect Personas goes beyond the obvious and generates real insights into who these executives are, how they learn, and how they make decisions. If this stuff doesn’t go into the marketing automation at the front end, it’s certainly not going to come out of the other.

Here are three cases that illustrate my point, that these research-based Key Prospect Insights made the marketing more personal and made all the difference:

  • Looking to move from their traditional SMB market to the enterprise, Prospect Personas taught Asigra that about 1/3 of the targeted CIOs, each crucial to the decision making process, were open to their benefits but were completely turned off by their current positioning. Refocusing and rebranding opened CIOs’ ears.
  • Maxwell Technologies learned that just because their new ultra-capacitors are more powerful, smaller and cleaner than traditional batteries, no one is waiting with open arms. The road to acceptance is, shall we say, circuitous. They learned how to talk, who to talk to and the specific circumstances for “crossing the chasm” into sales, implementation, and ultimately test cases.
  • Baxter, a long-standing medical device manufacturer in the uncomfortable position having to catch up to competitors uncovered a contributor to the buying center that they had not previously identified.

It’s not going to come from automation.

According to Sirius Decisions, understanding buyers is the main ingredient to high-performance marketing, but 60% of B2B organizations admit they don’t really understand or know their buyers.

In a recent survey conducted by ITSMA, B2B marketers worldwide expect that understanding buyers will be their #1 responsibility in two years (85%).

Two years should give you plenty of time to eat their lunch.