Category Archives: Articles

To Generate B2B Leads You Must Leadtest

Marketing illuminates the path to solving a problem. Not just any path – your path. This is somewhat academic in low-consideration consumer products, but lifeblood to high-consideration B2B products and services. To get these prospects to follow your path, you must lead.

These high-consideration products and services are often are mission- and career-critical and so there is an element of trust that sits on prospects’ shoulders during the consideration journey. To earn that trust you must do more than mark the trail with colored stones and leave treats along the way. Demonstrate authority, leadership, and humanity to prove your competitive advantage is differentiating. It gives prospects a strong reason to believe.

Teach them to fish: 5 qualities of B2B prospecting leadership

1.    Humanity. The B2B marketing leader takes the time to understand prospects as both executives and people, with both personal and corporate goals and responsibilities, which sometimes conflict. The prospect persona process provides remarkable insight, and how these individuals come together to make a decision. This quality is essential. Recognizing and embracing humanity leads to empathy, which is the basis of all effective communication. Everything starts here. Or stops.

2.    Honesty. “Speak”, whether in print or in person, with ethics, morality, and a crystal clear vision of what is and what isn’t. A key component of honesty is respect for your prospects and their corporate culture. Don’t embellish your capabilities or denigrate the competition. Lay out, in terminology that prospects can understand, how your product or service can address their concerns, that success is a journey and not a slam dunk, and how you, as a leader, can bring a value add.

3.    Commitment. It is critically important that your prospect knows that you are committed to their success, and not just to selling your product. Your commitment to the marketplace emits the confidence that your solution is not just viable, but superlative. Let your prospects see you with your sleeves rolled up and your fingernails dirty. Admit problems and setbacks, and if an aspect is particularly gnarly, fess up. Bring your team of leaders into the conversation.

4.    Partnership. You are here for the long-haul, and provide the tools and insights necessary for success, which may include ongoing training, troubleshooting, and the instillation of positive energy. The consideration journey is rarely straight and narrow. Put your arm around your prospect. Show authority and guidance. Use creativity, and sometimes humor, to make your point.

5.    Measurement. Your prospect is very serious about the steps they must take and the answers they must find while considering potential solutions. A leader must understand how the prospect measures success, and configures their own measurement system to coincide and complement. It may be uncomfortable but it communicates seriousness, underscores the other qualities. and provides the basis for continuous improvement.

Moving from reactive to proactive leadership.

We are all aware of the conclusion of various studies that the “sales process” is disappearing. Depending on which study you reference, about 60% – 70% of the consideration process takes place prior to engagement with the selling entity. Placidly accepting these results breeds reactive positioning. They don’t want to talk with our reps, so we can hide behind the curtain. That is the definition of a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Once you take the first step with the prospect persona process you are on your own road to leadership, which by definition is proactive. Which not only gives prospects a reason to believe, it gives them a reason to engage.

Customer Service: Profit or Losstest

I took a few minutes and googled Customer Service, and here are some of the definitions I found:

Customer service is the process of ensuring customer satisfaction with a product or service. (Investopedia)

Getting customer interactions right has never been more important, especially since social media has given unhappy customers a louder voice. (HBR)

Makes sense and I’m going to assume we all agree with the above statements. However, in practice, customer service is an area that can be taken for granted, overlooked, or considered a cost center and treated as such.

Death by a thousand cuts.

Here is a sad story of bizarro customer service actively undermining brand and customer satisfaction while wildly inflating the cost of delivery. I do not believe that lightning struck me, that I am the exception.

I have had a subscription to my hometown newspaper for about 30 years (and my hometown is among the largest on the planet). I decided to become a digital subscriber when the most recent cost of delivery was subtracted from my credit card. I called the same day and was assured that the switch to digital was immediate, that my checking account would be charged for the digital subscription and the home delivery charge would be refunded.

The next day I looked at my online statement and the new charge was there, but not the refund.

  • I went to chat under Contact Us and was assured that everything was fine and that someone from billing would call me that afternoon or the next day to straighten everything out.
  • No one called, so I did. I was told it takes 90 days to get a refund. I asked for a supervisor and was transferred to someone who identified as “an advocate”. They started to argue with me.
  • Next I got a gentleman who apologized for the runaround and, since this was late on a Friday and the billing department was closed, he would call me back at 10am Monday morning and we would both speak to billing “and find out what it will take to get your money back right now.”
  • Monday, I waited until early afternoon, called, and asked to be transferred to him. I was told it was not possible, but they asked to help. I explained the situation and they said that someone from billing would call me back that afternoon.

I saw this play.

I completed the email form on their website. The form said it would take 2 – 3 days to get a response. Sure enough, on the 3rd day I got an email that said it takes 10 – 14 business days to get a refund and that there was no way to make it happen quicker. Included was a GIF of an iron door clanging shut.

On the 15th business day I called to inquire about my refund. I spoke to a supervisor who told me that the refund had been transferred to my account several days ago, but it would not appear on my online statement, that I should call my bank.

I asked the supervisor if they really believed that answer. On a lark I called the bank. They asked me if I really believed that answer.

On the 17th business day I received a paper check in the mail.

Up is down.

Since we started with definitions, let’s go to bizarro, which I believe was first introduced in Superman comics:

The opposite of the real world. Good is evil, round is square, hello is goodbye. (Urban Dictionary)

Up really should be up.

Many large organizations embrace the moment of customer interaction as a way to burnish their brand, to create happier customers that stay longer and buy more. There are others who do not, and this is one.

What’s the harm in having a supervisor authorize a clearly justified refund on the spot? Was this worth the expense?

The story above is chaotic and self-destructive. No company would knowingly design such a system. Fixing it begins by viewing customer service through the eyes of profit, not as a cost center.

Should I stay or should I go.

When the call ends these CSRs say, Thanks for being the best part of the (name of the publication). What a bunch of hooey. Check clears and I’m gone. It’s a perfect storm Everyone loses.




The Looming MarTech Consolidation, and the Cure for B2Btest

The advances in marketing technology are awesome, as are the sheer number of marketing technology providers.

ChiefMartec began tracking this space in 2011, identified about 150 players, and presciently started their eponymous infographic. Their 2017 chart encompasses almost 5,000 companies. It’s as if the 2011 chart exploded.

Yet, the question looms – is this growth sustainable? Interviews we’ve conducted with martech executives, and our own experiences, indicate that the “demand” side of the equation may not be able to uphold its end of the bargain.

Inherent in the business model of, I’d guess, each one of these martech companies is the assumption that a profitable customer is one with a long and deep lifetime. To make this wish come true, their customers, especially B2B, must have complete and effective marketing strategies whose impact would be profitably multiplied by the power of the marketing technology.

The reality is that many B2B companies lack this strategic readiness to truly benefit from much of these advances. As one martech executive said,

“This doesn’t surprise me one bit, as it is the immediate pattern we saw as we began. Based on all the brouhaha around content, content-driven experiences, marketing automation and lead nurturing, we assumed there were many orgs out there who could take advantage of what we’d created. We were wrong.”

Everybody Loses

Interviews we’ve had with martech executives indicate that their biggest business problem is that many clients are awed by the power of the platform and adopt it as the strategy going forward – that this will provide the framework for success, a seat on the rocketship. This “new” marketing would have us think that strategy is dead and we can A/B test our way to nirvana. This platform is automated growth hacking, and agility trumps plodding preparation.

However, when you’re a B2B company, all those sub-optimal B tests means that you are putting out sub-optimal messaging to your finite market. You may be A/B testing to oblivion.

Then, when programs underachieve, customers blame the martech platform and do not renew.

When a Drip Campaign Becomes Chinese Torture

In my first test drive of a major MarTech platform, I was shown the ability to orchestrate, to automate every aspect of a campaign. If we take a very simple example, a drip campaign, communications are sent to qualified prospects delivering specific value at specific points in their consideration journey (or certain time intervals). The object is to move that prospect from tire kicking to conversation. The platform tracks results of the individual and aggregate effort, and adjusts the lead grade of each prospect accordingly.

The technology is the tool, but if the strategy is off, it persistently delivers perhaps the wrong message at the wrong time to the wrong person, until the campaign has indelibly convinced the prospect that they do not appreciate your brand and do not want to do business with you.

For B2B marketers this can be a hurricane’s worth of damage.

Everybody Wins

Companies, especially B2B, must bring come to the martech table with the prospect integrated into the marketing planning process. Information from 3 sources must be combined to enable marketing to begin to provide value as the prospect defines value:

  1. Data Analysis. What has this executive done before, what have other decision makers in the organization found valuable, what actions has they taken? Analysis of the data brings a critical aspect to our understanding of the person and the organization.
  2. Internal Intelligence. Sales has feet-on-the-street knowledge of the industry, the players, and the personalities that can’t be found anywhere else. They must contribute or they will never agree.
  3. Persona Research. Prospect personas, when created from new, independent qualitative research, validate the data analysis, personalize the internal intelligence, and provide insight into motivation. We need to understand the confluence of personal and professional responsibilities to be able to effectively communicate from a unified marketing and sales perspective.

Then, and only then, will the martech platforms provide the magic carpet ride to success, for everyone.








B2B Marketing to The Son of Mantest

As the median age of b2b decision makers goes down, the perceived difficulty of reaching and persuading them through marketing goes up. Many successful marketers raise their eyes to the skies looking for divine inspiration. Do the processes and concepts that have driven success up to now no longer matter? Is it now just an investment in marketing automation that makes the difference?

The world is old and it is new

It’s still marketing’s job to create sales by delivering messaging and benefits that are

  • Valuable and relevant
  • Distinctive from the competition
  • Compelling, and create the urgency that propels the prospect through the consideration journey

However, there is one element that is brand new – these new decision makers only subscribe to one channel of distribution, and that is the network of me.

What’s new is the network of me

The network of me is an electronic channel that encompasses several overlapping media: for instance, social (both textual and visual, still and video), SMS, traditional internet, industry news, and more, both ephemeral and lasting. The information that gets through is a carefully curated subset that is specific to the individual, where the lines between personal and corporate are blurred.

Each individual is much like the famous Magritte painting that hides a gentleman’s face behind a large green apple. It’s called The Son of Man and was intended as a self-portrait. If you look closely you can see his eyes peeking out between the apple and its leaves.

Now, substitute a cell for the apple and voila, your prospect.

You must be so tall to get on the network of me

Your place on the network of me “dial” is earned, and is never secure. However, there are two secrets. The first is that b2b marketing is, and always has been personal. To put your faith in marketing automation as the secret sauce is folly. GIGO is the operative acronym.

The second secret is an understanding the individual both as an individual and as a contributor to the corporate decision making process.

So how do you understand the individual who is hiding in plain sight?

Jumping up and down and yelling may not have the desired effect. Intelligence is the only path to success.

Intelligence comes in 3 flavors

  1. Data Analysis. What has the company done before, what have other decision makers in the organization found valuable, what actions has this decision maker taken? An examination of the data brings a critical aspect to our understanding of the whole person, but it’s just them peeking out. We need to know the who and the why of the behavior
  2. Internal Intelligence. Sales has a knowledge of the industry, the players, and the personalities that can’t be found anywhere else. They actually talk to these prospects all day long. BTW (another acronym) when was the last time you or any of the marketing staff spoke directly to and in depth with a prospect? Consider going on sales calls with your sales brethren.
  3. Persona Research. There is absolutely no substitute for a carefully choreographed dance with your targeted prospect. Create a prospect persona(s), with sales’ participation, based on new qualitative research. This will validate the data analysis, personalize the internal intelligence, and add motivation to the mix. It’s only this professional and personalized methodology that will yield the human insights into the individuals who comprise the buying center, their responsibilities, preferences and foibles.


This is a quiet and intricate pursuit, but what you get at the end is compelling competitive differentiator, which is called understanding. Perhaps it’s like the process of building a fine painting.

Of The Son of Man, Magritte said, “…you have the apparent face, the apple, hiding the visible but hidden, the face of the person. It’s something that happens constantly.” It is access to the individual peeking out from behind that we seek. And, recognizing the individuality, The Son of Man is within a series: Man in the Bowler Hat, where the face is obscured by a passing bird; and The Great War of the Facades, where a blossoming flowers hide the face of an elegantly dressed woman.

A healthy dose of understanding will land you on the network of me.




Triangulating B2B Prospecting Successtest

The better you understand your b2b prospect, the more efficient and effective your prospecting will be, and no one silo or point of view within the company is going to give you the “who”, “what”, and “why” of prospects and the buying process.

The answer is to triangulate intelligence, or we are no more effective then the blind men of poetry, trying to determine what an elephant really “looks like”, each by touching the strange beast once, each from a different angle.

Let’s prove the point.

The Elephant in the Room

The prospect is the elephant in the room, and while no one perspective yields a true and complete portrait, there is no monopoly on insight, grasshopper.

Here’s the three-sided equation, or the three points of intelligence you need to grok:

  1. Data analysis adds an important dimension in recognizing what prospects are doing now. It’s immediate and improves targeting and enables greater efficiency. However, it doesn’t provide depth to the “who” and the “why” of the behavior, which leads us to include Sales’ internal intelligence.
  2. Internal intelligence. Sales talks to the elephants all day long, every day. We can tap into their real-world knowledge, both of the individuals and the specific accounts. Marketing needs more depth on the real people who we are calling prospects.
  3. Persona research. Creation of a prospect person, or personas, based upon new qualitative research, yields the human insights into the individuals who comprise the buying center, their own values, perspectives, and agendas. It takes the learning from behavioral data analysis and inside intelligence and matches it with motivation.

The Elephant Revealed

Let’s see how this plays out in reality, with a very prestigious firm who breathes the very rarified atmosphere of derivative accounting, helping their clients (including Google) to mitigate foreign currency risk through consulting and outsourcing. Long seen as unassailable experts, they have made their reputation by being smarter, better prepared, and more proactive then their much larger competitors.

They recently introduced a highly-specialized software package, but results were not pacing with expectations. To really understand the prospect, and to improve prospecting, they had to triangulate.

  1. Data Analysis. This is reality and not a mega b2c company with oceans of data. The current data was on Salesforce but the history was on Excel (and some in personal recollection). When the sources were compiled and matched to the products and services purchased, it became obvious that the strength of the relationships they had forged – individuals were clients of one service, then became prospects for another, sometimes at a different company, then clients again.
  2. Internal Intelligence. The internal view was that the software is unique and robust. The tie-breaker was that everything is based on their insight and expertise, which is without peer. Sales felt they could now compete as a software company.
  3. Persona Research. The research validated the data analysis and the internal intelligence, and added a critical component – motivation – which changed the entire picture. Prospects were looking for an expert that also offered software. First, they needed to engage with people who could help them to better understand how to make the right decisions, then to install the software that could provide better decision support.

“Seeing” the Opportunity

Much comes from this triangulation, not the least that as pioneering experts in this very specialized accounting field, the client understandably believed they already knew how to position and sell the software. Markets evolve, even in accounting, and more than one might think. We all need a regular dose of outside prospect perspective

Here are some of the takeaways:

  • Long-term relationships are a competitively differentiating asset and constitute the investment with the highest return. A client is a prospect is a client. (And really, b2b is a personal sell.)
  • Education is a critical component. Rebrand the firm’s training classes as a professional institute.
  • Stop leading with software. The untapped potential in this case comes from being who your client needs you to be and when, by walking down the consideration journey arm in arm. Software comes later in the continuum of the relationship. Software first is selling the elephant’s tail. Help them to “see” the rest of the elephant first, then they can appreciate what’s missing.

Full Circle

Again, any one point of view can be true, but still not account for the totality of the situation. Putting data analysis together with internal intelligence and persona research, we start to get a glimpse of that strange and wonderful beast, our prospect.

Or as one of this firm’s clients said, “Are they expensive – you bet. But they are worth every penny. First they installed best practices. Then the software to make it efficient.”


This was originally posted to the AMA Executive Circle / MENG blog




What B2B Marketers Can Learn from Blind Mentest

In My Face

A colleague recently asked, “With all the data available to us now, what role, if any, does qualitative research play in b2b prospect intelligence? Isn’t that ‘old thinking’?”

Somewhat in my face, and a tad confrontational, but a good question. To answer the question, I had to take a step back. While stepping, I tripped over a memory of the poem “The Blind Men and the Elephant” by John Godfrey Saxe.

Elephants and Prospecting

In this poem, 6 blind men go off to find out what an elephant really “looks like”. Each blind man is given an opportunity to touch this strange beast, each from a different angle. Each, per their limited experience, develops their own mental image of an elephant – perhaps a tree, a spear, a fan – and then they talk.

So oft in theologic wars, the disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant not one of them has seen!

The argument stops just shy of physical violence. No agreement is ever reached. The point is that data analysis leads to just one view of our prospect.

The Elephant in the Room

The prospect is the elephant in the room, and no one perspective, no one point of view yields a true and complete portrait. There is no monopoly on insight, grasshopper.

A three dimensional view of our prospects can only be achieved by a three-sided equation:

  1. Data analysis adds an important dimension in recognizing what prospects are doing now. It’s immediate and improves targeting and enables greater efficiency. However, it doesn’t provide depth to the “who” and the “why” of the behavior, which leads us to include Sales’ internal intelligence.
  2. Internal intelligence – Sales talks to the elephants all day long, every day. They experience how prospects interact with their company. Let’s tap into their real-world knowledge, both of the individuals and the specific accounts. How do prospects articulate their issues.

To complete prospect intelligence Marketing needs more depth on the real people who we are calling prospects.

  1. Persona research. Creation of a prospect person, or personas, based upon new qualitative research, yields the human insights into the individuals who comprise the buying center, their own values, perspectives, and agendas. It takes the learning from behavioral data analysis and inside intelligence and matches it with motivation.

Full Circle

All of which is to say that one point of view can be true, but not account for the totality of situation. Putting data analysis together with internal intelligence and persona research, we start to get a glimpse of that strange and wonderful beast.

Or, as the great marketer Groucho Marx once said, yesterday I shot an elephant in my pajamas. What he was doing in my pajamas I’ll never know.



Boost Results 10% to 20% Now by Making Your B2B Website Smartertest

Get a Grip

Your website is your core digital asset, the hub of your digital presence. It can be a much smarter, more powerful sales tool that will generate higher engagement, proactively move prospects along their consideration journey, and give conversion a big boot in the butt. It can work hard to help you increase the yield from your targeted accounts (ABM).

Or, it can lay there like a lox.


Is Your B2B Website a Library or a Cocktail Party?

Websites have become passive, where stuff resides, not where relationships blossom.

Take a look at your website and ask yourself whether it is engaging prospects and encouraging them to take action or more passively providing resources and materials without any real guidance as to how to use them and why they’re important.


The Billboard of Me

Is your website doing what your B2B prospects want and need it to do to move them through their unique consideration journeys? How do you know?

Here’s a quick challenge that will reveal the prospect orientation of your website – go to your website and under the Edit menu, go to Find. Enter a first-person pronoun, such as “we”. How many times does it come up? My guess is, a lot. Now try searching for a third-person pronoun, like “you”, as in prospect.

My guess is that this is the billboard of “me”. You can search some more, but you won’t find the money you are leaving on the table.


The Unrealized Potential

Consider this:

Your website does not stand alone, but must be part of a larger marketing effort, from email marketing to social media and integrated with your CRM or marketing automation platform to personalize each prospect’s experience based on their interests and past interactions, moving them along the consideration journey.

Your website should address the needs of each audience segment separately. Once you’ve identified which executives contribute to the purchase decision, populate areas of your site with information that most directly addresses their considerations.

Your website must provide strong competitive differentiation based on who your prospects identify as your competitors and stressing the differentiators they find most compelling.


Three Critical Success Factors

I can’t give you the dissertation on smarter websites, but I can share these the three critical components of smart websites:

  1. The Prospect to Product Connection
  2. Metrics that Matter
  3. Insurance


CSF 1: The Prospect to Product Connection

Let’s get very serious about what connects your products to your prospects. What is the insight on how to win your prospects and not just identify them when they cruise by.

New external research with current prospects and customers will generate a prospect persona for each of the contributors to the buying center. Each is an archetype, with substance, form, and personality. They provide a window into a company’s consideration journey and buying process.

This research also generates a Key Prospect Insight (KPI) which provides the competitive superior insight into these real people regarding their needs, information behavior, attitudes, and motivation – the prospect to product connection, which drives segmentation, personalization

Prospect personas drive:

  • Persona-lization, or the website’s ability to speak directly to the individual/persona.
  • The account persona, or an overview of all participants and a map for how the account moves through the decision cycle, who is involved and when.
  • Persuasion-oriented content. Tell the visitor, by persona, why they should care, why they need to change to solve their issue, and why should we change to you.
  • Use the KPI to identify the big idea. Communicate the big idea. Roll out the big idea.


CSF 2: Metrics that Matter

There are primary metrics, secondary metrics and tertiary metrics. The primary metrics are the ones that leverage increased interest, engagement and conversion. They are:

Unique visitors, and we can narrow this down even finer, unique visitors from targeted accounts.

Action. The clearest way of measuring engagement is when the visitor takes action, or responds to one of our offers – get information, ask a question, download a white paper. We’re not looking for just any action here, but the ones that correspond to key junctures in the consideration journey

Conversion. Are we converting visitors to leads, and leads into sales.


CSF 3: Agility

Let’s talk about the difference between goals and strategies. The goal of the smarter website is to increase attraction, engagement and conversion, and that doesn’t change. Strategy, however, has to change. It has to get smarter as we get smarter through experience. Which leads to agility, or the ability to listen, understand and respond.

I know it sounds like work, but think of this as an insurance policy and not a gym membership.

Agility requires us to:

  • Give up the “campaign” or project orientation. We’re not done learning just yet. I know the tendency is to say, thank goodness the website update is done – I don’t have to worry about it for the next 2 years. However, agility, if it truly is a competitive advantage, takes what we’ve learned and puts it into immediate practice.
  • Refresh key prospect insights regularly. Opportunities are regular win / loss analyses, and yearly net promoter score (NPS) surveys (with a qualitative component).
  • Pay attention to the right things – the metrics that matter. Industry benchmarks are interesting, but your own baselines are what really matters. Movement in the primary metrics is evidenced in the secondary and tertiary metrics. Therein lie the clues to improving performance.
  • Take action. If you learn something, do something.

As an added bonus, a recently published study by eMarketer (7/19/16) finds that companies that commit to agile marketing, embracing significantly shorter development and execution cycles, see workflows and outcomes improve. Marketing management also cites agility as critical for responding to disruptions in the marketplace.


What’s In It For Me?

In our experience, companies that have re-oriented their website have seen a 10% – 20% improvement in the website’s contribution to bottom line results – engagement, leads, and sales – within the first 6 months. Improvement from there is all in your hands, and in your commitment to agility.

This is a lot more than bright colors and a mobile-friendly orientation. This is about solid returns on your investment. It is a journey that starts with a line in the sand and a change for the smarter.


*I’d like to acknowledge the help and assistance of Wayne Cerullo, Phil Shelp and Andrew Schulkind in developing this post.

Listen – Here are 6 Ways to Gain a B2B Prospecting Edgetest

While conducting Net Promoter Score (NPS) research for a b2b technology client we asked the president of an operating division of a large multinational the following, “you gave our client the highest NPS score, what is the greatest benefit you get from them?” The answer, “our salesman”.

Listen to This.

Why? “Because he listens and is proactive in helping us solve our issues, whether it’s high level and strategic, or tracking a delivery. He’s proven his loyalty to our company, and to yours, and he is an irreplaceable asset.”

Let’s take those first three words and roll them around for a bit. “Because he listens.” Where, in our marketing process, do we listen? Anyone?

Our Prospects Built the Wall, and We Paid for It

In general, marketing does a crappy job of listening. We’re great at talking. In fact, we have marketing automation which throws broadcast mode into overdrive, enabling the relentless efficiency of generating outbound communications. Our prospects (and prospecting is the bulk of any marketing budget) have responded by conducting an ever-increasing percentage of the consideration process without direct engagement. They built a wall around themselves to protect them from the predatory barrage of unfocused and irrelevant marketing messages.

Unless we break this cycle, it’s constant escalation. Things aren’t working so we fire out more stuff and the wall gets higher. The only way to change the game is to stop, take a breath, and listen. Only then can you see the world through your prospects eyes.

6 Ways for Corporate Marketing to Open Its Ears

Experience says there are 6 ways that corporate marketing can increase the effectiveness of b2b prospecting by opening our ears to what prospects have to say. In our experience, these comprise a compelling competitive advantage:

  1. Manage your database as if it is the single most important lever to marketing success – because it is. If you do not have your prospects’ and customers’ correct contact information, well, you can’t contact them. Marketing Sherpas estimates that b2b data decays at about 2% per month, which jibes with our hands-on experience. That’s 24% per year. Maintaining the accuracy of the database must become a corporate priority.
  1. When someone opts in to your blog or newsletter they’re not acting out of idle curiosity. Treat this as if opportunity has just knocked on your door, because it may have. Introduce yourself. Thank them for stopping by and opting in. Ask them a simple question to help you provide more value, such as are you interested more in the financial aspects or technical, and then deliver on it. Send them off with something of value and remind them how to reach you with questions or comments. Most times when I opt-in I get nothing. Zip.
  1. Ask a question as part of every interaction with every prospect. The question may be as basic as let me please verify your email address, or as complex as how do you articulate the problem you are trying to solve. It’s got to be appropriate to the prospect’s stage in the consideration process and to the level of trust that has been built. It’s got to be part of a consistent program of listening and learning more. (Hint: you can’t establish trust without listening. Doesn’t happen.)
  1. Rep for a day. If your company has a call or response center, key marketing personnel should spend a day a month on the phone. Marketers are responsible for starting the conversation, but they rarely speak directly with prospects.
  1. In the same vein, key marketing personnel should spend a day a month riding along on sales calls, not as a silent observer, but with a list of questions and a report to write.
  1. Regularly conduct new and external prospect persona qualitative research. Engage prospects in directed conversation designed to help you understand how you can provide competitively differentiating value. Don’t view the persona as an end product – it’s an archetype, a vessel so that the data you put into your marketing machine is substantially better. Figure that your marketplace is changing at least as fast as your database is decaying.

No One Cares About You

Remember that not one of your b2b prospects cares one whit about your product or service, the colors it comes in or how wonderful you think it is. They only care about one thing, themselves. Listen and learn, or snooze and lose.


Winning More with ABMtest

Account Based Marketing (ABM) is a high-stakes b2b prospecting strategy. To win more accounts through ABM, we need to move to the prospect’s side of the table, to begin to really understand what they are looking for, how they are looking for it, and how they get things done. That, my friends, is profound competitive differentiation.

Thus, I’m going to start off with a customer story.

In my agency days I worked on a large domestic automobile account, the agency’s largest account and greatest source of revenue. Part of the arrangement was a yearly account review.

So here we were around the conference table, on their turf, listening to the results of the review. We got high marks for our work, which was not a surprise. We got low marks on responsiveness, which was.

Our EVP leaned across the table and cut to the core. “We need to get back to basics. The problem is that we’re on Madison Avenue and you’re in Detroit. I want to rent space in your building,” he told the client. “I want to open a satellite office so our people are here when you need them.” And every one on our team sat back in their chair.

In retrospect, what pushed everyone back was being on the verge of a deeper definition of and commitment to value.

Compelling Value is Personal

Value is more than your product or service – that it “works” is table stakes. Value is more than answering your email and delivering to schedule. Value is more than a tight positioning statement or clever creative.

Value is getting under the skin of organization, into the DNA of the people on the team. Understanding their personal and professional pressures, and how they get things done. Value is helping them to do business.

Opening an office inside of our client’s headquarters gave us the ability to walk down the hall, to have coffee with and really get to know the people. Walking down the hall turned us from agency guys to being part of the team. The responsiveness concern vanished.

Demonstrating this value is the basis of profound competitive differentiation. It’s how to win at ABM.

This deep dive used to be the wheelhouse of Sales.

Would You Like to Talk to a Salesperson?

Actually, no.

And for the most part, neither does any prospect. There is a vast swath of statistics that say about 70% of the consideration journey takes place prior to engagement, and is getting longer. We don’t have to be scientists to see that if we can engage earlier, we can walk down those same halls.

The priority is gaining indepth prospect intelligence through our willingness and investment in listening. Prospect persona research is designed to go beyond the obvious and generate the indepth understanding of the corporate and the individual, how they articulate their goals and pain. It provides illumination on learning behavior and generates insights into “how things get done”. Prospect personas also serve as rallying point for Sales and Marketing.

Going Where ABM Has Never Gone Before

This gives ABM two things it didn’t have before:

  1. Indepth prospect intelligence that comes earlier and provides greater insight
  2. The ability to channel that prospect intelligence into consensus

Driving Consensus by Identifying the Champion

We’ve noticed four trends in ABM:

  1. The consideration journey is getting longer
  2. The decision making process is becoming more complex
  3. There are more executives involved in the process than ever before
  4. The single biggest reason ABM fails is “no decision”.

The goal of doing all this is to win the business. In every buying center there is an “internal mobilizer” who pushes for team consensus. Not unlike herding cats, this unofficial team leader is persuasive in meetings and correspondence to which prospective vendors are not invited (but often decides their fate).

This champion may change depending on the issue, problem, responsibility or a host of other reasons. The point is to understand who is the champion and what makes them tick.

In recent win/loss ABM research we were interviewing internal consensus champions to glean more “after the fact” insight, to validate what our client learned in prospect persona research, and sharpen their approach. We asked an executives from a win, what was the most important benefit the company brought to bear, what aspect was most important to the sale. His response, my salesman. He helped me, and our company, to get a critical problem taken care of.




3 Ways to Improve B2B Prospecting by Finding “Me”test

Hey, I’ve got a great new business idea – let’s take our least experienced, lowest paid, least trained and barely empowered employees and make them our customer-facing personnel!


Since about 75% of the b2b consideration process takes place without our direct involvement, let’s call prospects to “just check in” and see if they’re ready to engage!”

I would like my competitors to employ both strategies, please.

What’s In It for Me?

Of course, both strategies are pretty mainstream and sound pretty lame-stream when you shine a light. It’s just that some businesses have lost their way. Somewhere along the line, they lost the core meaning of the terms value and benefit, because they were looking in the wrong place. The answer is not in their heads, on the hard-drive or a Google search. These terms can only be defined by our prospect.

Every prospect wants an answer to the question, what’s in it for me? We’re advocating a deep-dive into “me” so we can learn how to answer the question. We’re advocating an indepth conversation with complex individuals who have both personal and business goals, and specific responsibilities to the buying center. How does this person define value? What benefits would help them to address an issue? Prospects aren’t going to tweet this, we’re going to have to dig it out of them.

3 Ways to Find “Me”

Here are three strategies that can improve every aspect of your prospecting by finding out more about “me”:

  1. Prospect Persona Research

Really, there is no better way to find out what a person wants then by asking them directly, by engaging them in purposeful conversation.

Prospect persona research is a specialized and proven qualitative process that helps us to understand how an organization makes a decision and who is involved. It concentrates on gaining a human understanding of these individuals, the “me’s”, what they need and how they learn. It’s as an exploration into the life of a person who must solve a problem that your product is designed to address.

There are two things that we always look for in this research:

  • What is the prospect-to-product connection? We must learn how we can express and demonstrate our compelling competitive differentiation so that our prospect can hear us. We need to create preference.
  • Who is our potential champion? The decision making process is long and complex, and most often results in no decision. Among the players, is there someone who has the potential to champion our cause, helping others to embrace the prospect-to-product connection?
  1. Win / Loss Reporting

We live and die by the close ratio, so let’s infuse some indepth understanding of the outcome. The only way to do that is to talk to wins, losses, and no decisions through the same qualitative research process. We want to know, overall and by persona (as possible):

  • Why did we win?
  • Why did we lose?
  • Why was there no decision?

Throughout, we are looking to sharpen the articulation of the nuance, to polish the key insight, to refine our process, especially among high-value prospects, which will come back to us in the close ratio.

  1. Customer Satisfaction as Measured by Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Although significantly more money is spent of prospecting, customer retention is where the long-term money comes from. By better understanding where we are successfully satisfying customers and where we are falling short, we can influence both prospecting and customer sat. Customer sat, in turn, leverages customer lifetime value.

A usual Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey bluntly asks customers if they would refer us to a friend or colleague. Customers are asked to respond numerically, where 0 is awful and 10 is divine. Boom.

The NPS survey we would recommend would build on this to gain the overall score, and then within specific areas such as sales, products, and support. We would then employ qualitative research and dig deeply to understand, what do you mean by that?

But It’s Expensive

Many b2b companies we’ve spoken to feel that their prospecting is underperforming and lament the long sales cycle bereft of direct engagement. The tendency is to invest in end products, like content, without the rigor of the underlying research. Well – prospecting is underperforming, so marketing isn’t doing its job, and we’re not getting the results we need, and research is EXPENSIVE. Besides, we already know.

I think, unless things have changed, that convincing a prospect to become a customer is where the money trail starts. The better we understand the prospect…