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Earlier this month I was talking to the owner of a marketing agency that has been in the industry for decades, who couldn't figure out why the inbound marketing he had built for his client (an IT managed service provider) wasn't working.
He has all the tools (HubSpot Marketing PRO is in place), it's all configured correctly, the site design is clean, offers are relevant, CTAs are direct, and forms are not too onerous—but nothing is happening.
To rub salt in the wound, the sales team is engaged and more than capable of picking up a conversation with a lead. Those leads just don't come.
A few questions later, we'd identified the problem, and it's one that we see consistently when we talk to people who've invested in inbound sales and marketing without outside help.
Their target persona (if you don't know what one of these is, then you've definitely got an issue to resolve—stop everything and read this) is the CTO.
Talking to the right people
Chief Technology Officers don't download marketing offers. They are a strange bunch who have strange conversations, and lots of people who don't understand the world of the CTO want to talk to them. So how do you get them into the top of your funnel?
The answer is: you don't. At least not with a website offer aimed at a stranger.
CTOs (in fact pretty much all of the c-suite) will start their search for help elsewhere. Once they've convinced themselves they don't know how to do something (this may take a long time) they'll ask their team, their colleagues, their network, existing suppliers, maybe a new vendor—all way before they'll do a Google search and visit a website they've never heard of before and happily hand over their contact details.
Instead of asking 'how do we get them to download our offer?', ask 'where did the ones we are already selling to come from?'
Developing a B2B marketing strategy around the prospect
So where do you look when developing a B2B marketing strategy that actually performs? Get back inside the box and see what you've got already. In the majority of cases, your best customers came in from an introduction. Usually, because they were looking for help from one of the sources listed above.
If you're in B2B, and in particular the IT channel, it's not strangers who are buying from you. It's referrals from your vendors, it's introductions from your existing customers, it's other teams within your existing customers, it's people you know who move jobs.
Think of it like this, should you be forever filling a leaky funnel that requires constant effort to attract strangers (who won't buy from you anyway), or is there a better way?
Keeping your sales and marketing machine running smoothly
Here's an idea you will have no doubt seen before, 'customer-centric', 'lifecycle-marketing' or some other guff, but think of it now as a flywheel. A flywheel is the part of an engine that is designed to keep it running smoothly. Once it’s spinning, it's hard to stop.
Your flywheel needs your marketing, sales and service to be in balance. All of your communications with the outside world are marketing, they are also sales, they are also service. If they are not coherent and working together, you look chaotic and your flywheel won't be spinning smoothly.
In the same way that marketing should be feeding sales, it's your services that should be feeding your marketing. What do your customers, your suppliers, and your network think about your services? What do they say? What do they think the value you add is?
The changing shape of B2B marketing strategies in 2018
If I'm a potential buyer, I want to know what it's going to be like being your customer. I don't care so much about your obvious marketing tactics to move me down the funnel. I'm happy to talk to sales if they can help me to become a happy customer of yours (not just close a deal).
On the subject of B2B marketing strategies in 2018, the growing importance of customer service for B2B can't be overstated. If you manage to give me great service, I'm going to tell others. If everyone who buys from you is known to you or your network, stop pointing your marketing at strangers and focus on spinning up your flywheel instead.
Still stuck or need some inspiration? Know someone else who needs help?
In the timeless words of the Four Tops, ‘Reach out... I'll be there.’
Inbound Marketing & Sales Strategist
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