Reflections of a MultiViewer: Life as a B2B Digital Marketer
In seven years at MultiView, I’ve had the pleasure of working with hundreds of niche B2B brands to market their businesses – anything from reaching lab technicians to K-12 decision makers to engineers in industrial/manufacturing, plastics to economic development and everything in between. The road to winning clients has included thousands of phone calls and meetings. I’ve talked to owners, C-suite execs, heads of marketing and sales and their support teams across small, mid-sized and Fortune 500 brands. Each day, I spend probably 100-150 minutes listening and speaking to these brands. That’s approximately 200k+ minutes of my life! I like to say I don’t know it all, but I’ve probably heard it all – the good, the bad and the meh.
Part 1: The initial conversation
My conversations almost always start with a variation of this question: what do you sell and who do you sell it to? Cutting right past the canned “target audience” line to the main question.
I often get a pause. The client is surprised at my direct question and expects me to have this fluid sentence of buzzwords I grabbed (and they learned) from the most recent Ad Age article.
Surprise! That’s not important.
The advancement in marketing technology has birthed amazing marketing tactics to digitally connect with your customers, but I feel like in today’s world, marketers are saying the same thing using different words for it. They call it new and exciting, and brands are getting lost in the mix. In your strategy planning, you might end up at account-based marketing or addressable TV, or geofencing your top prospects business until they answer you. Who knows? But it must start with the basics and build out to the more detailed strategy.
What do you sell and who do you sell it to?
Many brands also feel as if I should start with detail and are surprised when I push for these basic answers. You mean you aren’t going to tell me about the cool tech and real-time optimizing portal you have for tracking my 12 different landing pages on the first call? No. You may not need that. All of those are features of a potential campaign, but first I want to know how I can benefit you.
The client – if they are truly open to suggestions and a new perspective – takes a deep breath and then starts in on a detailed background on their company, products, things they’ve tried in the past but haven’t worked (which is another article entirely), internal struggles and dynamics, long sales cycles, etc.
I morph into part strategist, part researcher, part media sales and part psychiatrist. I love this part of my job. You can hear a pin drop in the moment of honesty when an owner tells me, “Lauren, I honestly don’t know what I need to do, I just know our sales have been pretty stagnant for the past few years. I don’t know if that’s because of our lack of digital strategy or what. I’ve been managing this business for over 20 years and we’ve built strong relationships with our clients and gain word-of-mouth referrals, but I see others growing when we are maintaining.”
I start by saying he’s not alone. Because he isn’t. I’ve heard this more times than I can count – often from people I pitched years ago and told them to ramp up their digital game. They didn’t, and now we’re talking because they are way behind. Unfortunately, B2B businesses fall into this category. Due to the customization in the sales process, multiple decision makers, complex buying cycles and product innovation, it is crucial for some industries to deal face-to-face and that’s elongated the sales process. When a sale does take place, brands are “fat and happy” because they are good for a few years, but they don’t see past what’s in front of them.
“So, what do we need to do now?”
Decide you are going to make a change. B2B buyers need to understand that change is inevitable. Their customers aren’t necessarily their customers anymore. They may have held onto the same companies, but the decision makers are retiring and the influencers are now the decision makers, and they buy and research differently. They are looking to grow efficiencies and establish their image in the company. If you aren’t marketing to them, you reduce the chances of keeping your client, let alone getting more.
The first step to growth is to agree to use each minute to the advancement of your company. We have 30 more minutes to talk. Are you ready to build out a strategy to move forward?
Part 2: The strategy
When we turn to the more detailed question of “who do you sell it to,” I often tell marketers to do the following exercise: Think about the past 12 months. Who has bought from you? Were 80% existing customers? Were 20% new? Is this different from last year? How are sales trending for the new year? Do you recognize the new logos sales is working to close (meaning they’ve been in the pipeline for a while)?
The conversation usually halts to, “I need to get back to you after checking with so-and-so …”
This is a huge, multi-part problem.
- Management looks to sales and marketing to drive leads and business.
- Sales and marketing don’t communicate on a granular level.
- Management doesn’t make them stop long enough to communicate on a granular level.
- Sales keeps thinking they are the sole converters.
- Marketing keeps operating blind while supporting sales to the best of their ability.
- Management keeps spending, or more often than not, doesn’t invest in the tactics they think marketing can manage in house. Maybe they tried something like this a few years ago and it didn’t work.
Marketing should be able to answer these detailed questions. Sales should stop putting up barriers to marketing. Yes, Sales closed the deal with someone they met at the trade show, but that didn’t happen until months after, and what you don’t know is that marketing was working with me to reach attendees beforehand, to geofence that show and display ads to attendees walking the floor during and after, and then use your list of leads to serve digital ads to keep the company in front of the prospects in between your phone calls and follow-up meetings. We tracked hundreds of visits to your site from prospects seeing the ads.
Yes, sales brought home the bacon and the relationship you built at the show was the main initiator of the sale, but I’d argue without detailed follow up to keep the momentum alive, the sale might not have closed or closed as quickly. Give marketing some props! They were the silent assistants keeping the conversation going through digital advertising. Now, you need to talk to them more and provide the crucial details they need to execute on the next goal (with MultiView of course).
I’m sad to say the above situation plays out frequently, and 70% of the time management takes budget from marketing and puts it into more trade shows. Yes, the face-to-face interactions you make at shows are huge, but do you seriously think three days out of 365 is enough to cut through all the noise and convert a customer?
“Well that’s where good sales follow up comes in.”
Yes, but you met 200 true prospects at last show, you have a handful of senior salespeople and they also are responsible for growing existing customer relationships to maintain your base. You already go to five shows. Logistically, how does that investment make sense if you don’t have the follow through to support it?
“Well we will hire more reps.”
Will those reps be calling your prospects daily? No. You need a digital arm to keep the conversation going. Like I said, it’s a multi-part problem. Marketing needs to be able to talk to sales, cut through buzzwords and analytics numbers. Get the info you need to build a successful strategy. Sales is sales – you are marketing – you don’t need to convince sales on the tactics you present if you have the right information in the first place.
Sales teams must realize you can’t do without digital marketing in today’s world. There’s too much noise and the internet has allowed global competition a chance at the prospects next door. No matter how many times you show up at their business, they are going to cross check Google and, if marketing doesn’t have your support (and management’s), you won’t show up and the customer will be thrown into a new group of vendors to consider. Most customers check website, social and digital presence in their validation process. Too many major B2B brands don’t even have a profile (🤯) or haven’t posted in months. I’d be thinking, are they still in business?
Management needs to create opportunities for sales and marketing to work together – actual conversations whether by phone or in person – not just requiring reports and emails sent that never get read or understood. Management needs to trust marketing – even if they don’t understand the technology behind a new tactic. That’s why you hire the experts.
Work together with your teams to grow your business. No matter what your title or job responsibilities, senior management, marketing, sales or intern, remember you don’t build a company with one person. You must have a good team working together to grow. Recognize this and use the power of your teams to take your business to the next level.