Hi, it's me! Over here! Can you hear me? Probably not in a crowded B2B market.
The challenge for any business, new or established, is getting its message heard by the market. Whether it's to existing customers, your prospects, or future customers that you've never even imagined, the battle to be heard gets harder even as the means to communicate become easier . So what can a Product Marketer do to boost communication effectivenss and improve their chances of success ?
Looking back through rose tinted spectacles it’s easy to recall that passing your message and communicating with your target customers was so much more difficult in the pre-digital era. Everything was done on paper, adverts placed in newspapers or industry journals, interested people could tick boxes on a reply form and get sent a catalogue by post. And maybe the lead would find its way into the hands of a salesperson who might follow it up at some time, the whole process taking many days or even weeks. The cycle from idea for a campaign to implementation took even longer.
Back in the reality of today this process can be shortened to seconds. Online ads targeted to specific segments and potential customers can be turned into hot leads in just a few clicks, CRM tools can pre-qualify leads, and bots ( or even real people , just occasionally) can help the customer accelerate their buying process. Or so the theory goes. The reality is that just passing the first step and being heard is a success in itself.
So why , with all this technology at our disposal, does it still feel like a continual battle to get our message across ?
Perhaps it’s a question of changing our perspective, to stop following the market and do something different ? After all, if we just do the same as our competitors, telling the same story to touch the same pain point of the same customers, then we get lost in the white noise.
Whatever our view on the use of social media, paid search, SEO and the overall power of the tech giants, their use in B2B can’t be avoided. But it can be improved. So what can a Product Marketer do to better communicate their message ?
Ensure your message has a means of reaching its target
Whilst paper catalogues are expensive in terms of cash and environmentally, they had the benefit of being a means to physically deliver your message to your customers. The move to digital and online catalogues relies on the customer to proactively search for new information. Ever wondered why your existing customers don’t know about the wonderful things you’ve launched in the last 5 years ? Maybe they are still using the same paper catalogue to select products that they are comfortable with, but was printed back in the last decade.
Stand out from the crowd
Whilst visiting various trade shows over the years I’ve developed an amusing game of trying to create a generic value proposition by combining the key messages of the major exhibitors. If you keep saying the same things to touch the same pain points of the same customers as your competition, you will be lost in the white noise. What might have seemed a great idea in a Marcomms meeting loses its effectiveness when surrounded by similar platitudes. I’ll be off to the Hannover Messe in a couple of weeks so I’ll let you know what I find there!
Stray off the beaten track
Pay per click and SEM have been a great boost to allow better results from search engines. But Google and the others aren’t doing it as a charitable service. By continuing to use the same old keywords and phrases you are more likely to just pay more for the right to be seen. Consider using more long-tail phrases and be visible in other places where people search for advice. Why not build a reputation on Reddit or industry forums where customers go to as Design Spark
Spend your budget where it can work for you and your customers
Investing in better targeted ads seems the dream, but does our own world experience confirm this ?
For example a few years back my inbox would fill with spam proposing get rich quick schemes and exotic foreign ladies looking for marriage, neither of which were of interest. Now that I’m older I get messages about stairlifts and prepaid funeral plans, again not top of my shopping list. At least the advertisers know I’ve hit middle age.
Instead imagine what your communications plan would look like if you started with what the customer wants and worked backwards ?
Make it relevant, appropriate and perfectly timed.
Ok, I admit that the targeted mails for prepaid funerals are unlikely to be ever well timed, but make sure that there is some relevance and appropriateness. One online booking company continues to send me emails telling me that I’m in luck as prices are lower for hotels in a place that I last visited (and searched for) years ago. That’s just wishful thinking on their part that I’d be interested. Another sends daily mails offering me 50% discount on their promotional material as I’m such a valued customers. I used them once and bought some business cards. And now I’m unsubscribed from their mailing list due to their incessant spam and clearly untrue pricing.
The reality is that most likely your hands are tied and a corporate communications policy sets not only the tone and the branding but also the operational aspects of communications such as how and where the messages are visible.
And whilst customer buying journeys are not simple to track down to one individual touch point, standing out from the crowd may get you the visibility you crave in the market, and also inside your organization.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with using the digital tools available to you, but it’s hard work to get the connection with the people who matter. After 3 months my Twitter account only has other marketing agencies as followers, and my Newsletter mailing list is not yet troubling the servers of MailChimp with it’s size
So why not challenge the status quo ? Nothing will be gained by staying the same, and sticking your neck out will certainly get you noticed.
I look forward to your comments.