Of course, it’s easy for a B2B Telemarketing agency to promote a long-term approach to lead generation. The longer the duration of a campaign, the better it is for the provider.
But, surely when it comes to B2B, everything is about the monetisation. Do brands, and brand awareness, matter for the average company that sells to other businesses? What is the long-term vision in B2B marketing?
Sales and Marketing Needs Time
If you take a step back for a moment, all sales and marketing activities inevitably have a long-term aspect to them. Expensive sales teams, and marketing staff, whose task it is to bring home the bacon, is a big investment over a significant period of time. You have to pay their salaries and fund the activities.
What’s more, generally speaking, those employees aren’t fired if there are no results after a month or three! Therefore, there’s a broad understanding that business development needs time. And, at higher values of sale, into larger organisations, and with long sales cycles, it is far from a quick-fix.
Buyers are not Beating your Door Down
No matter which method you use to reach your target audience, it is likely to take either time or money, and most likely both, to achieve the result. For example, enterprise-level decision makers aren’t immediately accessible. They are time-poor. They have competing priorities. And, they have one budget with competing demands for their marketing funds.
According to research conducted by the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, 95% of B2B buyers are not in the market for your products. This is logical. How many organisations are planning an investment in your kind of services at the time you want to sell to them? If you have a product or service that is low value, which is in high demand, there will be a much higher number of prospects. However, in those situations, it’s probable that there will be a lot more competition. Therefore, to stand out from the crowd may also be an expensive exercise.
Business growth decisions need to be taken regarding where to allocate resources. That’s both in terms of people and budget. So, it’s important to minimise risk and expensive mistakes by focusing on the target audience.
In many ways, this is a simple exercise but that’s not always the case. Location, sector, size, decision-maker role and other factors play a role in the decision. Ultimately, the key is to identify audiences that will be more receptive to what you offer. This will reduce wastage of time and money if you get it right. However, requirements change over time. Replacement cycles vary. New projects come along infrequently. So, keeping a close eye on potential sector opportunities is essential to focus business development activity.
Multiple Marketing Routes Make it Harder
Given that most prospects aren’t actively looking for your products or services, what’s the solution? The key is to be visible when they are in the market. In an ideal world, we would allocate unlimited funds to the different marketing channels in order to find elusive prospects.
Investing in your website is rarely a bad idea to drive prospects to make inbound enquiries. Visibility through content production and distribution is sensible if your audience consumes information online. Trade shows, exhibitions and webinars may be options again moving forward. SEO, coupled with a robust backlink strategy, is a positive approach. And, sponsored content on LinkedIn may be a route to take if your audience engages on the platform.
You also need a range of proactive measures to get closer to your target customer. Since buyers rarely invest heavily without some form of peer-to-peer engagement, face to face meetings, Zoom calls and telephone contact will probably play a role in the acquisition strategy.
Balancing Long and Short term Goals
The need for fast returns is usually uppermost in the minds of those responsible for the bottom-line performance. Few Finance Directors will give sales and marketing teams carte blanche to just spend without consequences. And, they want to know when they will see a return.
So, it’s hard to talk in general terms about investment about ‘brand awareness’ and the need to build a longer-term sales pipeline without some hard evidence of likely future value. Therefore, some effort needs to go into generating short-term returns. That might be cross-sell and upselling to existing customers. It could be mining your current customer base for lower-spending customers with unexploited potential. You might consider promotions and offers to stimulate demand, especially at quieter periods.
It Takes Time to Land Big Fish.
It usually takes time to reel in bigger fish. Sadly, it’s rare for them to just jump into your net. Visibility and credibility are two of the key components for success. Your business needs to be present at the right time, and attractive enough to get onto shortlists. That means a strong presence online and offline.
Most businesses need to build a robust sales pipeline from which business flows. But, this generally takes time to construct. Whilst online presence may, in some cases, encourage prospects to check you out, it’s invariably the relationship you build that will lead to higher value business.
Is Account-based Marketing the Answer?
Account-based marketing (ABM) is a concept that has come more to the fore in recent times. The idea is that you focus on a select band of target clients and focus all your energy on these. The idea is compelling. It means that you allocate full resources to a clear goal. Yet, payback can be slow. And, if the approach doesn’t produce leads in a reasonable amount of time, it could be costly. How do you judge whether the strategy is working? And, how long do you allow for it to work?
If you are considering an ABM approach, the key is to identify your audience (once again) including influencers and decision-makers. Speak to them. By all means, reach out on LinkedIn and via email. Gather insight on their businesses. Build a picture of the kinds of projects and requirements they may have. Some of this can be accomplished via desk research. But, usually, there’s no substitute for a conversation. That can be driven through the use of other channels such as advertising that encourages prospects to visit a landing page where they can request a call. Or, perhaps test out email or LinkedIn outreach to encourage dialogue.
What’s the Conclusion?
In truth, there’s no simple answer. Reality and ambition both come into it. Whether it’s about ROI for shareholders, or simply paying the bills if you’re an SME, decisions need to be made. Convention tells us that brand investment is rarely wasted. Typically, the strongest brands have the best revenues and make the most profit.
But, does this apply to B2B? We’d argue that the answer is yes. There are plenty of strong trade brands. The technology world is littered with big players. Well-known advertising and PR agencies dominate their sectors. These companies are usually on most shortlists when it comes to partner selection. In most sectors, there are dominant B2B providers. And, most of these invest in marketing well ahead of conversion.
Trying to shoehorn payback into a very short space of time rarely works. There are very few quick wins. Some degree of ongoing activity and investment is required. Keeping in mind that most prospects aren’t in the market for what you offer, a mindset shift is needed to measure return on investment. Trust is needed that you’re doing the right thing, and that your partners are on track. Milestones are essential. Hopefully, it’s not a marathon, but it’s unlikely to be a sprint.