Social Distancing in the B2B World: Don’t lose touch with your audience.
I see a lot of head-scratching going on right now about what the impact of all these cancelled events will be. At Paper Sword, we’ve spent the last week writing field marketing out of every marketing plan we created for our clients for Q2/Q3. It’s painful. With most B2B companies depending on 40-60% of their pipeline from field marketing, it’s a lot to sacrifice.
But as we move to put all of our client’s marketing online, there’s a deeper, more nuanced issue we’re creating; without direct access to customers through face to face events, product engineers risk losing touch with their markets.
Losing touch with the people you sell to is how you fail. It’s how you stay small.
The most strategic thing any company can do is understand their market. I encourage technical people and founders to become thought leaders and self-proclaimed experts in their given communities. It’s not because I want my clients to have healthy egos, or that I think it’s the fastest way to generate leads (it’s not). When you become a resource for people, and you invest in getting in front of them often, you’ll know the moment your customer’s needs change. When the market changes, it happens fast. One competitor acquisition, one big move by a partner, one unlocked technology: It can change your whole world. To date, the best way to keep your finger on that pulse was through industry events and conferences. Now what? What do you do to get close to buyers?
Here are three great internal projects you can do in Q2/Q3 to be better aligned to customer listening and market positioning:
- Analyze your data differently: Analyze Win/Loss. Especially the loss.
What information is hiding in your organisation that will help you find market information? Talking to accounts you’ve lost can be painful, especially for a sales-driven company. And if you do it incorrectly, sometimes you can get the wrong information, but do it anyways. There may be information hiding in plain sight, and you may not know how exposed you really are.
- Get better at understanding the problem you’re solving
Don’t start any sales conversation with your product features. Instead, synchronize on the problem you’re trying to help your buyer solve. It provides context for the stories you’re going to tell, the pricing you’re going to set, and your prioritizes your product roadmap. If you become a problem-solving organization, your tech will better stand the test of time. For many companies, positioning is an afterthought. But not thinking about your market first is how you get left behind. It’s how you make your marketing people cry into their pillows at night because they can’t convert anything. Positioning is everything.
This goes back to the reason why you made your product in the first place. Did you make a thing, manage a feature-list and then give it to a marketing company to verify in the market? That marketing team probably executed an exercise called “feature/benefit analysis” where you go around in a meaningless loop of trying to reverse engineer your product to fix a market and need you haven’t validated. But your buyers may not care about your benefits and all the features that come underneath it. So start with the problem and then decompose how you solve those problems.
- Use simple, clear language.
“Our product delivers innovative, best-in-breed partnerships with innovative, robust agility.” Some of these words marketers have used so much, we have essentially bankrupted their meaning. Worse, we use words like “robust” and “flexible” for their interchangability, but so often they can mean different things to our buyers. People read “flexible”, and the think configurable. They see “partnerships” and then think services. When you don’t take time to simplify your messaging and add context for your words, you’re just spouting words with the hope of differentiating.
Do you need to fancy and buzzwordy? Or can you be simple and elegant. Easier said than done, I know. It’s why I do what I do.
Good luck out there.