Do you ever wake up and wonder how you got where you are today? I never imagined I would end up solely working for start-up companies in the web space and getting to interact with big multinational brands that are usually the domain of agencies in Toronto, New York, and Los Angeles. I’ve had the chance to work with heavyweights like ESPN, HP, Tim Hortons, Rogers, and CN Rail. I’ve also had the chance to work with smaller regional brands like Community Futures, SIAST, and Lexis Homes. All told, the constant thread that has persisted throughout my professional career is that I’ve always dealt with business to business marketing. My clients were always other companies and they pretty much all wanted the same things regardless of their size and scope.
You see, companies are primarily concerned with making money or saving money and want to do so in a way that mitigates risk as much as possible. They value expertise, track record, and product knowledge far more than the brand your represent. They also put a lot of importance on personal relationships which is really about meeting their expectations regarding integrity, reliability, and honesty. Nothing damages a business relationship more than failing in any one of these three areas. Business clients will tolerate mistakes if you’ve done a good job with establishing integrity, reliability, and honesty. In addition, companies are always looking for innovation from their suppliers in both products and ideas. If you can’t bring something new to the table or offer an additional perspective then they don’t need you. Once you understand these fundamentals you can move onto actual marketing tactics; Here’s my secret list when it comes to business to business marketing:
Know your product/service inside and out – As I mentioned above, expertise is more important than the brand you represent or how slick your marketing is. If you’re marketing or selling something you need to be a subject expert on it and not just the messenger. Know about your industry, always.
Produce informative and educational content – Forget about spending a ton on branding, die cut business cards, and laminated brochures. Instead, spend your time on hiring writers and content producers to help you create valuable content that business professionals can learn from. This includes blog posts, whitepapers, case studies, public presentations, and video demonstrations. Knowledge is power and businesses crave it. Think like a publisher.
Optimize your website presence – More than 85% of business to business web activity starts with a search, so it’s important that your website and content is optimized with the proper keywords being used by your prospective customers. Don’t use a bunch of flowery marketing language or industry jargon, instead incorporate the words your clients use to describe your products/services. For instance, if you’re selling website development don’t say shit like “we build online brand experiences”. What the hell is that? Speak human and research the keywords prospective client’s are using in search engines.
Get a LinkedIn profile for yourself and company – Having a solid LinkedIn profile relates to the importance of building personal relationships and establishing credibility. A LinkedIn profile is your online resume and is a necessity since the first thing a prospective client is going to do after meeting you is Google your name to see what comes up. If you need help getting set up, here’s is a link regarding five tips for using LinkedIn.
Utilize email marketing for both prospective and current customers – Despite the hype in the media that email is dying, it’s actually alive and well. In fact, an email address is the most valuable piece of contact information you can have. Email has become the preferred method of communication in business so it’s important to incorporate it in your business to business marketing. The trick is to use it responsibly – Make sure you use email marketing software (E.g. MailChimp, AWeber, ExactTarget) to increase delivery rates and manage unsubscribes. If you need some guidance check out email marketing 101.
Have a client portfolio, testimonial cache or list of references – What you’ve done and who you’ve done it for are key indicators of the type of client’s you will continue to attract. Business clients are very interested in your track record, accomplishments, and the types of projects you’ve completed in the past. You will be judged on the types of client’s you work with so make sure you have a sharp portfolio on your website or some solid testimonials/references.
Pick up the phone and have a conversation – Although email may be the preferred method of communication in business, a phone call can often be the quickest way to get an answer or effectively have a discussion. People use their phones so little now that getting a call is almost a novelty. Personal relationships are built on having multiple conversations and getting to know the other person more and more. I also encourage you to meet your clients face to face for important discussions. Building relationships requires effort so don’t scrimp on having meaningful conversations.
Do you have any other business to business marketing tips you can share? I’d be curious to know what else has worked for others. Please leave a comment below or send me an email.