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ClickInsights: How B2B marketers should forge customer relationships by providing compelling content?

ClickInsights is an Expert Interview Series brought to you by Connect the Docs (ClickDocuments blog). In ClickInsights Expert Interview Series we feature top notch industry experts and thought leaders and get their insights, opinions and predictions. We also ask for their suggestions on recommended reading resources to keep abreast with latest trends in their industry.

One of the many goals of B2B marketing is to continuously forge better customer relationship. We have invited B2B Experts to shed light on the following question: "What is your one tip on how B2B marketers should forge customer relationships by providing compelling content? Please focus on prospect presale engagement". Read on to get their insights.


Ardath Albee

Blog Marketing Interactions Twitter Ardath421

Ardath Albee Content Marketing ExpertHelp Buyers Become Experts

Ardath Albee's Bio

Ardath Albee is a B2B Marketing Strategist. Her company Marketing Interactions helps companies with complex sales and quantify marketing effectiveness by using interactive e-marketing strategies driven by compelling content. She empowers her clients to create customer-centric nurturing programs that leverage strategic story development to engage prospects until they are sales ready. Ardath’s book, E-Marketing Strategies for the Complex Sale, will be published this fall by McGraw-Hill.

Ardath Albee's Tip

Business moves fast. Changes happen quickly. Chances are that the buyers of complex solutions have a lot to learn before they develop the knowledge and confidence they need to make the best purchase decision. Their latest hot priority is likely not within their core area of expertise—or the priority is an expansion to that core. This reality presents a terrific opportunity for B2B marketers.

First, you’ll need to shift your mindset. Instead of talking endlessly about all the cool stuff your products do, share insights about why doing those things is important—from a business objective perspective. In lieu of strutting your awards and embellishing how your company has achieved world domination, show them how your customers are reaping business outcomes that power sustainable growth and innovation.

Second, work on making buyers comfortable. Mitigating risk is one of the highest concerns when considering a complex purchase. Talking about your products’ features won’t help with that. Exposing your expertise through thought leadership helps buyers understand and appreciate that your company will provide a better value add than your competitor. The amount of credibility you hold with your prospects is often caused by the “what have you done for me lately?” perception. Companies that work hard to be helpful, provide valuable insights and increase their prospects’ understanding of the problem-to-solution scenario are able to establish much higher levels of credibility than those focused on selling.

Third, help buyers use knowledge with confidence. How you help buyers learn is both critical to their retention of the information and their ability to influence other project stakeholders. It’s likely there are at least seven people involved in the buying decision. Through sharing content designed to help them visualize solving the problem and see clearly how choosing your company to do so will get them the outcomes they want, your prospects will have the confidence they need to persuade others. And remember that each stakeholder is affected in a different way by the overflows of the project. By addressing those types of issues, you can demonstrate that your company looks at the big picture of change instead of just focusing on the more narrow product application.

Helping your buyers become experts about how to solve their highest priority problems builds the kind of trust and credibility that results in buying decisions made in your favor. Just remember, it’s not about selling products and solutions, it’s about helping prospects decide to buy.

Ardath Albee Recommends

Rebel Brown

Blog Phoenix Rising Twitter RebelBrown

Rebel BrownGet Everyone on the Same Page

Rebel Brown's Bio

Rebel Brown is go-to-market strategist and Spin Doctor specializing in start ups, turnarounds and start-arounds in the high technology arena. She has helped to define, position and launch over 75 individual products and companies since she began consulting 20 years ago. Her clients who are technology vendors and venture firms leverage her strategic marketing and go-to-market expertise. She identifies and transforms differentiation - customers crown jewels - into compelling, customer-centric value that sells. Her blog is Phoenix Rising and her business is PeopleWhoKnow.

Rebel Brown's Tip

To get the most out of great positioning stories, we need to start everyone reading with the same frame of reference.

It’s especially important for demand generation, where we have such a short time/space to capture our audiences’ attention.  We have to make sure everyone gets on the same page before we can communicate clearly.

Think about it. If your reader is focused on managing their suppliers and you’re talking about a solution to internal production efficiency – you won’t start from the same place.  If they do read your content – they may try to apply it unsuccessfully to their focus.  So take a moment and make sure your audience focuses on the same area and problem you are. Get them on the same page. 

I’m not suggesting that we 'dumb it down' as many of my technology clients think. They want to jump right into the whizbang innovations because ‘everyone gets the basics’.  No, they don’t. That assumption can sink you before you ever get started.

Everyone brings their own history and perspective to the table. What John believes about the state of a market or technology may be different than what his associate Kevin believes. Their beliefs are based on their accumulated knowledge, which comes from experience. That's how human nature works.

For your audience to get the most out of your story - they have to be on the same page with you.  When you're writing novels or creating movies they call it building a back story. It doesn't have to take much time. As a matter of fact, the shorter, the better.  The key is to set the stage - simply and clearly - for the story you are about to tell.

I usually focus on three areas:

  • What are the challenges/problems you are trying to solve? Begin setting the stage by simply and succinctly telling your audience why you are doing what you're doing.  What's happened in the market that is causing issues for your customers (or holding them back from their potential). What is your focus and why?  The goal is to create a simple and accurate picture that gets you and your audience focused on the same problem area.
  • Why are these problems important to solve? Here's a chance to show that you understand your customer's business.  Take a few lines to chat about what you see as the impact of not solving this problem.  Put your cards on the table about why you think they should care – your specific areas of focus.
  • How you intend to solve those challenges and why it is compelling? Share the 2-3 key facts that quickly hook them on your innovation. Bait their interest to draw them further into the story. Then use a pertinent, real-world example to help your audience quickly grasp your solution's impact.

Now you've set the stage and you've shown them a wow factor. You have their attention and they understand your concept. So go ahead, dive into the elegance and beauty of your story. 

Your story will resonate like never before - simply because everyone is on the same page.

Rebel Brown Recommends

Brian Carroll

Blog Start with a Lead Twitter BrianJCarroll

Bob GilbreathWalk in your customers’ shoes, and give them what they need regardless of whether they are ready to buy

Brian Carroll's Bio

Brian Carroll, CEO of InTouch, is part of MECLABS Group (MarketingExperiments, MarketingSherpa, InTouch) and author of Lead Generation for the Complex Sale and the B2B Lead Generation Blog with expertise related to B2B marketing, lead generation and complex sales.

Brian Carroll's Tip

In order to build better, more meaningful relationships, B2B marketers need to focus on prospect presale engagement in new ways. Get away from the bad habit of calling your brochures “lead nurturing.” The goal of each presale engagement should be to create content that will really make a difference in your prospect’s buying process. In order to do this you must think like your customer, and then give them what they need without expecting anything in return.

Walk in your customer’s shoes
The best way to engage or catch someone’s attention is to talk about something they need. And, that’s why prospect presale engagement can’t be taught as a science. In fact, it’s more appropriate to think of it as a craft that gets fine-tuned over time. How you engage will depend on factors that will change from company to company such as where their company is in the buying process and what their role is in that process. You fine tune and target your conversations so that they hit home with the right person at the right time.

The easiest way to do that is to walk in your customer’s shoes. Consider the questions they will have while making a buying decision: 

  • How will this product/service help my company?
  • We’re doing okay, why do we need it?
  • Is there another company out there that is better?
  • Will their solution really work? Can they prove it?
  • Is the company credible?
  • Can we afford it?

Your content should provide prospects with the answers to these questions. Feed them. Walk with them through the buying process. Think about the specific questions they may have depending on their position or role in the decision making. Are they concerned about costs? Reliability? Or ease of implementation? You’re creating value by giving them useful information in digestible, bite sized chunks.

If your goal is to build customer relationships, always keep the very definition of the word nurture in mind when creating content. Nurture means: foster, help develop, or help grow; the act of nourishing or nursing; tender care; education; training; that which nourishes; food; diet; sustenance; the environmental influences that contribute to the development of an individual.

So you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. You know what they need. What now?

Don’t be afraid to give them what they need  - regardless of whether they buy from you

Here’s where it gets a little hard for some folks to swallow the pill. Once you’ve figured out what your customers need to become educated decision makers, don’t be afraid to give it to them -  and don’t expect anything in return. Take on the “pull” approach. Don’t expect them to buy now or ever. Just help them. Be a resource. Become an industry leader through education. If there’s new legislation that will affect your prospect, explain it to them in detail. Give them resources to help them understand the changes. You are saying to them: “I am an expert on this issue. I know what needs to be done. I can help you.” You are “pulling” them in. It’s totally different from being “pushy.”

It takes time to set yourself up as a leader, and that’s why you can’t worry about the short-term sale when you produce content. True nurturing involves a sometimes long and circuitous path, but along the way you’ll be building long, meaningful and trust-filled relationships with the right people.

Here’s a stat that will make you feel better: A recent study of business-to-business buyers shows that sales people who become trusted advisors and understand the needs of economic buyers are 69% more likely to come away with a sale!

So, think like a customer and give them what they want. Don’t focus on what you’ll get out of it immediately. I guarantee you that if you keep walking with the customer, guiding them along the path, you will become a respected resource  - and that’s a hike you should be willing to take.

Read more: What IS and ISN’T Lead Nurturing

Patsi Krakoff

Blog WritingontheWeb Twitter PatsiBlogSquad

Patsi KrakoffConnect with your customers through a case study

Patsi Krakoff's Bio

Patsi Krakoff, Psy. D., is a former psychologist and journalist who has been working in online content marketing for the last 10 years helping professionals use e-newsletters and blogs to grow business. Her award-winning blog can be found at WritingontheWeb. She provides quality content and newsletter services for global executive coaches at ContentforCoachesandConsultants. She is co-founder of The Blog Squad, providing blog services and consulting. She lived and worked in Paris for 20 years and now lives in Ajijic, Mexico, where she is an avid tennis player.

Patsi Krakoff's Tip  

When I was fresh out of graduate school, newly licensed as a psychologist, I needed to get clients. Word of mouth wasn’t going to do it, nor was relying on insurance referrals or my Yellow Pages ad.

I spotted a family style magazine at the hair dressers one day, and decided to buy a half page advertorial. I wrote about a fictitious client – “Susie” – who was unhappy about her weight, her husband, her life. I added some specific details about this person (“Susie” was an amalgamation of clients I had worked with as an intern).

That marketing tactic worked like a charm. Women came to my office saying they knew I could help them, because I had written about Susie who was so similar to them it was eerie.

Before I became a psychologist I had been a journalist, and the combination of those two skills paid off. It was my introduction to content marketing, although I didn’t know it at the time.

In B2B, this marketing tactic is a case study. It works because you connect with people where it hurts. You show them that others are similar, and here’s what happened to them. You give them hope. You spell it out for them.

A case study works because:

  • You write about a real human being (or a typical one)
  • You connect with their pain (the problem and all the manifestations of it)
  • You explain the solution (your product or your services)
  • You show examples of the results for that person (this creates hope and desire)
  • You make your product and services real and specific
  • Readers identify and connect the dots for themselves

It doesn’t matter if you’re selling technological devices or counseling services. People buy from other people because they know, like and trust you. The more you bring in real people with names and specifics, the more compelling your content becomes.

The more the reader (aka prospect, buyer, manager, etc.) can see themselves in the picture, the more they can connect the dots between what you do and sell and the problems they need solved.

Patsi Krakoff Recommends

Seamus Walsh

Blog B2BContentMarketing Twitter SeamusWalsh

Seamus WalshGet into the deal early and be of value by thinking like the buyer

Seamus Walsh's Bio

Seamus Walsh founded VAZT Global Inc. in January 2008. Seamus' passion for sales, sales process and excellence enabled him to develop a platform that "finds, cares and feeds" prospects until they are ready to buy. Prior to forming VAZT, Seamus worked in sales and strategic account management for The Hackett Group, a strategic advisory and management consulting firm in Atlanta, For Gartner, a research, advisory and consulting company in Stamford, CT and Cambridge Technology Partners, a web development company, prior to its acquisition by Novell. Seamus resides in Essex Junction, VT with his wife and four children.

Seamus Walsh's Tip

Great question Ambal.  I believe this one is fundamentally the most important question for business to business marketers and sales, get into the deal early and be of value.  To do this think like a buyer, what is the buyer going to be typing into Google™ looking for your your solution? Be it 2, 3,5 or 8 keywords, stop what you are doing right now and go to a registrar and own them and then worry about providing compelling content  later.

Seamus Walsh Recommends

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Ambal has robust 17+ years experience working at and partnering with high-profile technology companies in both B2B and B2C marketplaces building scalable, reliable, high performance products (both hardware and software) for business with multi-billion dollar in annual revenue. She has done various roles that includes engineering, program management, business development, strategy and marketing for premium and fast growing product divisions at Cisco, Telecordia (prior name Bell Labs) and strategic marketing consulting firm ClickDocuments. At Cisco, she focused on world wide marketing and positioning of Cisco's Cloud & Data Center switching business. She brings both strong engineering & marketing skills with verticals experience from many different industries. Ambal received her Masters in Computer Science from Purdue University and an MBA in Marketing, Strategy and Entrepreneurship from Wharton University of Pennsylvania. Ambal is an avid reader and hiker. Her hiking pursuits have taken her to several mountains including Mt. Whitney at 14,500 feet (which she managed to climb in 1 day). Ambal lives in Austin, TX with her family of 3 boys (that includes her husband!) and a border-collie+lab mix dog named Rainbow.

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