Business buying is changing, and marketers must change with it—fast. I take inspiration from Brent Adamson’s new article in Harvard Business Review, with the provocative title, “Traditional B2B Sales and Marketing Are Becoming Obsolete.” Adamson explains that business buying no longer fits the linear “handoff” model between marketing and sales. Instead, it requires a deep understanding of the account’s buying process and developing a unified selling process that maps to it.
So, we know sales and marketing must evolve. But we need help. Let’s review some of the fresh ideas that are emerging to keep us going.
Buyer/seller matching platform. If you are a software or services firm looking for small and medium business customers, get yourself onto ShapeConnect, a matching platform designed to speed up the business buying process and simplify vendor relationship management. ShapeConnect acts like a concierge, vetting new vendors, and providing expert advisors to help buyers find the right fit. Contracts are then managed through the platform, and ShapeConnect earns a commission as payments flow through. Founder Brian Zielinski says that buyers can make vendor decisions nine times faster than normal, sometimes as quickly as two weeks. The secret, he says, is the trust generated by ShapeConnect’s vetting process.
Personality-based marketing. I’ve seen at least two companies promoting this fresh idea: Infer the personality of your buyers, and adjust your outreach to fit their predicted buying styles. Myers Briggs meets the Buyer Journey, you might say. Scott Gillum’s Carbon Design agency, for one, argues that purchase decisions in buying groups are “driven by individuals’ personal motivations, not titles or roles.” Check out their ebook, The Power of Personality. For another, Leela Gill of xiQ, Inc. claims a 24% improvement in close rates with their personality driven sales and marketing platform. You can register to play around with up to five accounts and contacts (my own personality was labeled Dominant, uh oh). This is interesting stuff, and could be a breakthrough on the order of intent data.
Outbound media beyond email. Buyers, especially those working from home, are suffering from “digital fatigue.” PFL provides a platform that connects to your martech stack to integrate direct mail into your communications mix. Postal mail certainly gets opened at far higher rates than email!
Self-service. New research from the UK agency Considered Content reveals that B2B buying after Covid is longer, slower and more risk averse than ever. But that more than half of B2B buyers would prefer to be able to buy without the involvement of a salesperson at all. At the same time, only 9% of marketers say they are providing online all the information buyers need to make a purchase decision. This suggests marketers must prepare for more comprehensive online buying capabilities. No wonder Bruce Biegel of Winterberry Group predicts that “B2B ecommerce will grow at a 17.9% CAGR and hit $1.9 trillion by 2023—doubling from 2019.”
Targeted broadcast media. With the expansion of connected television (CTV), B2B marketers have an affordable way to get the persuasive power of television advertising in front of business executives in their living rooms at home. Here’s more on why CTV is ripe for experimentation for B2B marketers.
And one dud: AI-based copywriting. AI has plenty to offer B2B marketing, but so far, copy ain’t it. I recently received a sales pitch from Kalendar.ai, which offers auto-generated emails and videos intended to set up sales meetings. Sounds great, right? But to give you a taste of how inauthentic and, frankly, weird the email copy was, let me share are a few choice sentences: “I love that EMarketing Strategy Group focuses on marketing & advertising. I was reading some articles the other day about email marketing tips, one of which was to optimize campaign selection and targeting in order to get more clients fast.” “Btw, have you heard of A Saffron Thread Fresh Indian on Chambers Street in New York? They must be awesome. Have a great rest of your week!” I’ll spare you the truly weird video attachment. No words.
Outsourced LinkedIn prospecting. Are you as bombarded as I am with pitches from companies that want to take over your LinkedIn prospecting? Too many offerings to count. And too much time to evaluate their relative merits. So, I ask you, dear reader: If you’ve tried any of these services, please share your experiences. Hoping to crowdsource the research on this, and report out later.
Ruth P. Stevens consults on customer acquisition and retention, specializing in B2B markets. She advises companies on go-to-market strategy, sales lead generation, customer and prospect data, content marketing and ABM. Crain’s BtoB magazine named Ruth one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing. Ruth is also a frequent contributor to TheCustomer.