Networking

What was the biggest b-2-b marketing success in 2011?

The other day we were asked by an editor at the American Marketing Association for an answer to the question “What was the biggest b-2-b marketing success in 2011?” Because she was on deadline, she wanted a response via email. My first thought was that it was not an easy question to answer, and I told her that.Then I went on to say:

With regard to your request, as I said in the voice message I left for you a short while ago, I don't think it's easy to transmit via email the complexity of a response to your question about the biggest B2B marketing success in 2011.

Certainly the widespread (and growing) use of marketing automation tools has had an impact on the environment. But, this technology is only a tool that has been added to the arsenal of those who are actively marketing in the B2B space. It is far from a panacea.

Like all tools that seem to be game changers, a cult begins to arise around them. These tools and techniques are being promoted as the key to sales success. Not too far behind are those who profess that social media (from Facebook and Twitter to LinkedIn) are competitors for the mantle of greatest thing since sliced bread.

But the truth is that the principles of selling remain unchanged, most especially in the arena of complex, non-commoditized products and services. The key to success in that arena is the ability to build trust relationships, and all of the technology in the world is inferior to personal connection when building trust. There are no technological shortcuts available.

Social media and technology can assist in the process by streamlining and enabling but, in the final analysis, a sale is consummated only after a good listener can engage the key stakeholders in an organization in a consultative dialogue about what keeps them up at night and how to best find a solution that will help them rest more easily.

Then, this morning, I received an email from Ari Galper entitled “Predictions and the New Currency of Business for 2012” and, lo and behold, he said pretty much the same thing. It’s a worthwhile read. He even posits that direct mail will make a comeback. I’m not sure that I quite agree with that one, buy maybe….

In any case, sales people and marketers are no different from anyone else in the sense that we are always seeking the Holy Grail — the magic bullet. Whether we’re thinking about weight loss, making money, making friends or any other human endeavor, there really are no shortcuts. The universal truth is that all of this requires hard work and concentrated effort to reach a level of success. And in the world of sales, nothing beats developing and cultivating a trusting relationship. Nothing.

Are you losing business because of your choice of words?

Today’s Guest Blogger is Joseph Olewitz .  In addition to being Founder and Principal Consultant at 22nd Story Strategies, Inc., Joseph currently shares experiences derived from years of pitching large professional services deals to major corporate brands on his blog: Intentional Growth. How precise is your business language? When Shelly Sachs of ETI Sales Support asked me to write a guest post, I immediately thought of the lesson I learned from him earlier this year. Even though I always operate as though word choice is critical, in a joint presentation we were making to a client of mine, Shelly pointed out that I had represented a core part of my recommended strategy as promoting the “USP” (Unique Selling Proposition) when it seemed that using “UVP” (Unique Value Proposition) as a title for the same presentation would be more customer-centric and a much better focus on benefits. I have not only used this term with other clients until now, but I also had recently written a blog about using USP to increase revenue.

Mea Culpa: Shelly was right of course and that caused me not only to immediately correct USP to UVP but to realize that I had been using a lot of terms in my vocabulary for a long time and that regular re-examination and consideration of language is imperative. “Sales” in my universe is a powerful and useful term – but not always! In services sales, when talking about the relationship between my offering and my client’s they want to know how I will help them increase sales or revenues. However, their customer wants to know about the “Value” that’s being brought to market and that’s the term that should be used when describing your unique positioning.

I am now regularly reviewing words chosen for business communications with an additional POV perch – that of asking the question: “How powerful and how appropriate is that term in this specific context?” And I think we all need to do that much more often.

Some thoughts:

  • Ask some of your clients to read and comment on existing promotional material – with no sacred cows (include website, one-sheets, signage and more).
  • Have someone who was not involved in the writing review the proposal before it’s sent out.
  • Carefully look at how the client will respond to the pitch language (is it culturally appropriate?)
  • Remember to keep revising as time goes on, things change – and you do, too.

I’m now more attuned to the downfalls of complacency – how about you?

How ETI is embracing the new Social Networking tools and technologies to improve Lead Generation and Lead Qualification results

Having viewed the development of social networking in the past year from the sidelines I think it’s time I had my say. The main question needing an answer is, does Social Networking as a lead generation medium, work? 

Networking has always been an obvious way to develop business and business opportunities.  What’s more it’s very effective. However, the fact is that this activity is rapidly moving from the club or the golf course, or the local business network to the WEB.  This provides you with the opportunity to expand your contacts substantially, unhampered by geography or company size.

Networking for lead generation reminds me of the insurance sales rep who’s just out of training.  He’s all gung ho and motivated to make it happen.  Yet where does he first turn? To no one’s surprise he turns to his natural environment - his personal network.  First to the family, then to friends and acquaintances. Then to the prospects they recommend.

However, there’s no doubt that as he ventures farther afield to include strangers, his network will yield fewer genuine opportunities. Though he swims manfully against the stream, absent good luck the new recruit may not survive. His only hope for the future is to engage in an effective lead generation effort before his money runs out. Or to hope the company he works for will slip him a few sales ready leads to help him stay afloat.

LinkedIn

I’ve subscribed to a number of groups on LinkedIn these past few years. Frankly it’s been a big disappointment.  There are large numbers of participants out there trying to sell whatever it is they sell. They contribute nothing or very little to the dialogue.  Others are there to recruit.  These groups do seem to constitute fertile ground to find staff - much as happens in regular social networks.� From time to time I also notice people posting topics for discussion that are on point. But for the most part it’s fairly obvious that the questions posed are self serving - designed more than anything else to promote the reputation of the poster.

Twitter

Twitter is another phenomenon I have struggled with.  I suppose if you admire and respect someone and want to know what he/she is thinking or doing every day, then being a follower is useful.  On the other hand if you’re a thought leader on a particular subject – with many followers – it’s also likely that being a twitterer could be useful. 

I tend to think of myself as a thought leader.  I write, I hold a goodly variety of opinions and I’m capable of communicating thoughts to my clients and prospects via a variety of channels.  So I ask myself – do I want to sit and post tweets day in and day out for my followers?  Fact is I don’t and being a follower or being followed 24x7 is really not my thing.

There could however, be some potential in Twitter in terms of Lead Generation. But this depends how numerous your “follower” network is and how motivated they are to become buyers or recommenders.

How is ETI embracing the new networks to improve lead generation results for its clients?

eti’s primary business is focused on B2B (complex) lead generation.  Our ultimate goal is to to maximize client’s sales force productivity. Here then are some of the things we’re doing to exploit the new resources.

Firstly it needs to be appreciated that these networks are often fantastic information resources. That, technically, is the business we’re in.  Because we engage with prospects in consultative dialogues for the purpose of identifying information and characteristics which indicates the prospect’s ability and need to purchase our clients’ solutions.  To achieve that purpose our Business Developers actively participate in the networks to better understand the market places our clients do business in. 

Secondly, we link directly to these resources from i*collaborator - eti’s CRM/PRM framework. This enables us to search dynamically within LinkedIn, Plaxo and Facebook, to extract third party information that could be leveraged to reveal big fish prospects. Nor are we shy to hook smaller fish which have good growth potential.

Thirdly, we make these facilities directly available to our clients via their Opportunity Dashboards so that their sales persons are motivated to leverage the new opportunities without their having to do the research themselves. 

What else might we do?  Well we’re always open to new ideas and would welcome and appreciate your thoughts.

Conclusion

As a lead generation tool for the most part the networks mentioned remain on the periphery.  In their current incarnations they will probably not become mainstream lead generation tools.

However they do have enormous potential as tools to build influence and credibility. And that’s the best use of a network.  Because with that credibility will come the desired recommendations and referrals that will help you maximize your lead generation efforts.

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