I failed last week.
A prospective client with whom I'd been speaking for several months said they weren't confident that I'd create adequate value to justify our engagement. That happens sometimes. It's the old sales rejection, "shake it off" sort of thing.
But this one stung, because it seemed so intuitive.
This prospect, an industrial manufacturer, had:
- approached me because their traditional approach to revenue growth wasn't working
- recognized that buyers now control the process - start with the internet, research on their own, rely less on resellers to help them understand their challenges and possible solutions
- seen effectively no results from their recent "marketing" efforts
- a reseller network that carries competitive products and defaults to cheaper ones as deals close
- very little direct end user interaction - they couldn't answer questions about how buyers evaluate and select products like theirs, and weren't sure they'd be able to provide enough contacts to even support appropriate persona and journey research
- because of lack of buyer insight they had no financial model and couldn't articulate the business case for why prospects should buy their solution
- considered the importance of growing enterprise value to keep options open
- spent hours speaking with other clients who confirmed the value that we would create
It seemed like a perfect use case for industrial B2B marketing and a good fit. We agreed to a pilot and spoke extensively about implementation.
And then they changed their mind. The reason they gave was that too much of our work was focused on interviewing buyers and creating robust personas and 3D buying journey. They contended that there was nothing we'd learn from that which they didn't already know. (Based on the list above they knew so little....anyway, you can see why I classify this as a failure!)
Since I was unwilling to proceed without that foundational insight we reached an impasse.
Of course there are many explanations. Maybe that wasn't their real reason. Maybe I failed to articulate the value (although they recognized the gaps in their information through our conversations.)
But maybe they simply assumed, as many industrial manufacturers do, that everything they know about technical features is the practical extent of what's important to them and to buyers.
That's a naive and expensive assumption - typically resulting from cognitive bias. As Dirty Harry said "A man's got to know his limitations." Too often cognitive bias prevents companies from taking critical steps to learn what they don't know they don't know.
"We don't care if you like the messaging or not"
I love this quote from Mike Lieberman's (@Mike2Marketing) recent blog Your Inbound Marketing Content is For Them, NOT For You. Of course it's delivered with a bit of a Philly edge, and is provocatively hyperbolic. The point, though, is critically important.
Companies that plan, develop and revise B2B marketing content for internal consumption will fail. Unlike The Fed that has a captive customer for it's products, companies have to actually sell - and that means help buyers understand the problems that they help solve with products and services, and what value is created.
Doing that requires qualitatively researching how prospects research, evaluate and buy products/services like yours. It means understanding:
- what triggers their search
- how and where they search
- what information they value
- what impediments they avoid
- why they hesitate
- who else is involved
- what outcomes drive their decisions
- and more
Nowhere on that list is the inventor's pet feature, the technical specs or the seller's assumptions of why they're competitively superior.
And experience tells me that what seems like a minor shift in mindset is often an enormous impediment to B2B marketing success for industrial manufacturers.
Producing content is irrelevant if it doesn't attract, convert and close prospects. And the tragedy of inbound marketing is that while the methodology has created incredible opportunity for companies to compete regardless of budget, it's also created a false sense that the act of creating content is the gateway factor. The opportunity cost of DiY and uninformed B2B marketing is astounding.
Can you shift your view?
That's why I love this video from Emirates.
What a radical challenge to the traditional way of looking at things! If I wanted to make a cool video with a powered wing, I would never think of flying formation with an A380!
Can you bring the "JetMan's" audacity to the marketing and sales of your traditional industrial products/services? Can you overcome your cognitive bias?
I hope the answer is yes, or that when we talk I'll be more successful in helping you understand why it's critical than I was speaking with another company last week.
In the meantime, if you've started to experiment with inbound marketing for top line growth but are looking for more, check out this eBook on how to leverage the tools to actually empower sales.
So many lament the divide between the two - let's stop wasting time complaining and just fix it!