My posts here over the past several weeks have focused on providing information and discussing concepts that can help marketing leaders develop more effective marketing plans for 2022. Currently, many marketing leaders will be in the final stages of their planning for the year ahead, but there is another important point It must be clarified.
It is undeniable that the B2B marketing landscape is constantly changing, and successful marketers must be willing to adapt their strategies and tactics to suit these changes. But it is equally important for marketers to be aware of what has not changed and to be prepared to take advantage of it. Here is a personal anecdote to illustrate the point.
wisdom from the past
Early in my career, I was fortunate to meet and get to know a great B2B salesperson. I met William in 1988 and talked to him a lot until his retirement in 1995.
William sold presses and other production equipment to commercial printing companies and companies that had an in-house printing division. The company that William worked for was (and still is) highly respected in the printing industry, and William was a very successful salesperson.
William told me that an important key to his success was identifying companies in his area that were willing to engage in a serious appraisal process that might lead to a buying decision. William also told me that at any given time, only about 10% of the odds in his area fit that description.
William realized that he could use his time more effectively and conclude more deals if he could constantly identify prospects who were ready to start an active buying process. So he spent a fair amount of his time “taking the pulse” of his horizons.
How did he do this? Well, he devotes two or three days out of almost every week to visiting potential clients. In most cases, a business owner or another senior manager is willing to spend thirty minutes or an hour with William even when he shows up unexpectedly.
During these visits, William and his prospects will talk about what has been happening in the prospect’s business and in the printing industry in general. William’s company regularly sponsored research relating to important print industry trends, and he shared research reports with his prospects. Most importantly, they will discuss any issues or problems the potential customer is having with their devices.
Through these visits, William was able to get a good idea of which potential customers were willing to have a meaningful conversation about buying new equipment. When he outlines the “ready to sell” prospects, William turns to a more focused selling.
Find out what has changed and what has not
I write a lot in this blog about the many ways B2B marketing has changed and why these changes require new B2B marketing techniques. So it would be easy for me to dedicate this post to discussing why William’s approach doesn’t work in today’s environment. But when I think about what William taught me, I am struck by how many things haven’t really changed much.
In 2022, as in William’s days, B2B companies will need a way to identify prospects willing to initiate an intentional buying process. . . And which one is not.
In 2022, as in William’s days, B2B companies will need to deal with potential customers who aren’t ready to start the buying process. . . Because many of these potential customers will be ready someday. (Note: For more information on this point, see my last post explaining why savvy B2B marketers don’t ignore “out-of-market” prospects.)
In 2022, successful B2B marketing will be more important Communicate with potential buyers empathetically, emotionally and rationally, to show value and boost buyer confidence, and to a lesser extent about “persuasive” potential customers who are not ready to buy. This was also largely true in William’s days.
The pace of change in some Aspects of B2B marketing over the past two decades have been amazing, and these changes have been discussed ad nauseam In the B2B marketing literature and in hundreds of webinars and conference presentations.
But marketing leaders should not lose sight of the fact that many of the basic principles of marketing and buyer psychology have changed very little. The tools and techniques that successful marketers will use in the coming year will necessarily be different from those used in the past, but the ideas and emotions that marketers need to evoke in potential customers and buyers haven’t changed much in decades.
So, as marketing leaders finalize their plans for 2022, it’s critical to consider what has changed and what hasn’t.
Image courtesy of R. Miller via Flickr (CC).