Growing Your B2B Small Business with Robert Poole

Getting Through to B2B Decision Makers Part 1 - Online Methods

September 14, 2021 Robert Poole Season 1 Episode 87
Growing Your B2B Small Business with Robert Poole
Getting Through to B2B Decision Makers Part 1 - Online Methods
Show Notes Transcript

What is the number one problem small business owners and salespeople face when it comes to getting sales and generating revenue?

It’s not how competitive our product or service is, and it’s not our marketing or sales presentations. 

It comes down to the most critical but most difficult part of the marketing and sales process - getting in front of decision makers who have the need, resources to afford our product or service, and the authority to make a decision. Without this, we will be getting nowhere.

Let’s talk about some methods to get in front of your ideal customers and set us up for success.

Hey everyone. It's Robert Poole with the Growing Your B2B Small Business Podcast. Let me ask you a question. What do you think is the single biggest challenge in marketing and sales, particularly in B2B? From my experience it's getting in front of decision makers, regardless of how you do it, either online or off. Let's talk about some ideas on how to improve our success rate.

Do you own a small business that sells to other businesses? If so, you probably know that there are plenty of resources for companies that market to consumers or companies that sell to large and Fortune 500 type companies. I worry about the small businesses in the middle who sell to other companies. Where do we go to get answers? How do we grow our company consistently while still keeping our sanity? That's the question and this podcast is the answer. If you're listening to this podcast, you're part of an elite group of achievers who aren't willing to settle for just a nine to five job. You're one of the heroes in our society and you should be proud of it. Welcome to the tribe and welcome home.

Okay, everyone. I hope you're having an awesome day today. In the last episode we talked about the best degree you can get to be successful as a small business owner. If you haven't listened to that, really check it out. Today I wanted to talk a little bit about a fundamental problem all businesses face and all sales people struggle with. And that problem is, how do we get in front of decision makers, the people who are most likely buyers who have need for our solution and who are able to afford it. In B2B, this is a little tougher because of the decision makers we typically deal with. I mean, if you're in B2C and sell a product to millions of people, it generally comes down to advertising, whereas B2B isn't that simple. I mean, obviously the better job we do at this, the more time we can spend on changing their beliefs, overcoming objections and showing how our solution is going to help them and then asking them to commit.

And if we're spending a ton of time trying to get through to decision makers and very little actual spurring them on to take action, our sales numbers are going to show it. If you listen to this podcast in the past, you know that I look at any issue with a framework of basically first clearly identifying the base problem, why it's a problem and what factors caused that problem, the consequences of not fixing it, because it may not be worth the time to solve and finally come back with solutions to mitigate and overcome those why factors. So let's use that to talk about getting to the decision makers. I think the first thing about this challenge in really two categories. I mean, first you have a mass marketing situation where you have thousands of prospects or even millions and they're generally buying a lower ticket item.

For instance, maybe you sell fire extinguishers to a company that have physical locations. I don't remember what we paid for ours in the office, but I'm guessing it was less than a hundred dollars. And that takes a different type of decision-maker contact because every business needs it. And it's fairly inexpensive and you can't spend a ton of money on each prospect trying to get them to buy. On the other hand, if you're selling a piece of equipment, some expensive software for fifth or a hundred thousand dollars, I mean, you're selling to a much smaller number of businesses who both need and can afford that, maybe in the thousands at best, but definitely not in the millions. So you have to use different techniques to get to a decision maker. So in the mass market scenario, when we want to clearly define a problem, we have to do a really good job of identifying our ideal customer as we're unlikely to be selling one-on-one.

So you also have to identify where your ideal customer congregates. I mean, are they online, offline, where do they seek out solutions? And we also need to identify their attributes, like their demographics, their psycho demographics, and what kind of sales message they need to see. We need to figure out where the problem or challenge is so we can find a solution. For instance, if that we find out that our ideal customer's not a big social media user, we want to identify that problem up front and we'll be getting nowhere trying to advertise on social media. So we need to identify what makes them take action. And if we don't identify that again then we're wasting our time.

In addition to online mass marketing, you also have more traditional marketing like physical mailers. Well, it varies from industry to industry. In general in a B2C type of mailer campaign you're likely to get a good response rate would be one or two percent. And B2B is even harder to get data on, but my guess is that it's even lower. My wife pays attention to the consumer based solicitations we get at home in the mail, but I don't. So, we have to know our starting point based upon our industry and this only comes by testing really. In addition, the larger the company, the smaller odds of mailers making it to the decision-maker, much lower, but again it depends on the industry.

So for the second category, we've got more targeted, high ticket type of marketing and techniques to get to the decision maker. Because those kinds of marketing is for higher ticket than generally much smaller prospect size it has its own challenges. Each of the common methods have their own problems, even if you're attacking only a few hundred decision makers. For instance, email marketing. In general, it's got a very small response rate, like usually under 1%. And so if you only have a hundred potential customers nationwide email marketing is a major struggle just because of the numbers. So you've got problems with other online marketing, like LinkedIn solicitations or Facebook, that type of thing. And it's hard to make yourself and your company stand out from the crowd. One of the other common techniques in B2B is direct contact marketing or cold calling, whatever you want to call it. It got challenges like the ROI. I mean, just like mailers, cold calling has a pretty small response rate, like one to three percent on average.

So if you don't have the margin in your product, this is a major problem and probably a deal killer. You have the main problem of getting through the gatekeeper, which is many sub problems and challenges. And then I'd say that probably the last major strategy is in the networking and referral arena. Again, because we're in B2B, it's much more likely that we're doing one-to-one sales and someone in our organization will actually talk to the prospect before our sale. And on top of that, the sales cycle is much longer. So we need to figure out who do we want to network with? Basically whose sphere of influence are our ideal customers hiding in. Another challenge is that it takes time to cultivate those relationships for networking or referrals, usually in the months and years timeframe before yielding any results.

And so, of course that's a lot of problems, but of course we had to answer the why in this case so we can come up with solutions that mitigate those contributing factors to the problems. A lot of this is obvious, but there are a couple of easy reasons to pick out. When it comes to electronic marketing, whether that's social media, email, SEO, or whatever, the biggest challenge that we need to solve is getting the attention and penetrating through the noise and daily barrage of sales messages our prospects are getting. I looked at my inbox yesterday and I think I received... I counted over 151 email solicitations, and that's not including the regular email that weren't marketing emails or spam. It's just pretty hard to stand out from the crowd in that mess. Because of this, we become numb both as consumers and business people to these strategies.

And it's easy to ignore, delete them. Because of this, we've come numb to these strategies and it's easier to ignore them or delete them. Just like electronic communication, it's also very hard to stand out with something like direct mail. Direct mail was really in decline for years, but it's really had an uptake in the last year because so many people were working from home because of the COVID situation. I mean, statistically, the U.S. Post Service... It's almost 95% of its mail, for consumers that is, is junk mail or solicitations. So again, it's the numb factor. If we have more than one or two employees at our location, it's lucky that someone else besides you receives the mail and they may filter it out. So again, that's one of the reasons mailers struggle.

Lastly, I think it's just like electronic solicitations. People know that something is not really a personalized letter or whatever. And they know it's a mass advertisement and it doesn't work as well as it used to. So that's some of the why. And like I said, a lot of its obvious, but the question now becomes, what are the consequences? Are these problems worth working on coming up with solutions? And sometimes we get in the mode of wanting to solve every single problem. And usually, I mean, most entrepreneurs and business people, a lot of us are control freaks and like perfection, but we have to evaluate every problem and be realistic about what happens if we don't solve the problem. If solving the problem won't necessarily move our company forward right now, it may not be worth solving. So when it comes to reaching out to decision makers, though, I think all of us would agree that in this case, if we can't get in front of our ideal client, that's a business killer.

So we've identified and clarified some of the problems. What are the factors that make them problems and evaluated the consequences of not dealing with? So now we need to work on solutions. I think the first step in coming up with solutions for all these scenarios and problems is to recognize that there's no Holy Grail. You're simply not going to get through to everybody. Even over time with different techniques, and that's okay. Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking, "Well, if I could just find the right avenue to go after that decision-maker I could make it happen. But the reality is, you're just not going to get to everybody, but you also don't want to spend lots of time trying all kinds of techniques focused on a few prospects that may be unreachable through any particular strategy. For instance, if you want to get to me as the owner of my company, good luck.

I mean, my client service and salespeople are all trained to let very few people through and when they do, they obviously asked me beforehand. And I also don't respond well to standard mailers, email solicitations or social media direct messages. But you know what works for me and gets my attention? Somebody sends me a FedEx. We'll talk about that more. But also if someone is able to contact someone I trust like my sales manager or head of client service and the sales rep sells them, then I'm going to pay attention to the sales rep because I respect the judgment of my team. So everyone's different and quite frankly, not only is it unrealistic to try to get everybody, but it doesn't make any sense. I mean, just like me, all of us have different buying strategists and so do our prospects.

I mean, some people need a physical piece of paper or a tangible item. Some people need social proof, online testimonials or whatever. Some people need details via email or brochures or something. And some people need person to person interaction. And everything works sometimes, as my business mentor early in my career used to say, so let yourself off the hook a little bit and be okay with not getting everybody. So that's number one, but let's talk about some specific strategies and tips on how to use them effectively. First, common to all these strategies is defining your ideal customer and where they are. I mean, this is what we talked about in identifying the problem. And these two things are critical before implementing any of these strategies, but let's take a minute and talk about online strategies. You've got social media. Social media is great because of the level of precision targeting you can do.

I mean, I don't know what it currently is, but I remember a couple of years ago that I read an article about Facebook that they had over 300 data points for each user and they could pretty much predict their interest and behavior. I mean, it's a little scary, but it's also fascinating. So we can use that database to be extremely specific about who we're targeting. If we defined our ideal client, well, I mean, this is a no-brainer. So even though social media is very good at letting us target real specific demographics or whatever, with each of these strategies we have to, again, keep in mind where our clients are and how they get sold. For instance, social media is not one of the top strategies for my business.

Our company sales doubles a B2B marketing company, and we focus on direct contact marketing with cold calling, follow-up and backing that up with email campaigns. But the demographic of our average client is well over 40 and well-educated and extremely busy. We've done surveys and they don't really spend a lot of time on social media for recreational and even business purposes. So however, social media can be very effective for the right audience if it's targeted properly. But so how do we do it? We have to of course, know where they are, what groups they are part of and what interests are they interested in, et cetera. But then we have to have outstanding hooks to get people's attention and keep it because social media, like everything else is just crammed with messages and overload.

So we have to get something that'll make them stop and say, "What?" We also have to have a very compelling call to action or CTA that gives people an incentive to take action. So, now in full disclosure, I've never bought something based on a Facebook or LinkedIn ad, but my wife on the other hand buys stuff all the time. The problem I see most of the time on these and other platforms is their ads and content are very generic and quote, more of a branding if you will. They generally don't have any good reason to even stop and look at them and definitely don't have any call to action and encourage somebody to do something. Branding is fine for public companies that have the money to burn, but press small businesses. We've got limited resources and we don't have years and gazillions of dollars to spend on this.

So if we're going to advertise and try to get to decision makers in this way, we have to have really good hooks and really good CPAs. So, what if you find out your ideal customer hangs out and spends time on things like podcasts or YouTube or blogs or articles and that type of thing. Statistically, small business owners spend most of their time online searching for consuming things that'll grow their business. It's like everyone will use the web for everything, but compared to the public, they're most apt to use more educational resources than social media just for entertainment, for instance. So it's a good strategy that helps us get in front of the decision maker is to build up your company's and your value add through content education, things like this podcast, for instance. This tends to make those otherwise unreachable prospects contact.

I know I've bought a lot of stuff from people that I was first exposed to via some educational content resources, like a podcast, or a blog post or something like that. Okay. So next let's look at email. That may be the best way to target your ideal clients. Hey, you have to look at it, but as you probably know, it can be difficult to get a good response and that's largely due to the quality of your list. In consumer land, I think a good response rate is .5% or something, and more often, much lower. So somehow you have to break through that noise of people's getting hundreds of emails per day. One way I've found to do this is with unique or funny or strange subject lines. The more personal they sound, the better.

If your subject line in the top part of your email stands out from the normal barrage, then we're likely to get the recipient's attention. But the biggest problem beyond opening though, is getting the email to the decision makers. There are some things you can do to get higher quality lists, which will improve your chances of getting through. However, first purchasing a quote opt-in list, that's definitely not one of them irregardless of what the person's trying to sell you. I mean, don't do this because it won't work and it's only going to damage the reputation of your company and the domain that you're sending from. Good sources of decision-maker email lists or like prior customers, emails that come from some lead magnet, like an ebook or some downloaded report or something that you've got. Some kind of content that you gave away that piqued somebody's interest enough to give out their info.

You can also purchase lists but from other noncompeting businesses who serve the same ideal clients. I mean, this needs to be done in a partnership way that allows you to pull your resources and really it works best if you can get a positive intro from the company that you get the list from. I mean, even if they don't overtly recommend, you can still be effective because the list consists of your target customers. It's not just random stuff. So, for instance, politicians regularly rent lists to each other, and that's why if you've ever donated to one politician, all of a sudden you're likely to start getting emails from another noncompeting politician because they rented your name as part of a list. So your source of lists, your subject line in the top of your email copy is critical.

The last thing is important as well and that's a clear and compelling reason to respond to clicking or whatever. It's amazing how many marketing emails I get from companies, tell me how great they are, how long they've been in business, blah, blah, blah. And there's no call to action just to, "Hey, congratulations. We won some award for customer service." I mean, geez, what a waste. So those are some of the major online things I've seen in how to use those more effectively get through to decision makers. I mean, there're things like pay-per-click search advertising, SEO and a few others, but those are some of the big ones and it really depends on your particular industry and business. I'm going to stop here as I mentioned. I don't want this episode to run too long.

I try to keep them under 20 minutes. And the next episode on this subject we're going to continue to talk about this, but let's start talking about how to use the more traditional offline methods and why they still work in B2B and how to use them effectively. I'll talk to you then.

Thanks for listening today. I know your time's valuable and it's really an honor to serve you. And if you found this content useful, I'd really appreciate it if you could rate the podcast on iTunes and leave a review with your honest feedback, whether it's good or bad. Also, if you're interested in growing your B2B business through direct contact marketing, like we do, [inaudible 00:17:33] please call my office or sales [inaudible 00:17:35] and speak to one of our sales representatives. We can chat for a few minutes about your business and what you need most to grow your business, even if it's not our services.

And as a side note, if you listen to this podcast regularly, you probably know that I have a little pet peeve about using fancy words to talk in code, so to speak. So we're not going to do a quote discovery call or a quote strategy call. Just a quick question and answer call. And yes, if we think you're a candidate for our service, we'll try to sell you, but we're not going to hide behind fancy corporate [inaudible 00:18:03]. We know you're smart enough to see through that. We believe in telling the truth and even if it's not what people want to hear. That said, give us a call at (480) 401-1926 if you're interested in talking about how to grow your business and have your best year ever.