It might be correct to tell a basketball player that the best way he or she can score points is to dunk the ball through the hoop.
Correct, that is, if the player is, say, 6’6” or taller.
That advice, however, is not very useful for a player that’s 5’6”.
We marketers are excited by how the Internet has expanded our B2B communications toolkit—websites, pay-per-click and display advertising, email marketing, interactive online questionnaires and surveys. We can reach more customers and prospects through more channels, with better measurability, than ever before.
Yet I often see digital marketing strategies and tactics that are splendid for certain types of businesses applied to other businesses where there’ll be little to no ROI.
Realizing that they need help to grow, companies may go through a series of hires and/or agencies that are well-intentioned, but apply a toolkit that doesn’t fit. They assume general applicability for marcom tools that aren’t really suitable for all businesses. Equipped with very nice hammers, these people and firms tend to see your marketing challenge as one more nail like the ones they’ve pounded successfully for other companies.
For example, search engine optimization (SEO) can be a very good but only if prospective B2B customers:
1. Prospects Search Online for a Provider
Let’s say that you lead a project team in a mid-sized company, and realize that important tasks are dropping through the cracks. You think, “We need project management software” or “We need collaboration software.”
Let’s also assume that neither you nor team members know all the software providers that offer the software. No problem! You can just search on “project management software” and “project collaboration software.” You’ll find plenty of choices and can pick one.
Companies that offer this software will likely find it worthwhile to do search engine optimization so that they come up prominently in search results. They might also advertise on those keywords. This is a great use case for making a company and solutions very findable and visible online.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, let’s say you work for an electric utility that operates a light water nuclear power reactor. You want to explore using an alternative supplier of nuclear fuel rods, which the plant has used for decades. Only four companies (Areva, GNF, TVEL and Westinghouse) supply them. Even if you were new at the company, colleagues could tell you in ten seconds who all the suppliers are. No need to search online.
For that reason, investing in SEO or Google Ads likely wouldn’t yield much of an ROI for the fuel rod suppliers.2. Prospects Know the Appropriate Search Terms
For investing in SEO to make sense, your prospective customers must also be able to enter reasonably effective words/phrases into their browsers.
For problems and product and service solutions that have been around for a while, that requirement is usually easily met.
By contrast, the newer the problem or the solution in the marketplace, the more problematic that requirement becomes.
As I detailed in this 2017 post, a “Bought” product is familiar to buyers. They’ve self-diagnosed what they need and self-prescribe a product solution for that need. Often, they’ve previously purchased a product in the category.
By contrast, a “Sold” product presents an unfamiliar solution—so the prospect can’t self-prescribe, and may not have self-diagnosed. In fact, their needs might be latent and wouldn’t be recognized without prompting.
With a newer customer problem, moreover, there may not even be a consistent description of the problem.
If prospects can’t search it, you’ll need to rely less on being findable online and more on proactive outreach to prospects assuming that the transaction size (or stream of transactions) is large enough to justify investing in outreach.
Marketers can profitably apply the broadest set of digital marketing tools in businesses for which:
If your business has those characteristics, I have colleagues who are world-class at marketing that way. Let me know if you’d like to learn more.
If that’s not you (and many of the companies I work with sell expensive capital equipment, or sell under supply contracts that bring a high stream of revenue), then here are some of the strategies and tactics that Chief Outsiders would likely help you with:
If your business needs to reach customers with messaging that speaks to what they most want to know, let’s schedule a complimentary Strategy Session. Head over here to find a convenient time on my online calendar.