B2B marketing techniques


6

There is tons of information on how to market products to people, but I have found little information on how to market to businesses. I have yet to see anyone translate the web 2.0 hype to B2B marketing.

While general B2B marketing advice would be welcomed, any specific ideas for the business I am currently working for would be greatly appreciated. The start-up I am currently at is producing a virtual doorman that can recognize tenants using biometrics, thus has all the advantages of security and comfort of a human doorman, but for a fraction of the operating cost. Since the product is to be sold to real estate developers, entrepreneurs, investors and management companies, rather then the tenants themselves (since its for high-rise buildings), then getting hype in twitter seems pointless. As a start-up, we have limited resources for marketing, so sending agents across the country is not an option.

Does anyone have any suggestions?

Marketing B2B

asked Oct 11 '09 at 15:45
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Ron Ga
2,181 points
Top digital marketing agency for SEO, content marketing, and PR: Demand Roll

6 Answers


6

In my experience (selling millions of $ in B2B), it's all about solving the pain.

"Pain" can be thought of in various ways:

  1. What keeps this person up at night?
  2. How could this person lose their job, and can you prevent that?
  3. What obviously (that's key) takes a ton of time that you can eliminate?
  4. What jobs completely suck for someone?

In B2B the sale is more often pain than pleasure. In B2C it can be either, but often you're selling coolness, fun, or leisure, which isn't pain.

Notice this is all about people. Never think you're "selling to a company." No such thing, there's only people. People who work at a company, people who spent the company's money, but it's still people!

On a related note, there's good ways to not sell because you've put up a business barrier. Here's an article about how to avoid that.

answered Oct 11 '09 at 15:52
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Jason
16,231 points
  • How do I reach the people working in those companies? How do I get their initial attention? What you are saying about pain makes sense when marketing to management companies in my case (since they have the pain of costs I can reduce). Most of the value I am providing is that of the tenants themselves, though they are not the ones buying the system. – Ron Ga 10 years ago
  • It's tricky if the person with the checkbook isn't the person with the pain. If the question is just generally "how to I reach anyone," that's a bit open-ended, right? – Jason 10 years ago
  • True, it is an open ended question :) I can rephrase it as "how do I reach major real estate investors (companies that own over 30K apartments)? and convince them that your product will increase their property's value?" – Ron Ga 10 years ago

4

Start a blog. Start creating content that is useful to your target market. Don't be overtly commercial in your efforts. Truly try to educate the market.

Start thinking a little bit about Search Engine Optimization. What words might your customers search on if they were looking for you? Who is ranking for these terms? What kind of search volume do those words get?

Start finding influencers in your target market. In any conceivable niche there are at least a handful of bloggers that right about the topic. Find these people. Read their content.

The key to effective inbound marketing (pulling people in, instead of pushing your message out) is to say/write something useful. Produce content will draw your target customer-base in. This works very well in a B2B context.

answered Oct 12 '09 at 00:07
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Dharmesh Shah
2,860 points
  • Thank you Right now, our company website has a blog section that says "no items available." But this will change soon. I wonder if the blog should talk about our development efforts (like a startup) or about interesting facts about high-rise building security (probably the latter). How do I promote the blog once it goes online? How do I get the right people to follow it? – Ron Ga 10 years ago

3

A very good friend works closely with the type of people you'll want to connect to (he does reserve fund studies for condominiums) ... from what I've heard most of these folks are definitely not a web savvy group. They network off-line and tend to attend conferences / industry meetings. Think old school.

The good news? There are a number of associations for the market segment you've mentioned and they will likely be a member of niche associatons.

One example would be condominium associations. It's usually pretty inexpensive for you to join these associations and one benefit of membership, besides the networking opportunities, is the member directory (the property managers, etc. that you want to reach). Yes, there are other ways to get lists of names, but since you're dealing with a niche market you may get a warmer reception this way rather than by buying a list and using cold selling techniques. (There may even be a property managers association - there is an association for just about everything.)

As you start to sell into this market you will begin to understand the buying patterns for your customers. For example, in owner-owned properties (ie. condos), decisions are likely made once a year their budgets are approved. Your job is to source a champion, provide the necessary literature and get in front of the right people (likely the membership and/or board) before they make a final decision in allocating their budget. All the usual selling tactics (benefits, framing, decoys, incentives, etc.) apply.

Two more things: 1) RFPs may be issued that you could respond to so watch for those and 2) consider partnering with a segment of your potential customers (e.g. property managers) who may be able to provide added-value to their customers by including your technology as one component of their proposal.

answered Oct 11 '09 at 17:18
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Julie King
871 points
  • Thank you Julie, Great advice! We are members of the "National Multi Housing Council" and are presenting out product this week at Multifamily Executive Conference this week in Las Vegas. How would you go about attracting major real estate investors (companies that own over 30K apartments) and convince them that your product will increase their property's value? Since we are at the beta stage, we don't have any hard data for the value we provide... As for the RFP's, that's a great idea, I will start looking into that right away. – Ron Ga 10 years ago
  • That's a big question. :) Your research will tell you how much money they will save replacing a person with technology. In this situation I like to talk to prospective buyers and listen very carefully. What objections do they have and how can you overcome those? For example, a real estate developer may be less concerned with the cost of the live person if that is going to be assumed by the owners of units in a condo situation, but doesn't affect the sale price of a unit, whereas money spent on technology could increase the sale cost of the unit. Knowing the objections lets you counter them. – Julie King 10 years ago
  • Also there are some good books out that explore why people buy and make decisions: 1) Predicatably Irrational, 2) Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive and 3) Buy-ology (didn't like the writing style in this one but some of the information was interesting). Framing (loss vs gain) will probably be important for you. It is interesting; in some situations stressing the potential loss works best, while in others the gain is better. One study in medicine found the 1st best for negative health (e.g. patient already had cancer) while the 2nd worked best for preventative medicine. – Julie King 10 years ago
  • Even more great advice! You hit it right on the money regarding the fact that the tenants pay for the doorman, and the trick is to show that savings in the doorman expenses can be translated into higher rent. As for the books, I know those are very relevant for B2C, but are they as important in B2B? won't the investor go back to the spreadsheets and check if the IRR makes sense or not? I know that people don't make the rational decision when they shop, but investors still know how to calculate IRR, do they not make the choice rationally? – Ron Ga 10 years ago
  • Btw, I saw that you specialize in Canadian business, do you think that our product has a market there? We focused mainly on the east coast until now, since doorman are ridiculously expensive in NYC (there is a union that keeps it that way). But if the Canadian market is sufficient, then it might be something worth considering at this point (rather then in a few years when we are big enough to go truly global). What do you think? – Ron Ga 10 years ago
  • People are still people, so some of the basic principles apply to both b2b & b2c. I remember a business center (75+ people) selected one web vendor that offered a special “free” report. The resulting website was so bad that they wrote off the money & had it redone by another company. It turned out that the “free” report: a web stats report prettied up. I was told that the report was the reason the 1st vendor was hired. The drivers for a b2b buyer will be different (e.g. path to promotion, increase efficiency,etc.) but emotions still influence the decision-making process. – Julie King 10 years ago
  • I asked my friend in the industry about market opportunities here. Keeping in mind that he doesn't know much about your products, here was his input (I'll split it in 2 sections to fit in a comment): Group 4 Securicor (aka G4S Security Services) seems to be the most active concierge provider. They boast over 200 properties in the GTA but don't say how many are condos. My empirical experience suggests that, where condos can afford it, they prefer a real live human who gets to know their faces, friends, and needs. It would be a very small and difficult to change market I think. – Julie King 10 years ago
  • Coninued: "Now, those who can't afford it, or have simply opted out due to bad experiences, may be interested. They would be primarily high rise buildings (mostly GTA and Ottawa) or some gated townhouses. They probably total about 30% of the roughly 9,000 condos - say 2,500 for conservative estimates. If they could sell to 10% that would be 250 properties. I do not know if that is a "market" for them, but it is roughly what G4S boasts about." – Julie King 10 years ago

2

  1. Try to find where your potential customers group together... Real Estates Developers Accociation??? Events??? Get / sponsor the organizers to send out a e-mailer or out a small article about your product in their regular newsletter. This will not be free but at least beats the cost of sending your agent on field without any confirmed leads.
  2. Get involved in online forums / groups on sites like LinkedIn & start commenting on existing topics. I highly advice NOT to direct market your product by sending out a post to 1000s of people why they should buy your product. Build trust over time by getting yourself recognized & helping your potential customers.

I'm assuming you meant online B2B marketing, my feedback is limited to that. We have been doing this & it has worked quite well for us.

answered Oct 11 '09 at 18:32
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Hadi
31 points
  • Thank you. While I do not limit my marketing to online marketing alone, it is mainly what I was asking about. It seems like web 2.0 marketing is irrelevant to our business (correct me if I am wrong) other then posting responses in blogs as you said. – Ron Ga 10 years ago
  • Actually this IS web 2.0 marketing - (social, indirect, etc) The hard part is finding your niche amongst those millions of people out there on the internet using twitter/ linkedin/ facebook. Isn't that what our B2B is about anyways? – Hadi 10 years ago
  • You have a point there. When I think web2.0 I think twitter and wordpress, but linkedin might work just as well. – Ron Ga 10 years ago

1

If feasible how about proposing the installation of your system for free or at a very low rate for a developer who is either constructing a new building or is renovating one. This will help you deploy a system and test it out in the real world and get your target segment to experience it first hand. This has several benefits:

  1. It shows your customer where you are adding value. (The decreased cost of not having a doorman, not having to deal with attrition, higher level of security, something the developer can showcase as a novelty when pitching it to potential buyers).
  2. Word of mouth. I have worked with a few developers and I know they are always looking into what the competition is doing and offering. If your system adds a substantial amount of value and helps create some buzz this will result in referrals.
  3. Actual experience with a live deployment. No matter how much we test and think our product/service to be perfect the customer always will see it from a different angle. This broadens your scope and highlights area where you can improve on your product.
  4. Case studies material. As for all business owners maximization of profits is an essential metric and nothing convinces them more than actual figures of what they actually are. Your pilot implementations can help you in this regard. This can be then further used as marketing collateral as well.

Hope that helps a bit.

answered Oct 11 '09 at 19:57
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Usman Sheikh
1,728 points
  • This is very helpful. Currently we have a beta in LA and are going to install another one in Florida, so we are getting real world experience out of it. Once we get the case studies, how do we get our potential customers to see them? How do we reach them, beyond the word of mouth you talked about? – Ron Ga 10 years ago
  • If I wanted to reach real estate developers and people in the industry I would start going to launches of new buildings, marketing companies that promote new buildings, management companies who handle the maintenance contracts for buildings etc. This way I would get a broad overview of all the players and what their needs are. Also it would help build my network to reach the main developers and show them the findings and make a much more convincing pitch. – Usman Sheikh 10 years ago
  • Sound advice, at this point, the company cannot afford to do that. We are based in Israel, and our market is mainly in the USA. Our marketing department consists of a VP marketing that travels to the US every once in a while, and a head of marketing who resides in the US. We don't have the manpower to send people to launches of new buildings unless we have a specific meeting that is likely to close a contract. We do travel to conferences, and we are presenting our product in a major conference in Las Vegas tomorrow, but the number of conferences we can attend is limited by our budget. – Ron Ga 10 years ago
  • Best of luck at the conference tomorrow. You could look into strategic marketing alliances with firms in the US who are contractors to large developers. This way they become your feet on the ground and the head of marketing can coordinate efforts and be present for bigger meeting and pitches. – Usman Sheikh 10 years ago
  • Thank you Great idea, how would you go about reaching these firms? Cold calls, or do you have something else in mind? – Ron Ga 10 years ago

1

Dharmesh has some great tips, but he is too humble to promote his company HubSpot. The information he touched on about inbound marketing can be found in more detail at blog.hubspot.com. It is the definitive resource for online B2B marketing.

Also, buy Dharmesh's new book "Inbound Marketing" co-written with HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan. It's due out soon, but I am almost finished reading an early copy of it. It's a great book that really spells out the inbound marketing plan you should implement for your company.

Sorry to make this post so promotional, but I really believe in inbound marketing and HubSpot's methodologies. They have worked for my clients and for HubSpot's 1600+ customers.

Just remember this - companies are made of people. People that read blogs and participate in social media work at companies. Once you find your target audience and produce great content for them, you're on to a great start.

Now I'll speak directly to your needs:

Since the product is to be sold to
real estate developers, entrepreneurs,
investors and management companies,
rather then the tenants themselves
(since its for high-rise buildings),
then getting hype in twitter seems
pointless. As a start-up, we have
limited resources for marketing, so
sending agents across the country is
not an option.

Find blogs, news sites, and forums that these type of people might frequent. Make yourself known on there, provide advice, ask questions, and try to understand your target audience. Join relevant groups on LinkedIn. You might actually learn some things about your niche that will help you market better to them. Once you have a good feel for your audience, you can start writing good content on your blog and promote it on all the sites where you are a member and people know/trust you. This takes time and effort, but it works. Another book I would recommend about this is Chris Brogan's "Trust Agents".
answered Oct 12 '09 at 04:43
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Dlynton
1,057 points
  • Thank you for your input. If Dharmesh is too humble to promote his business, its a good thing you are doing it for him, or I would miss out on it. Most blogs I have found relating to real estate were by agents, but I will look for the ones more relevant to my business. I created a linkedin profile for the company, and also one in crunchbase. As for the company blog, I am not sure what to write there... The CEO of the company is a leading security expert (a former Maj. General in the IDF) but I am not sure I can convince him to start writing a blog or that it will attract the right audience. – Ron Ga 10 years ago

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