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?
In my experience (selling millions of $ in B2B), it's all about solving the pain.
"Pain" can be thought of in various ways:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Hope that helps a bit.
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 toFind 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".
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.