COVID has changed everything – especially the way B2B sales happen.
For small and mid-sized technology companies, it has become harder to become visible to a highly specific target audience.
Face-to-face meetings with the exact stakeholders are not possible
It is difficult to establish the utility, relevance, and importance of your product/ service
It is also tough to demonstrate to decision-makers the true value of the solutions offered.
You know there is business out there, but you are missing those opportunities.
What’s the solution?
Leverage the power of content and social media marketing.
Create regular content that demonstrates your expertise in the niche area. It will help you approach people who are looking for similar services. Content about tech trends and industry news with your unique viewpoints can amplify your experience and knowledge in the field. Create highly focused landing pages for specific industry verticals or functional areas will help channel your content towards the correct clientele. Create case studies and testimonials to demonstrate your expertise and impact
Use social media channels like LinkedIn and Twitter to be seen as a trusted source of information in your niche. Share useful news and the latest industry updates.
Personal Brand of your CXO:
Leverage your CXOs’ social channels to amplify the messaging of the company through authoritative, strong opinions or even contrarian stands.
The likely impact of your content and social media marketing efforts –
You can expect several benefits through these efforts, such as –
Increased visibility in the niche can help you occupy the high ground
Your target audience will become more aware of potential use cases and your ability to address those.
You will be able to create greater confidence in the minds of your prospects about your expertise which could lead to quicker conversions and establish a good reputation.
Most large events were canceled in 2020. Conferences like Knowledge of ServiceNow, Oracle OpenWorld, Atlassian Summit, and others moved to the virtual mode.
If you are a partner of ServiceNow, Oracle, Microsoft, Atlassian, IBM, SAP, or Google, this has posed a big threat.
Your single largest source of new prospects has become highly ineffective.
The association of you, as a partner, with the Principal companies is not as visible.
Your buyers don’t have any obvious means to know about the latest solutions by you or your offerings.
That said, Principal companies are also actively searching for co-marketing opportunities with partners in the form of speakers for webinars, providing funds for marketing, promoting partner content, etc.
Your aim is now to make yourself visible through such activities and establish a clear connection to the Principal company.
It’s time to up your marketing game –
We recommend that you take a 3-pronged approach to your online marketing-
Demonstrate your expertise through high-quality, thought leadership content like whitepapers or eBooks. These will help you inform potential clients about your services and packages in a concise manner, while also helping amplify your brand.
Creating content that strongly associates you with the Principal like blogs on prominent industry use cases, views of latest product updates, etc. will help you stay in the eye of your target audience.
Use social media to build brand awareness, generate new leads, and build customer relationships. Connect yourself with the Principal to generate credibility in the market and establish you as a service provider. Regular threads from product Principal content in your social media updates will also help you stay relevant and in the spotlight.
Personal Brand of your CXO:
The network and visibility of your CXOs can also be leveraged to offer strategic support to the direction taken by the product Principal.
The likely impact of your marketing efforts –
You can expect several benefits through these efforts.
Benefit from the strength and the visibility of Principal’s brand while establishing a close association with it.
The leads that the product Principal will send your way will in turn highlight your expertise and showcase you as a viable option in your industry.
As CXOs build and cement their relationship with the Principal, demonstrating their expertise and thought leadership, invites for speaking engagements will come their way. These opportunities are a good chance to reach the Principal’s existing client base and spread awareness about your own services.
2020 may have been a rough year for all of us, but technology companies did a great job at continuing the business even through the peak of the pandemic.
2020 was the year when technology companies looked beyond networking at events or getting recommendations from someone and embraced B2B marketing willingly. According to a LinkedIn report, 76% of marketers were compelled to change their key objectives to align with the current situation.
As an agency that has supported B2B-focused mid-sized technology companies in establishing themselves as thought leaders of their industry for the last ten years, we believe that now is the right time to invest time and efforts into B2B marketing.
When it comes to B2B marketing, let’s take a look at some of the unique challenges of mid-sized technology companies, especially those which are just starting with their marketing efforts.
Don’t have big budgets for ads: It is natural to do paid ads to get more leads. While it might work for B2C, it might not necessarily work well for B2B companies. A mid-sized company may have a limited budget, while a single ad campaign could cost the company $1000-$2000 per month for ads. The returns are low too, with the CTR being as low as 3.10%. Even those clicks may not necessarily convert as the sales cycle in B2B is longer than B2C. That apart, unless the company has first established a strong online presence, spending on ads would not lead to any benefits. Hence, they need to think of alternatives to get more leads.
Creating multiple content formats is not always possible: It is tempting to create various content formats to gain diversified traffic. However, companies must remember creating multiple formats such as videos and podcasts can be time-consuming, expensive, and require people with specific skillsets. Companies that are just starting with their online marketing efforts need to prioritize where they want to spend their energies.
They need focused marketing efforts: Mid-sized companies need to start with specific marketing goals, so that they can focus their marketing efforts on achieving them instead of trying everything and seeing no results in the end.
Marketing needs to support sales efforts: Marketing and sales can no longer work in silos – especially for B2B companies. They have to help each other to drive business and revenue growth. 57% of companies believe that collaboration between marketing and sales will advance marketing’s contribution to sales success and generate more ROI.
CXO’s personal network plays a critical role: A CXO of a mid-sized technology company would have a strong network with other C-level executives of other companies. They can tap on this gold mine by posting their views and news on social media and interacting with other peers actively. Building a personal brand is imperative for creating a positive impact.
Marketing needs to be a self-running effort: With limited bandwidth, time, and budget, mid-sized technology companies may face challenges in running campaigns and achieving marketing goals. They need to, therefore, focus on creating a self-sustainable marketing plan that can run with minimal effort and resources.
Now that we have set the ground rules, let’s look at the actionable trends that mid-sized technology companies can implement easily.
B2B Marketing Trends in 2021 For Mid-sized Technology Companies
80% of decision-makers prefer to get information from an article instead of an ad.
Hence, technology companies must focus on developing high-value content such as whitepapers, eBooks, and blogs. Cover topics such as the latest trends and industry news with unique take from experts, solution-specific content that addresses the company’s pain points, principal content such as prominent use cases or latest product updates, etc. Whitepapers are also a great way to launch email campaigns.
While creating high-value, evidence-based, and research-backed content is important, it is also equally important to create content regularly. Developing a content calendar and planning content distribution is the best way to ensure that content is published periodically. Publishing regularly will help the company to create brand awareness and also increase organic traffic to the website over a period. Ensure that there is content available at every stage of the customer journey such as attraction, consideration, and conversion, so the decision-makers are guided through the process.
Robust social media presence
According to the Harvard Business Review, 90% of C-level executives ignore cold outreach. So, those cold sales calls and emails will no longer help in generating leads.
Instead, marketers and the sales team must focus on social selling. 84% of C-level and VP-level customers use social media to make purchase decisions. Posting on social media regularly will help technology companies to create brand awareness, network with prospects in an organic manner, and humanize the brand. Some types of posts that work well on social media include – posts from C-level executives, trends and challenges related to the industry or target customers, regular product principal content updates, new releases or wins, etc.
Plan your blogging and social media posts using a social media calendar and regular schedule to strengthen its presence. Monitor its outcome regularly to know what works and what doesn’t and use those insights to create a solid social media strategy.
Webinars or live events on social media
Typically, technology companies leverage trade shows and industry conferences to network and get leads for their company. However, last year, it took a beating with most trade shows, exhibitions, and conferences getting canceled due to the pandemic.
Companies can now conduct webinars and live events on social media to create awareness of their offering and generate leads. 46.5% of companies confirmed an increase in webinar hosting during the pandemic. Webinars are cost-effective, remove geographical barriers, and it’s easy to get the best speakers to speak to prospects across the world. Most importantly, webinars are generally attended by prospects who are in the consideration stage. So, the chances of conversions are high after the webinar is completed.
Focus on personal branding
We cannot stress enough about the importance of personal branding.
82% of people are more likely to trust a company whose leadership is active on social media.
Encourage the C-level executives to actively post on social media platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn. It will not just give a face to the company, but it will also help gain the attention of customers and investors. The best part is the leaders do not have to do anything elaborate to build their personal brand. Even small efforts such as sharing a personal opinion on the trends taking place in the industry, sharing personal or professional anecdotes and lessons learned from it, and writing an authoritative piece of article can help the leader establish their reputation as a thought leader.
Read more about personal branding in our previous blog here
Build credibility with social proof
According to Edelman’s 2020 Trust Barometer Survey, 70% of respondents said that trust is more important for them when dealing with brands. To gain the trust of prospects, technology companies will have to show social proof to back themselves as experts in the industry. These social proofs could be in the form of client testimonials, case studies, or industry-recognized certifications. These will enable companies to demonstrate their expertise and impact on prospects. Ensure that the feedback and ratings are collected from customers regularly and publish them on the website and social media to show value and build trust.
2021 – The Road Ahead
There are so many things that companies can do to build their brand and get more leads. But with limited time, bandwidth, and budget, mid-sized technology companies must focus on getting their foundation strategy right before experimenting with other trending tactics. We would recommend beginning with these three actionable tactics:
Write high-value content regularly
Establish a strong presence on social media
Empower the C-level executives to share their opinion on social media and leverage their network
We have created a post-pandemic marketing plan – it outlines a rescue recipe for all kinds of mid-sized technology companies. Read it here
These tactics will take time to show results. But our experience of working with some of the best mid-sized technology companies has demonstrated that with consistency and quality content, companies can even supersede their goals and build a long-term relationship with their customers at a fraction of costs and efforts.
Mid-sized technology product and services companies have always been somewhat more focused on sales than marketing. And B2B tech marketing has never been easy.
Business leaders and marketers in technology companies have to juggle between several platforms, ensure a meaningful omnichannel presence and do everything in the book and yet there’s always room for improvement in how they market their products and services.
Conventionally, B2B technology companies were largely dependent on the word-of-mouth recommendations passed on by clients to their peers and others in the network, the powerful network of the founders, and CXOs who are most likely alumni of prestigious universities and B-schools or the good old outbound route.
Gradually, targeted email campaigns, presence at tech events, expos, and sponsoring tech conferences were also brought into practice to reach out to new potential customers. The mid-size tech companies with potential clients located primarily in the USA and other English-speaking geographies were pursuing all of these, in tandem to attract new customers. Of course, all that was supplemented by a hefty focus on travel by the sales pros and key executives.
The pandemic, however, has changed everything.
We’ve put together this handy guide for B2B tech companies who are wondering what to do to get their marketing game on. The question on their minds is, whether or not to focus on marketing during this time. (the answer is, Yes)
This guide is for every B2B technology company that is striving to tap into new customers, is eager to retain the existing ones, and does not want to get washed off by the competition.
This guide can help B2B technology businesses direct their content marketing efforts to survive the pandemic and thrive in the situations that will abide after.
This guide covers
Changing Dynamics of B2B Tech Sales
Why now is the time to do marketing
An “all bases covered” playbook covering content, social media and personal branding of founders
The ROI – What you will get
Changing Dynamics of B2B Tech Sales
At the onset of the pandemic, B2B technology businesses weren’t directly impacted. But this gradually manifested into a considerable hurdle. IT sales is faced with obstacles all around. Suddenly, every potential customer of the B2B tech companies had a fully remote team, operations were shifted online, processes were overhauled and person to person contact became very different.
With severe restrictions on travel, sales reps could no longer travel for meetings. As things stand, even after travel restrictions are lifted, things won’t return to normalcy soon, and even for the local clients, setting up face-to-face meetings in the times of social distancing is going to be quite impossible. Moreover, all events and conferences for the entire year are canceled or moved online, nullifying the prospect of meeting potential clients, networking, and meeting new people. Tech companies can, obviously, no longer get the visibility they otherwise would.
The traditional sales channels are being constrained even more than usual (which were already getting outdated – who answers cold calls made to the office landline when everyone is practically working from home?) and other outbound methods such as email marketing are facing too much competition (you don’t want to spend your marketing efforts simply adding to the pile of emails your client receives each day), a fresh approach towards marketing is the need of the hour.
Obviously, doing nothing is not an option. Clearly, the pandemic demands B2B tech companies push their boundaries and think outside the box to nail marketing now to outlast the tough times.
Why NOW is the time to do marketing
Unfortunately, the first expense item to take a hit during the pandemic was the marketing budget. ‘If customers aren’t buying, why to spend on marketing?’ was the impulsive call that several business leaders and marketers took in the first half of 2020.
But this approach WILL prove absolutely fatal to B2B tech companies.
The big economic numbers might be slowing down, but that absolutely doesn’t mean that your potential clients do not need a solution for their pressing business problems. In fact, with events canceling, even these clients are exploring other avenues to find solutions that are the right problem-solution fit for their needs.
Now is the right time to become visible in their eye line with valuable content that focuses on solving the business problems that plague your customers. ‘Out of sight is out of my mind’ and you don’t want to be out of the eye-line of your customers at this crucial time.
Of course, you have to be empathetic, and hard-selling like before seems a little out of place but there couldn’t be a better time to grow the top of the funnel and to nurture your audience with value-adding content.
In fact, with no commute and people -including business leaders and decision-makers working from home, there has been a significant rise in the time spent online. People are consuming content online, the only question is, whose content is it?
Sooner or later, your clients are going to be looking around for the right solution and this is when you want to be top-of-the-mind. Now is the time to invest in creating customer-focused content that can prove your authority and expertise and ensure your offering appears to be the most viable option for your target audience.
Once you decide you want to leverage the situation and direct your content marketing efforts other questions will arise. Which channels are to be explored? What type of content should be created? How often should the social media posts go live? Who should your target?
Let’s explore each in detail!
An “all bases covered” playbook
Let’s talk about content
It is needless to say that in the era of screen fixation, remote working, and fewer avenues to strike a face-to-face conversation with your potential clients, digital content is truly the king. Investing in content creation at this stage will not only help you come into the much-needed spotlight but also help you in the long run, especially if you choose to create timeless content pieces that are going to be valuable today and in the future.
Let us have a look at the type of content B2B tech companies should be creating right now!
Nothing makes your content more worthwhile than true utility to your audience. Irrespective of where your customer is in the buyer’s journey, you should have relevant, valuable, and highly informative content to offer. This content should not only be engaging to read with extremely accurate information but should also have key takeaways that can help your readers solve their real-world problems. The content need not necessarily lead to a conversion, at least not through the first piece your readers consume. But it should be worth remembering, useful, practical, and authentic enough to build trust with your users while also resonating with their problems and challenges.
Focus on creating content pieces that have actionable insights, especially in times like these where your customers are anxious and are quite frankly looking for solutions, not stories.
Another excellent example is the blogs from construction technology services company Virtualize Services. They have very cleverly created content that amalgamates their service areas with the newly required mandates and changes the construction sector is going through in the USA.
Content riding on current topics
Staying relevant is crucial for making any marketing activity, a success, especially in times like this. Ghosting the current topics is obviously not an ideal route. Your audience needs to know, in their unique context, how your company, its products, and services are relevant to them in the current times. Hence it is extremely important to create content that rides on current topics. This content might not be usable once the trend subsides but, it is worth the effort for the contextual impact.
Aroscop, an ad-tech company has put together several articles around the changing dynamics of consumer behavior and digital ad rate trends due to COVID-19 which are also a fine example of writing about current topics while continuing to focus on the key concerns of your target audience.
Content demonstrating business as usual
With uncertain times, it is quite natural that your potential customers (or the existing ones) are anxious. And while being empathetic is important, the real challenge is that no one really knows what to do next. Hence, creating handy guides that can help in getting back to business or preparing their businesses once the ‘new normal’ sets in can be impactful.
Not enough can be emphasized about how remote working has impacted several businesses. For most businesses, this entire remote working wave was unexpected, and the transition hasn’t really been a cakewalk. Especially since remote working looks like it is here to stay, businesses are clueless and do not know how to go about remote hiring, onboarding, and employee engagement while everyone works remotely.
The job market has been merciless and as per the experts, with the approaching recession, it is only going to get worse. But companies are still going to hire high-quality people. This is why writing about your company culture around hiring is important. It not only helps you put the best foot forward as a brand but also helps in attracting rich talent to your organization, in times of uncertainty.
It is important to consider the possibility of having an audience that doesn’t consume a lot of textual content. It is about time to get creative and present diverse content types so that you don’t miss out on anyone on the radar! Especially if your past marketing experience for a particular niche in B2B tech has been driven by diversified content types, you should actively focus on creating more.
For example, TruckX Inc has been creating highly engaging visual content that focuses on the trucking companies that are their customers and truckers who are their end-users for promoting their products.
This could also be a good time to release podcasts or host webinars since a lot of people are working towards upskilling. Presenting your customers or your internal thought leaders could be a very important move for your branding efforts.
Let’s talk about social media
Unlike B2C companies, B2B companies seldom fully acknowledge the power of social media. The perception that social media presence works more for B2C companies has sometimes made B2B tech companies stay away from social media marketing. Most companies, especially the small or midsize ones, have almost no presence on social media and look at it as an unnecessary effort. They simply post links to their new content pieces or to announce new collaborations or major updates. They have no expectations from the efforts and those expectations are met!
If you are not actively engaging on social media platforms, you should start now. And here’s what you should post on social media, apart from sharing links to your content such as blogs, whitepapers, and ebooks.
Hiring related updates
Speak, scream, and tell the world if you are hiring during the pandemic. Not just job seekers, but your customers will also have a newfound respect for you once they learn you are hiring in these tough times. Because it simply means- your business is up, running, and doing well, you have future plans put together, you have enough projects lined up which basically means you know what you are doing and this is exactly the type of company anyone would want to do business with!
Relevant content – tips and tricks
You can’t expect each of your potential clients to read through the detailed content that you create and hence your company page should be alternating between sharing links to content and sharing tips and tricks as a post on social media. These not only provide quick assistance to the ones who are looking for it but also serve as a great engagement engine. Especially if the tips and tricks you share are new, experience-based, or unique, you can expect users to engage on the post, which essentially helps in increasing the reach of your post and ultimately your brand.
Let’s talk about Personal Branding of founders
Founders are invariably the face of the company and play a huge role in establishing the brand of the company. Especially for the small, midsize companies and B2B tech startups that do not have the cash flow to invest in full-blown advertising, the company branding is subtly established via the founders. When it comes to cracking large value deals, clients look for companies that have trustworthy founders who they’ve read about or seen and interacted with on social media.
If you are a founder of a B2B company that is looking to establish itself during these changing times, there couldn’t be a better time to build your personal brand. B2B tech founders have a great deal of industry experience, good references, and knowledge of the ecosystem. Creating content to focus on personal branding aligned to the company’s brand can be the key to engage customers, leave a long-lasting mark in the mind of the audience as well as attract new talent to fill in key positions in the company. Being social-media shy is not ideal. Today, there is no excuse to have dormant LinkedIn profiles or be invisible on other platforms such as twitter. People need to know the face behind an organization, especially when it comes to small and mid-size companies.
Here’s how you can get started with founders’ personal branding:
It could be personal growth experiences of the founder or their take on anything they hold an expertise in. Founders of tech companies are tech leaders in their respective fields and over the years have garnered tons of experience. This could be not only an interesting read but also create thought leadership. Founders can share their interesting perspectives, opinions, and their personal journeys to create a bond with your readers along with amplifying the company branding.
Here are a few examples of how founders can share stories, opinions, and experiences:
Resonating with your audience and exhibiting your expertise is commendable, but what makes your potential customers take the leap of faith are your success stories. You can share your success stories, client testimonials or peculiar experiences of solving challenging business challenges and those will usher in a direct impact. Since these are the stories your potential clients are going to read and relate to and they are a data-backed proof of your expertise and efficiency as an organization.
For sure, be careful that your story doesn’t brag, overpromise, and is not salesy. Think of it as a candid exchange between your network and remember a little goes a long way.
Here are a few great samples:
Founders who want to take up personal branding seriously need to remember that this activity is not short-term and needs a lot of nurturing, just like real-world relationships. And hence, if you are only going to be talking about your journey, your products, and your experiences, you are going to be uninteresting for your reader. It is important that you write about current topics, share your opinions on how it will impact the space your customers care about. It’s also ok to be controversial if you can justify your stand.
You can check out how these founders have spoken about current issues which have helped them stay relevant within their network:
The ROI – What you will get
As we reiterate whenever the discussion of B2B marketing picks up, we firmly believe that strategic B2B marketing should be done with the intention of gaining brand visibility to the right set of audience in exactly the right context.
Putting in efforts and investment in building a comprehensive marketing strategy based on all the points mentioned in this guide can yield that brand visibility.
You can create a positive impression of your brand in the minds of your target audience.
You will be more visible. You will be understood better.
Your target audience will be able to place you in the right frame in light of exactly what you can do for them.
Then, you will see them reaching out to you when they feel motivated enough to want to solve those specific business problems.
You will be the frontrunner in that race, maybe even the only runner. There will be a number of signs along the way that this is working.
You will see a noticeable difference in connection/follow requests for your founders’ social media pages, improved web traffic, and a warmer response to your sales outreach since your customers already know about you!
Maintaining the consistency and context with your content is the bottom line. Traffic, engagements, and leads will follow suit. That’s the way to beat the COVID-induced slowdown.
In a previous article, we had talked about how the CEOs of B2B companies can leverage the power of social media to widen their reach by effectively using channels like LinkedIn and Twitter.
The company CEOs’ active presence and engagement on the social platforms help amplify the marketing message and enhance branding because the people are more interested in buying from ‘people’ and not just some ‘brand’.
Did you know? Over 90% of customers trust recommendations from someone they know (Nielson). 82% of people are more likely to trust a company whose leadership team engages with social media.
Why should you consider being a ‘social’ CEO?
Many CEOs argue that they have a lot to take care of than spending time on social media. But something that they don’t realize is, being active on social media platforms is a part of their work, as personal branding will help them build trust in the minds of their target audience. You can take a look at a report by CNBC about the 10 most ‘active’ CEOs on social media to understand why you need to be there too.
Being a ‘social’ CEO doesn’t really mean that you have to engage in personal interactions with your customer/clients on social media. It just makes you a real ‘face’ of your company, which, till now, was just represented by a graphic logo. As a CEO with a strong personal brand, you can help amplify the company’s message and augment the marketing campaigns. It can also help you express your unique ideas and insights on social media handles. Chances are, if your followers like you, your ideals, values, and gain sufficient information from your insights, they are going to opt for your products/services too.
Let’s give you a detailed idea about the immense value of personal branding for the CEOs on social media. Scroll on!
It builds trust
Personal branding helps you create a reliable presence on social media. It gives your business the human touch that it desperately needs to attract more people towards it. As the CEO is one of the most influential ambassadors of the brand, their presence has a strong impact on the target audience. Creating a personal profile on social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter can improve your branding efforts as much as the business profiles of your products/services. The importance of the CEO’s reputation can propel the business by helping the customers/clients connect with the brand on a human level.
It helps you attract talent
The millennials are more attracted to companies with an impressive and authentic personal brand than those with nothing apart from logos. If you can establish yourself as a leader and motivator on social media, you’ll attract numerous young minds, who align with your mission, vision, and values. However, it’s important that you actually live those values that you claim on, as authenticity sparks reliability, failing which, it may even put your integrity in question. For example, if you claim to provide an open ground for sharing ideas for business growth, you should provide a platform for the same, so that the youth can come and discuss their unique ideas with you without any hesitance. That way, you can not only find the right people to take your business to the next level but also make them promote your brand through word-of-mouth. Who doesn’t like to share an idea that they have been an active part of? We guess you got the cue!
It helps you get in front of the investors
When you share your beliefs and ideas on a social media platform, potential investors may also take an interest in your business. As the investors seek confidence in the core team before they invest their money in a business, personal branding can help you achieve that. With your presence on social media, you’re in the public eye, which enhances reliability on your company’s behalf. When you share your story, mission, vision, expertise, and ideas on a public platform, you easily get on the radar of potential investors and create a seamless communication channel for them to approach you.
Being at the forefront of your business gives you certain responsibilities to fulfill, and you can do that through personal branding on social media. Promote your ideas and brand, publicize your opinions and expertise, and be the most important advocate of your business by staying active on the social media channels. In today’s digitized world, such small efforts can go a long way to enhance your brand visibility.
As companies globally seem to become more invested
in digital ways, even as different parts of the world open up slowly, I’m
seeing a future where IT Services companies will have to sell very differently
from now on in.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed much, and some
changes may last for a while longer. Remote working, shifting operations
online, digital services, sales, and marketing are some of these changes that
may become the defining themes of our future. In the last couple of months, we
have seen how companies in even the most traditional sectors can indeed change
their ways of functioning and adopt a digital-based way of life. This had been predicted
by so many experts for so long, but it took a pandemic to change things at this
But what about the impact on the world of IT
services sales as traditionally practiced by Indian software services
The way it used to be
Indian technology companies have traditionally been
extremely export-focused. The largest market (by far) has been the USA,
followed by other English-speaking regions like the UK, Australia, and S E
Asia. The way they have approached these markets has usually been through a mix
Tapping into the extended personal network of the
founders and CxOs has always played a key role. Of course, this is a strategy
that works well when the company is looking to establish itself, but it has
limitations in scalability. And of course, these networks are also vulnerable
to being tapped by the competitors.
Many companies have based their outreach strategy
tremendously on participating in large events for visibility. They have
exhibited, sponsored, and spoken at events like Oracle OpenWorld, ServiceNow
Knowledge, AWS Summit, Microsoft re:Invent, and the likes. This has given them
access to a massive pool of attendees from their target audience. They have
leveraged that for visibility and for building connections and starting conversations
that keep them going year-round. This costs lots of money. But the ROI is
Most Indian IT companies have had a travel-heavy
strategy for getting in front of the target audience. I say this from personal
experience of having, cumulatively, spent many many months traveling to and
across the USA to meet prospects and customers. This strategy has traditionally
depended on the efforts of an “inside sales” or “cold calling” team. This team,
almost always based in India, must spend nights sending email campaigns and
making cold calls to try and set up that elusive first meeting with a new
prospect. This mechanism
was getting stretched
even before the current scenario as campaign responses and answers to cold
calls had been plummeting for an age already. Sales leaders felt comfortable
with this strategy though, as it allowed them to retain a sense of control. At
least, they were doing something, and everything was measurable.
But much of that will change now.
So, what will change?
There are some obvious changes already making big
All events and conferences have shifted online.
While being a sponsor will still get some visibility for the brand name and the
logo, the big value is, possibly, gone. There can be no networking in an online
conference. There is also no possibility of new people “finding” you as they
look through the exhibitors. It is this that drove “top of the funnel”
awareness and got you exposure to a new audience. Without that there are no new
prospects to add to the database and follow up with over the rest of the year. That
opportunity seems gone for good.
Travel is, of course, off the table right now. But
even once international travel reopens, it will be very hard to justify
traveling. Many countries will implement mandatory quarantine periods on
arrival. Airlines will be flying at reduced capacity and are, hence, likely to
charge much more for seats. Measures like these will dramatically push up the
cost of travel. Perhaps to an unsustainable level.
Other changes could be behavioral, and hence, more
Companies like Twitter have announced that they
intend to ask their employees to work from home for the foreseeable future.
Other technology companies look set to follow suit to some degree or the other.
While your target customers are working from home, it’s likely that some
extremely significant changes in buyer behavior could become embedded in their
way of working.
So, even if you do brave the travel, how likely are
you to get someone to agree to a meeting in these strange times? Most people
want to continue maintaining a policy of self-isolation even though the
official lockdown may be lifted in their area. Under those circumstances, how
many new prospects would agree to a face to face business meeting with you,
masked or not?
It’s being said that the post-COVID buyer will be
more discerning, less inclined to shop around, more direct, and consciously
better informed. This could be a function of some changes in values brought
about in testing times or just the fact that working from home gives them more
time to do their research and educate themselves on the business problems that
they’re seeking solutions for. If that happens, it would seem logical to assume
that they will only engage with the vendors they see as realistically capable
of delivering them value. They are unlikely to give openings to vendors who
cannot project themselves in that light. Most first meetings were anyway given
in response to the sheer persistence of the caller or email sender. It seems
likely that these rates will dwindle even further.
Is there any option?
The task for IT services companies has always been
to become visible to a new audience and stay visible to their current audience.
The complication in these times is that being physically present in the eye-line
of the target audience looks unlikely. It’s also probable that the
outreach-based methods like email and cold calls will become even less
impactful. So, what does that leave?
This is a “made for digital” problem, in my opinion.
IT services companies will have to turn to content marketing, social media
channels, and distinctive personal branding of their CxOs to make themselves
visible. This will have to be the medium where they showcase who they are, how
they are different, what is the value they can deliver, and to whom? They will
have to do this strategically, professionally, consistently, and over a
sustained period of time. This will make them visible to the right audience
and, more importantly, in the right context.
I believe that the only way forward may be for them
to focus on growing the top of the funnel and on improving the efficiency of
each stage of the funnel below that.
“Lead people with what they want. – Lead with what they’ve already said. – Lead people from where they’re at. – Lead them with the things that concern them.” – Sandi Krakowski
You will notice that Krakowski wants you to create a lead generation strategy around your target customers’ needs on the platform where they prefer to be. Today social media has become an inseparable part of our lives and work. While we meet potential clients and customers through professional networks like LinkedIn, we nurture those relationships through Facebook as they become more personal, get a glimpse into their likes and interests through Instagram, and if possible, chat with them on Whatsapp.
Why should your sales team then shy away from leveraging this powerful medium to enhance their lead generation strategies?
In fact, it’s time for them to start using social media marketing to increase sales and the visibility of your business if they haven’t already.
What is Social Selling?
Well, the term has been doing the rounds for quite some time, but it is not just about the use of social media. In fact, it is a way, used by efficient salespeople to create and nurture long-lasting relationships on social media platforms. In some quarters, this seen as a replacement for cold calling and mass outreach efforts.
Social-selling is a structured but indirect way to generate more leads, not by coaxing your target customers to buy your products or services but making them aware of the benefits of opting for the same. The nudge is subtle, structured, and sustained, once you appear in the eye line of your prospect as someone worth connecting with.
If your sales team haven’t adopted social selling yet, you may well be missing out on a lot of potential customers.
Are you still wondering why to engage your salespeople in social selling?
Building Real-Time and Long-Term Relationships
Lead generation with social media helps your sales team make real-time relationships with clients, who have similar tastes and preferences. Most people these days avoid responding to cold calling and direct advertising, so this may be the safest way to generate new conversations that turn into leads. Your sales team can also use relevant social media tools to identify potential customers (or clients), who are already talking about the problems that you can help them solve, taking an interest in your industry, or your competitors, and use that information to connect with them at the right time.
Managing your Online Perception Easily
With social media, you can manage the perception of your brand more easily. You have the opportunity to add a focus on customer testimonials, reviews, and feedback. According to some estimates, 70-80% of buying decisions are influenced by online reviews. Try conducting a Google search on your sales team. What do you think will come up? Ask your sales folks to optimize their social profiles, so that such a search, when conducted by a potential buyer of your products (or services), showcases a positive outcome.
Generating Prospective Leads
As mentioned earlier, people are becoming more and more turned-off by banner ads and cold calls. They tend to place their faith more on businesses that engage, listen, and specifically cater to their needs. In short, they believe in real-time conversations rather than machinated advertisements. Therefore, if you wish to grow, you have to engage on a personal level with your potential clients or customers. You need to earn their trust before you can expect them to buy from you.
Creating a Loyal Customer Base
What about after someone has bought from you? Your social media presence can go a long way in establishing a relationship of trust with your potential customers, as well as existing ones. Social selling helps your sales team stay in touch with your existing customers, engage them, and take their feedback on board. Responding to queries, taking suggestions, apologizing for mishaps, making amendments for negative reviews, all help create involvement and engagement. If you listen to your customers, you have the opportunity to build a relationship. That could go a long way in helping retain customers in the long run.
So how do you go about adopting social selling?
Instruct your sales team to create and optimize their individual social media profiles, as well as your business profile
Define a clear social media communication strategy and messaging that everyone can follow in tone, focus, and direction.
Hire professional content writers to generate content that your sales team can use in their social selling campaigns
Stay active on LinkedIn, which is the biggest professional social media network out there and optimize your profile according to your image
Use your Twitter handle to follow the current social media trends in the industry and also make some useful connections
Hire a social media marketing agency, if possible, to take the load of keeping your social media strategies current, off your shoulders
Marketing and sales are, of course, incomplete without each other. If you lag in one, the other will fall. Ensure that you invest adequate time and resources to updating your social media marketing strategies and integrate that with your lead generation process. It’s the right, in fact, the only way to get ahead in this social age.
“Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.” W Edwards Deming
Seers have been prophesizing the end of the world of traditional B2B Sales for a while now. Despite that, there are people on both sides of the fence, each with equally strong convictions. In most cases, their belief in their cause is based on their personal experience. But there is a statistical danger in relying solely on personal experience. A personal experience represents just one instance, and as the data scientists will tell you, one example is not data. This post is an attempt to present strong evidence for the unfortunate demise of B2B Sales.
So, let’s start with some questions for the B2B Sales leaders out there reading this.
Are you having far fewer early stage conversations that you used to even a couple of years ago?
Are you not talking to as many “new” prospects as you used to?
Are you frustrated by somehow being less able to ”influence” the pace of the sales process? Do some sales rush along at an extremely accelerated rate, seemingly under their own steam, and others never seem to progress beyond the initial evaluation?
Are responses to your email campaigns tanking?
Are your cold calls unable to get you the initial meetings you need to fill your pipeline? Is the no. of incoming leads from your website spiraling downwards despite your best efforts on Google? Be honest, did you answer “Yes” to most or all of those?
I recently presented a webinar on “The death of B2B Sales and what you can do to save it.” (A recording of the webinar is available here for those inclined to dive deeper into the reasons behind the passing and a possible path to resurrection.)
Here are some stats and what I think they mean. The stats presented here emerged from the research I put in while preparing for the webinar.
Only 19% of buyers want to connect during the awareness stage of the buying process, 60% want to connect after they have done their research and come up with a shortlist, and 20% only after they have already decided what to buy. (Hubspot).
Clearly, there is a sharp reduction in the opportunity for B2B Sales pros to engage early in the sales process and kick off a consultative sales process.
Customers rate the salesperson as the least influential interaction in the buying process. (Gartner).
Well, of course, given the numbers at #1.
84% of buyers now start their buying process with a referral. (HBR).
Really what chance does your cold outreach have of being successful in such a scenario?
90% of C-Level executives “never respond” to cold calls (InsideView).
That cold calling campaign is not looking too good now, is it?
Only 0.3% of cold calls generate even preliminary appointments. So, you would have to make 1500 calls for 4-5 meetings (Baylor University).
Is hiring an army of callers an option?
In the Technology industry, only 12% of emails get opened and only 6% of those generate “clicks” (Constant Contact). That’s about 1 click every 150 emails, give or take.
I know, you thought cold emails were an option -unfortunately not at any scale.
So, what does this mean for those of us who have made a living in B2B Sales? Well, the truth, like the data, is out there.
The average SDR performs 94 activities per day (SalesForLife), but only 21% of their day is spent talking to prospects (HubSpot)
57% of salespeople believe that buyers are less dependent on salespeople during the buying process (HubSpot)
55% of sales reps don’t have the right skills to be successful (the Brevet Group).
1 million sales reps will be out of a job by 2020 (Forrester) -will your name be on that list?
So, there you have it. Proof positive that B2B Sales, at least the way we grizzled veterans have always practiced it, is going the way of the dinosaurs. This is not a drill folks, it’s time to take this seriously. That said, this is not the end of the road. B2B Sales pros are nothing if not resilient in the face of tough odds. It’s time for the tough to get going. The way forward is hard -but it must be taken!