Archives for posts with tag: B2B Marketing

In a recent post I explained that the 4 basic questions you need to cover when you introduce yourself is who you are, what you do, who you do it for and why it matters.

A really good follow up question from someone who is sufficiently engaged with you is ‘how do you do that?’ They’ll only care about the how if they’re genuinely interested or they’re making polite conversation. This got me thinking about how I would explain the process by which I get companies to accelerate their time to market and their sales growth.

Imagine holding an imaginary set of bellows or a concertina in your hands. Then you bring your hands together, before bringing them apart. That’s exactly what you do in sales and marketing to grow more quickly.

You have to reduce in order to increase. By that I mean that you start with your market, then you narrow down the segments of that market until you’ve identified the ideal target audience for what you do. Then you design your offering and your marketing and sales messaging to that audience. Because it’s tailored to the specific requirements of your tightly defined target audience, you have good success and you quickly grow your business or your new product or service.

So, how you do it is by reducing to increase. I imagine that the next time someone asks me how I do what I do I will accompany my explanation by the bellows or concertina hand actions, to reinforce my point.

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When we’re introducing ourselves to people for the first time, even if we’re not in the selling business, there’s the opportunity to sell ourselves, to make a good first impression, or to influence people in a positive way. They might not need our services, or to be our friend, but they might know someone who does.

So what are the four introductory must dos? I see four questions that we should answer for the person we’re meeting:

  • Who? Who are you? What’s your name? Not necessarily the organisation you’re with, your name is more important. They have to remember it. I’m sometimes not a fan of leading with yourself, but in this case they need to remember your name when you accompany it with a handshake
  • What? What do you do? What do you provide? Can you describe this simply, without jargon? This is the bit that’s going to catch their attention, since they will use it to pigeonhole you in their mind
  • For whom? Who do you provide what you provide for? Who are your customers, stakeholders, patients, students or constituents?
  • Why? Why should the people for whom you provide what you provide care? What do they get out of it? This is the bit that adds value, your chance to say what makes you different

For some people, you don’t need to cover these four bases. “Hi, my name’s John Smith, I’m a dentist.” You can pretty much stop at second base. But for others, perhaps those in more complex business-to-business roles, you’ll probably need the last two, especially if you’re networking. “Hi, my name’s Paul Dilger, I’m a sales and marketing consulting to small to medium-sized companies so they can grow their business more quickly.”

If it feels unnatural to add the fourth point, you can always drop it into the conversation later, especially if the first three points resonate, make a connection or provoke a positive reaction.

 

Taking a new product to market, whether it’s the sole product of a start-up, or it’s a new product or offshoot from an established business, is a fascinating area, and one which I’ve been involved in and advised on for a while.

There are typically three phases that a company goes through in its go-to-market journey towards a repeatable, scalable business: problem-solution fit; product-market fit; scale. All of them are customer-verifiable.

1) Problem-solution fit

In this phases of the new product go-to-market journey, you have a solution that a customer acknowledges – by parting with money – solves a problem for them. Hardly rocket science. It might just be one customer, and that one customer might be helping finance your development of a product that you hope you can sell to others. The trade-off is between customising the solution to the customer’s requirements and developing a solution that will still do the job for your target segment.

2) Product-market fit

In this phase, you have developed and sold your product to the point where there is a fit between your product and the market. Again, we’re not splitting the atom here. Your customers acknowledge that they need your product and they would be in trouble if for some reason your product was unavailable to them.No-one buys a nice to have, they buy what they must have, and you’ve demonstrated that a good number of customers need what you have.

3) Scale

The third phase of new product go-to-market is when you’re adding sales at an acceptable rate and at an acceptable cost of acquisition. There are various different ways of doing this, such as using channel partners, optimising internal resources, getting better at implementing and servicing the business, and so on. As the business is growing it is achieving greater economies of scale. It is multiplying revenues at a progressively smaller incremental cost. It is scaling the business.

Plenty of companies are perfectly happy providing solutions to problems for a very small number of customers, perhaps for ever. A smaller number graduates to a product which has product-market fit. A smaller number still manages to genuinely scale the business.

I was in France for a family holiday recently, and it got me thinking about how many French phrases we’ve incorporated into English. I mistakenly wrote ‘thinning’ on my first pass at this post, which is what I need to do after a fortnight of sublime croissants, brioches and baguettes has turned me from svelte to felt.

Déjà vu is a prime example of such a phrase, where a combination of visual stimuli brings back a memory where we pocketed exactly the same combination – or something very close – a long time ago. It’s quite a powerful thing.

Even more powerful I think is the recollection we get from one of the other more minor senses, namely smell. The smell of a certain food can instantly bring us back to our childhood. There is also a certain foul smell that makes me think of the smell of burnt bones from the glue factory near my childhood home. The smell of cinnamon always makes me think of Christmas shops in the mid-west US around December time – obviously…

It often occurs to me how compelling a force smell would be in marketing, even B2B marketing, away from the food and drink-related B2C areas where it is already deployed to great effect. ‘If you could bottle that’, as they say.

I don’t think the French would use the phrase, but if they did it would be ‘déjà senti’, I suppose, meaning ‘already smelled’. Doesn’t have the same ring unfortunately.

In this last post, for now, in the mini-series on product marketing in agile environments, I offer you my third thought on what has worked well for me. In fact, I talked about it briefly at the end of my second thought.

The third thought is this – and how difficult is that to say for a non-native speaker, with 2 voiced ‘th’ sounds and 2 voiceless ones! – leave the detail until the end. The detail is the filler, the proof points, the things that are only needed when the audience has engaged and wants to go deeper.

In your earlier iterations of the content to support your new product or enhancement, you focused on the high level, the really important stuff that resonates with your audience, the reason why you developed the product in the first place. People are busy, they are subject to a constant, heavy flow of information. They don’t have perfect memories; they’re only going to remember one thing you tell them, if you’re lucky, and you’re probably going to have to tell them multiple times anyway.

This is a good thing, because in an agile environment the exact detail of what you’re offering isn’t decided and baked in until the end. So your job is to build up the interest and demand with high level, highly distilled and focused messaging which helps your personas self-select. Once they have engaged and want to know more, then you can hit them with the detail which you now have.

This is the third post, and my second thought, as part of a mini-series on what to focus on in product marketing where the software development is agile and releases are small and quick fire, rather than traditional, infrequent and sometimes slightly ponderous.

My second thought is this, and it borrows from the agile philosophy itself. Approach your content and your communications in iterations. It’s no good disappearing into your bunker at the beginning of the creation process and coming out right before launch with the finished article before anyone’s had a chance to comment on it.

You need to iterate, and iterate often. Quick fire drafts get your thoughts out early and give key stakeholders the chance to sense check the direction you’re heading in and feed back so that you can adjust if necessary. Reviewers can track their changes in your documents so that when you evolve your work for a second and third look they only need to focus on the new stuff and not re-read everything again. Your job is to make sure that each new version still hangs together, makes sense and is a coherent, unified piece of work.

This is how I approach almost all of my work, including product marketing assignments. Do the homework, collate all the information, get a sense of the patterns, distil everything down to the key messages, and do a first pass. The early, high level draft allows you to align everyone’s thinking and affords you the time to change accordingly. The detail can wait til later, when you’re closer to the finish line.

 

In a previous post I introduced a mini-series offering thoughts and experience on how to do product marketing in an environment where agile software development creates a sea of small releases rather than a desert with a few major milestones affording you time to circle the wagons.

My first thought is that you should stay true to the principles of what you’re trying to do. Faced with a barrage of product enhancements and releases of all sizes and shapes, you have to prioritise in terms of your audience, your audience segments, and their personas.

What is most important to them? What will attract their customers and keep them loyal? What does your enhancement or release do to help them help their customers? Answering these questions should drive what you devote to building a story about, and, perhaps more importantly, what you choose not to focus on.

When you wear this special lens which focuses on what their customers care about, you can develop messaging which helps your customer solve these problems or capitalise on these opportunities. It’s never about your products’ features and functions, unless they uniquely guide your customers to an understanding of how you can solve their real problem, which is sometimes not the problem they think they have.

Don’t get bogged down in the iterations of your solution, get bogged down in why your customers should care about where you’re heading.

I thought it worthwhile to do a short series on product marketing in an agile environment.

Many product marketers are used to gearing up to perhaps 3 major releases a year. They have runway, they can plan with an end goal in mind, and they have time to align the resources and get the detail right.

When faced with an agile software development methodology, however, they find the traditional approach more difficult, since the cadence is now ‘sprints’ every two weeks and a release every three weeks, or something of that order. It requires a different approach.

First, however, some definitions are probably in order. By product marketing I mean the process of influencing customers to buy – and enabling sales people to sell – business-to-business products. Agile software development is the process of developing software in iterations and a bit at a time, allowing for flexibility and course correction on the way, rather than traditionally going from a start to a finish line in one big go. Noice that I’m not talking about agile marketing, which is essentially doing marketing activities in a way that borrows from agile software development.

What tends to happen to marketers not used to agile are the following symptoms:

  • You’re not sure what you’ll be getting in the end product
  • You’re not sure when you’ll be getting it (stifle your sniggers if you can make that argument for traditional development…)
  • Stuff happens and the product is out there before you’re ready or before you even know about it

What product marketers generally prefer is a small number of large meaty releases that they can get their teeth into. With agile you can sometimes feel you’re faced with a roadmap littered with lots of small releases, all vying for attention.

It’s against this background that I thought the subject warranted a mini-series. Stay tuned if this is your bag. If not, feel free to click away…