What if your B2B sales and marketing team consisted of high-level executives from your customer companies?
What if they were as committed to your company’s success as you are?
What if they had ample opportunities to directly influence high-level decision makers at companies that aren’t currently buying from you?
According to a thought-provoking book, all this can happen, but not by accident.
Where do B2B buyers go for information they trust?
It’s based on European B2B buyers, but I’d guess it applies in the U.S., as well. The findings may not surprise you, but they have some interesting implications.
Where did buyers get information at any stage of the buying process?
- Web searches (71%)
- Word of mouth (54%)
- Online communities (12%)
- LinkedIn (10%)
- Other social media (10%)
- Other (1%)
- Any of these (87% – the rest presumably didn’t need information to buy)
How useful was each channel?
- Personal word of mouth (69% rated very highly)
- Web searches were very helpful (59% rated very highly)
- All other sources ranked significantly lower
It all makes sense, but can you take advantage of it?
Of course the findings support the basic premise of inbound marketing – web search rocks for your business.
The premise: For the sustainable growth of your B2B business, you must enlist the help of the most powerful persuaders possible, your own executive customers.
Combining the premise of the book, with the survey findings – your executive customers are the ones who are best positioned to provide the word of mouth advice that your prospects are looking for.
You’ll need executive customers who will go to bat for you enthusiastically.
Geehan outlines a thorough strategy of ongoing engagement with your executive customers, through long-term executive customer advisory councils. The goal is to turn your customers into advisors first, then collaborators, then partners.
They’ll help you make key decisions, set goals and create strategies. This is a detailed process, and no quick fix. (But if it was easy, anyone could do it, right?)
In Geehan’s plan, your council members become your greatest sales and marketing assets, through formal referral programs that include speaking on your behalf, authoring articles and white papers, featuring in videos, providing quoted accolades, peer-to-peer interactions, prospect site visits and press releases.
Does it work? Geehan gives first-hand accounts, ranging from Oracle and Wells Fargo, to much smaller firms that most of us can relate to.
The BaseOne survey finds that executive decision makers want to learn about your company from people like themselves. Why not make it easy for them?
This is not the kind of marketing most of us are used to.
To me, it’s better. It moves marketing where it belongs, into business planning and strategy. There’s still room for every tactic you currently use. But you might want to reconsider your focus. Geehan recommends allocating 30% of your marketing focus to executive decision makers, 35% to influencers, 30% to end users, and only 5% to purchasing personnel.
If you’re a B2B company, does this change the way you think about marketing and sales?