The "E" Word in B2B Marketing

The "E" Word in B2B Marketing
Savvy Guest - Sun Sep 20, 2009 @ 12:44PM
Comments: 8

We're pleased to welcome Doug Kessler of Velocity in London. Here he reveals the key element required for any B2B marketing campaign to succeed.E

It’s an exciting time to be a B2B marketer. The Internet and its new media spawn have blown open the whole discipline. But in the excitement about all the new tricks, techniques and tactics, we risk forgetting something much more fundamental and much more important.

No B2B marketing campaign can ever work if it fails to have this secret ingredient. Tweet your heart out; generate terabytes of new content; spread the word far and wide through social media; track it all with lead nurturing processes… none of it matters if you’re short on one thing: Empathy.

Empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of your target audience, then doing things that will:

  • Make them pause for a moment – no easy task in the age of information overload.
  • Intrigue them – earn the next ten seconds by doing something unexpected and something that shows you understand their problems – not just your own agenda.
  • Make them nod their head – say or do something that makes them recognise their world, their problems, their challenges. Do that and you’ve earned another few minutes of their precious time.
  • Tell them a story – all of the above was just to earn the attention of your prospects. Now you’d better have a great story to tell.

Of course, your story also needs to be soaked through with empathy. Not the phoney stuff (‘You’re an IT director, you need to do more with less budget.’) – the stuff that can only come from knowing your market inside out.

If you’ve never been in your target audience’s job, you need to talk with people who are. You need to hear the way they talk about their most pressing issues. Listen to their scepticism about vendors. Find out their hot buttons and the underlying forces that make them hot.

A story built on authentic empathy is the most compelling asset any marketer can develop. Once you’ve got that, most of your marketing campaigns should almost write themselves.

It starts with a world view that the prospect will recognise. It continues from there with a short, sharp definition of a problem that they experience viscerally (we like to give that problem a name, like “The Visibility Gap” or “The Outsourcing Trap”). Next, you need a credible view on why current solutions to that problem are doomed to fail. This has to feel absolutely inevitable. Finally, your story will show how your solution is the only approach that will solve the problem.

If you’ve got proof points for each of these steps, fantastic. But the logic and credibility of the argument itself is what matters most.

An empathy-fuelled story will always have a few jewels that can be exploited over and over again across all the new web media (and the old media too – remember print?). They’ll drive great headlines, banner ads, blog posts, social media conversations and e-newsletters. They’ll also make for great sales letters – a lost art if every there was one.

These jewels are the emotional truths that tap into something the prospect feels about their situation. These are deeper than their opinions or their analysis of the facts. An emotional truth might be resentment towards Microsoft for holding them over a barrel; or distrust of off-the-shelf security solutions; or anger towards their colleagues who make demands without understanding the real situation.

Finding and touching these nerves tells your audience that you understand what they’re up against and that you’re on their side. That message alone will open more doors than a shedload of special offers.

Walking around in the shoes of your target audience lifts you out of the maelstrom of vendor blather that assaults every buyer. But if you abuse the power of empathy – with anything short of scrupulous honesty – it will backfire.

Clear, honest communication from the buyer’s perspective. Get it right and you’ve earned the right to hold real conversations with people. But get it wrong and all the clever tricks in the marketing book will feel hollow and sound like… marketing.

About the author: Doug Kessler is co-founder and Creative Director of Velocity, a London-based B2B marketing agency specialising in technology companies. Velocity has just published a Content Marketing Workbook – a primer on content marketing for B2B companies.

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