In the good old days, purveyors of products and services owned factories and proprietary processes. They also owned brands.
Advertising agencies worked with B2B advertisers to identify and leverage Unique Selling Propositions. The USPs differentiated products from their competitors in a meaningful and relevant way. They addressed customer pain points. They fulfilled customer needs.
Persuasive creative ideas brought USPs to life in B2B marketing campaigns which were pushed outward from the advertisers via traditional media channels. The messages were mass communication, from one point to many. They were one-size-fits-all and one way, and they were designed to intrude, stand out, get noticed.
Mass communication was like shining a floodlight at the clouds. Many of the people who saw the light dancing above had no use for it, so for them it was wasted energy. Even the intended audience was often busy, distracted or resentful of the intrusion. And so the light in the sky was likely to be ignored. When the marketing budget ran out, the floodlight was turned off, and the show ended, leaving prospective customers in the dark.
This was no brand dialogue. It was a brand monologue. And it was controlled by the maker of the product or the provider of the service.
Oh sure, some people responded to the one-way communication by contacting the marketer. Salespeople followed up these warm bodies and tried to close the deal. (Sometimes they even approached potential buyers without asking. They just up and called them, cold. Often, they got a cold shoulder in return.)
That was then. This is now.
Factories are closing. There is more pressure than ever on manufacturers of products and providers of services. The world is more competitive. Processes and ideas are becoming open and are even being shared for free, instead of being closed and proprietary.
And most of all, because of the Internet, brands are no longer being controlled by a marketer acting as a sole distributor pushing USPs and persuasive messaging. That old monologue has ended. Now, it’s about dialogue.
But oddly enough, the dialogue does not often include the manufacturer or service provider. It is taking place among customers and prospects, who are connected by the Internet.
The good news is, saying that control of brands has shifted—however radically—does not mean brands are uncontrollable.
But success in B2B marketing and sales requires a new and highly nuanced approach.
Buyers are now using the Internet to complete more steps in the B2B buying cycle. As they gather pre-purchase information online, buyers remain anonymous for more of the buying cycle than before.
This anonymity makes it more difficult than ever for B2B sellers to establish and nurture fruitful relationships with them.
It takes smart B2B marketing and sales strategies. You do it by sharing timely and well-written content that has the power to generate leads, and transform them into long-term customer relationships.
You do it by transforming your knowledge into sales opportunities.