Early Monday morning July 30th, a group of B-to-B marketers met in San Francisco for MarketingSherpa's first "Marketing to the Global 2000" discussion breakfast. Publisher Anne Holland moderated this informal knowledge sharing event.
Here are the seven most valuable lessons she learned from attendees about marketing to big business these days:1. Big biz intranets:
Although some companies have had success planting their estores in big companies intranets (most notably Fatbrain's IT bookshops), the main way most get their message into intranets is by planting news releases on a wire service, such as BusinessWire, which is automatically included syndicated newsfeeds most large companies purchase for their intranets.
Thomas Korte, Marketing Director Moreover Technologies, noted a recent study by OutSell Inc that revealed that the vast majority of Fortune 1000 employees prefer to do research on the Internet vs. their own intranets. However, attendees agreed, intranets are still a great place to plant content and estores -- if you can. 2. Trade shows:
While everyone agreed the trade show market is in bad shape these days (one of the reasons B-to-B marketers are investing in Webinars instead), Tanya Samuels of Financial Finesse told us she's found it's still worth investing in the biggest, oldest trade shows which are "packing them in" despite the economy. Well-established annual events organized by leading trade associations are the best.
The only other in-person events everyone agreed were worth investing in were exclusive invite-only functions. For example, business events on cruise ships and Microsoft's famous annual CEO program. These events are generally free to attendees, include famous speakers CEOs are longing to meet, limit attendees to high-level peers only, and guarantee no sales reps or reporters. So C-level execs can relax and really network.
Of course you've gotta already have a fair amount of money and prestige in your pocket to pull an event like this off. A cheaper solution may be to partner with an established name -- such as a well-respected trade association -- to create a co-branded, invite-only, Webinar. 3. White papers:
Everyone agreed that white papers are a great offer online, but too many marketers have abused them, using the term "white paper" for something that's just a marketing piece instead of genuinely valuable information. This ultimately hurts everyone because prospects will be less and less likely to respond to white paper offers.
Is it worth paying $15k or more for a famous third-party analyst to write yours? Everyone agreed you might get more downloads, but you also have less editorial control. Moreover's Korte noted he got bigger bang for the buck by working with a local university group to create a white paper for his marketplace. Itwas cheaper yet still credibly third-party branded.4. Schmoozing multiple leads per company:
Victoria Dade, YellowBrix Director of National Accounts, said today's corporate layoffs, mergers and reshufflings are slowing the sales cycle. She explained, "You'll have a deal on the table and they'll switch your contact into a different position." She's had as many as five different execs become project leader during one contract negotiation.
So, it's critical to gather and schmooze as many contacts in a company as possible. Publishing free educational materials (white papers, email newsletters, webinars) that are useful without being salesy can help grow these leads and keep them warm. The days of sales reps who depend on their good-old-buddy relationship with a single company exec are over. Plus the days when you can hand over a single red-hot lead, and then stop prospecting in that company, are gone too. 5. Schmoozing evangelists:
Chris Goumas, VP Marketing Ideas.com, noted that most projects at very large companies require strong relations with two different contacts -- the internal evangelist and the decision-maker. Problem is, while you may be able to identify decision-makers by title or responsibility, there's no telling who your most effective internal champion may be.
He notes, "There may be 18,000 people in a company but so few people feel like they have any real say. Maybe only 12 have the power. However, titles can be deceiving -- especially after mergers."
In the days of direct mail, sending materials to 18,000 people in hopes of hitting an evangelist was too expensive. But, email solves this problem. Email newsletters again are a winner, especially if you urge recipients to forward them to the right people, and if the content is truly valuable. Dade summed up this process the best, "It's a numbers game." If you keep on reaching to lots of people, sooner or later you'll hit your champion.
Best case scenario -- use your marketing skills to turn one client into an internal champion to sell other divisions of the company. Goumas noted that just because, for example, you've sold to the IT department at Johnson & Johnson in Iowa, it doesn't mean any of the other J&J's IT departments know about it. Viral Web marketing tactics can help you turn a global 2000 client toehold into a much bigger account. 6. Aspirin vs. vitamins:
Goumas said that in today's climate companies are investing in "aspirin instead of vitamins." This means if your product can't help them soothe the pain they are feeling right now, they will put off investing in you until a sunnier day. Samuels put it another way -- people are buying "must-have" but not "nice to have."
So your job as a marketer these days is to create materials and research that proves your product/service will either help clients make more money or save more money immediately. And yes, generally prospects want the proof to be a Case Study about their own direct competitor, so, it's proven to work in their particular industry vs. just in general.
Sometimes you can talk a client into letting you do a Case Study by positioning it as an article that will be planted in the trade media with them as the hero (not you.) They'll love it if your PR firm can get them into a major trade magazine (preferably niched to their particular industry vs. your tech niche.) Then you order electronic reprints from the pub and email them out to everyone else in that niche. 7. Legitimacy:
The members of the global 2000 who were willing to experiment with new products and services -- especially for e-business -- have been burned by too many young companies going under this year. So now they are much less likely to give anyone a chance, no matter how wonderful and proven your 'solution' is.
Breakfast attendees suggested three tactics to get around this problem and establish legitimacy:
- Replace your founder-CEO with a 'name-brand' CEO with a stable background big companies will respect. They may figure if that figurehead is investing his or her career in you, they should invest too.
- Partner with older, established companies to sell through them. One tactic is to offer cash to plant a Case Study or other valuable story about you in their own customer communications. (For example PeopleSoft reportedly allows partners to plant stories in its magazine for $35k.)
- Replace your start-up boutique PR firm with an older, name-brand PR firm who the global 2000 have heard of. Your PR firm's name can signal that you are to be respected. However, as Goumas noted, don't keep a PR firm on if after a year they aren't producing results. He said wryly, "PR firms are like housecleaners. They start out great and then it just trails off."
BTW: Thanks to Moreover Technologies for providing the bagels and conference room. And, in answer to many reader emails, yes we will be holding discussion groups like this in other cities later. Plus, we're looking into ways we can hold them online in the future so folks in other areas can participate. More news coming!Useful links related to this article: