May 15, 2000

Washington News Bureau’s Lane F. Cooper on B-to-B Consultative Marketing

SUMMARY: Washington News Bureau develops custom publishing and marketing materials for high-tech B-to-B clients like Lucent Technologies and Microsoft.

MarketingSherpa caught up with President Lane F. Cooper in the Dupont Circle brownstone that serves as HQ. As a B2B journalist turned custom publisher and marketing consultant, Cooper urges his clients to boost sales by establishing themselves as thought leaders in their respective market spaces.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge for B-to-B technology companies marketing themselves today?

Cooper: I think there’s a growing disconnect between business buyers demanding products & services, and sellers who wish to serve those demands. Put more simply, buyers are having an increasingly difficult time understanding what sellers are talking about. That’s why marketing—-like sales--has to be “consultative”

Q: So what should B-to-B marketers do differently?

Cooper: For the past few centuries marketers have basically communicated three basic facts: This is who we are! This is what we offer! Buy it now! This three-pronged approach to message management was OK throughout the industrial age, but it is becoming increasingly clear that it lacks the intellectual fire-power to support knowledge-intensive consultative sales activity in the high-tech B-to-B sector.

Q: So what do you do to give your marketing messages more “intellectual fire-power?”

Cooper: To cultivate relationships in the market, you have to demonstrate your expertise in the business that your customer is in. I remind my high-tech clients that they’re not really selling the new features of their latest technology. What they’re really selling is their company know-how and track record of solving business problems for the industries they serve. And there’s no clever, gimmicky way to do that, so finally the buyers are holding all the cards! You have to tell your stories, demonstrate your expertise and win the esteem of the market.

This is why you’re seeing more and more companies adding white papers and other rich knowledge to their Web sites. What they don’t do is maximize all media to drive readers to these online resources. When you use print ads in the trades, don’t just run ads telling people to check out your Web site; tell them what they can expect to learn from the white paper they’ll find there! Use email newsletters and also offline media to drive prospects to your site to get their copy of your white paper. Add the URL and free white paper offer to all your staff’s SIGs for all email sent out (especially your sales and customer service staff.)

Q: How can I use offline ads to drive traffic to my Web site and white paper? What should I say in the ad, and how much should I pay for one?

A: Instead of a single space ad, you should consider running a 4-page insert which gives you plenty of room to get readers’ interest, and if you go out of house, you should pay no more than $10,000-$12,000, including production. If you deliver that piece to 100,000 readers of a tier-one trade pub, that’s less than 12 cents per reader.

In terms of content for your insert and white paper, business people hate hype and slick sales pitches, but they love case studies and other information they can put to use. Use market research to support your market overview, and charts and graphs. And use every component to lead readers back to your Web site for more in-depth content.

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