Monday, February 8, 2010

There's No Substitute for Relevancy

In my previous post, I described some of the characteristics of today's B2B buyers, and I said that because of easy access to information, business buyers now essentially control the buying process. Buyer empowerment is one of three forces that are shaping the B2B marketing landscape. Just like moving water shapes the physical world, these three forces are redefining what effective B2B marketing is and how it's done. The third force is marketing automation technologies, and I'll cover this topic in my next post.

The second force driving fundamental change in B2B marketing is the growing need to create and use marketing communications and materials that are relevant to potential buyers. Relevance has become a necessity for two reasons. First, our environment is filled with marketing and advertising clutter, and the clutter is getting worse, not better. As marketing clutter increases, the effectiveness of generic, self-promotional marketing messages decreases. B2B buyers simply tune them out. Second, today's B2B buyers are incredibly busy. Their time is their most precious commodity, and they protect it at all costs. If a buyer doesn't see your message as relevant, he or she will ignore it.

The dictionary definition of relevant is, "having significant and demonstrable bearing on the matter at hand." Therefore, to be relevant, a marketing message must speak directly to an issue, problem, challenge, or outcome that's important, or at least interesting, to the potential buyer.

To create relevance, you have to know two things about your potential buyer. First, what role does the buyer play in his or her organization, and how will your products or services create value for this specific buyer? How do they make his life easier? What problems do they help her solve? Most B2B sales involve several "buyers" and these buyers will have different needs, issues, and problems. This means that you need to create marketing messages and materials that are customized for each type of buyer you typically encounter. In an upcoming post, I'll describe how you create buyer "personas" and then develop marketing materials for each persona.

The second thing you need to know is where the buyer is in the buying cycle. This is important because the kind of information that a potential buyer will find relevant changes as he or she moves through the buying process. For example, a prospective buyer who has just started to focus on a particular problem will likely welcome a white paper that explains the ramifications of the problem and the benefits of solving the problem. That buyer would not be as likely to welcome a product brochure at this stage of the buying process. So your marketing messages and materials must also speak to where your prospect is in the buying cycle.

The growing need to make marketing messages and materials relevant multiplies the amount of marketing content you need and, therefore, complicates the B2B marketing process. But relevance is absolutely essential to reach today's B2B buyers.

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