2015-07-January-Honkytonk.jpgAs a career-long B2B marketer, I notice and appreciate the way consumer brands speak to (or attempt to) speak to me. It’s easy as B2B marketers to get caught up in our own world, our own language, our internal nuances and what we “feel” will resonate with audiences. And often, the pressure to sell more or drive leads takes precedence over doing our research and really nailing the message.

Which is why, with every company I join, the first place I start is the story. Who are we talking to? Are we speaking their language? What do they really care about? And what challenges are we going to help them overcome? The bottom line: you’re never going to pass the class if you don’t first do your homework. So as we embark on another year, here a few reminders of B2B marketing strategies you can’t afford to leave on the table.

Embrace Your Current Clients

You know the saying: “it costs a lot more to acquire a new client than it does to keep an existing one.” Don’t get me wrong -- growing your book of business is important, but current clients offer an easier sell and easier reach than new business. Often lead-gen heavy marketing plans forget that nurturing and retaining those brands that already said “yes” are just as important as capturing new ones.

Marketing should never be treated as a silo and therefore must seek ways to partner with sales and client services to aid in the onboarding, trust building and upselling of existing business. Simple tactics such as client gifting and welcome support to thought leadership, webinars, case studies, playbooks, best practices and benchmarks are always helpful in constantly nurturing client relationships. But your best bet is always to dig out your true client champions -- the ones that really love your company and product -- and will shout it from the rooftops, whether at a conference, for a reporter or to other would-be clients.

Sales Enablement and Brand Strategy are not Mutually Exclusive

Ever felt as if marketing is treated like the red-headed stepchild of your organization? Sometimes we’re just misunderstood. As marketers, we long for beautiful branding, consistent themes, a well-designed website and so on. But sometimes sales just doesn’t have the patience for it. They may not immediately see how it generates leads or helps them get a meeting. As a marketer, you may even be told to stop branding and start enabling sales. Since when can’t (or shouldn’t) we do both?

The message is just as important as the medium. The design just as important as the frequency of promotion. And marketing success is just as important as a closed deal. We can’t have one without the other, and therefore shouldn’t ever think that branding and lead gen are an either-or situation. Take for example, a content marketing plan -- you’re producing a lot of pieces: collateral, white papers, infographics, newsletters etc., and you’re pushing the leads those are driving to, your sales force. But as it turns out, because the brand message, story and design was rushed, these efforts were actually wasted. Even if a “lead” was generated, the content didn’t connect with them, and you just wasted a whole lot of time, energy and budget.

Ensure branding and sales enablement go hand in hand with a strategy that shows your sales team how the two work together -- and how it makes them (and your company) look a whole lot smarter.

Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

Once you’ve figured out your target audience, once you really feel confident that you know what makes them tick -- don’t be afraid to step outside the box. Putting on a B2C marketer’s hat can help you formulate a message and awareness campaign that not only catches your buyer’s eye, but has some fun with it.

A few years ago Verisign launched their “No More Abandoned Carts” campaign. It was a smashing success of a viral campaign. Why? Not only did it, in very creative way, take a topic that many, many e-commerce companies were attempting to solve for -- but they made it funny. They didn’t make it more serious that it needed to be. You wanted to watch the video to the end. And you wanted to know what the heck Verisign had to do with cart abandonment. As a B2B marketer, I was inspired -- finally a company had stepped outside the box to showcase their offering in an entertaining way -- that we actually enjoyed watching.

Remember, sales and marketing are partners, not enemies. We’re all after the same goal. So, B2B marketers, let’s have 2015 be the year we reach outside our comfort zone and show our teams what marketing is capable of, and why -- when done right -- it works.

Title image by Todd Ehlers (Flickr) via a CC BY 2.0 license