vendor standing on sunny beach with a number of flotation devices for sale
PHOTO: Lucía Ricciardi | unsplash

Last week on a Zoom prep-session for an upcoming panel discussion, the panel organizer reminded those of us (including me) who are vendors not to promote or sell our businesses on the panel, which was entirely appropriate. This column is the same. I’ve been writing for CMSWire for several years and while I sometimes make a passing reference to my company, if I stray too close to the boundary where it could be construed as promotion, my editor intervenes.

The panel call got me thinking about when and where is the right time to promote and sell. I started writing a list of possibilities:

  • Cold calls via phone or text.
  • Email outreach.
  • Sponsored content.
  • Ads and retargeting.
  • LinkedIn Outreach.
  • Events.
  • Video and audio shows.
  • Community sponsorship.
  • Product directories.
  • Print.
  • Direct mail.

Reconciling the Buyer's and the Seller's Needs

Deciding what makes sense requires reconciling the needs of both the buyer and seller: I need to sell my product and to sell my product I need to make you aware of my product, find out whether you have a need for my product, and if you do, convince you to buy my product. On the flip side, what a buyer (myself included) would really like is for you to appear in their inbox, social feeds, and when they’re browsing only when they’ve identified a need and you have a product to address that need.

Audience segmentation, personalization, customer journey mapping, buyer intent data and retargeting are all means by which sellers try to satisfy what buyers want from an engagement experience. The problem is that despite all that’s being written, the technology for all of this is still in its infancy. It takes us a step closer to the ideal, but not all the way there. How often do you see a pop-up ad for a product you’ve just bought?

Over time these tools and mechanisms will take advantage of machine learning, AI and additional technology innovation and we as sellers will be able to engage with potential buyers in a way that delivers a more satisfactory selling and buying experience. For now, we have to deal with the limitations of the tools we have to achieve our goals — hopefully without negatively impacting the customer experience. 

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Defining Sales Opportunities

In looking at the marketing and sales tactics I listed strictly as opportunities to promote and sell without worrying about where in the sales cycle these should be leveraged, I reached the following conclusions: 

Tactics

Opportunity to Promote and Sell?

Seller Impact

Buyer Experience

Cold calls via phone or text

 

Yes

High impact if you get through to the buyer.

Highly negative

Email outreach

 

Yes

Good way to engage prospects.

1:1 email generally a neutral or good experience. Email bombardment delivers a negative experience.

Ads and retargeting

 

Not directly for most B2B companies

Useful for awareness and list building.

Neutral. Buyers understand that ads are necessary to support whatever site, publication or activity they are engaged with.

LinkedIn Outreach

 

Yes

A good place to start a sales conversation. Also useful for awareness and list building.

1:1 connection most positively received. Drip campaigns if not done well can feel like spam.

Events

 

Yes

Booths, sponsored sessions and sponsored events can all be good opportunities to promote and sell.

Good. Buyers are in an environment where they expect vendors to be selling.

Video and audio shows

 

No

New environments created by Clubhouse and Capiche.fm offer a new way to engage with industry peers and buyers, but participation in the events created on those platforms are not opportunities to sell unless you are invited to do so by the host.

NA

Community sponsorship

 

Yes

High impact. Communities can provide access to a highly targeted audience.

Good. Buyers understand that exposure to sponsors is the price of access.

Product directories

 

Yes

High impact. The better the profile, the better the impact.

Good. Buyers accessing product directories and review sites are actively searching for products to evaluate.

Direct mail

 

Maybe

Direct mail can be a very effective promotional and sales tool.

Good, as long as the buyer is not overwhelmed with junk mail which is a risk if you target buyers who are working at home.

A note about product directories. Product directories and review sites are locations where active buyers go to discover and evaluate products. It amazes me how little attention most vendors pay to making sure they own and maintain their product profiles on the sites relevant to their industries.

One of the ways to provide the buyer with a much more positive experience is to deliver something of value through whatever channel you are using. I’m all-in on this, “how to” guides and templates are gold and are always well received. Doing things to make your prospects and customers’ lives better or easier should always be part of a marketing plan. It garners goodwill and helps develop a good working relationship.

Having said that, there comes a time when you just have to promote and sell, otherwise your business is going to fail. We have to look for legitimate opportunities to promote and sell through our marketing channels. I’d love to hear other opinions on this topic. Comment below or reach out to me on twitter (@abrearton) or on LinkedIn to share your thoughts.

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