The Hard Job of Cultivating Best Customers: Interviews with 30 Top-Tier B2B Marketers

2017-09-12 by Paul Kostial
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Cultivating customer relationships hasn’t been an easy task in 2017 and will even become more challenging heading into 2018. B2B clients across all industries experienced the conundrum of the ‘bunkered’ customer relationship dynamic.  Over the last several months, we interviewed the leading sales people of 30 different B2B clients (see prior blog post ‘bunkered’ for more on this topic).  The responses were the same, spanning all industries, and company sizes.  From the Fortune 500 to much smaller companies.

Here’s a sampling of what they had to say … 

  • – Sales Director, F500 Technology Company – “My customers are just harder to reach, they rarely answer the phone or return a voice message, and even email is yielding little response.  Yes, there are those known customers who always get back with you, but even then, it’s still a much smaller percentage than even a year ago.”
  • – Chief Sales Officer, Global Industrial Manufacturer – “Our prospecting emails land on deaf ears, 99% of the time, no matter how we do it, and how many versions we attempt, getting through to legitimate prospects is nearly impossible,..  Luckily, our website is robust, so that’s a helpful advantage vs. our competition.”
  • – National Sales Manager, Commercial Construction – “If it weren’t for our direct marketing assets, I don’t know what we’d do to fortify our sales reps and clients these days.  We’ve tried everything, including a great deal of online marketing, and nothing produces as much as our direct marketing touch points.  Our sales force is very frustrated, and each day seems to be more challenging to cut through the clutter.”
  • –SVP, Sales Director, Enterprise Channel, Banking – “We’ve definitely seen a decrease in direct responses to even inbound requests, even when followed-up in a very timely manner.  Our sales people find it very difficult to get meetings in person much any more, and though that’s a time-savings, having the feedback necessary to do our jobs is significantly limited with this one-sided transactional communication of late.”
  • – Regional VP, Software Development – “We’ve lived in a world of tight customer-focused relationships for decades, and though the customers haven’t changed much, the means to interact is drastically different.  Presently, our sales team work 90% via email and phone and, we don’t capture as much client insight that way to help guide our recommendations for each client.”

I’d continue with more of these, but you get the picture.

More and more, ‘cut-the-clutter’ tactics are proving to be an effective approach:

  • using well-planned tangible quality touch points designed to reinforce and educate
  • unique, non-intrusive way to keep your brand and message in front of the client
  • timing touchpoints to coinicide with major events, promotions, product releases
  • adding CEO ‘thought leadership’ to hyper-targeted messaging,

All play a part in cultivating the most effective B2B outreach, with cutting-the-clutter being a significant challenge, initially, then engaging content that resonates without patronizing.  It’s a fine-line ‘balance’ between too much and not enough.

If you’ve faced/facing these same challenges, you’re not alone.  Given the impersonal nature of the digital environment, our clients have learned to reach their clients through a strong messaging strategy, combined with personalization in their outbound targeting, that reinforce their most vital relationships, if even from afar.

The mindset is still always ‘customer first’ and yet, even that has become a wider gap of space between what’s needed and what’s required to both win the business and to service it with the greatest amount of direction and feedback possible.  Cultivated customers are still what works; it’s just that the ‘cultivating’ part has become so much more challenging.

CONCLUSION:  Maybe oddly, yet … our magazine cover wrap campaigns are producing exceptional measured results, more so than ever before.  And now, we’re layering with online retargeting (your exact same audience), plus … our new NFC ‘tap-to-digital’ interactive devices: there’s really nothing that’s more effective.  And, this is proven over and over again with client targets in: B2B, AFFLUENT, PHARMA and RETAIL categories.  Start with as few as only 500-1000 targets, we will build you a sales+marketing hyper-targeted campaign that works.

We’d appreciate your thoughts and experiences, and feedback, regarding your B2B challenges.  It’s always interesting to hear from a wide cross-section of marketing and sales leaders, and appreciate your sharing.  – For more information, reach Paul Kostial at paul.kostial@audienceinnovation.com, or 888-241-6634,x719.

Ps.  The reason this topic is interesting is multi-faceted. We actually learned something we didn’t know, and having asked 30 clients if we could interview one of their better sales managers, the lessons were large, and nearly uniform across all businesses and categories.  And, our solutions bridge the gap between marketing and sales, and provide a valued sales asset to assist the sales force with their outreach, both retention and acquisition.  If you’d like to know more, please review the DIRECT+DIGITAL Interactive information shared on our Targets: B2B Solutions page at www.audienceinnovation.com.  We look forward to answering your questions.