The Mission of B2B MarketingIf your sales reps are not consistently on the short list of your prospects, then your B2B Marketing is failing at its mission.
The Single Most Important Mission of B2B Marketing
The mission of B2B Marketing is to get Sales on the short list of vendors that a prospective buyer wants to invite in for a meeting. A Top Tier Vendor is always on the short list of vendors: they always get invited to present when a company is faced with a new need.
However, the vast majority of B2B companies are Tier 3 vendors—they compete with hundreds of other companies for the same customer base. Tier 3 Vendors never get invited in to present, and the only way they can win deals is by stooping to offering the lowest price.Unless you are the low price leader, Tier 3 is not the position you want to be in.
The first step towards building predictable revenue and high growth is to focus on becoming a Top Tier Vendor in specific market space.
What Tier Vendor are you?
This concept of “vendor tiers” is critical to the goal of achieving a high growth rate. Tier 1 and Tier 2 vendors grow at a prosperous, fast rate, but Tier 3 vendors either miss their targets or grow at an anemic single digit level.
A Tier 1 Vendor is the top dog—the leader of the pack in the market space of their choosing. This vendor has a deep insight and knoweldge when it comes to products, services, and expertise that are an ideal fit for their customers. As a result, the Tier 1 vendor is the vendor that most customers want to buy from. Thus, they can, and do, charge a premium to customers for the privilege of buying from the leader. In any given market, there are no more than 2-3 Tier 1 vendors operating at any given time.
A Tier 2 Vendor is a strong niche competitor, but undoubtedly doesn’t have the same scope and scale as a Tier 1 vendor. However, within the Tier 2 vendor’s limited scope and scale, their offer is as complete and unmatchable as a Tier 1 competitor. Typically, a Tier 2 vendor charges less than a Tier 1 vendor. Therefore, for customers who don’t need the scale of Tier 1, a Tier 2 provider is a very attractive alternative, providing a similar service at a cheaper cost. There are usually no more than a handful of Tier 2 vendors for any given market.
Any B2B company that is not a Tier 1 or Tier 2 vendor is automatically a Tier 3 Vendor. This tier of vendors is flooded with many dozens, if not hundreds, of vendors attempting to serve the same customer base with an undifferentiated, “me too” offer. Tier 3 offers are typically seen as a “commodity”, never a necessity, and price competition is the only way to win deals.
Throughout the duration of this article, Tier 1 and Tier 2 vendors will be referred to as Top Tier Vendors.
Characteristic of a Top Tier Vendor
Definition: If your prospective customers know who you are and what you do, then you are a Top Tier Vendor in that specific market.
If we have agreed thus far, then the mission of B2B Marketing should be to position a given company as a Top Tier Vendor in its chosen market space.
However, what one often sees from lower tiered companies is an unfocused, undifferentiated marketing message that goes something like, “Company ABC, the leading provider of XYZ, has the best…” In all honesty, no one really cares. These type of messages mostly go unopened and unread, before finding their way to e-mail trash bins – delegating the company to Tier 3 status.
Top Tier Vendors, on the other hand, have deep and relevant content that backs up any and all claims and marketing messages they make. They are thought leaders who publish papers, articles, case studies, surveys – all precisely focused on the market they serve.
Thus, these Top Tier Vendors show up at the top of internet searches when a prospective client or customer begins researching potential solutions for their issues. These vendor’s highly specified articles and case studies are read, admired, and discussed internally. Sooner after, these vendors find themselves enthusiastically welcomed in for an initial meeting.
Characteristics of a Tier 3 Vendor
Tier 3 vendors, on the other hand, typically have marketing communication that is mostly self-serving. Their market messages talk about their products and why they are the best. These types of messages do not assist or benefit the prospective client – they provide no evidence or case studies on the effectiveness of the vendor’s product or service. Since this kind of marketing proves highly ineffective, the pressure is always on Sales to ensure the Tier 3 vendor entices and secures the client. The end result is a long, fruitless sales cycles with low closing ratios, as these low tier vendors lose opportunities to Top Tier vendors, and a chronic lack of any significant sales growth.
The Power of the Short List
From the vendor’s perspective, getting on the short list of a buyer confers two very important advantages:
- Since the list of competitors is short, the probability of a win is much higher, resulting in more predictable, consistent revenue and higher growth rate.
- A short list means that the buyer-vendor engagement level is high. This entails that epresentatives can gauge their chance of winning relatively early and far more accurately. If these representatives fail to foresee a win, they exit early, thus reducing the cost of sales.
However, from the buyer’s perspective, getting on the short list is a matter of whether or not the vendor can be deemed as trustworthy. Can the buyer trust the vendor not to waste their time, to be honest with what the vendor can and cannot do? And most importantly, is trusting the vendor going to cost the buyer their reputation, or even their career?
It is hard for buyer to see a Tier 3 Vendor as trustworthy, since all of the marketing messages simply tout the vendor as exceptional, with no evidence to back such claims. Such messaging sounds unsophisticated and ignorant of what the buyer expects from a vendor.
A Top Tier vendor, on the other hand, has made a significant effort to prove their expertise and experience in dealing with the exact, specific challenges that the buyer is having. The trust that such effort provides translates to an open and eager invitation to collaborate, That accomplishes precisely what B2B Marketing is supposed to do—position a company as a Top Tier Vendor, resulting in the vendor landing on the short list of buyers in that market segment.
To demonstrate trustworthiness and gain almost-automatic access to buyers, a vendor needs to commit to fully supporting the buyer’s market. The goal is to change the buyer’s built-in cynicism (“This is just a wast of my time”) to cautious curiosity (“hmmm…interesting”) to real interest demonstrated by an abundance of page visits and real time spent reviewing that the content the vendor publishes.
From the buyer’s perspective, reviewing most marketing communication is a waste of time. The buyer starts by automatically assuming that the emails she receives from someone she doesn’t know is unsolicited junk about how some product is “…the leader in…”. She has seen hundreds, even thousands of these kinds of useless marketing messages, and they mean nothing to her.
However, if she starts seeing messages that are about topics that are highly relevant to her, where the content behind those topics is well-researched and well written; if the messaging is rich in information, both as to the problem and the solution, she will start readily opening more of these emails. In fact, as time progresses, she will start looking forward to the next email from this engaging, information-rich source. It is important to note that she should not, at any point, need to provide her information to access the content she needs.
Trust is something that takes time to build and will only build over time if the vendor makes a real commitment to the buyer’s market.
Why is it so hard to be a Top Tier Vendor?
Research and our own direct observations indicate that being a Top Tier vendor is no more difficult than being a Tier3 vendor. Reaching such status does not require more resources, more money, or more skills.
What it does require is focusing on a specific market segment and committing to becoming a Top Tier Vendor in that market segment.
However, what typically happens is that missed revenue targets create a sense of crisis and pressure on Sales to make their number quotas. Now, out of desperation, sales representatives begin to target anything with the faintest glimmer of a pulse. They then reach out and require this desperate flailing from Marketing, and from Development, and so on, carelessly scattering the limited resources of their company. Instead of chasing strategic deals where the company has the highest chance of winning, they begin chasing opportunistic deals where they must individually customize their entire approach to win low margin deals. The more frequently this occurs, the harder it becomes to win any deal without a great deal of customization. Adding insult to injury, the sales representatives have to give significant price concessions in order to win these deals.
Part of being a Top Tier Vendor is avoiding distractions and focusing on the chosen market space with laser-like precision. Each win becomes further evidence for potential buyers in the same market space that this vendor is a credible partner. Each win, effectively, becomes a case study. Additionally, each win adds in furthering the experience of Sales, Marketing, Customer Support, and Development, since it incrementally adds to the already accumulating body of knowledge. As a result, the vendor builds a deep expertise on the market, and their Marketing Communication becomes more credible and relevant. Additionally, the vendor’s sales team now knows a significant amount about the issues customers in this market face – knowledge they can then apply to future potential buyers.
In the end, it is easier to maintain the status quo of a Top Tier Vendor than that of a Tier 3 vendor, for there exists no need to continually prove the worthiness of the vendor. Instead, the Top Tier Vendor establishes a solid, trustworthy reputation on the market that is constantly maintained.
To summarize, the job of B2B Marketing is to get your sales representatives on the short list of vendors that are invited to present to a potential buyer.
In order to do that, your Marketing team has to provide overwhelming evidence that you are a Top Tier Vendor in the buyer’s sector, demonstrated by a full understanding of the buyer’s problem and a viable solution, as evidenced by deep, insightful content found on your web pages, white papers, social media properties, case studies, customer testimonials, and more.
While Tier 3 vendors continue to put out “ABC, the leading provider of XYZ…”, you, as a Top Tier Vendor, work, through your marketing messages, on becoming a go-to-resource for your potential customers, giving you relatively easy access at a low cost.
The end result is you enjoy higher closing ratios and shorter sales cycles, which translate into high growth rate at low sales and marketing cost – hich is what we all hope to and set out to achieve in the end.
Contact Us to see how we can help you become a Top Tier Vendor.