How to Position a Difficult Product in B2B Marketing [Case Study]

Funnily enough, most power-solutions that are designed to make life easier are rather complicated. How do you sell a complicated solution without sounding like you’re just stringing jargon words in sentences?

On one hand, the main purpose of B2B marketing is to explain how a product can solve a problem so you feel compelled to go into technical intricacies, on the other hand, you are selling to humans, so your goal is to create rapport.

Another factor to remember about B2B marketing is the decision making process. Usually there will be more than one decision maker involved and the decision maker(s) are usually 60% down the buying process before they become responsive to active selling. In other words:

  • you need to diversify the effort to include as many different roles as possible. Normally, you would use one template to reach out to business development managers and a different template to catch attention of CEOs. What if you have just one chance and you have to make sure the message has to include both?
  • inbound marketing principles have to be observed. All the things you’ve read in B2B marketing books. Consumer buying stage – Awareness -> Consideration -> Decision. If you try to sell to people who are in the Awareness stage, you’re just wasting your time.

Hit Them With Numbers, Not With Jargon

When marketing complicated products like blockchain solutions, SaaS or high-tech consultancy, it’s very tempting to stuff your marketing language with jargon because you need to explain how your super solution works, right?

B2B Marketing Jargon

But then again, the business development manager doesn’t care that your blockchain script has been written using best practices of Python language. What do business devs usually care about? 🤑 Bottom line, that’s right. Tell them how your solution can help them bolster their bottom line and you’ve gained a new friend!

When marketing a complicated product, operate with numbers. Rustle up some stats and make various pieces of content:

  • Infographic
  • Slideshare slides
  • Blog pieces talking to decision makers in various buying stages (Awareness -> Consideration -> Decision)

B2B Marketing Case Study: Crowe & Horwath Accountants

This might be an old case study but it doesn’t matter. The things I want to look at are evergreen. So, it probably doesn’t get much more complicated than corporate tax advisory, risk assessment and performance monitoring. Crowe & Horwath recognised that and conjured a content marketing campaign back in 2012. It consisted of fewer than 50 pieces of content spanning articles, infographics, Q&As, checklists and videos.

They then targeted CEOs in financial giants worth $1 billion or more (think LinkedIn Sales Navigator if you’re wondering how to target and segment your leads). They reached out to 778 individuals and got a 70% open rate. The 545 openers didn’t convert quite as well as expected – just 2 sales, however, we’re talking high ticket sales – $250,000 in revenue.

The open rate here is the key metric. You don’t get a 70% open rate by cold-emailing people. 🤦‍♂️

You may argue that they could’ve improved the funnel conversion rate, as 545 SQL (sales-qualified leads) down to two closed deals is pretty shocking, but then again, we’re talking about high-ticket product. Also this B2B content marketing campaign was aimed at CEOs who are rarely the direct decision makers. All things considered they’d done pretty well.

Since they had a marketing team in-house, there was no added cost to create this B2B content marketing campaign. How good is that? And even if they had to outsource, you can easily replicate their content for some $5 – 10,000. And that’s what, like 25:1 ROI which is pretty amazing.

They should’ve continued in a similar fashion, yet if you scroll down to their blog beginnings – back to 2013 -, you see a countdown of stuff that you shouldn’t do on a corporate blog (mind you they’ve improved significantly now).

Same goes for their YouTube effort. They did put out a few great videos back in 2012, like this one:

But then there were gaps in their video marketing output and the recent videos are not getting anywhere near as many views and interaction as I’d expect.

And just 275 subscribers, so yeah, work in progress. It is typical for large powerful corporate businesses to slightly weir off their track after particularly successful marketing campaigns. You do remember the XEROX marketing case study where they created a brilliant campaign and then just let it slip into oblivion.

B2B marketing rule number one – if you find something that works then stick to it!

For argument’s sake, you might be interested in checking out one of their infographics. Unfortunately, very little remains of the original 2012 campaign, however, there are a few pieces floating around and this is one of them.

That’s quite a clever infographic. If I told you that Dodd-Frank compliance initiative contained 849 pages, you’d completely glaze over and click away. Now, if I tell you that laid end to end the Dodd-Frank document would be as tall as 21 Statues of Liberty, I might get a reaction from you. This is how you sell complicated products and services in B2B marketplace – you grab attention using a bold or off-beat statement.

Cheryl Moe – the Person Behind this B2B Content Marketing Campaign

It’s worth to bring up an old quote by Crowe & Howarth’s then marketing manager Cheryl Moe. She’s quite a remarkable lady and I suggest you follow her on LinkedIn.

I really like her answer to a question concerning stuff that works and doesn’t work in digital marketing. This is from a 2013 interview. I know I love digging out this pre-historic stuff but you can keep buying fresh ebooks written by the current gurus but at the end of the day it all boils down to some fundamental marketing truths, so if you insist on reading books, you might as well read Robert B. Cialdini’s influence (written 34 years ago) and get the same results. Anyway:

“… When I look at what is working for us across the board – it’s testing. But the core of our approach is simple: understanding our target audience and testing to see what emerging platforms, channels and content really engages them. I think you have to identify, but also get to know, the audience. Where are they going online to become better informed? In B2B, decision makers are moving through purchase process more independently than before – in fact, we know that prospects on average are not engaging service providers until they are 60% through the buying process.

This means B2B decision makers are online getting informed about problems, issues, solutions in a much richer, comprehensive way. So, we’ve gone deeper in our understanding of their online habits so we can engage in their purchase process more effectively. Marketing fundamentals still apply regardless of the media – know your audience and deliver value. Your emerging media strategy becomes a living plan that you test, measure and refine. Just because something you tried does not work out, you can still apply that knowledge to your next campaign or program.”

It’s about keeping an open mind and testing. If tomorrow someone tells you that B2B decision makers might be moving towards using Snapchat, test it before dismissing it.

Arvid Linde

I blog about cats, SEO and the synergy between marketing and sales.

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