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I have worked with B2B clients both during my employment days earlier and more recently as a digital entrepreneur. A lot has changed in the way business is conducted today. Leaders are hassled with the disruptive dis aggregation that e-Commerce and mobile technology has brought to the B2B businesses. While the old ways off selling seem to be no longer working, the newer ways are struggling to bring revenue (their PAKT).
Is there a way to survive this paradigm shift? What are the new skills and practices to be learnt? Is there something to be forgotten? I would love to hear your comments and examples of how to survive this onslaught especially for the SME businesses both in the Goods and the Services sector. There could be strategies that may work for one segment or domain. Each category can be seen as “Stand Alone”. I welcome all your experiences and comments on building a B2B Success Kit as a whole or a segment specific guide. However based on my experience, here are 7 mindsets that Sales & Marketing Leaders need to watch out for.
1. Is it B2B or B2C?
This is a big question mark. B2B businesses typically offer 5 value propositions.
- Technical knowledge [know-how]
- Source of supply or manufacturing
- Customised specs
- Cost benefit
- SLA’s (credit period, supply TAT, MOQ etc.)
Let’s see what’s popping on your client’s mobile screen. As per Alexa, there are 12 sub-categories online for finding industrial products/supplies. Agents, Associations, Consulting Companies, Directories, Diversified sites, Industrial Product Finders, Machinery & Equipment, Mined Minerals, Stones & Ores, Luxury & Specialty, Resources, Services etc.
Your customer can find the spec, quantity, and delivery schedule of his choice online at a lower price, than what you can offer him. It’s available on their CEO’s mobile. It’s intuitive and effortless (well almost). Your customers are now your consumers. Accept it.
2. Your Website needs a welcome mat
Your customer has a choice. It’s not defined by you. It’s neither bound by geography nor by a spec. Alibaba, Diytrade, MadeinChina, Grainger, Tradeindia, Exportersindia etc are offering plethora of choice. “Jo dikhta hai wo bikta hai” is the new rule. GST has further lowered the exit barrier for your clients. Bit coin payments are catching up fast albeit not being legal currently. It’s time to revisit your business’ self image. Well, as a suggestion look at Chinese or German businesses. How are you visible to your existing customers and to your potential customers? Make a new website if you haven’t. Add content, diagrams, pictures, videos, specs, comparison, benefits, your philosophy, your clients, testimonials etc. Minimum of 40 pages would be a good benchmark to start with.
3. Jo dikhta hai wo bikta hai
Why should you invest your time and energy in writing content and sharing your trade secrets online? Even if you don’t share, your neighbor will most likely do. Content is the magnet to attract relevant audience to your business. The time is ripe for video content in India now. With everybody having a smart phone and improved video ready data connectivity it’s imperative that your website should have video content.
4. Is Digital Marketing advisable for B2B?
Yes! Your business needs digital marketing thinking now than ever before. Your website needs domain focused content and SEO. You need to engage with your potential customers. And your potential customers can be in Orissa or Tuticorin or in Abuja (Nigeria). You must reach out to them through directory listings, article submission, blog, white paper, e-Book etc. You must send e-mailers to all the visitors of your stall in the last industrial trade fair. You should reach out to them through re-marketing. Groom a talent in-house to do basic execution. Outsource strategic thinking and creative to an experienced Digital Marketing Firm. Spend most of your marketing effort on mobile.
5. Digital Marketing brings non-serious leads.
Appointing a Sales Person from within the industry brings measurable results in terms of top line sales. You are conditioned to seeing fewer prospects and higher conversions. Digital Marketing on the other hand works on bringing more prospects and fewer conversions (1 to 10%). I recently met the CEO and Founder of a Walkie-Talkie business. While discussing about the right metrics for judging the efficacy of digital marketing campaigns, he felt that the conversion from the digital leads was way too low and his sales team had been reduced to a call centre answering all kinds of non-serious queries. I asked him so how did he solve this problem. His answer stunned me. His digital marketing team simply removed the phone number. That’s an expensive mistake. You pay for generating online enquiries and then make yourself inaccessible because it generates junk. My suggestion to him would be to hire a young low cost tele-calling resource and put him on the job to answer the calls. If you expect to get 25 to 30% conversions from digital marketing, please challenge this expectation.
6. Backlinks is past. Not really!
True. Backlinks is past but quality backlinks is the present. Google searches have become very intuitive and accurate. Directory submissions help in building backlinks. Please identify relevant high quality industry specific platforms (portals/directories/media) and submit an article with clear title, relevant product image and a crisp description (including specs, benefits, comparison and application advice, certification etc.). Please keep a small budget for paid submissions. Free submissions won’t take us any further.
If you or your top brass has spoken at an industry interaction or presented a paper, please use the pictures, videos, certifications, awards etc to build quality backlinks. Use in-house resource or outsourced experts for this activity and be outcome oriented.
Reviews from customers, suppliers and employees are important. Please chase testimonials and reviews from customers.
7. My Industry will never change
This is a collective mindset and therefore even more difficult to tackle. The industry associations need to transform their thinking from a static event/meeting based engagement with the constituent members into a real time platform like a mobile app. Industry journals, events, seminars, Govt. interactions need to go digital and mobile. This will open up new vistas of collaboration and co-working amongst the members and enhance the effectiveness of the associations. This will make “#Make in India for the world” a reality in its true sense.
This list is just a trigger to get more ideas on how our B2B businesses can become growth businesses ready to roar not just in the Indian market but across the world. We would love to hear your reactions and comments. Amen