“Referral marketing is a method of promoting products or services to new customers through referrals, usually by word of mouth. Such referrals often happen spontaneously but businesses can influence this through appropriate strategies.” - wikipedia.org
As I’m sure you’ve done in the past when choosing a vendor to work with, we call our trusted friends, mentors, and acquaintances to get some referrals. Why do we do that? Because we don’t have all day to do our research on vendors. Time is money, but it may not be worth our time or money to hire a vendor that doesn't give us the quality work we seek.
In business, saving a dollar here and there may not always be the best thing for operations, so we tend to look to trusted resources for advice. Our friends may give us the cheapest options, but more likely they will refer us to whom they trust to do the best job based on their own experience.
So what does this mean for your business?
In B2B marketing, referrals play a very powerful role. A referral may come directly from your trusted advisors in person, but they can also come virtually through media like LinkedIn or Google. All you have to do is ask your satisfied customers to mention you and write reviews about you in these social spaces.
Putting their testimonials on your homepage as a video, or as a paragraph with their real names and photos can be powerful online marketing. Instead of listening to your sales pitch, more and more people are listening to what others are saying about you.
You and your team will need to build a systematic way to make sure you ask for such referrals and reviews in a timely manner. To make this easy, you might want to consider a follow-up letter to existing clients and give them a link so they can put a referral on Google, LinkedIn or any other social media platform without having to search for it online.
If and when you receive such review, don’t forget to thank the person!
When discussing social media, we tend to view it as an outlet for individuals, but when it comes to B2B, there is one social space that is very effective for connecting with other businesses – LinkedIn.
LinkedIn was founded in 2002 and purchased by Microsoft in 2016. It focuses on business and employment-oriented social networking, and currently there are about 500 million active accounts in 200 countries. If you don’t have an account yet, it would benefit you to create one. Like many other competitors, LinkedIn’s primary source of income comes from Google AdSense and other premium paid services.
LinkedIn has two sides – 1) the employment / recruiting side, and 2) the networking side. The first is pretty self-explanatory. People who are seeking new jobs post about their skills and experiences. When it comes to B2B marketing, however, the networking and influence side of things is more appealing.
LinkedIn has various interest groups, and people are networking / connecting / learning virtually online within the LinkedIn network. The same way you can publish a blog to get out important business information, you can “write an article” in LinkedIn to demonstrate your professional skills and highlight your business.
LInkedIn also offers advertising platforms for you to promote your articles:
Sponsored Content: For a price, your article can appear within the feed of people who fit your target profile.
Sponsored InMail: This is a different delivery method from sponsored content - it goes into the inbox of those people who fit your target demographic.
You can also look into text ads, display ads and dynamic ads that fit within your budget. The basic fee structures are the same as Facebook, but LinkedIn is more focused on business connections than personal connections. Take a moment to check out LinkedIn as another effective option for B2B marketing.
E-Newsletters are one way to stay connected with your existing customers, your new customers, and other business partners. Unlike the B2C (Business to Consumer) market, you probably want to send information in your newsletter that is pertinent to your potential customers’ business. If it can help their business in some way, address that. We don’t recommend sending ads because they become more of a distraction and people are likely to unsubscribe.
Check out some etiquette tips when sending B2B newsletters:
Stick to a regular schedule. Don’t send newsletters when you feel like it. Make sure you have a calendar commitment and stick to a regular schedule.
Be informative and consistent. Newsletter templates like the ones at www.newsmail.com make it easy for you to have a clean, easy-to-read newsletter style. Make sure the information you share is relevant and consistent with your brand message. Don’t venture out beyond your knowledge and stick with your core competency.
Better to be safe than sorry. If you are not sure about a person's title, it’s better to be safe than sorry. For example, when addressing your audience, should you use Mr. or Ms.? Or should you just say, “Hello, friends”? Consider your opening greeting and play it safe, rather than be wrong and be sorry.
Demonstrate your knowledge and professionalism. If you don’t have anything useful to say to other businesses, no knowledge that could help them, then you might as well not send a newsletter. Don’t just send a bunch of advertisements. A B2B newsletter should show off your knowledge and professionalism, so try sharing bits and pieces about your expertise in each newsletter. Perhaps highlight a recent client you helped or a new piece of technology or a new service you have to offer.
Don’t try to sell. You don’t need to sell your products or services in your newsletter. Let your knowledge as a company, and sharing your expertise in the newsletter sell your products or services instead.
Have a way to unsubscribe. Allow people to unsubscribe and opt out of your newsletter. And try to assess why someone might opt out when you get notification of it, and examine what you can do better.
Unlike consumers who are emotionally driven to purchase, business purchases are driven by needs and demands, which may come unexpectedly. So, being available when needed is one of the key elements for successfully engaging a new B2B relationship. But how do you do that?
There are several easy ways for you to stay connected in B2B relationships:
Sending regularly scheduled newsletters on a relevant topic will help your potential B2B customers stay aware of your business offerings. All the emails and advertisements we get in our inbox daily can be overwhelming, so don’t just send any newsletter, make sure the information you send can be useful to them, and let it demonstrate your knowledge, your ability, and your brand message. Keeping in front of them consistently will help you be there when they need you the most.
Like newsletters, demonstrating your professional ability and knowledge can help other business owners be successful. Plan on showing your skills to other companies via free seminars. Online seminars are now easy to host, but for industries with less internet-savvy users, you might want to host these seminars in person. The virtual connection still cannot outdo the human connection – not yet.
For season’s greetings, birthdays (if you know them), business anniversaries, or any other occasions you can think of, send your contact a message, a card, or a letter. Sending a greeting will give you the opportunity to remind them about your business without having to engage in a sales pitch.
With the right technology at our fingertips, it’s easy to conduct an online survey. But having the right questions for your survey takes some thought, and that is the key to getting the results you really need.
Here are some points to be aware of when building out a survey for your business:
Explain what the survey is about.
People will not take a survey if they have no idea what it is for. Be clear in stating its purpose right up front. Sometimes a little incentive like a small gift or coupon can help get people engaged.
Respect the participants’ time.
Even if you have a lot of questions you want answered, don’t make the survey too long. If you would like the participants to finish the entire survey, be respectful of their time and whittle down the questionnaire to your most important ones to get them completed in a timely manner.
Keep the questions simple and easy to answer.
Your questions should not only be easy to understand but the answer should be quick and easy as well. If the questions are long and take time to read or have to be re-read multiple times to understand it, people will not effectively participate in your survey. In fact, using yes or no questions is most effective.
Define the answers with more choices if needed.
If you can’t get away with using yes or no questions, try something different yet simplistic. Formulate your questions so participants can answer on a scale of 0-10, perhaps. With more quantitative answers to choose from, the better analysis you can make from the results.
Don’t lead the questions.
Choose the right words to construct your questions, and don’t lead the participants to answers. Take the last blog post’s example
regarding the Xerox fax machine survey, for example. The question was worded so poorly and confusing, it led people to answer no.
Thank the participants.
Obviously time is money and don’t forget to thank those who helped you with the survey. You could make your survey anonymous which people might appreciate (and be more honest), or you can ask them to give you their names and email address so you can follow up with a thank you, or even incentive gift. Think about what might go over well with your customer demographic.
Now that we’ve gone over the importance of collecting customer feedback after a purchase, let’s talk about the possibility of doing a ‘market survey’ to find out what potential customers might think of your product or service before they buy. The first thing to understand, for existing customers or potential customers alike, is asking the right questions can make or break the survey results.
In a study by Peter Drucker, there are a few case studies about how formulating your questions makes all the difference. One interesting case is about the fax machine, and how based on one survey it’s possible the machine may not have been produced at all. Here is an example of how careful consideration into your survey questions is very important:
In 1967, Xerox came up with the first modern fax machine. Xerox tried to see the marketability of a machine that can transmit signals to another and send a copy of a document over a regular telephone line. So they asked people, “Would you buy a telephone accessory that cost upwards of $1500 that enables you to send, for $1 dollar a page, the same letter the post office delivers for 25 cents?” The answer was a resounding “no” to this question.
A Japanese manufacturer also saw fax technology as an opportunity and asked the question differently, “If you can send your document immediately over the telephone line, would you use it?” They received overwhelming support by businesses and led the fax machine industry in 70s and 80s, ahead of U.S. manufacturers.
Putting the right question(s) in your survey is important. Don’t just ask questions, plan and build your questionnaires carefully and strategically, and ask consistently across a good sampling of people.
Assuming you already have customers, have you asked them why they chose to purchase from you? Have they been happy with the results?
It’s possible to be blinded by our love for our own products or services, which can make our marketing strategies going forward too biased. Asking for feedback from the existing customers can be a very eye-opening experience – not only for B2B but B2C as well!
There are several ways you can ask your customers for their feedback, but the simplest way is to randomly call a few of them. If you don’t think your customer base would like being surveyed over the phone, you could give them a postcard to mail back to you, or try any of the following techniques:
- Include the survey / feedback form upon purchase.
- Ask for contact information such as email / telephone numbers for a survey.
- Keep track of your sales so your team can reach out to follow-up later.
- Give incentives for feedback, such as $5 gift cards.
- Provide a regular online survey for feedback.
You can look up more creative ways to get customer feedback or ask other business owners what has worked for them in the past. Your customers’ voices are the most relevant to your success, so do your best to get their feedback and learn from them what worked and what didn’t work, or what can be improved upon, and let their feedback dictate your business and marketing strategies going forward.
For a typical consumer, the motivation to purchase a product or service is based more on emotion and desire, but when it comes to a business purchasing a product or service, decisions are based almost entirely on logic. Especially for small business owners, decisions must be made with precise reasoning for the company’s success and survival.
Let’s try to get inside the head of small business owners and consider some of the decision-making elements they have to consider before making a purchase:
Survival. Survival of the business is crucial, and even more critical to smaller businesses. Small businesses have less resources to work with compared to large/enterprise businesses, so every purchase decision comes under more scrutiny. Small business owners or executives have to make purchasing decisions based on a survival instinct.
Time and Money Savings. Small business owners wear many hats throughout the day, so anything that saves time can be beneficial. Time is money, you’ll hear people say, because the idea is the more you can get done, the more you earn. Though we can’t make the day any longer than it is, purchasing time-saving products or services may help. We have to consider, however, that if saving time isn’t saving us any money or making us money, there is no point to our purchase.
Success. Small businesses have to start from the ground up and growing a business isn’t always easy, so if a product or a service can help us succeed, we’ll buy it. Boosting business with a smart purchase that grows sales or leads or makes business run efficiently is a good call if it takes you down the path of success.
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So what can you offer to small business owners? Does your product or service have a beneficial place within the above categories?
We started this blog series a year ago, focused on sharing what we know to help other businesses thrive. As I thought about what topic to write about in June, I decided to shift course and focus on sharing what we need to work on here at PSPinc
. Together, with you, let’s explore the basics of B2B Marketing to help us (ourselves included) reassess our current marketing efforts. Since PSPinc customers are businesses themselves, it’s wise for us to understand the importance of marketing our products and services to the business community versus the individual person, and understand the distinction between the two opportunities.
So what is B2B marketing? (B2B stands for “Business to Business.”)
According to marketing-school.org: “B2B marketing techniques rely on the same basic principles as consumer marketing, but are executed in a unique way. While consumers choose products based not only on price but on popularity, status, and other emotional triggers, B2B buyers make decisions on price and profit potential alone.”
First off, let’s define your target business customer. Determine the size of businesses to whom you are trying to sell your products. Is your target customer a small or medium business, or a large enterprise? There are various ways to measure the size, but in general, a U.S. small business is privately held with less than 250 employees, and a medium business is up to 500 employees. You might find differing opinions/thresholds for these categories as well, where less than 100 employees is considered a small business, and 100-999 employees is considered a medium business. Some define business size based on revenue, so those with less than $50 million in annual revenue fall into a small business category, whereas somewhere between $50 million and $1 billion fall into a medium size business category.
According to a 2012 survey of business owners, there are 27.6 million small businesses in the United States. Though their expenditures may be smaller, the market size itself is not that small, making them a prime target for B2B marketing. Do note, however, even though you will find some core elements in B2B marketing, you will have to customize your strategy towards small to medium businesses (SMB) versus larger enterprises.
Let’s explorer some ideas for how to do that this month.
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