Why are B2B buyers so hard to reach?
There is one accepted truth that few argue among B2B marketers, “Buyers are hard to reach.” If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. It’s so ingrained in us that we take it as fact, 100% verifiable, undeniable, fact. But what if it’s not…?
I would argue that buyers aren’t the objective. Accounts are the objective. We want to reach accounts, because most buying decisions aren’t made in a vacuum. They are made in committee. The ultimate “buying decision” might very well fall to someone in the finance department that knows less than they should about the purchase made. Nonetheless, they are part of the account and therefore part of the equation.
There are even bigger pitfalls along the way. Companies with higher retention rates promote from within. So, how do we reach the people that will replace today’s key decision maker tomorrow? When that prospect you’ve been nurturing for the past six months suddenly bolts or gets laid off, you may be left with a huge hole to fill. Starting over should not be your only option. Not surprisingly, the replacements are easier to reach.
Marketing to the CMO means you should be marketing also to the directors and VPs. Educate the team, not the person. Engage the account, not the buyer. Here’s a little secret for those of you that think CMOs and directors can’t be sold the same way, accounts buy based on need and not by title. You will find much greater success with messaging by industry or vertical than how that specific buyer will benefit.
In most cases, B2B buying doesn’t immediately affect the lifestyle of the people making the buy decision. There are exceptions, but in most cases this “committee” is spending the company’s money and not digging into their personal bank accounts. Pivoting your message by title is similar to changing your message based on the size of a person’s house or the type of car you drive. If you’re selling vacation homes or smart phones those things matter. When you’re selling six-figure hardware that will require trailing expenses to keep it operational, you’re solving an account problem not a buyer problem.
Don’t limit yourself to one phone, one buyer. Some of our customers - no names - approach account-based marketing as if buyers and accounts are synonymous. They are obviously different. Ah, but wait, aren’t we supposed to consider human emotion, intrigue, education, and engagement when crafting our marketing programs and campaigns? Yes, of course. The creative we think up and build for our customers is meant to draw people into the brand and illustrate how we solve the business problem.
We tell brand stories and build brand experiences with very specific, account-based goals in mind. Why? Because we’ve found that B2B buyers are actually easy to reach. Reaching B2B accounts is a different animal. Accounts are groups of buyers and influencers. Laser-like precision is impressive, but one laser isn’t enough. As marketers, we need to engage up and down the org chart. Depending on the size and structure of your key accounts, you might need to get in front of three, six, or even 12 buyers to get a meeting and convert an account.
Admittedly, net new accounts and winning new business are much harder than customer retention. Both require you to focus your efforts on multiple buyers if you want to reach or retain the account.