Your B2B Startup Needs a Buyer’s Guide

Your B2B Startup Needs a Buyer’s Guide

One of the big differences between selling to businesses vs selling to consumers is the buying process. Most Consumer products are lower priced and purchased quickly because if you make a poor choice, you aren’t out much more than beer money. In B2B not only is there more money on the line, buyers often have to justify a purchase to their boss. A poor choice can cost the company big dollars and (often more importantly) damage the buyer’s reputation. This is precisely why a Buyer’s Guide is such a powerful piece of marketing content. It is designed specifically to meed the needs of a prospect that has been tasked with making a purchase decision. It’s a piece of marketing content aimed directly at the hottest prospects in your pipeline. The Buyer’s Guide is Targeted at a Critical Stage in the B2B Buying Process For B2B purchases, the buying process usually includes a stage where prospects try to figure out what their options are and which ones are best suited to them. For startups selling to businesses, this stage is particularly important. Often the solution is in a new or shifting market space and figuring out the competitive alternatives is a task in itself, nevermind trying to figure out which option offers the best combination of functionality, features, support, community, etc. For enterprise products, the evaluation phase might be a months-long process that includes a formal RFP process and/or a Proof of Concept. However for many lower-priced B2B solutions, the evaluation process is much more informal and looks more like a manager saying “Go figure out what we should buy and come back...

A Startup Marketing Framework (version 3)

Years ago when I was consulting for startups, I created something I called “A Startup Marketing Framework“. I used it mainly as a tool to describe the kinds of things that I could help folks with. Startups found it useful and it is still a popular piece of content on this site. Last week I had a startup pull out a printed version of the framework (from 2011 no less!) and I decided there were a couple of changes I wanted to make to it. Below is the new and improved version 3. Framework Assumptions As with previous versions, the framework does not attempt to cover things that I would consider to be more “Product Management” focused (like product roadmap for example). I’m taking a purely marketing point of view here.  The Framework also assumes that you have a product in market, you feel fairly confident that you have a good fit between your market and your offering and you are ready to invest in lead generation. If you aren’t there yet, there are things here you won’t need to (and more importantly, shouldn’t) worry about yet.   Lastly, my background is B2B marketing so like most content on this site, this has a B2B slant to it.  That said, I think most of it applies to a B2C startup. Market Knowledge Market Category and Segments – Based on your interaction with early customers, these are the segments that have the most affinity for your offering and are the target of your marketing efforts.  These need to be well-defined and very specific.  I’ve had folks ask me where buyer/influencer personas fit and I include those here as part...

7 Steps to Better Startup Value Propositions

Marketing messages and value propositions are notoriously difficult to create for startups. Startup founders have a tendency to focus too much on features and not enough on the value those features deliver. They also often spend too much time talking about features that don’t really differentiate them from their competitors or are simply irrelevant for their target markets. When working on marketing messaging for startups, it’s often harder to get agreement on what NOT to say than it is to decide what should get talked about. Here’s a method for getting to a simple set of value propositions that has worked for us: 1. List your target market segments. The more detail you can get around this the better – for example “Small Businesses” is not a segment, “Mid-sized law offices in North America” is. The segment should be well-defined with a clear need your solution addresses. For early-stage startups, you will generally only have 1 or at most 2 target segments. If you have more than that, you likely don’t have the resources to really go after them. 2. For each segment identify the primary buyer. For complex deals there will be multiple folks that influence a sale but for a simple value proposition exercise, it helps to start with the most important decision maker (you can come back and worry about messages for other buyers later). Again, this person should be well-defined which means you will likely have more than just general demographic data (i.e. people in their 20’s versus University students in Canada that spend more than $100 a year on games). 3. For each segment list...
6 Ways to Speed Up a B2B Sales Process

6 Ways to Speed Up a B2B Sales Process

I’ve spent my entire career working in or with startups that have sold to businesses. I love B2B. Businesses have burning problems and the money to solve them and I like revenue a lot. However, separating that money from those businesses is often difficult. The process a business goes through to make a decision about a $20K per year investment isn’t the same as the one you went through when you bought your last iPod. There are multiple people involved in making a decision, there are distinct stages in the buying process and hoops to jump through at every step. Closing a sale can take months and that can feel daunting for a startup that needs to drive some revenue fast. But just because the process is complex doesn’t mean there aren’t things you could do to speed things up. Here are some ideas that I’ve used in the past that have worked for me. Break bigger deals into chunks – The bigger the purchase the longer it will take for companies to evaluate and make a decision. Breaking a deal into phases (selling the base functionality first and then add-on’s later, rolling out a department and then the whole company, etc.) can help move deals along and get revenue flowing faster. Simplify your pricing and packages – I’ve seen deals go slow simply because customers couldn’t decide which options they needed to buy. Having fewer options on the price list or making it obvious which options a particular kind of customer needs can make making a decision much, much easier. Teach prospects how to evaluate solutions like yours – Businesses that...
A Startup Content Marketing Cheatsheet

A Startup Content Marketing Cheatsheet

In the past year we’ve seen a shift in the way startups are thinking about content marketing. Two years ago most of the content marketing conversations I had with startups started out as discussions about SEO, ranking and keywords. Content quality from a prospect point of view was largely an afterthought. A lot of that thinking has changed both because of apparent changes to the Google algorithm, as well as changes in the way buyers behave online where they are increasingly bombarded with not just too much content, but too much crappy, irrelevant and downright useless marketing content.  Getting found by prospects on the internet is (finally) becoming less a matter of sneaky tricks to game Google and more a battle to provide informative, useful content that prospects seek out, enjoy and gleefully share among their peers. But many startups don’t know where to start. In my experience the best way for a startup to begin building a content library is to put themselves in the minds of their prospects and think about what content is needed at different stages of the buying process. Understanding the Buyer’s Journey One of the most common mistakes I see startups make with their content is that they create too much content that focuses only on one particular stage of the buyer’s journey. For a startup selling to businesses, typically a buyer will move through a set of stages on the way to making a purchase. This is increasingly not a linear journey as a buyer may move back and forth between actively researching solutions, building a short list of possible vendors and actively evaluating a...

Be Your Authentic Self…no, not THAT Authentic Self!

Marketers talk a lot about how companies can form deeper connections with customers through social media. Part of building this connection, the thinking goes, is demonstrating what the company stands for and showing that those values are similar to the values of their customers. I’ve seen this referred to as “Authenticity.”  One of the ways that companies show off their authentic selves is by having representatives on sites like Twitter share information about the brand, interact with people and show people through a constant stream of comments and interactions, what the brand is all about at a very human scale. That sounds good right? Then you get stuff like this:   Looking at the stream for Pabst Canada you can see that the person managing this account is clearly enthusiastic about beer and seems to be joyfully interacting with folks in a very non-corporate way that I think some folks would describe as “Authentic.” But somewhere along the way he forgot that he couldn’t be COMPLETELY authentic because he’s representing the point of view and values and attitudes and beliefs of his employer. Needless to say, the above Tweet doesn’t represent the values of Pabst Blue Ribbon or PabstCanada, just the point of view of the (stupid jackass, sorry) that runs (or used to run) their Twitter account. Authentic, but in an Corporate kind of a way? But as you might imagine, folks were offended and they weren’t just mad at the guy that posted the Tweet. They were pissed off at Pabst. Which just goes to show you that all of this authenticity stuff is fine as long...
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