EXACTLY why B2B startup marketing doesn’t work
Hey there, fellow founder! I know that marketing strategy is often a big obstacle in starting a company.
You start looking for first clients in all the wrong places. A few ads on google and social media won’t do the trick though.
The early-stage game is fast validation and direct contact with your customers — you need to be smart, fast, agile, and all those fancy buzzwords. And a hustler. Don’t forget to be a hustler.
Having trouble getting from zero to gradually growing a B2B clients base? Here’s a few solid ideas to get you going.
Not a 100 customers — get one customer first, then figure out how to get the next 10 faster, then 100…
The main problem is that online ads (as an example of scalable marketing) have a chance of working when your team is already doing projects, cash is flowing through your company, and you have a well established idea of your customers.
Early client acquisition usually has to be a bit more guerilla-style.
First customer are pretty easy to acquire — email 20 companies and 20 friends with a very prefferable, early-access offer.
That should be enough to find 1 client for a niche service with an entry fee, or a more clients for a simple product trial.
Next you work with your first client(s):
- overdeliver (turn their bad days good with your phone calls/emails/implementations/performance)
- talk talk talk (no matter how introverted you are, it’s much easier to discuss work than your personal life, so focus on your business goal and relentlessly ask for feedback and suggestions)
Then you can start cold emailing people/companies similar to those first lucky clients of yours to work towards the 10-client milestones a bit faster.
Until you have your first 100 clients, I say you should do pure outbound lead generation (cold emailing, meeting, conferences, enabling your closest network).
Cold emailing is the only process here that isn’t just a great early-stage tactic (defined by low quantity x precision targeting x ultra-personalisation).
Because with access to prospecting apps and cold email lead generation services it’s easily scalable to a powerful lead generation engine (bigger quantity x precision targeting x personalisation based on similarities x automation).
With that, I’ll pass it on to Monika, one of RightHello’s premier Marketing Managers, to tell you how to approach marketing and lead generation strategy to maximise profits in the unique context of your company.
Down to the nitty gritty, quick B2B marketing guide
When you enter the world of B2B, you need to understand that customers are much different here than in B2C:
- shopping isn’t compulsive (in B2C it’s hunger→pizza->extra cheese->payment)
- decisions aren’t obvious (pizza everyday obviously means stomach pain, ut in B2B consequences aren’t as easy to predict. In a flood of tips, content, influencers and network feedback — even creating a company website becomes an impossible decision due to analysis paralysis, where you spend a whole meeting considering how you footer font will boost conversion rates)
B2B marketing channel specifics — when is the right time to fire up that popular lead generation channel?
I know — other companies are doing cool stuff, you should be doing it too or “you’ll lose”. But to help you get rid of this approach, I’ll show you when it makes sense to run the most popular lead generation strategies.Let’s start with the specifics of Google and paid ads in B2B marketing. First — what do we (people) generally use Google searches for? To:
- satisfy an impulsive need
- find/confirm information
That’s why SEO and AdWords (along with other paid online banners and ads, different than SEO) a great way to promote B2C solutions.
In B2B, however, you use SEO to deliver precise information right to your potential customers — a narrow target of people who might not know exactly what they need.
Main takeaway about SEO and paid ads in B2B — these campaigns are doable and can boost your sales a lot, but for most founders it will be a waste of money to start doing them early-on. Wait until you’ve had at least 100 customers that you could learn about. If you can’t define your clients (which is exactly what most founders get wrong early-on), you’ll burn a lot of money to learn about them from typical online ad campaigns.
What about remarketing? It basically means targeting past website visitors with paid ads to get them to come back to your site. It’s a super effective tactic if you’re able to generate big traffic to your B2B website/blog.
Your remarketing ad can only have as many recipients as you have website visitors. In reality, even 10K UU/month might still not be enough.
Main takeaway about remarketing — start considering a remarketing campaign only when you have serious (>10k) website traffic. Don’t stop to think about it before that.
Let’s tackle social media next — these are great for both B2B and B2C companies. But all social media sites have on thing in common — it’s very time-consuming to win big-time on social media, especially in B2B. That’s because you need to find the right channels, often very specific ones (in our case LinkedIn groups, Reddit threads, and Quora seem to work great, we’re also on Facebook and Twitter).
Plus you need a serious plan for gradually infiltrating your target social media communities. It’s not just “post a few updates and comments” here and there. There are already too many half-assed social media channels that B2B companies started and just let rot in the online infosphere.
Main takeaway about Social Media — engage with the community, become an expert in your niche topics, be a cool cat as you would in real life. Start listening, which allows you to increase your online range — but in really small increments, over years and years of working those channels.
What about content marketing? You can never be a 100% that your B2B content will generate leads. There are all too many companies putting out ineffective and completely not engaging content to prove that.
You have to pour your heart into content, literally. Generic content that’s visibly been half-assed by someone who hasn’t read anything in a while often has founders wondering “why isn’t this generating leads”.
Main takeaway about Content Marketing — if you don’t read yourself, don’t write articles, do videos or graphics instead. Think this through and make sure your content output is consistent in quality and authenticity. At least one person that will just manage content is the bare minimum to start an in-house content team. That’s because they have to learn a lot about the industry you’re in, and the unique context of your company.
Problems with B2B lead generation channels seem obvious, but they really aren’t — you’ve got to live them to learn
That’s because we like to think “our company is different”. But in the pressure of high goals, acquiring the next round, etc., you forget about common sense. You start coming up with completely inapliccable strategies that you just waste money on.
The biggest problem in B2B marketing is that clients often don’t know how they can benefit from you.
It’s extremely important not to mistake this for a sign that your clients don’t know of your existence.
In a popular B2C market (pizza), that might often be the problem — but you make the best pizza and run fb and instagram profiles until word-of-mouth does the job for you.
But if you start selling special pizza flour for top pizza chefs made from unique new ingredients — sorry, no-one knows that exists yet. It’s not that they don’t like your company at first sight — they just don’t care about what you’re saying. You’re not answering their most important question, which is:
“Why do I need this?”
And in software (SaaS and startup) B2B companies this is a huge problem. Mistake those 2 at your own risk — that’s what leads to burning money* on AdWords early on.
*If you don’t even know the right keywords to define your clients yet, you’ll just pick a few generic keywords and waste your budget in a month without learning anything.
Reassuming, if your B2B product/service isn’t quite easy to define yet, and you don’t know how your customers view it
Place your overenthusiastic entrepreneurial buttcheeks somewhere comfortable and:
- define your target customers based on online research and direct contact
- segment them into groups that you can approach (via low-cost, big impact marketing channels first)
Few companies have disrupted how people see the world, B2C ones being the most obvious examples that you surely know. Google (“google it!”), Uber (“this is the uber for cheesecake”), Apple (“i-everything”).
The same impact is achievable in the smaller scale of your B2B niche.
So all in all, first clients are supposed be aquired within a week. That’s cold emailing, calling, direct contact, meetings, industries, direct social media messages and other outbound tactics.
SEO, content, ads, etc. will get you hundreds of clients monthly — but only after a few years of working those channels!
If you enjoyed reading, it would mean a lot to me if you’d hit that green heart below!
I’m a Founder & CEO of a Polish B2B sales startup RightHello. We help businesses to boost and scale up their B2B sales by delivering contacts to decision makers of companies they want to reach, then outreach each of them with custom pitch via email and social media.