3 Steps to Improve Your B2B Marketing In 30 Days

Modern marketers often look at improving performance through a technology lens and miss the simpler opportunities that are right in front of us. This isn’t intended to demean the power of our technology tools. But there’s an important step before these tools become relevant: making sure you have the absolute sharpest positioning and messaging based on the strengths of your product and the needs of your customers. This is the foundation of all great marketing and it requires analysis and creativity first, and then marketers can use all the technology tools at their disposal to refine and optimize.

I use these three steps every time I start on a new business to learn the products and customers, and then again about every six months to refine messaging and programs. They cost virtually nothing other than your time and some thinking. If you are a head of marketing, I recommend leading them yourself vs. delegating.

1. Pan for gold with your product team

Products are complex and constantly evolving, and I’ve always had a “why didn’t you tell me this sooner?” moment when I do this. Walk down the hall (email is forbidden in this step) and engage your product team on two levels.

First, go see people at the director or VP level — people who are deep in doing the work — and start panning. Questions I use include:

  • What are the newest benefits in the product you wish marketing was paying more attention to? If you get a list of features when you ask this question, ask: what benefit does a customer get out of this? What could they now do with our product that they couldn’t do in previous version or can’t do with our top competitor? How would they justify buying or upgrading to their CFO?
  • What excited a customer or analyst the last time you presented to them? Why did they say they were exited? — e.g., did it speed up a process, improve performance, reduce costs? Again, if you get specs try to translate what you hear into a customer benefit.
  • What are you working on that gets you excited?

Second, go to your company’s most senior product person and ask these same questions. This will give you a broader view of possible marketing opportunities across the product team VPs and directors. If you found some interesting benefits with the VPs and directors, you can also test these with your most-senior product person to make sure they believe in them.

2. Carry a bag with your best salesperson

I look at step one as making sure you have the latest and best “product truth.” Step two is all about getting to “sales truth” as this is really the only truth that matters.

If sales isn’t selling something, then it doesn’t exist.

Ask your sales partner to take you on a couple calls to customers that are your company’s ideal target — i.e., the type of customer who would fit in the 20% of your customers that should produce 80% of your revenue. Also ask to meet at least one existing customer and one prospect. Why did the existing customer say “yes” and the prospect say “no?” to purchasing your product?

Some guidelines for these meetings:

  • Ask your salesperson to do these calls as though you weren’t there. You want to see the actual messages and materials they are using. Then ask your questions towards the end of the meeting.
  • Note what’s resonating (and not) with the customer.
  • Ask the customer how they would describe your product and company to a colleague in a sentence or two. Compare this actual position with your ideal position and (if needed) ask the customer what they’d need to see to get you to your ideal position.
  • Ask the customer to describe what your #1 competitor stands for in a sentence or two.
  • Ask the customer if they have seen your marketing and their honest reaction to it.

3. Launch an updated marketing and sales enablement program

This step is about synthesizing what you learned in steps one and two, turning it into new sales and marketing tools, and getting them put to use quickly. Product marketers are usually the best at doing this synthesis work and then partnering with outbound marketing teams on content and program creation. It’s also helpful to make this an official project and name it. This may seem like a simple tactic, but if a program has a name it’s real.

Some other guidelines for this step:

  • Consider what you have learned from steps one and two and where in the customer journey your insights will be most useful. Did you discover something that will help you with prospecting and connect with new customers (e.g., a benefit that will help you take customers from a competitor)? Or did you discover something that might help you with re-targeting and convert customers in your pipeline more quickly or effectively?
  • Make sure you have a marketing program to drive awareness of your new messages. This could be whatever makes sense for your business — e.g., ads, PR, analyst white papers, etc. The important thing is making sure Sales sees Marketing taking action and customers are seeing your new messages. Focus on creating materials you can build in hours or days, not weeks or months.
  • Refresh your sales materials and get input and endorsement from your best salesperson from step two. You want them using these new materials and telling their peers to do so.
  • Work with your head of Sales on how to drive activity with these new materials. For example, should you create a sales play (e.g., your messages combined with either a customer offer or a sales incentive)?

These three steps are relatively simple. Much of what we do in marketing should be unless we make it overly complex. This however doesn’t mean these steps are easy. You’ll have to work hard to translate the features and specification you learn about from your product teams into benefits and business outcomes for customers. And you will have to work with customers to go beyond their stated answers to your questions and understand any unspoken opportunities or issues.

When done well, the ROI from this simple approach is high because the cost are low — mostly your time and prioritizing this work with your marketing team. The upside is often quite high. I’ve seen messaging improvements on their own produce a 5–15% lift in sales. And an integrated program across Sales and Marketing can do much better.

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