As so many marketplaces continue to be disrupted by more nimble competitors and mass commoditization becomes a threat no CEO can afford to ignore, consider starting out the year by reviewing some basic best practices around B2B technology marketing and sales.

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(Note: These tips originally were shared as a daily series of social posts on my LinkedIn and Twitter profiles to inspire others to think differently about their go-to-market plans.)

Get found earlier in the buyer’s journey. Most B2B buyers don’t want to speak with a salesperson until they’re at least 70% of the way through their buyer’s journey. How will you get a seat at the table early enough to frame your prospects' buying criteria? Or do you just to get called in at the last minute when your only play left is the race to the bottom for the lowest price?

  1. Get found earlier in the buyer’s journey. Most B2B buyers don’t want to speak with a salesperson until they’re at least 70% of the way through their buyer’s journey. How will you get a seat at the table early enough to frame your prospects' buying criteria? Or do you just to get called in at the last minute when your only play left is the race to the bottom for the lowest price?
  2. Create and share helpful educational content that positions you as the go-to expert in your space. If you don’t know where to start, consider the top 10 questions that you get asked. Every. Single. Week. And start answering one question at a time in a blog post, social post, video, or all of the above. 
  3. Keep your content true to your own voice. When you’re creating content that positions you and your team as thought leaders, content creation should never be outsourced or delegated without a high level of input from your internal subject matter experts. (Tip: If you’re thinking that the only way you’ll get this done is to hire a freelance writer and outsource the whole thing, you’re missing the point. Empathy and value can’t be faked. Authenticity matters if you’re trying to educate and build trust.)
  4. Stop representing yourself as a salesperson to prospects. Account manager. Account executive. Sales development. They all cause skittish prospects to head for the hills. Find a better title for your business card, email signature, and LinkedIn profile that actually says what you help prospects do. And while we’re on the subject on LinkedIn, prospects don’t care how many times you’ve won President’s Club. They care about how you can help them solve THEIR problems. Not sure where to start? What’s the biggest problem that you help prospects solve? What’s the biggest goal that you help prospects achieve? 
  5. Figure out what separates your company from your direct competitors, indirect competitors, and non-business model competitors You don’t get to decide if your company is well-differentiated. Your prospects and clients are the judges and the jury. So ask them.
  6. If you sell to other businesses, especially in IT or anything remotely related to IT/professional services, your LinkedIn profile needs to be stellar. Why? Most prospects will check your LinkedIn profile before they decide whether to speak with you.
  7. Most buyer’s journeys -- the active research processes between initial interest and ultimate purchase -- begin with someone looking up something on a search engine or asking a question on social media. Or of a personal assistant. Make sure you and your company position yourselves to capitalize on where the attention is. Are you getting found for the biggest questions, goals, and challenges your prospects want to know more about?
  8. Invest in customer insight to better understand how your marketing, sales, service/support, and product strategy can stay relevant in your competitive marketplace. If you’re not continually researching, refining, and validating who your most important buyer personas are, you will fall behind.
  9. Think about how many more competitors you have today than you did five years ago. Consider where each of these competitors is outpacing you in both their online presence and product/service mix. How do you plan to close these gaps to avoid losing these important new pipeline generation and revenue sources?
  10. Stop allowing influencers, conferences, and publishers to control your access to marketplaces. And instead, invest in your content creation and promotion to attract more people, in the right places, at the right time, and in the right context.
  11. Webinars and other similar offline events can be amazing sales cycle accelerators. However, to educate and build trust at scale, you need to be 150% focused on delivering value, not pitching.
  12. There are two main reasons to invest in hosting educational webinars: (a) You’ll get more people warmed up for sales conversations, and (b) You’ll be able to create repurposed assets -- including pilar content pages, blog posts, email nurturing messages, and social media posts -- that help your pipeline generation for years to come.  Be sure to play the long game.
  13. Let your buyer persona research dictate your initial priorities. Rather than trying to guess which social media channels or content formats will work best for your business, let the data drive your roadmap. And then use your analytics from your initial campaigns to help you decide what to prioritize next.
  14. It’s extremely difficult to profitably scale marketing and sales without either having product/market fit or being on your way to achieving product/market fit. Early on in the life of a startup, one of the most important functions of marketing is to help the company get to product/market fit faster. (Do you know exactly who your ideal customers are, what products/services they buy, at which price points, and how often?)
  15. Be sure to properly balance your marketing and sales headcounts to reflect the emerging reality that marketing owns the first 70% of the buyer’s journey  --- when sales teams only become relevant in the final 30% of the buyer’s journey.
  16. Phone calls need to be largely replaced with video conferencing. With most B2B relationships, so much of success revolves around educating, building trust, and securing the right level of buy-in. When a picture is worth 1,000 words, a video conference is worth 1,000 phone calls. 
  17. Be prepared to play the long game. Good evergreen content -- such as blog posts, eBooks, and webinar recordings -- can often attract visitors, generate leads, and nurture leads for years after initial publication. If you try to judge their value prematurely, you will always underinvest and miss huge opportunities. “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” (Warren Buffet)
  18. So much of PR and conferences are turning into pay-to-play. And your potential clients know that or ought to know it. Don’t waste your time and resources trying to trick prospects into believing that your company earned its way in when it has essentially cheated to shortcut the competition. Credibility and reputation matter more than you realize.
  19. Start with a video-first mentality whenever possible. It’s much easier to repurpose video content into text content than the other way around.
  20. Learn about all the stakeholders at prospects who can approve or reject your recommendations. Decision-by-committee is most certainly a reality. The more readily you can embrace/support this trend, the more successful you’ll be.

What will you do differently this year to improve your differentiation, thought leadership, competitive positioning, sales cycle acceleration, and revenue growth? Share your thoughts in the Comments box below.

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