Godin’s Hierarchy of B2B Needs

Seth Godin is, no doubt, my favorite marketing guru. At one point I decided to blog here less about what he had to say, because if you are reading my little B2Blog, you have to also be reading his blog.

Every guru deserves a “law” named after them, and its time for Seth’s. I make this particular pick because he took the consumer-based convention of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs and re-invents it as a B2B concept.

Godin’s Hierarchy of B2B Needs

If you’re selling a product or service to a business–to a non-owner–consider this hierarchy, from primary needs on down:

  1. Avoiding risk
  2. Avoiding hassle
  3. Gaining praise
  4. Gaining power
  5. Having fun
  6. Making a profit

(The only tweak to this list, I added numbers to the needs.)

Application help:

This hierarchy gets worked a bit differently for two different types of B2B situations. I won’t dwell on these, but using the hierarchy without knowing which category you are in could be a problem.

  • Demand-based purchases – the customer needs to satisfy an internal need
  • Discretionary-based purchases – the customer can continue to ‘do nothing’.

My comments:

Seth’s six listed needs makes sense, I find myself getting to ‘gaining power’, and that is more than enough to make the sale. Pushing out ‘making a profit’ to the lowest need makes sense,  the more immediate need is to solve a problem, which is driven by #1 & #2.

The doozie Seth throws in before ‘making a profit’ is ‘having fun’. It makes sense, when I think about my typical customer who is an engineer or project manager. The doozie part of it is this:

How do I meet the prospect’s need for fun?

Figure that out, and the competitive edge is most certainly yours, IMHO.

I’m sure that others have tried to do this needs list before, but I’m biased enough to pick Seth’s hierarchy as excellent, and name it after the guru who created it. Thanks, Seth, for giving us a new tool for B2B marketing.

B2B marketing expert says directories are a waste

Chris Rand comes out NOT in favor of directories

First President Obama comes out publicly and says that he supports gay marriage, and now this …

Chris Rand of BMON: Still wasting time and money on directories?.

In the past, I might have said that its worth taking the time to find out which directories are worth being featured in, but its 2012 now, and I think I can safely say that NO directory is worth the effort.

Okay, he’s not the first to say it publicly, but his cred should make it clear that it is an educated, measured statement:

I have access to the website analytics from nearly a hundred companies, and I can tell you one thing without breaking any confidences: not a single one of them gets more than a tiny trickle of website visitors from directories. 

I’ll just throw in this one additional thought to add some nuance: directories have to bring more than just clicks and “visibility”.

Is this the beginning of a new paradigm, just like the acceptance of gay marriage?

Holy crap, 10 years of B2Blog.com!

Yep, I’ve been doing this blogging thing for ten years. Well, ‘doing’ is a relative term. Back in 2002, I posted nearly every business day. Now I’m down to a couple times a month, sometimes less than that.

Warning: this post is a bit of belly-button gazing, and then star-gazing. My chance to think about where B2Blog is, and by extension, where I am, and what the future holds.

A fade in traffic

Traffic slowly fades after 2008

I’ll admit to blogging less, and I’m not ashamed to show the stats that B2Blog.com is getting less visitors Lots of things could be blamed for the fade of traffic:

  • Search traffic for images (one mention of Dilbert = thousands of hits) was very high 2008-2010
  • Blogging frequency dropped after 2008
  • The advent of Twitter and Facebook
  • An overall saturation of the B2B blogoshere
  • “Readers” turning into “scanners”
  • Less interest in what I have to say

What I miss most from the hey-days is the camaraderie with readers and other bloggers. Twitter is not the same, at all, which is why I mostly gave up on it as a means of expression.

Some more numbers

I am proud to say that B2Blog is a part of what I am, regardless of the frequency or the traffic. We have a saying in my other hobby, Geocaching, that “it isn’t about the numbers”, before toting out your stats:

  • 201,000 page views
  • 933 posts
  • 791 Google Reader subscribers
  • Three trips to events as a blogger
  • Zero job offers
  • $400 in ad revenue (dirty link deals before I knew they were dirty, if you must know).
  • A couple hundred in affiliate commissions (for a web stats software way back in the beginning)

Skipping past the numbers, I’ve taken on projects with this blog, with two I’m proud of being:

  • A series on putting product pricing on B2B websites
  • Posting about B2B scammers, so that people getting the same strange emails and calls that I do have a way to start learning about the scam.

I’ve enjoyed the technology, the writing, the culture, and the people. Blogging has helped me solidify my opinions about marketing, and I’ve started to drive the point home in the last few years:

B2B marketing should be pragmatic, tactical, well thought-out, and practical. It is a result of an iterative process that weeds out the crap, ultimately finding solutions that you didn’t know existed.

So what is next?

I think the future of B2Blog is pretty simple … it’ll be more of the same. I’ve got a few wild ideas of things I could do, but I’ll stick to the basics. There is a market for that, even if it is just a way to talk to myself.

Good source for that new Marketing management job you wanted …

I’m happy doing what I’m doing. But maybe you aren’t. Maybe your willing to move to a different city or state … I’m not.

But this job service seems to have some good openings. I’ve been getting their weekly alerts with about five strong opportunities listed. I’m not sure how good it is behind the paywall ($40/month or less).

Netshare.com

“And no job postings are acquired via bots; positions listed are real jobs from real people searching for qualified executive candidates.”

If you have any experience, or comments, leave them here, of course!

 

The online directories update 2012: GlobalSpec

Alright, time to take a look at another major online industrial directory…

GlobalSpec came out of the internet bubble, and maintains a pretty strong marketing program that makes them look like the big boys in B2B online directories.

I’ll give them credit for sticking to their guns and requiring visitors to be logged in to view product information. Advertisers could get a report of everyone who looked at their pages on GlobalSpec. This was actually a problem, as marketers were getting ‘leads’ that were really just incidental web surfers. I think they’ve tuned their service and educated their advertisers to treat the site activity reports appropriately.

Of all the directories, they are maybe the only one to offer product-level content, which is most valuable in their sweet-spot of component selection. And their parametric search makes this data useful in most cases.

They’ve also successfully developed email campaign programs based on their requirement of registration. Whether they get paid advertisements or clicks back to their site, they win either way.

New stuff:

In the last couple years, GlobalSpec has been working on parlaying their audience info and segmented markets into online trade show events. I’m still not a fan of this type of event, but for those with a message to go out, this is a compelling opportunity to find an audience.

Just recently I got this promo email:

Looks like they are further refining their market segmentation and making their website work better. Mind blowing? Maybe not, but the site is slick enough to blow away the competition. While the biggest challenge of directories is getting visitors to click on category after category, and listing after listing, I think showing listings like this with pictures is very well done, and ensures click-thrus.

Sum up:

As this industry matures, GlobalSpec has continued to improve their product while sticking to its core mission and strategy. As a potential advertiser, your biggest question still should be about results, but they at least have their act together.

B2B bulk email … don’t be the loser in my spam box

It’s always an interesting experience when I have to flip thru my spam box making sure I didn’t miss an important email. Besides all the usual seedy stuff, I saw several emails that were from publishers I already know I get stuff from. Newsletters, webinar invites, magazine or trade show bulletins. Nothing that I couldn’t live without, but why didn’t these emails get thru, while others did?

There were a some emails I recognize from previous trips to the spam box. Not v*iagra offers, but legitimate B2B email list stuff. Well, maybe not legitimate because I know that I never subscribed. So I’m happy to let these losers have their stuff go to spam (we use Google Apps for email). I’ll bet its been years like this. You’d think they’d not be so stupid to send multiple emails a week and not improve their deliverability.

After that experience, I jumped on Twitter and saw this tweet by Brian Reilly:

I normally wouldn’t click to the MarketingSherpa article, but I was inspired to learn more, it may help my measly little newsletter. I was struck by this basic fact that separates B2B email:

Deliverability is a complex topic that challenges every marketer using email. However, it is an even greater challenge for B2B marketers.

B2B marketers must meet unique deliverability rule sets for each individual domain in databases filled with hundreds or more.

Every company has their email filtered and managed differently. Throw on top of that the number of B2B recipients running Outlook with a likely customized spam filter set-up, and you have a HUGE challenge to get your messages thru.

Wow, I found something useful on Twitter. Who’da thunk?

You can follow me on Twitter at @b2btw

Retraction: a B2B lesson

One of the big buzzes this week is radio/podcast show This American Life’s episode Retraction, documenting the errors of their previous episode about China’s suppliers to Apple, called Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory.

As I listened to Retraction, I couldn’t stop this feeling of deja vu … that I’ve seen these same mistakes made in B2B.

In essence, TAL took a story that was already being presented for monologue, and reproduced it for their show. Mistakes made include:

  • Working with someone outside their group
  • Not getting primary content or research
  • Assuming things that can’t be checked out are okay.
  • Relying on email communications

But their biggest failure was this:

  • Trying to fit a ‘theatrical’ story into a ‘journalistic’ story.
    • And not realizing how much more work (or what work) needed to be done to do this.

In B2B sales, we often have to fit our product to suit the customer’s need. That’s okay up to a point, and I’m sure you’ve been there. The company struggles a bit, the order runs late, but ultimately the customer gets what they wanted, and your company learns something new.

But sometimes the solution for the customer is outside what your company should be doing. The opportunity can overshodow your objective opinion of how your company can deliver on this order. It’s a big new customer, or a potential new market, or a potential huge margin.

You might not know it at the time you accepted the order, but as your ship time slips and rework cost accumulate, or your engineering manager is flying out to the job site, everyone at the company regrets accepting the order. (And yes, the salesperson is the one blamed.)

Dang it though, in business you can’t just issue a retraction and be done with it. The problem festers until it is resolved.

Hopefully, like Ira Glass, you learn something from this painful process. No, not hopefully. You must learn one of two things from such a poor decision:

  1. We now know how to handle orders like this
  2. We now know to avoid orders like this

This is how B2B companies grow. It is painful, but important.

I might even squeeze in a comment that Apple itself is probably so successful because it has gone thru this process so much, it becomes a habit. I’ll leave further commentary to the business pundits who always use Apple as case study. I’ll stick to using This American Life as my example.

The online directories update 2012: ThomasNet

Back in January, I promised a review of major online directories for 2012. Well, based on my in-attention, it must be a pretty boring subject. I’ll have to make a separate post about why the subject is boring. Let’s get on with it:

I’ll start by using ThomasNet’s own words in their New Year email to let you know where their mind is at:

“In 2011, we were excited to bring you City Pages as part of our continuing mission to improve local sourcing. Include a city with your keyword and you’ll now be provided with a list of suppliers in or within 50 miles of that location, helping you discover new vendors where you need them most.

In addition, we released our ground breaking application for sourcing millions of parts, components, materials and more, which some of you had the opportunity to explore. To start the New Year off, we’d like to extend this same invitation to you. Take our Product Search Beta for a test drive now.

Looking ahead, we’ll be rolling out a new toolbar and an engineering job board in early 2012. Later, we’ll be introducing enhanced company profiles that will offer more robust supplier information in rich content format further aiding supplier evaluation and selection.”

My additional comments and info:

I will give credit to ThomasNet for not being shy about investing in improving their search tools, and it shows. Check out the links above to try them out.

From what I can tell, their sales structure and offers also continue to evolve, which from an advertiser’s view, is bewildering. I imagine just as many advertisers sign TN contracts without knowing what they are buying as did 20 years ago.

And TN continues to morph (or is it expand) into a website marketing/development service. It would be interesting to know how successful this has been.

They continue to crank out regular informational newsletters, but I’m unaware of any that with advertising content to their audience. There is the fire-hose of product-releases at news.thomasnet.com , however.

The last question, and most important is effectiveness and audience.

Wow I haven’t used Alexa.com in a long time, but it had some interesting analysis of thomasnet.com. Like it is popular with India, Pakistan, and Nigeria (along with the US). And about half their visitors AREN’T in the directory side of things.

UPDATE: ThomasNet just announced they are offering email marketing services

Keeping your language uniform … or avoiding collateral ‘damage’

I’ve been staring at my computer blankly this morning, overwhelmed.

Part of the challenge of B2B marketing is the jargon. We need to make sure the language we use is concise, consistent, and understandable. Jargon is actually acceptable and commonly used, but only if it is consistent and understandable.

So I need to nail down the terminology and usage of what electrical power supply and amperage our equipment requires. Depending on product line, we’ve used the following:

Maybe a picture of my brain right now!

  • Power supply source
  • Power supply
  • Electric service
  • Electric supply
  • Full load amps
  • Disconnect breaker
  • Electric hook-up

Okay, I’ve got to pick one that makes sense to our customers, and to the electrical installer. And there is a big difference (25% typically) between ‘full load amps’ and ‘disconnect breaker’, so if I choose the wrong language, the wrong power will be made available.

So, I’m going with a longer description that calls out both the FLA and the breaker. So much for concise ;)

Now that I’ve made my call, I need to make sure this is universally applied. Where are all the places this product information is published? A surprisingly long list:

  • Website
  • Brochure/PDF
  • Sales manual
  • Quotation
  • Videos
  • Engineering specification
  • Equipment manual
  • Installation guide
  • Electrical prints

Even worse, the last four items I don’t have control over, and revisions are usually reserved for needed changes (in the eyes of engineering). I’ll have enough work to do to fix the marketing collateral.

One could say that this is stupid-silly details that a marketing manager shouldn’t be worrying about. But it is! Customers who have insufficient power installed for our equipment can get irate. Salespeople who are confused by our terminology look stupid. And   B2B marketers who don’t care about the details of their products, well, should find another line of work.

The Jedi cloud-storage solution

Kind of my first attempt at ‘cloud storage’ for my team about three years ago:

  1. Buy a domain & get unlimited hosting at Bluehost.com.
  2. Set FTP paths to sub-directories set at 755 (so visible path/nav to browsers).
  3. Show staff how to quickly upload via Filezilla.
  4. Give links to sub-directories to sales team within their current online sources.

But I’m not going to upload any HTML, so what do I do with the ‘home page’? This still cracks me up:

B2B and Industrial Marketing Blog