Wednesday, August 24, 2005

What B2B marketing activities to do first

It is not uncommon to hear someone with a new company ask me what marketing they should do first. Sometimes the question shows up a bit backward - they heard that a certain activity (like branding their product, using direct mail, making a web site, etc.) should be done to start marketing their company. But no matter - they have a new product (or service) and have put things in place so it is now ready to be sold. But no one knows of their product – so they want to know how to get the word out and start bringing in sales?

It would be nice if you had the budget to launch your new product (or service) with full-page color advertisements, 30-second Superbowl spots, and any other media you wanted, but most start-ups are chronically short of money. So, what are the cost effective steps one could take?

I went to a lunch seminar today put on by the Business Marketing Association, and one of the speakers there said what I believe - that the first step for most B2B companies should be direct sales activities. They had done some research on the results of different programs, and found that direct sales had an ROI that was many times that of direct marketing, email marketing, etc.

Of course, there are variations based on specific companies. For example, for many consumer companies (B2C), the first step is usually getting in to distribution channels.

Of course, before you can start any marketing programs, you will want to produce some basic literature for your product, including a data sheet and/or brochure, pricing, web site, etc. You will likely also want to find one or more reference customers, who you can get testimonials and installation photos from. The testimonials will do wonders toward reassuring prospective customers that your product is viable. It is not uncommon to offer discounts to these reference customers in exchange for the testimonials and photos.

Just so you know that I am not saying all this to sell my service - direct sales is not really an area of my expertise. I am good with the relationship part of sales, but generally do not enjoy the prospecting part. This was an area where I didn't do well with the start-up I had. Messaging, marketing programs, etc. all went very well, but I couldn't get myself to keep making cold calls day after day, nor did I step up to the plate to pay someone to do it for me. In the end, it was an expensive way to find out a weakness of mine.


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