Brad Bortone

B2B Marketing: Relevant content must move beyond “glitz” and tell a properly sequenced story

March 10th, 2011

“What we have here is…failure to communicate.”

Much like Cool Hand Luke, who heard this iconic line from his despotic warden after misunderstanding the prison’s stance on attempted escape, B2B dialogue that is not relevant to a target audience will ultimately prove to be a waste of effort, and a failure in communicating value.

As we all know, no matter how fast, inexpensively or well-targeted a B2B company maintains dialogue with customers or prospects, the success of each email, tradeshow, phone call and sales meeting depends on the relevance of the message.

But the challenge that you and the imperious prison warden share is – how do you create a relevant dialogue with a skeptical audience who has heard it all before?

Recently, I was reading through The B2B Refinery: An executive guide for improving Go-to-Market ROI through greater Sales and Marketing Efficiency, by J. David Green, Director of Best Practices – Applied Research, MECLABS and Michael C. Saylor, and they discuss this topic at length.

Though I can’t get into everything Green and Saylor cover about this topic in the book, one thing was certain after reading it — this is a complex question with an answer that is constantly changing. Or should I say evolving

Evolve with the buying cycle

The information needs of the customer or prospect change as they move through the business buying cycle. For example, the more products and/or services that a customer buys from the vendor, the less information the customer generally requires.

However, a B2B company cannot address a buying cycle in isolation. Relevance is challenged by competitive B2B dialogue, which is cost-effective dialogue conducted with lucrative market segments that stems from competition. This compels vendors to find more efficient means of delivering relevant dialogue than through sales representatives

Of course, this abundance of information ultimately compounds the problem. Apart from mirroring the buying cycle, what are the key characteristics of relevant dialogue?

  • The dialogue must take into account past interactions of the prospect: especially his explicit and implicit areas of interest — with the most recent interactions often mattering the most
  • The customer or prospect must recognize the context of the communication

Instead of creating relevant dialogue, however, most marketing departments focus on universal messaging, giving less attention to relevance. While it makes sense to give advertising a consistent look and feel, these marketing practices fall short of the needs of business customers.

Buyers need an evolving, personalized story from a vendor. And like any good story, this one needs to have a defined beginning, middle and end, with each “chapter” addressing the interests of the audience. If a particular sale takes a significant period of time – perhaps even over multiple years – then the dialogue needs to last just as long, progressing naturally with the buying process.

To continue an analogy from earlier, branding and positioning are merely the movie poster and “glitz,” whereas integrated communication is the writing, acting and direction. Sure, branding and positioning matter. But they are no substitute for a well-told, relevant story.

Related Resources

Real-time Marketing: Don’t complain about the weather, put it to work

Lead generation: Real-time, data-driven B2B marketing and sales

Members Library — Build Brand and Customer Loyalty Through One-to-One Communication: 7 Tactics

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Brad Bortone

About Brad Bortone

Brad Bortone is a senior editor for MarketingSherpa, and brings more than ten years of journalism experience to the table. He is experienced in both corporate and nonprofit copywriting, having published work with Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, The New York City Department of Education, The National Academy of Sciences and the Diabetes Research and Wellness Foundation. Additionally, Brad's freelance writing has been featured in a wide array of print and online outlets, including The Newark Star-Ledger, ESPN: The Magazine and

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