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I’m always running around saying how much I enjoy B2B marketing, because it’s complex, high ticket, and the results can be really satisfying.  That’s all true.  But sometimes I find it annoying, too.  There are things about B2B that just tick me off.  Forgive the rant, but I have to get this off my chest. 

Businesses play their cards close to the vest.  Have you ever tried to get a client to give you a testimonial?  Well, then, you know what I mean.  I’ve had customers say, “No way, you’re my secret weapon.  I don’t want my competitors to know how good this is.”

What’s particularly annoying is that testimonials are one of the most powerful tools in B2B marketing.  They reduce buyer risk.  They offer social proof.  And in theory business people want to help each other, so you’d think testimonials should be easy to get.  But they’re not.  Because buyers want to keep their good things to themselves.

Businesses think email is their best prospecting tool.  When it isn’t.  I just got off the phone with a data scientist in Bangalore who was complaining how he digs up high value prospective accounts, and his clients  blast them with email, get no results and then blame him.  Poor guy.

I’ve said before that I think email makes us stupid.  It’s too cheap.  So we get lazy.  In a complex environment like B2B, you have to recognize how buyers buy.  They research online.  They talk to their peers.  They attend conferences. They develop short lists.  We need to reach them where they are, which is not talking to strangers from their inboxes.

B2B marketers still duck their data responsibilities.  This irks the hell out of me.  I am not the geekiest marketer around, but I find the power of data in B2B an endless source of fascination, and results.  Where else are there so many buyers and influencers who need to be part of the decision-making process?  Where else are people’s titles and job roles changing constantly?

So when marketers shy away from taking ownership of their company’s data strategy, and feeling personally connected to the need for data hygiene, I get mad.   I’ve ranted about this quite recently, so I should probably shut up.  But I can’t help myself.  It bears repeating.

Okay, that’s the end of today’s rant.  Maybe it’s time for me to go back to consumer marketing?  Naw… . I’m still B2B’s biggest fan.


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Ruth Stevens

About Ruth Stevens

Ruth P. Stevens consults on customer acquisition and retention, and teaches marketing at companies and business schools in the U.S. and abroad. Crain’s BtoB magazine named Ruth one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing. She is the author of Maximizing Lead Generation: The Complete Guide for B2B Marketers, and Trade Show and Event Marketing. Ruth serves as a director of Edmund Optics, Inc., the HIMMS Media Group, and the Business Information Industry Association. Learn more at www.ruthstevens.com.

2 replies to this post
  1. You make an interesting point about testimonials. The same could also be extended to case studies.

    In your experience, how have you gotten around this issue?

    • I don’t find it is very easy to get around, if your clients are large companies. Most have policies prohibiting any vendor references. But for smaller companies, you can try writing everything up and seeking approval. It’s also possible, even if you don’t get approval, to post references anonymously, because that is hard to object to.

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