This is an excerpt from Feed The Startup Beast: A 7-Step Guide to Big, Hairy, Outrageous Sales Growth, published by McGraw-Hill (July 2013).
Engage first, sell later. That should be every B2B entrepreneur's motto. Why engage? Because buyers tend to be risk averse, and they'll need to get to know you before buying–especially if you're a smaller, less established company. Here's what makes them willing to engage:
1. They have a business pain that needs remedying.
2. They are actively looking for information to help them solve their pain.
3. They are willing to trust people who can help take the thorn out of their paw (that's you).
So how do you engage buyers so you can earn their trust? You'll have to do the heavy lifting on this one, because the odds of them looking you up and giving you a call are pretty slim. We've distilled the engagement job you need to do down to three very important principles: target, value and offer.
We call these elements (and the strategy that builds around them) the Laws of Engagement, and together they will account for 100 per cent of your marketing success. Get them right, and you will successfully engage your prospects. Get any one of them wrong and you might find that your sales curve looks a little more like the jagged side of a saw blade than it does a hockey stick.
The Laws of Engagement are a set of rules, principles, and best practices that concentrate your marketing efforts so you can more effectively engage your Best Prospects–leading to a mutually rewarding relationship that significantly increases your likelihood of a sale.
1. The Law of Targeting - If you find more customers like your best customers, you will sell more.
The Law of Targeting states that in order to engage your prospects, you must be talking to the ones who will buy. Well, how obvious is that? Apparently not very. Most companies violate this law every day by targeting too widely. The secret is to identify those prospects who share the same pain and the same need to remedy that pain as your best customers, then target them.
2. The Law of Value - Your value proposition must be presented in terms of your prospect's pain and viewpoint.
The Law of Value states that in order to engage your prospects, you must talk to them in their language about their pain. What is their pain? A problem that you appear able to solve. These prospects need a solution, but if you want them to buy the solution from you and not someone else, they need to understand how your product or service can solve it better than the next guy's . What's the secret? Frame your message in their terms, not yours. Not "Here's how great my product is," but rather "Here's how your problem can be solved." They want to know WIIFM–"What's in it for me?" And that leads us to the third law.
3. The Law of the Offer - Your offer must be valuable, timely, and relevant.
The Law of the Offer states that in order to engage your prospects, you must offer them information and insight that will help them better understand their problem or a potential solution to their problem. Your offer, be it information or a webinar, a buying guide, or a white paper, must fit where they are in their Decision Cycle. If it doesn't, you must refine your offer until it does fit. Until you earn you prospects' consideration, you should dial-down the sales pitch and dial-up your efforts to objectively support them in their quest to resolve their business pain.
With the Laws of Target, Value, and Offer as the critical elements of your engagement strategy, it's now time for you to create a plan that makes them work as one.
You Don't Have to Do It Alone
The Big, Hairy, Outrageously Smart entrepreneur sees marketing as a team effort. Even if you think you're too small to have a team, you actually do have one. Who are the other players on your marketing team? Your customers, of course. And it's not just because they're a potential source of referrals. It's because they're a huge source of (too often overlooked) market intelligence. To create an effective and efficient engagement strategy, ask your Best Customers how they buy and what appeals to them and who gets involved in their purchase decisions. In other words, focus on their knowledge of Target, Value, and Offer, and embed those insights right into your strategy.
Building Your Engagement Strategy
The single most important rule for growth is: The fastest way to grow your business is to find more customers like your Best Customers.
To find more customers like your Best Customers, you'll take the behaviors, characteristics, demographics, and buying habits of your current Best Customers and use them as a marketing template or filter: only the Best Prospects get through. Which means we want you to ask your Best Customers some questions.
To help smooth your job, we've designed an Engagement Questionnaire for you that lays out the fewest questions you need to ask to get a tight, meaningful profile that you can then use to go track down some fresh, new Best Prospects for your business. That template can be downloaded for free at http://tools.FeedTheBeast.biz .
Your Engagement Questionnaire is structured into three parts according to the Laws of Engagement: Target, Value, and Offer. All the questions are brief and have the following objectives:
1. Target: Who you'll be saying it to. You need to confirm decision-making roles and profiles. Which deciders, influencers, and users are typically involved in the decision process? Whom do you need to target your marketing efforts to?
2. Value: What you'll be saying. You need to identify the burning business pain your Best Customer has that she is willing to pay to alleviate. This needs to be something you can solve in a unique way.
3. Offer: How you'll be saying it. You need to confirm what decision-making support your Best Customers value. What helps your Best Customers make better decisions? What content, tools, or approaches will allow you to best engage others like them?
Why go to the trouble of creating the survey? Because the path to Big, Hairy, Outrageous Sales Growth means that you're zigging (others are zagging). The vast majority of your competitors will never do a survey like this, let alone develop an in-depth prospect profile. That means they'll be less certain who their Best Prospects are, where they can be found, or how they buy. In fact, studies indicate that less than 20 per cent of large, presumably sophisticated organizations understand their customers' behaviors and buying processes. And don't worry. You won't be annoying your customers when you ask them to do a survey. They'll be more than happy to answer your questions because, as you'll recall, they're your Best Customers – they love you already. And besides, just about every customer alive wants to be listened to, and who's more likely to welcome your attention than your Best Customers?
Drew Williams is a serial marketing entrepreneur who sold one of his businesses for eight figures. He has served as head of marketing for billion dollar companies, and is currently managing partner at nuRevenue Partners.
Jonathan Verney is president of Corporate Storyteller, a story-driven communications agency, and co-author of "Live Well, Retire Well". His passion is helping businesses articulate their vision and their story.