Another day, yet another lament about how lame business-to-business (B2B) marketing content can be.
The latest eye-rolling comes from Forrester Research, courtesy of a report in AdAge. It quoted Laura Ramos, a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, on her review of 30 B2B Web sites in in the technology, software, investing, medical products, manufacturing and services industries.
She scored the sites on ten criteria, “ranging from a customer-centric home page to innovative use of video” Out of the 30 sites, only four passed. The biggest problem, says Ramos, “is that the majority of content talks about the company, what its products and services do and how many awards they’ve won, but doesn’t speak to the issues their prospective buyers are trying to solve.”
Funny, I was just blogging about how often this happens in case studies (and how to prevent it.)
Two of Ramos’ suggestions jumped out at me, one of which I agree with, the other I don’t.
Good: Lead With Value
Ramos talked up how offering usable content such as research and self-evaluation tools can engage the prospect and keep them reading by offering value. Two recent survey-based projects in which I took part show how this works.
One survey, done for Oracle on global cloud adoption trends found, among other things, that:
- Traditional datacenter requirements, such as performance, service-level guarantees, application lifecycle management and integration, become more, not less, important in the cloud.
- Frequent cloud concerns include migrating applications with very high performance, availability and security requirements; inability to easily migrate existing application data; lack of ability to manage/monitor or modify existing applications in the cloud; and inability to integrate with non-cloud applications.
- There are intriguing differences between the workloads customers plans for public vs. private cloud (see below.)
Or consider another recent survey in which I played a role, this for Dell on mid-market use of Big Data.
Its findings include:
· The biggest drivers of big data success are IT/business collaboration, proper skills and performance management.
· The biggest causes of failure are lack of IT/business cooperation and lack of tools and skills.
· And that the most influential departments in big data projects are IT and sales/marketing.
Surveys like this let your salespeople lead by offering valuable help, not putting on a hard sell. By describing the actual state of the market, they can better frame the argument for your products and services. Finally, knowing what customers really care about helps you fine-tune your marketing message and strategy.
Not So Good: Saving the Client’s Bacon
While most b-to-b companies feature case studies on their websites, they don’t do a good enough job telling customer stories, Ms. Ramos said.
“The case studies were OK, but they weren’t really compelling. There are a lot of companies bragging about themselves, disguised as customer success stories, but they don’t feature people and their struggles and successes.” she says. “Companies need to show the things they really struggled with, where they failed, and then show redemption — everyone loves a story of redemption.”
Everyone, that is, except the legal and PR departments of the customer featured in the case study. . What CIO wants to fess up to that, even if the near-disaster was (of course) their predecessor’s fault? And what legal or PR department would let them make such a confession, when it’s hard enough to get clearance for today’s vague “We’re very pleased with the job XYX did for us…” quotes?
One global services client struggling to describe the “real story” in their own case studies raised another objection: That the IT department itself is reluctant to paint itself as the hero that saved the rest of the company from disaster.
Finding satisfied customers in the business to consumer (B2C) space is one thing. If anyone’s found a way to tell the full “redemption” story for a named B2B customer, I’d love to hear it.
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