How to Impress a B2B Marketer

I’m a B2B marketer. I market products I never use to people I rarely encounter: engineers, manufacturers, researchers, scientists, technologists. I operate in a world of lean resources, product-knowledge politics and flawlessly dotted I’s and impeccably crossed T’s. I’m judged not by whether I make it great, but whether I get it right: the right information, delivered when promised.

Your agency wants my account. We’re at the pitch meeting. You start your slide deck. Up comes the intro slide with the presentation topics: Bio, approach, portfolio, clients, process, results.

I sit back. You don’t hear me groan. But I do. I’ve been to your website. I’ve seen your portfolio and your client list and your philosophy statement. I liked it — that’s why I invited you to pitch. But now, I’m wondering why you’re showing me more of the same.

Want to know how to really reach me?

Start by convincing me you won’t be another hand I have to hold. Give me assurance that you won’t need me for a bunch of meetings, or to sit down with you and teach you about my products and markets, or to answer a thousand questions you could — and should — answer independently. I’m happy to take time correcting things you misunderstand — but you take the first crack at it.

Show me you already know something substantial about my markets. I’m eager to hear that you understand the challenges of reaching them. Trust me, I’d enthusiastically forego your agency philosophy (yes, customers come first at my company, too) to spend 10 meaningful minutes discussing low-hanging fruit in the channel — even if I’m doing all the talking.

Understand how I view creative. I love creative. But my markets? Not so much. You’re going to hear me using the dirty word “templates” a lot, and really, you should say it first. Show me you know that B2B markets use design and production value to make early credibility judgments about my company and products. After that, the markets don’t really notice — they’re reading specs. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve got money to spend with you. Just don’t make me think you’ll waste it on creative.

Consider how bombarded I am everyday with process. You have no idea how often I’m asked how I got something done instead of what I got done. Talk to me about how you research, how you correct course when we have to, how you plan, how we collaborate, how you make and manage revisions, how you integrate with automated tools. Make me feel the warm glow that only streamlined process integration can bring.

Talk to me about how you market to experts. What do you do to ensure that whatever you produce — whether it’s just design or you’re going to handle the content, too — presents my products to my markets as expert to expert?

You still want to talk portfolio and clients? Show me a project through all its phases. I’d like to see how that worked, from initial comps to final production. Talk to me about clients that share my market and selling models. It doesn’t matter to me what industry they’re in. And don’t forget, the quality of the presentation itself is going to carry its own message.

Finally, consider this. You’re not the only agency that wants my business. They’re all pitching me just like you. And their pitches look very much the same — very much like yours. How do I make the decision? Given that no one has talked to me about the universe I live in, about the challenges I face, about the markets I reach, we’re back to the beauty contest. (And I’m a B2B marketer; cheap always seems beautiful to me.) So do it differently. Tell me you’re not going to bug me, prove you can learn on your own and describe how you’ll integrate with the way I do things.

Michael Fischler has been involved in B2B marketing his entire career. Over the last 20 years, he has worked with over 250 B2B clients, executing nearly 2,500 marketing projects. He can be reached at mrf@markitek.com.

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