379 Meetings: What I Learned
One year ago this week I started my business.
In that year, I've met with 397 different people.
They were mostly CEOs of B2B businesses or people serving CEOs of B2B businesses.
I was reflecting on those meetings and realized there are a lot of common threads across these business's challenges.
Here are seven takeaways from my 397 meetings last year.
1. Standalone marketing programs
You might have heard of this called random acts of marketing.
It's very common. A lot of these businesses choose their marketing programs independent of their other programs and even independent of their business goals.
Marketing seems to be one of those things that is very subjective.
Sometimes web email google ads, events - all those things were a hodgepodge for businesses, often without anything tying them together.
2. Serial vendors
A related trend was serial vendors.
Many of the people I spoke with had tried and failed repeatedly to solve their marketing problem - getting leads mostly - with different vendors.
They tried one to deliver a marketing program. It didn't get what they expected. They tried another, etcetera.
They often were frustrated and embarrassed because they felt like they were wasting money and didn't seem to know what they were doing.
They were skeptical when it came to talking about how they might solve their problems going forward.
3. Inside baseball
A lot of B2B businesses that I spoke with used a lot of acronyms that their business understood well, but not their prospects. Sometimes thet were industry terminology, but often it was things that were within the bounds of their company - product names or models.
They also shared too many details in their conversations with their clients. They missed the fact that a lot of that information just isn't heard.
They assumed their audiences were like who they were, rather than thinking of where their audiences are at and what they need to hear to break through.
4. Underserving existing customers
Another common situation was businesses not thinking about their existing customers enough.
Many companies are really focused on getting new customers or new leads. They see that as the solution to their revenue growth.
Many times I found situations where CEOs were surprised when we figured out together that their biggest opportunity was with customers that they already had; they could grow or retain known customers more easily than finding new ones, if they invested and focused on satisfying their clients and expanding existing opportunities.
5. Missing a message
Another thing I saw was a lack of an overarching message - something to pull their story together in a way that was reinforcing.
They would talk about their offerings or they talk about some new feature or model. What that sometimes does is send out constantly changing messages that don't tie together.
The power of marketing is tied to consistency and repetition. Messages that start with the customer pain and what the customer needs tend to stay consistent over time and across different products.
A lot of companies were missing that organizing story
6. Want to be found
Businesses I spoke with were often unknown in their market.
This is a common situation if you're a small B2B firm, especially if you've haven't invested much in marketing. Even more so if you're a startup or new in your market; some businesses were trying to move from their legacy market to a new market where they were unknown.
They didn't know how to fix this.
7. Need leads
The most common pain that I heard was, "I need leads,"or some variation on that theme - finding new customers or finding leads for the sales team - as a key to growth.
Clearly this is important to everyone. A lot of businesses have been burned before trying to get this done, and a lot of businesses are looking for a silver bullet here.
They may have heard a buzzword or want to invest in a big annual tradeshow, believing that it will single-handedly turn the tide for them.
It's really easy to think that choosing this one thing to focus on will open the floodgates. That rarely happens. There was a lot of frustration around this topic.
You're not alone
There's a definitely a pattern here; B2B businesses have have a lot in common.
So if you're struggling with any of these or all of these, you're not alone.