To influence the market, influence the networks
There’s a myth in the B2B world that controlling the market is simple.
Many companies believe that making money is just a matter of creating the perfect product, the right message and the best website, along with investing in SEO, well-placed ads, outbound emails, a talented team on the phone and skilled sales people.
Companies are organized around this myth. They invest big money to support it. And when their so-called “perfect product” doesn’t sell as scripted, they point fingers. They fire anyone that they think has failed to do their part.
Let’s take a step back. Imagine that, instead of being the seller of a “perfect product,” you’re the buyer. Think about how many people approach you each month with a “perfect product.” How many unsolicited emails do you get a day? To what degree do you believe what an ad tells you? How much time do you reserve for sales people to pitch their perfect product? How much of what they say in the pitch do you believe?
Buyers are in a constant state of exploration. These companies are focused on ways to improve their business and may not even know they are looking for something to buy. This exploration comes in two general cases:
(1) Companies look for a better product or vendor. They might need more or better product choices. They may need better delivery. They may want Just-In-Time inventory practices, less spoilage or better contracting terms. They may need help with deploying their products or applying their services.
(2) Companies look for ways to solve problems, fill gaps, leapfrog the industry or make the world safer. Or they look for a partner that brings new thinking and engagement models to the market.
These explorations often take place within networks that sellers belong to or have access to. The networks may exist within the company or outside of it, managed or organized by industry, discipline, professional association, university or non-business groups. Within these networks, information is shared through a variety of means, whether paper-based (books, magazines, papers), electronic, virtual or person-to-person.
The conversations that happen within these networks may support the marketing messages that a seller puts forth about its “perfect product” — or they may contradict them completely. Regardless, the network is typically considered a more reputable source than the company trying to sell a product.
Thus, if you really want to sell your “perfect product,” don’t try to control the market.
Instead, try to influence the networks by communicating to them the value your product can really provide. By leveraging these peer groups, you can influence the buying behavior of companies with less effort and budget — while also learning something about them in the process.