2 Shifts You Should Make in Your Marketing to Grow Existing Clients
The biggest mistake leaders make with marketing is misinterpreting what the business needs from marketing.
As we’ve discovered through our series, Marketing is the New Sales, prospects are now coming to you through digital channels first. The majority of B2B buyers believe that omnichannel (in-person, remote, and digital self-serve) is as or more effective than traditional channels. B2B buyers are making six-figure purchases through remote interaction.
If buyers now engage with us largely through digital channels, the face-to-face selling model is outdated and ineffective. We need new tools, new resources to upsell and cross-sell our existing customers. In short: we need to sell to them on their turf and on their terms which requires shifts in our selling to entice, enchant, and earn their future dollar.
Selling has become 75% digital.
Since selling has shifted to digital-first and digital (mostly) interaction, we need to not make the mistake with our marketing by relegating it to lead-gen only or reduce it to branding, image and identity. Marketing is the key driver to not merely drive new business and advance your brand but drive existing client sales. Here are two shifts we should make in our marketing to grow sales:
Shift No. 1: Stop spamming; start segmenting.
In our post "The Only Marketing Strategy You Need to Supercharge Your Sales," we shared the transformational strategy known as ABM (Account Based Marketing). Boring name; brilliant strategy.
ABM is a strategic approach to designing and executing highly targeted, personalized marketing with specific, named accounts. ABM is treating every single account as a “market of one.” To simplify: ABM is like taking your biggest customer and creating a marketing plan just for them. To drive future sales with existing clients we need to start at square one by segmenting our clients by category, type, or group.
Segmenting comes first because, in order to make marketing effective as a sales tool, we need to make our marketing solve a specific problem. To diagnose the problem and apply a cool merch solution, we need to know specifically which problem we’re trying to resolve.
One caveat: In our industry, segmenting a client base gets tricky. Normally, you segment by industry or client type. But within your book of business, the likelihood is high that the 80/20 rule reigns: 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your clients. For some distributors, this means a handful of clients drive the majority of their sales. Regardless of whether your handful is five clients or fifty, segmentation forces you to speak to that audience’s needs specifically. It’s like using your marketing as a surgeon’s scalpel instead of a shotgun. It’s more precise and less messy.
• Average tactic: Crafting a highly creative email and sending the same email to everyone. Yes, sometimes it works (for seasons like holidays) so, it is effective on occasion. But if that is all you are doing all year long, you are hitting some of your target sometimes, when you could be hitting all (or most) of your target all of the time. Yes, it’s easier to create one email, one message, one story, and then send that to everyone. But that’s called spam. Spam is usually categorized as unsolicited emails but if your email is not relevant to your customer’s challenges, it’s something they don’t want (spam).
• Pro tactic: Segment your customers by industry or by title. By industry allows you to speak to specific industry needs. If you were serving the automotive market, you know what volatility that market is currently under (due to supply chain issues) and you can target a highly creative email to evoke empathy and open the door to a relevant solution. By title allows you to segment to a specific audience. All human resource directors were scrambling in 2020 to adapt to a remote work culture, your kitting solution that helped everyone in the company feel connected and get vital information to each and every employee is a great example of how segmentation can fuel your marketing.
Segmenting your list is the starting point, from there, you can activate a marketing plan with laser-point precision. Once you segment your list, it’s time to make marketing magic. How?
Shift No. 2: Nix the Fliers, Fix the …
There are two ways to grow existing clients: upselling and cross-selling. But upselling and cross-selling take on different meanings for our industry. Upselling traditionally means getting a consumer to purchase more expensive items, upgrade their purchase or tack on add-on buys. For our industry, upselling means taking a client (the company itself, not just your buyer) and selling other people within that same company (other departments, other titles).
Cross-selling for our industry means taking a client who loves and trusts you and introducing them to either categories or purposes for which you haven’t yet sold. An example? Your client reached out to you for a shop to create an easy way for their employees to get their gear, but your shop can do a lot more than simply power employee wear. Or, you are currently building amazing kits for Customer A, but Customer B has never engaged you for kitting projects.
Cross-selling is more than just simply crossing a categorical line—it’s about introducing your clients to the power branded merchandise can have on other their most important initiatives: client retention, employee retention, employee engagement, culture building, and so much more. It begins with asking yourself the question: “What is my client (who loves and trusts me) not buying from me?”
And it’s not enough to simply tell, ask, or remind your client: “Hey, we can get those for you.” Show, don’t tell. And to do that effectively, both upselling and cross-selling require one thing: stories.
In the 2021 Content Marketing Report produced by MarketingProfs and The Content Marketing Institute, B2B marketers used three primary channels for their content distribution in the last 12 months:
Social media, email, and blogs are by far the leading channels for B2B marketers. Think of these channels like buckets: what are these brilliant marketers filling those buckets with? And where are B2B marketers spending their investment the most? Content creation. Or, in other words, what do we use instead of fliers? Stories.
Stories don’t shout “SALE!” or “NEW!” Stories don’t make you slam your command-Q button. Stories engage thoughtful interaction and inspire action. Rather than cross-selling, they cross-pollinate, one idea transfers from one client to another, multiplying your efforts in a much more colorful and life-giving way.
• Average tactic: The frequent flier. Customers are fatigued by fliers and our industry is still littered with them. Sales, new items, fliers of all kinds, they litter our social feeds and our inboxes and commoditize your work, reducing your expertise to that of a discount store. Are new products important? Absolutely. (Except, that with nearly a million items available to your client, 99% of them are “new-to-them”). Are reduced-priced items important? Again, for you, not for them. Purpose > price for clients.
• Pro tactic: Stories through cross-pollination. You are creating amazing experiences and campaigns for customers all the time, but are you crafting those in a digestible form (a story) so that you can inspire other customers with your brilliant work? For example, if you delivered on an amazing kitting project, have you written that story up in a one-page micro-story (three paragraphs) so that you can use it strategically to send to your segmented clients as listed above?
Stories can be used in so many ways. In the content profession, it’s called waterfall marketing: taking one story and repackaging it in multiple ways to maximize your effort and amplify your message. One simple story can be shared (firstly) on your blog, and in social media, and in your email marketing, and in Zoom presentations to clients. A simple story includes a hero (your client), their objective and the result. Or, it can be a story about your sourcing ability, how you rescued an order for a client, how you and your team resolved a complex problem through merchandise. Or, a story about how you created an amazing shop for Customer A or the new portal you activated for Client B to help them become more efficient.
One more secret: Create one story a month or two stories a month and create a bank of client stories. Once you do, you’ll be able to use those strategically. One more example: If you segmented your client lists above, you’ll be able to see where and when you need to deploy which story. If I created a shop for a company that celebrated the launch of a new brand, I could use that story any time I have a future client rebrand (which is more often than we think). It’s using marketing as a situational tactic that becomes more sales than marketing.
Marketing has moved …
... from a static experience (image, branding) to an action-based experience where everything rides on inspiration and action. Segmentation allows you to give your clients the personalized treatment they crave and deserve. Stories allow you to demo your best work, show that product always drives purpose, and ultimately inspires (not tires) your audience. If B2B buyers now largely prefer digital interaction, it’s time we shift the way we think of marketing and start creating more strategic sales moments that creates an immediate impact on client sales growth.
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