You know about promotions, you know about pricing strategies, you have a pretty good idea that place or location matter. For the product, having a good one helps, and a strong call to action is de riguer.
In consumer products, for many categories, your margins are razor thin and your competition is stiff. How many companies does it take to sell a light bulb? Not very many if yours is environmentally friendly and lasts a long time.
How about moving blank VHS tapes? Stephen Denny of Note-to-CMO wrote a fantastic post about that almost a year ago. He was able to market sameness in a different way.
In the comments, Stephen elaborates on understanding the needs of the customer:
We all talk about "speaking the language of your customer," of "listening to your customer," etc., etc., ad nauseam. Everyone repeats this endlessly in our marketing world (at least in the blogosphere), but very few actually execute this to its fullest.
We can't say, "we get you," because this statement doesn't convey any understanding of you, your needs, your reality. Show me that you get me by speaking in my language -- in words, images, and actions. We must go past the trappings and capture what happens after the obvious.
Take the Sony tape case in the post: how do you show that you get the audience? We could have given them a guide on how to best tape movies off their televisions (did that, no impact). We could have given them selected a pre-recorded series of children's titles because our customers were families with kids (did that, too; no impact).
We tested, talked, listened, and launched promotions that connected to our channel's needs (2 liter bottle of Coke with 4-pack -- 60% lift in volume), and them moved on to the needs of our customers (free movie ticket inside -- counter-intuitive, isn't it... blank tape, used at home, and yet we send them to the theater to watch the movie -- but entertainment is what they were all about. Our monster users loved movies, not taping.
Understanding the key issue that defines the user and the use of the product, together, is what's important. Think about that when you feel your product is difficult to sell to other businesses.
Welcome to the exciting world of B2BIt's historical and it's hysterical. It's historical because there didn't use to be so many competitors for each B2B model. Businesses that sold to other businesses filled the pipeline with deals and proceeded to take orders. It's hysterical because it's not about filling orders anymore - it's about creating demand, just like in the more marketing-intensive B2C world.
Social media and customer communities can help push issues and demands deeper inside the organization - they are a third party with a checkbook. But they will not give you a cure for unclaimed inventory - what you're not selling is not going to sell itself in the volume or quantity that properly implemented direct response marketing can create. In many cases, you may be selling the invisible - services.
Marketing is marketing. B2B, B2C - same difference. It needs to drive conversions, not only dump prospects on a landing page. What are the calls to action? What's the promotion? The biggest problem I see in many B2B companies is that little thought and effort are put into the piece that touches the customer.
In some cases that's because the company was started zillions ago by a couple of engineers with amazing technical skills. Or it's the brain child of a couple of scientists who got it off the ground with a revolutionary product. The next step was to hire a few sales people and get them to make calls and fill orders.
Many sales-driven organizations were probably born that way. Nothing wrong with that, except for nobody today is in the fulfillment business as much anymore. If you're sitting by the phone and taking orders as fast as bids at an auction, lucky you are. For everyone else, go ahead and break the glass in case of marketing.