Wishing all the B2B marketers a wonderful holiday season! Enjoy our adaptation of the Christmas classic, A Christmas Carol, based on your experiences generating sales for business-to-business companies.
Chapter One - Bah Humbug!
Sales were dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.
Dead as a door-nail, in fact. Did Scrooge know they were dead? Of course, he did. How could it be otherwise? As the leader of his fine business-to-business organization – and an excellent man of business himself – he had pored over the sales reports for weeks now and things were looking grim.
His sales team were working flat out to find new customers and opportunities, but to no avail. The numbers didn’t lie and, it struck Scrooge as he ruminated in just the puddle of light his desk lamp provided, that something was terribly amiss.
When, at 7pm on December 24th – Christmas Eve no less! - and well after the rest of his staff had snuck away to the warmth of hearth and home - Scrooge finally shut off the lights, turned down the thermostat and locked the office up tight, he debated picking up dinner at his favourite pub, but couldn’t bear to spend the money after the distressing story his ledgers told. So instead he headed home for leftovers (whatever those may be).
Climbing the stairs to his front door and reaching for the doorknob, Scrooge jumped back in alarm – snatching his hand away in horror as his eyes widened in disbelief. Could it be? How could it possibly be? There, floating before his very eyes – as if an apparition – somehow fluttering in the still, cold and dark air of night, a removable sticky notice glued to the door above the knob with bold black letters screaming: ARE YOU A SMART BUSINESS LEADER AND YET SOMEHOW CANNOT SEEM TO GROW YOUR SALES?
Trembling, Scrooge ripped the notice from the door, crumpling it, unread, in his chilly hand as he thrust his way inside to the darkened vestibule of his lonely but well-located townhome (an excellent investment if he did say so himself). How dare they stick something like that to his door? How demeaning! How unpleasant! “How,” he wondered with alarm, “could they possibly know?”
“No matter!”, he shouted aloud – as if to drive away the unpleasant words that now lay in a wrinkled ball on his kitchen table. And with that, Scrooge surveyed his meager leftovers, settled on suspicious-looking shepherd’s pie with a glass of sherry, toasted the imminent Christmas Day with a “Bah Humbug!” and went to bed.
Chapter 2: The First Spirit
But sleep would not come for Scrooge. He tossed. He turned. He pulled his covers up and then pushed them all down. He rolled this way and that, but it was no use. He was haunted by the image of that terrible notice, floating before him like an accusation and sensing, somehow, that it was not the last disturbing thing he would see this evening. And he was right.
Shortly after 1AM, just past the striking of his antique grandfather clock’s chime, a shimmering began, waving this way and that in the still, close air of his bedroom. It flickered and faltered and then appeared once more, brighter each time for its previous fading, until it glowed nearly blindingly, pooling light on the floor next to Scrooge’s bed. It was a pager: its screen aglow with a smiling face, gazing into Scrooge’s eyes.
“Who, and what are you?” Scrooge demanded.
“I am the Ghost of Business Past.”
“Long Past?” inquired Scrooge.
“No. Your past.”
And, clasping Scrooge gently by the arm, it spoke again:
“Rise! And walk with me!”
Holding tightly to the Spirit’s arm, Scrooge felt himself lifted off the floor and, in the blink of an eye, they were flying through the bedroom window and up into the chill of the night sky. Faster and faster they flew until everything below was a blur. Then slowing in an arc towards the ground, Scrooge could see that they had returned to his company as it had been in the 80’s and 90’ – gently touching down in the grand foyer of his business-to-business office building.
The bustle of people with big hair, wide shoulder pads and shiny suits in bright colours assaulted his eyes and everywhere the beeping of pagers and the loud shouts of “Closed another one!” could be heard.
“Why Spirit,” Scrooge said with a grin, “this is my company in its sales heyday! Just look at all my sales people! How busy and successful they all are!”
“Yes,” said the Spirit, “but look over there, in that office in the corner. Let us go and hear what is being said inside .”
Without disturbing the vivid memory of the past playing before them, Scrooge and the Spirit drifted into the corner office where a younger version of Scrooge sat behind a large, mahogany desk, clearly arguing with the man seated before him.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Marley!” Scrooge the younger could be heard to exclaim. “We will not be spending money on such frivolous undertakings! I can’t believe you would have us take money from our profits to throw it away on such needless activities! Marketing? Bah Humbug! Give everyone a logoed golf shirt and be done with it! Our sales are booming!”
Our current Scrooge’s eyes lit up at the exchange and he rubbed his hands together gleefully. “Oh, I told him!” said Scrooge to the Ghost of Business Past. “Marley was always angling for me to spend money on marketing when our sales did nothing but go up!”
“Ah yes,” replied the Spirit, “but what happened a few years after that? Let us look and see.”
And, just as quickly as they had arrived, Scrooge and the Spirit whirled away to find themselves in the same corner office but a decade later.
“Oh Spirit,” said Scrooge backing away from the scene before him. “Do not remind me of this terrible time.”
“Don’t look away Scrooge! You must watch and see what happens next.” said the Spirit, pushing him forward.
Before them, an older Scrooge, but still younger than his current years, sat again behind his desk. Marley, seated before him slides a creamy vellum envelope forward into Scrooge’s hands.
“Take it,” says Marley. “It is my letter of resignation. I no longer want to be your business partner. I’m done arguing with you Scrooge. We used to see business the same way, understand the value of keeping customers satisfied and connected to our brand. You’ve lost sight of the big picture, the long-haul. These days of easy selling won’t last forever! You need to do more than just find the next deal! You’re making a mistake Scrooge – mark my words!”
“Remove me!” Scrooge exclaimed, “I cannot bear it! Leave me! Take me back. Haunt me no longer!”
Turning on the Ghost, Scrooge grappled for a button to turn off the glaring brightness of the Pager Spirit’s screen and, eventually pressing the right one, extinguished the excruciating light.
He was aware once more of being in his own bedroom and, alarmingly exhausted, stumbled into bed and fell into a deep sleep.
Chapter 3: The Second Ghost
Bolting upright, mid-snore, Scrooge could not immediately say what had jolted him awake. Listening to the quiet of his house, he realized he could hear the grandfather clock once again gearing up to strike the hour. The single chime rang loudly in his ears. Just one? Thought Scrooge. How can that be? Yet even though he waited, straining to hear more, there were none. A single strike of the clock and it was once again 1AM.
From the corner of his eye, Scrooge thought he saw a faint glow coming from under the bedroom door. In fact, the more he looked the brighter he was convinced it became. What now? He wondered and, tentatively, he walked towards the door, placing his hand on the doorknob.
Immediately thrusting open, the door flung wide to reveal a room – his room! But not his room. This room, though very like his room, was instead transformed into a gleaming, modern office. Bright white walls, smooth surfaces, brushed metals and clean angles met his eye at every turn. Standing desks, yoga balls and computer screens glowed everywhere. And seated there, in the centre, in a large ergonomic office chair, was a smiling Ghost – his face aglow with happiness, round with prosperity – dressed in khakis and a cashmere sweater, his hand out preparing for a shake of welcome.
“Come in!” exclaimed the Ghost. “Come in! And know me better, man!”
Scrooge entered timidly, and hung his head before this Spirit. He was not the dogged Scrooge he had been; and though the Spirit’s eyes were clear and kind, he did not like to meet them.
“I am the Ghost of Business Present, “said the Spirit. “Look upon me!”
“Spirit,” said Scrooge submissively, “conduct me where you will. I went forth last time on compulsion, and I learnt a lesson which is working now. Tonight, if you have more to teach me, let me profit by it.”
“Touch my arm!” Scrooge did as he was told and held it fast.
Paper, pens, desks, computer screens, coffee mugs, smart phones, printers and whiteboards swirled around them, along with the noise of a bustling office. When the swirling stopped, Scrooge found himself standing next to the Spirit in the centre of a busy – and it appeared – profitable, office.
For, the people who were working away at their desks were jovial and full of glee; calling out to one another from their cubicles, and now and then exchanging a good-natured joke. Though loud, the noise was not unpleasant, and Scrooge listened with interest as he and the Ghost, walked through the cubicle maze.
As they came to the edge of the cubicles, Scrooge spied a large boardroom where the table was laid with desk mats and bottles of water. A laptop was hooked up to a digital monitor and many people sat around the table’s perimeter. On the screen were charts and graphs – not unlike the reports Scrooge had just spent so long poring over himself.
“It is very good news,” a man seated at the head of the table was saying as he looked up to the monitor. “We have seen a high click thru rate on our digital ads on both LinkedIn and Google, and our website traffic has increased more than 50%. People are interested in what we have to say, it seems. The content we’ve been publishing has really generated some good leads as well and the sales team has been busy following up and have booked a number of appointments already.”
“Why Spirit!” exclaimed Scrooge, “this is the office of B2B Marketing Consulting Inc.! I know this man – he is their founder and president! My nephew Fred!”
Just then, a woman seated to one side at the large table leaned forward to speak. “Has anyone heard of this – “and she looked down at a note she’d made (a STICKY note, Scrooge noticed with a shudder), “– this company called Scrooge & Marley Inc? It seems they’ve been in business for decades – in our very backyard – and yet I’ve just heard of them yesterday!”
The blank stares around the table said it all, to Scrooge’s dismay, and he hung his head in shame. But his nephew looked uncomfortable and, clearing his throat, spoke up quietly.
“Yes, actually.” He said. “That is my uncle’s B2B business. He has been there for many years and every year I visit him to ask him to join our team – and every year he turns me down. I am sorry for him – but he has no one to blame but himself. When old Marley left him, he came to me and was our VP of Sales & Marketing for many years before he retired. So, poor Uncle Scrooge takes it into his head to dislike me, and he won’t come and work with us. What’s the only consequence? He loses an opportunity to have greater business success.”
Scrooge looked up at the smiling Spirit beside him. “Google and LinkedIn? Content and lead generation? Why Spirit, I have always thought marketing was a waste of valuable time and money! If you are an excellent man of business, shouldn’t the business just come in? But perhaps Marley was right.”
“Yes, Marketing,” said the Spirit of Business Present, “and those B2B businesses who use it, do see much greater success!”
Scrooge turned his eyes back to the boardroom table just in time to hear: “Well, he’s not much of a competitor,” she laughed, “If no one has ever heard of them!”
“No, I suppose not.” Agreed Scrooge’s nephew “but I do wish him well. Here’s a toast to his healthy competition – or perhaps, one day, he will join us.” And Fred mock-cheered with his water bottle and drank up heartily for he was parched from making his presentation to the team.
As Scrooge, looked down, unable to watch his happy, successful nephew any longer, the scene before him began to shift and shimmer, disappearing into grey and darkening fog. Suddenly – and strangely - he heard a clock strike twelve and Scrooge looked about him for the Ghost, and saw it not. As the last stroke ceased to vibrate, he lifted up his eyes and beheld a solemn Phantom, draped in black, coming, like a mist along the ground, towards him.
Chapter 4: The Third and Final Spirit
The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently, approached. When it came near him, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery (like every bookkeeper he’d ever met, Scrooge thought with dismay.)
It was shrouded in a deep black garment, an extremely well-cut and expensive three- piece suit and long black trench coat. Scrooge saw that this Spirit was tall and stately and held a calculator in one hand when it came beside him, but its mysterious presence filled him with a solemn dread. He knew no more, for the Spirit neither spoke nor moved.
“I am in the presence of the Ghost of Business Yet To Come?” said Scrooge.
The Spirit answered not, but pointed onward with its free hand.
“You are about to show me shadows of the things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before us,” Scrooge pursued. “Is that so, Spirit?” The Ghost inclined its head. That was the only answer he received.
“Lead on then, Spirit.” Scrooge whispered and followed the drifting and well-dressed form as it moved ahead of him.
As he followed this silent Ghost, it was as if a street simply sprung up before them, appearing – as the Ghost had – out of the grey mist and darkness.
The Spirit entered a coffee shop and pointed to one little knot of business people, indicating Scrooge was to listen to the group speaking together over grande lattes and half-caf, soy milk, extra hot, half sweet mochacinnos.
“No,” said a great fat man with a monstrous chin, “I don’t know much about it, either way. I only know it’s closed.”
“When did it close?” inquired another.
“Yesterday, I believe.”
“Why, what was the matter with it?” asked a third, taking a large swig from his paper cup and nearly choking with the heat of it – realizing he had ordered it extra hot, “I thought it had been there forever.”
“It was,” said the monstrously chinned man, “but I can’t actually think of any time I heard of anyone mentioning them by name or using their services. They certainly never advertised. I just noticed because I walk by it every day on my way to work.”
Scrooge could not fathom the import of this conversation, but kept his thoughts to himself as the Spirit, he realized, would not provide any answers. Yet Scrooge felt exceedingly uneasy.
As they came out of the coffee shop and continued along the street, a building came into view – tall and grey and dark, it’s stone façade decaying and dirty. Pasted across the door and windows were large signs that shouted: Bankrupt! Closed For Business!
“Before I draw nearer to that building to which you point,” said Scrooge, “answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that WILL be, or are they shadows of things that MAY be, only?”
Still the Ghost pointed toward the building by which they stood.
“The course of business will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the course is departed from, the ends will change. Say that’s true of what you show me!”
The Spirit was immovable as ever and simply clasped his calculator close and raised his eyebrows.
Scrooge crept towards the darkened building, trembling as he went; and following the finger, looked up to the front door and read upon the sign of the neglected façade his own business name, Scrooge & Marley Inc.
“It was my business about which those people spoke in the coffee shop!” he cried. “No, Spirit! Oh no, no!” The finger continued to point at the CLOSED signs.
“Spirit!” he cried, clutching at its suit jacket, “hear me! I am not the businessman I was. I will not be the businessman I must have been before this intervention. Why show me this, if I my business is past all hope! Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me!”
The Ghost of Business Yet To Come looked dubious but continued to listen in stony silence.
“I will honour Marketing in my business plans and try to keep it all the year. I will remember the past, the present and the future and the Spirits of all three will motivate me and I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the signs pasted to my building!”
Holding up his hand in a last prayer to have his business fate reversed, Scrooge noticed a change in the Phantom. He shrunk, and collapsed, and dwindled down into a puddle on the floor – very much like a small rug. Oh, and it was his rug! His rug by the side of his bed. In his safe and quiet bedroom!
Chapter 5: A New B2B Businessman
As Scrooge looked up from the little rug by his bedside, he saw sunlight gleaming through his tightly drawn shades. “How could it be morning?” he wondered. And, throwing them open, he looked out upon a suburban scene of cars pulling out of driveways and many waves good bye and he realized that it must be December 24th once again.
“I haven’t missed it!”, he shouted with glee. “I can still have this final day before Christmas to start my marketing plan!”
With a jovial bounce in his step, Scrooge rushed around to leave for the office, not at all seeming like a man who had spent the night being visited by Ghosts. As he marched downstairs to grab a banana for breakfast he spied the crumpled sticky notice still lying on his kitchen table.
Picking it up, he gingerly smoothed it out and laid it flat before him. But this time the headline didn’t seem to scream but rather offer help: ARE YOU A SMART BUSINESS LEADER AND YET SOMEHOW CANNOT SEEM TO GROW YOUR SALES?
“Why yes!”, said Scrooge around a mouthful of fruit. “That is exactly my predicament!” and his eyes continued to peruse the page where before he had turned them away in horror and shame.
GIVE B2B MARKETING CONSULTING INC. A CALL! WE’RE HERE TO HELP!
“Oh, it’s from Fred’s business, “Scrooge said in wonder. “This is perfect! I will stop by his place of business this morning! No time to waste!”
And with that, Scrooge set out on this very merry Christmas Eve indeed, fully prepared to dive deeply into whatever strategic marketing recommendations would come his way. He did meet with his nephew Fred and his team of savvy marketing consultants and came away with a strategic marketing plan to promote his business, build his brand, and generate sales leads.
And Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more. He became as good an uncle, as good a business leader, and as good a marketer, as the good old city and B2B industry knew. He had no further run ins with Spirits, but leveraged strategic marketing ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep B2B business well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!
And so, from our B2B marketing experts to you: Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and bless us, every one!