B2B Marketing Blog

Written by Lisa Shepherd
on September 24, 2015

Every B2B buyer now deals with information overload. The average person in North America is exposed to 5,000 - 30,000 brand messages a day. Because of that, it takes a lot for a message to get through - which means that it takes a lot of touch points for B2B companies to make a sale. The old rule was that a message had to be heard between five and seven times in order for it to be remembered. Now, most marketers believe it's between eleven and thirteen touches before a message “breaks through.” In some cases, particularly in complex B2B sales, the number is even higher.

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Knowing the number of touch points you need to get through to a buyer is important for B2B revenue generation. It helps marketers and sales people plan their programs and set realistic expectations for the timing of results. For example, Janet Campbell, vice-president at TAB, uses a ten to sixteen touch rule. She knows that between the marketing and the sales teams’ efforts, a prospect needs to hear the TAB message between ten and sixteen times before a deal will be done. Janet, who runs the TAB’s sales function, and her marketing counterpart, Ross Nepean, use that ten to sixteen touch framework to structure TAB’s marketing and sales process and tactics. Their combined efforts have to achieve that range of touches, in the right manner and at the right time, to maximize success.

Every company has a different number of appropriate touches based on its industry and target market. And every company has lucky situations where a customer is in the right place and time, and a deal can be done with just a few touches. But in general, it now takes more than half a dozen touches, coming across multiple channels, for prospects to even know of a particular company – let alone do business with it.

Keeping Up With Limited Resources

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Many companies are still adapting to this new “noisy” reality that their buyers live in. Buyers consume many kinds of media – from their LinkedIn update feed to trade publications to mainstream business media. As Lori Wizdo at research firm Forrester said, “Without debate, the business from business buyer is already much more multichannel than business-to-business sellers are. Buyers of business products and services are online, in social channels, on YouTube, going to events, and evaluating options on their iPads and smartphones.” B2B marketers have to cover a lot of channels to keep up with buyers.

This complexity is difficult to manage, because with the limited resources they typically have, it’s tough for B2B companies to deliver multiple messages through multiple channels. This is where it’s critical to have a clear target market and a solid understanding of the most important stakeholders in the purchase decision. Since the vast majority of B2B purchases involve a growing number of stakeholders at different levels of seniority and with different functional responsibilities, B2B companies with limited resources need to have a laser focus on the right buyers in the process and know which channels will get their message through to those buyers.

Touch points are valuable because they accelerate the sales process – or at the very least, they accelerate how the purchasing process is perceived by the seller. If more than half of the buying process is complete before a buyer engages with a salesperson, it’s essential to use marketing to generate as many touches as possible during that “invisible” phase, since marketing is almost always a lower cost way to achieve touches. A company that has effective marketing will have touched a customer several times before it even knows the name of that customer. Indeed, the goal of marketing is to move the customer as far along the buying process as possible, so that the sales team’s time will be well utilized when they do connect with a buyer.

The Caveat

There’s a caveat to this rule though. B2B companies need to use a few different channels to get a company’s message in front of a buyer multiple times, but they also need to be realistic about their resources. I’ve seen many companies plan too many initiatives across too many channels and not have sufficient resources to effectively execute them. Companies that are new to marketing shouldn’t take on any more than three to five communications tactics. As they gain experience and put processes in place to manage the different tactics, they can then take on more.

To learn more, download the first section of The Radical Sales Shift:


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