I don’t know about you, but after several days of yelling kids and dozing relatives I needed to cut loose. So I hit the Boxing Day sales for some peace and quiet (plus a queue-free Chicken Bake). Springboard, which analyses customer activity in stores, reports that Boxing Day 2019 saw its largest ever recorded drop in footfall.

This is an odd turn of affairs when you think of everything the high street has in its favour. People have time, people have money (your Mum still puts cash in your Christmas card, right?) and people are looking for things they can do with friends or family. As an economist might put it, cheap stuff + free time + spare cash = winner, winner, chicken dinner. Yet the tills were not tolling, so what does this tell us as we sharpen our 2020 B2B marketing plans?

Firstly, don’t bother trying to sell people stuff they don’t want. This may seem blindingly obvious but, particularly before the rise of digital, selling useless stuff was big business. Nowadays, customers can buy and research anywhere, anytime so they’re not going to be persuaded just because the price is right or the clock is ticking. It’s not about rushing people to the point of sale, it’s about engaging early and almost unnoticed. Ask yourself where you start when you’re thinking of buying a new product or service and then consider how your organisation could make a useful contribution to that process. In other words, it’s about adding value rather than shouting ‘Value, over here, now, today only!’ For most people in B2B, that means content. Because good content is the best way to engage early and help customers make a first and hopefully lasting connection with you and your brand.

Secondly, putting the customer under pressure is no longer useful. In the old days this might involve enticing them into a showroom and showing no mercy, but these days in B2B it can come from over-emphasising challenges and burning platforms and digital disruption and other such nasties. The image that comes to my mind is of a one-way torrent, a sales gamma ray, a beam of negative energy unleashed at the customer. What we need instead involves another C-word, conversation. People sell to people, the adage goes, but before people sell to people, people need to talk to people, preferably like real humans talk to actual other humans. So, it’s not just about starting conversations early in the sales cycle but doing it the right way: relaxed and person-to-person, polite but informal, about you (the customer) not about me (the seller).  In other words, you’ll need to get your tone of voice right.

The final point is that, in our content-rich, time-poor world the short and sweet will often trounce the long and unsavoury. After all – to bring in another C-word, Chicken Bake – how many of you secretly enjoyed your Boxing Day Greggs more than the culinary assault course that is Christmas dinner? Just don’t tell my Mum.

If you’d like some help developing content that starts conversations, please get in touch.

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