5 Influential Marketing Books for Successful B2B Strategies

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Marketing is a crucial aspect of any successful B2B strategy, but it can be challenging to navigate. To gain insights and inspiration for B2B marketing, we’ve distilled lessons from five of the most influential marketing books of all time. The five books we’ll be referencing are ‘Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind’ by Al Ries and Jack Trout, ‘Building a StoryBrand’ by Donald Miller, ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’ by Robert Cialdini, ‘Contagious: Why Things Catch On’ by Jonah Berger, and ‘Talk Triggers: The Complete Guide to Creating Customers with Word of Mouth’ by Jay Baer. In this blog, we will delve into the key lessons from these books and provide specific examples of how they apply to B2B marketing.

Establish a Strong Position and Target Early Adopters.

Competition in the B2B world is fierce, with countless companies vying for the attention and business of decision makers. This makes it critical for B2B companies to establish a strong position in the market, particularly when competing against established players. One of the most influential marketing books of all time, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind” by Al Ries and Jack Trout, emphasizes this point.

In the book, Ries and Trout stress the importance of identifying a unique position in the market, one that sets your product or service apart from the competition. They argue that this is essential to capture the attention and loyalty of potential customers. They also emphasize the importance of targeting early adopters in your industry, as these individuals are often the most open to new ideas and willing to take risks.

For B2B companies, this means identifying a niche or unique value proposition that sets your product or service apart from the competition. For example, if you’re an IT service provider, you might focus on a specific vertical or industry, such as healthcare or finance. Alternatively, you might emphasize a particular feature or benefit that your service offers that competitors don’t.

When Salesforce launched its CRM platform in 1999, the company established a strong position by targeting early adopters — small and midsize businesses — with a cloud-based CRM solution. At the time, this was a relatively new concept, and many small and midsize businesses were still using on-prem software solutions. By offering a cloud-based solution that was easy to use and affordable, Salesforce was able to capture the attention and loyalty of this underserved market segment. And by identifying a unique position and targeting an underserved market segment, Salesforce was able to gain a foothold in the market and grow rapidly.

By establishing a strong position in the market and targeting early adopters, B2B companies can set themselves up for long-term success and growth. This requires a deep understanding of your customers and their needs, as well as a willingness to take risks and experiment with new approaches. By following the guidance of Ries and Trout, B2B companies can achieve a position of strength in their industry and stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Focus on Customer Needs and Emotions.

Building a brand story that resonates with your audience is an important aspect of successful B2B marketing. According to Donald Miller in “Building a StoryBrand” creating a clear and concise message that focuses on the customer’s journey and pain points is key. He suggests that businesses should build a brand story that communicates how they can solve their customer’s problems and make their lives better.

To create a brand story that resonates with your audience, it’s important to start by identifying your customer’s pain points and challenges. This can be done through research, surveys, and customer feedback. Once you understand your customer’s pain points, you can then craft a message that speaks directly to their needs and how your product or service can address those needs.

Another key aspect of building a brand story is to make it relatable and memorable. This can be done by using storytelling techniques that connect with your audience on an emotional level. Miller suggests using the “hero’s journey” framework to create a narrative that highlights how your customer can overcome their challenges and achieve success with your product or service. The hero’s journey framework was popularized by Joseph Campbell, who studied and analyzed myths and stories from various cultures around the world. The hero’s journey typically involves a protagonist who goes on an adventure, faces challenges, meets mentors and allies, overcomes obstacles, and returns home transformed.

An example of a B2B brand story that follows the hero’s journey framework is IBM’s “Smarter Planet” campaign. The campaign aimed to reposition IBM as a leader in the emerging field of artificial intelligence and data analytics. IBM identified the pain points of businesses struggling to make sense of their data and positioned themselves as a solution to those challenges. They created a narrative that positioned businesses as the heroes, facing challenges in a complex and rapidly changing world, and IBM as the ally that could help them succeed. They created videos and case studies that showcased real-world examples of businesses that had overcome their challenges with the help of IBM’s products and services.

Leverage the Power of Social Proof.

In “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini, the author highlights the importance of leveraging social proof in marketing. Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where people are more likely to conform to the actions and opinions of others, especially those they perceive as similar or credible. This is why social proof can be an effective marketing strategy for B2B businesses. By showcasing positive reviews, testimonials, case studies, and endorsements from satisfied customers or industry experts, businesses can build trust and credibility with potential customers.

When Microsoft launched its Azure cloud computing platform in 2010, the company recognized the importance of social proof and used it to their advantage. They featured case studies from well-known companies such as GE Healthcare and Fujifilm, showcasing their success stories with Azure. This approach allowed Microsoft to leverage the credibility and reputation of these companies and demonstrate the value of their product.

Similarly, HubSpot leverages social proof by featuring customer success stories and testimonials on their website. By sharing the real-world experiences of their customers, they can demonstrate the effectiveness of their product and build trust with potential buyers.

Incorporating social proof can also be done through industry awards and recognitions. For example, if your company has received recognition or awards from reputable sources in your industry, you can prominently feature these on your website and marketing materials. This approach can help build credibility and establish your company as a trusted and respected player in the market.

Social proof is a highly effective tool for B2B marketing, helping to build trust, credibility, and a positive reputation with potential customers. By featuring case studies, customer testimonials, and industry recognition, you can demonstrate the effectiveness of your product or service and position your company as a leader in your industry.

Create a Contagious Message and Leverage Social Epidemics.

In “Contagious: Why Things Catch On” Jonah Berger provides a framework for creating a message that is memorable and shareable. He argues that there are six key principles that contribute to social epidemics: social currency, triggers, emotion, public, practical value, and stories. Berger’s six key principles for creating a contagious message are explained as follows:

  1. Social currency: People like to share things that make them look good or enhance their social status. Brands can tap into this by creating content that makes their audience feel like insiders or part of an exclusive club.
  2. Triggers: The more often people are exposed to a product or message, the more likely they are to remember it. Brands can create triggers by tying their message to a particular time, place, or event that is relevant to their audience.
  3. Emotion: People are more likely to share content that evokes a strong emotional response, whether it’s joy, anger, or sadness. Brands can create emotional content by telling compelling stories or using humor or surprise to grab their audience’s attention.
  4. Public: People are more likely to share content that is visible to others, such as social media posts or physical products. Brands can make their message more public by using eye-catching packaging or creating shareable social media content.
  5. Practical value: People are more likely to share content that is useful or provides practical value. Brands can provide value to their audience by creating how-to guides, tutorials, or other educational content.
  6. Stories: People are wired to remember stories, not facts and figures. Brands can create a message that is more likely to be shared by telling a compelling story that resonates with their audience.

By applying these six principles, B2B brands can create a message that is more likely to be remembered and shared by their audience, leading to increased brand awareness and ultimately, more business opportunities.

One example of a B2B company that has successfully created a contagious message is Dropbox. Dropbox’s referral program is an excellent example of the power of social currency and practical value. By offering free storage space to both the referrer and the referee, Dropbox was able to incentivize users to refer their friends and colleagues to the platform. The program was a huge success, with over 4 million new users signing up in just 15 months.

You might also enjoy the other blog post we’ve written on Berger’s book.

Leverage the Power of Word-of-Mouth Marketing and Create a Customer-Centric Culture.

Talk Triggers” by Jay Baer provides a framework for creating a customer experience that leads to word-of-mouth marketing. The author argues that businesses need to create a “talk trigger,” which is a unique and memorable aspect of the customer experience that prompts customers to tell others about their positive experience. This talk trigger should be remarkable, relevant, reasonable, and repeatable, meaning that it should be something that stands out, is relevant to the business, is achievable, and can be consistently replicated.

Baer suggests that businesses can create talk triggers by focusing on customer satisfaction and creating a customer-centric culture. This means prioritizing the customer experience and consistently delivering exceptional service. By doing so, businesses can create loyal customers who are more likely to recommend their products or services to others. Additionally, Baer recommends leveraging social media and online review platforms to amplify word-of-mouth marketing and reach a wider audience. By monitoring and responding to customer feedback, businesses can continue to improve their customer experience and generate positive word-of-mouth.

One example of a B2B talk trigger comes from the software company, Hootsuite. Hootsuite is a social media management platform that helps businesses manage their social media accounts. One of their talk triggers is their “Hootsuite Owls” customer support team, who are available 24/7 to assist customers with any issues or questions they may have. What makes them unique is that they are all trained to provide personalized support and to go above and beyond to help customers achieve their social media goals. This includes offering tips and advice on social media best practices, and even helping customers create and execute social media campaigns.

Let’s say you run an IT services business. A potential talk trigger for your company could be to offer a “white glove” onboarding experience for new customers. This could include personalized onboarding sessions with a dedicated account manager, tailored training resources and materials, and ongoing support to ensure your customers get the most out of your product. By offering this level of personalized service, your customers are more likely to feel valued and well taken care of, which can lead to positive word-of-mouth referrals and recommendations to their colleagues and industry peers. It’s a great way to set your company apart from competitors who may offer similar project management tools but don’t go the extra mile in terms of customer service.

Final Thoughts

B2B marketing can be a complex and challenging endeavor, but by leveraging the insights and strategies outlined in the five influential marketing books we’ve discussed, businesses can better understand their customers, build a strong brand story, leverage social proof, create contagious messages, and prioritize customer satisfaction to generate word-of-mouth marketing. By implementing these key lessons and examples in their marketing strategies, B2B companies can achieve greater success and growth in their respective industries. Because remember, marketing is not just about promoting a product or service, it’s about creating meaningful connections with customers and providing solutions that truly address their needs and pain points.

About the Author:

As eBridge’s VP of Operations, Devin Rose brings marketing expertise and an entrepreneurial knack to the eBridge team. Devin holds a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from Royal Roads University and a Marketing Management Diploma from the British Columbia Institute of Technology.

Posted May 10, 2023
Categories: eBridge Marketing Solutions' Blog, General Business, Business Growth
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