Security budgets are very often frozen at present. In parallel, vertical markets are now more competitive than ever. In a buyers’ market, and whether we like it or not, price can be the issue that ultimately decides which suppliers are chosen by buyers, but does it have to be like that for your security business? As Patrick Rea explains, there are new opportunities available for those security companies with a strategy in place that understands how buying decisions are really made (and who makes them) and who can clearly differentiate their offer, while also proving their business case.
Narrow your focus to your best market. Mass marketing is dead: there are too many companies selling generic security solutions to the same audience, so the solution is to narrow your focus on a group of buyers with a problem for which you can offer a specific security and service solution. Then engage them through ‘key account’ marketing. To fully understand their needs and issues, develop contacts and manage the relationship through to the sales ‘close’. Thereafter, make sure you retain them as clients.
This whole process requires profiling your best clients and developing a new database of prospects. It also includes finding niche market opportunities, such as those present within logistics chains and networks or perhaps new sectors with a common security problem. Understand those companies involved and the key decision-makers.
Understand what buyers really want. This is very much the era of the buyer as the dominant partner in the buyer-seller relationship. They are resistant to indiscriminate ‘me-too’ approaches. Buyers decide what they want, which suppliers they want to see and who they’ll work with. The key, then, is to understand the buyers’ process: how security needs arise and develop, how buying decisions are made and who makes and influences the decisions.
Only then can you build awareness and enquiries through marketing. You need to ensure the sales team develops a good rapport and degree of trust with your prospects and customers. This wins sales, keeps the relationship alive and, importantly, retains and ring-fences their business.
Map the buying process
There’s a step-by-step process major buyers of security follow in each and every market sector. First, they are unaware that they have a problem. Then they know they have a problem and look for information. They then select candidate suppliers, ask for quotations and, finally, choose a vendor.
“Today’s business buyers don’t contact suppliers directly until 57% of the purchase process is complete. You have to ensure you’re part of that first 57% of the process” (B2B Marketing Summit).
The best strategy is to be there at the start of the process. You need to build awareness and trust early in the buying process if your company is to have any chance of influencing the brief and the ultimate buying decision. You’re then ready and prepared to provide the information and attention that the buyer needs to choose your solution.
Plan your sales and marketing process. You want a step-by-step process that matches the buyers’ process to (1) generate awareness and (2) enquiries and then (3) develop leads and (4) close them. Finally (5) retain clients. Consistency is the important factor. A transparent and measurable process affords you full control of your sales pipeline. It’s ‘scalable’, so you can step up or reduce activity according to your business needs.
When you have an agreed process you can align your Customer Relationship Management System in support such that leads are recorded and tracked, responses and required actions are scheduled, the results measured and relationships managed.
You first need to map out the key steps in your process, then specify the tactics and tools required for the task of lead generation.
Differentiate your offer and prove business value
Differentiate your business from that of your competitors not on price, but on the value delivered. If you focus on price, the buyer will make a decision based on that too, but there will always be a competitor who will sell at a lower price – perhaps because they are a start-up or simply desperate for the business. As we know, this tactic isn’t sustainable in the longer term.
Instead, you can differentiate on those issues where you have (or can create) a real advantage – perhaps in relation to your experience in the sector, the service range, systems, support, back-up. Maybe even all of these or, indeed, other areas.
You also need to prove the business case and the Return on Investment (RoI). This might be by demonstrating the cost savings of your solution or the losses that will subsequently be prevented. It will take work and analysis to develop evidence of the RoI.
Most importantly, though, the business case is proven and demonstrated through Case Studies and testimonials.
Build rapport and trust
Trust makes all the difference in building the critical relationships that underpin a successful sales and marketing process. Proven methods to build awareness, understanding and trust include accreditations and awards, using LinkedIn to develop contacts and provide authoritative Publisher Posts (increasingly this is a key method to build your brand, if you know how to work with it), the use of Case Studies (on the basis that good application stories show the real-world problems you solve and how you solve them) and the leveraging of relationships (ie collaboration with third parties, such as through professional associations and companies that offer complementary services).
A common thread in all of this is content: Case Studies, security tips, advice and news. It’s all about demonstrating thought leadership. This makes a positive impression by showing your experience and areas of expertise, but the process does demand an experienced, dedicated writing resource.
Does ‘content’ really produce results? Research shows that it does. “You can deliver four times as much Return on Investment from content marketing than from adverts” (B2B Marketing Summit). Case Studies in particular provide unique, benefit-laden content encompassing insights, guidance and evidence.
Choose your methods wisely
Both your time and budget will likely be limited so you need to pick marketing media and methods wisely. Ideally, focus on a limited number and do it well and consistently. Frequently, we are asked about the following areas:
Facebook and Twitter campaigns: Perhaps. It really depends on whether or not the decision-makers and buyers in your sector use social media
LinkedIn: Definitely. Increasingly, LinkedIn is used by all B2B sectors, but it needs a well-honed process to produce sales. Too often companies energise a Connection and then don’t know what to do next
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO): Perhaps. This is because most B2B security buyers rarely locate suppliers based on a Google Search. They prefer to contact companies where they have some pre-existing relationship or knowledge. You need an ongoing programme to create awareness and understanding. SEO can be useful, but such a campaign requires a real understanding of (1) how buyers buy security and what they look for and (2) the quality of your dedicated web landing page and initial incentive offer.
Patrick Rea FCIM is CEO of Rea Marketing, a security marketing specialist and a Member of ASIS