Simplifying Complicated Messages to Increase Conversion in B2B

Patrick Gillam by

You sell a technically complex product or service. It may define an entirely new category. To pitch it, you need at least 10 minutes. You’d prefer 30 minutes. Prospects will give you 20 seconds. How do you do it? The answer is to turn time to your advantage.

B2B marketing has predictable hurdles. Business-to-business selling propositions typically look like this:

  • Your product or service has many features.
  • Each feature offers multiple benefits.
  • The sales process must appeal to multiple decision makers.
  • Different decision makers require different messages.

In addition, most B2B deals are at high price points over long sales cycles. It’s this last point – the long sales cycle – that we can put to work for our benefit.

Put time on your side.

Prospects will only give you 10 or 20 seconds. That’s great! That’s all the time you need to get them to the next step. Because the key to business-to-business marketing is simply to move prospects along their journey to you.

You’ve heard it takes six to eight touches before a prospect will ask for information. That’s great again! Your product easily offers six to eight opportunities for touches.

All you have to do is (1) break your big selling proposition into smaller selling propositions, and (2) feed them to prospects over time.

The simplification process goes like this:

  • Write a microsite, ebook or white paper that tells the big story. Get it out of your system! Give it a catchy title.
  • Write short pieces—just what you can read in 10 or 20 seconds—on six or eight or a dozen problems solved by your product. What sorts of pieces? Try emails, direct mailers, blog posts, tweets and LinkedIn articles or updates.
  • At the end of each short piece, offer the ebook or white paper as the call to action.
  • Feed the short pieces to prospects over time —one a day, or one a week, or whatever cycle you feel is optimal.

You don’t have to stop after one cycle, either. If you have six short pieces, cycle through them twice, so recipients receive 12 touches.

Ideally you would gate the longform pieces; that is, recipients would be required to provide at least an email address before they can download the file. When they do, follow up.

This is basic demand generation marketing, right? It’s just a matter of breaking your big message into smaller messages and sharing it over time.

(If you’re young, you may be amused to learn the methods we call “demand generation” today were called “consultative selling” when used with analog media in the Olden Days before the internet. They’re timeless.)

How it works in practice.

Newforma, a technology startup bought by Battery Ventures in 2017, sells enterprise software to manage design and construction project information—emails, requests for information, drawing and model files, and more. Newforma’s flagship product defined an entirely new category of software, which at first took some explaining. (Now it’s so widely accepted that Newforma’s competitors have changed their categories to Newforma’s!)

At Newforma, we primarily used a series of emails to drive visitors to a landing page. In a few lines—a subject line and five or six sentences— the emails treated such topics as these:

  • Managing email
  • Sharing large files
  • Requesting information
  • Accessing project information away from the desk

Those ^ are feature-based emails. We also sent emails based on business benefits:

  • Reducing risk
  • Improving client service
  • Improving designs
  • Making work more enjoyable

Remember: It doesn’t take much time to pique someone’s interest when the topic is relevant.

Newforma emails generated above-average open rates of 18.5%! The trick is to spread these short messages over time.

At the landing pages, visitors could download a longer piece of collateral, such as a report or ebook. Here’s a landing page offering an ebook.

Landing page - Scott Brownrigg - PIM is more than document management

Here’s a landing page with a video:

Landing page - BDP - filing and searching email

Here’s another landing page with another piece of longform collateral:

Landing page - Report - Future of Engineering Technology

At Newforma, these methods generated 1,400 inquiries per quarter!

Digest this.

You’ve heard the great expression sales pros use for presentations that try to tell the entire product story: “Show up and throw up.” Don’t do that with your marketing! Break your big story into smaller pieces, and share it over weeks and months. That’s how to simplify a complicated message: Spread it over time.