You Are Your Own Strongest Case Study

If there’s one thing we B2B marketers have in common, it’s that we’re more than marketers. Most of us make and influence purchasing decisions every day, whether we control a budget of our own or not. The problem is, we often fail to leverage that additional perspective when developing and implementing B2B strategies.

There’s a lot to gain by observing your own behavior as a decision maker. What gets your attention? What type of information do you need to make a decision, and what frustrates you in the research process? How do you qualify potential vendors? What hurdles do you need to clear internally to get a purchase approved? What keeps you from pulling the trigger on a purchase? Analyzing how you move down the funnel as a buyer gives you a great advantage in planning marketing strategies.

I’ll walk through a recent purchase decision we made here at The Mx Group — from need identification to research to influencer discussions. There are some interesting lessons here, some of which surprised us.

Getting on the Radar

We recently implemented a Tag Management package, something that was on our radar but near the edges. Tag management software allows for easy implementation of tracking tags without the need for coding. (Think content management for tags.)

One day not too long ago I got an email invitation to a Google Learn event on technical implementation of Google Tag Manager. We were in the process of launching several sites and that management of tags was starting to become an issue, so it grabbed my attention. I ended up attending, along with one of our SEO and analytics specialists.

Lesson: Content marketing works, even for prospects not actively researching products. If you’re selling something your prospects need, you’ll eventually intersect their attention at the right moment. In this case, it turned out to be an educational webinar about a specific product that was focused at a highly technical level.

Doing the Research

So we attended the webinar and discovered that Google Tag Manager, while it has the advantage of being free, is very complicated to implement and therefore didn’t seem like it would fit our needs.

But, we were hooked. And thus began a search for solutions. The only provider I knew by name was Tagman. Since I knew (or believed) they were fairly expensive and we were looking for an economical solution, we decided to do some Google research to find other providers.

Lesson: If you’re the leader in your space, and that means you’re expensive, like Tagman, you’ll only get the biggest players in the market. If you have solutions for the whole market, make sure that’s part of how you’re perceived.

So here’s what the landscape looks like through the Google lens:

Tag Management Google ScreenshotIt’s a very crowded landscape — all with the same essential value proposition.

What’s interesting is that some search advertisers are using upper funnel messaging:

Tag Management PPC Ad

Others are using lower funnel messaging:

Tag management PPC Ad

Others were a bit confused. (Which part of the funnel are “Free Pro Tips” aimed at?)

Tag Management PPC Advertising

Some of the best messaging seemed to get right to the pain points:

 Tag Management PPC Ad

It was difficult to know where to begin. We probably should have looked for a buyer’s guide, but we didn’t. We wanted to explore the landscape. So we dove in to many of these listings. Most notably, we were focused on the PPC search listings. (Keep that in mind the next time you say you don’t need to do paid search if you have strong natural search listings.)

Satellite drew our attention, partially because they were consistently on the top of the paid search listings. (Yes position can matter, even in a pay-per-click landscape.)

Here’s what saw when we clicked on their ad:

Tag management site screenshotA clean and compelling listing that answered all of our questions and demonstrated the solution. This is the home page, not a dedicated landing page (something we typically don’t recommend in paid search), but the site works so well in demonstrating the solution, we were engaged quickly.

Here were a few other landing page experiences:

Tag management provider siteA decent landing page, but as middle funnel buyer (we were researching providers solutions) this page didn’t offer enough product information.

Tag Management - TealiumThis is an excellent landing page — The Tag Management Buyers’ Guide. It’s a great offer, and we downloaded it. The list of big-name users certainly gave them credibility, although it gave us a feeling that might be too expensive for our us. The report obviously shows Tealium in a good light — it also however, introduced us to a few other vendors we weren’t aware of.

Taking the Demos

Satellite seemed like the most complete solution, providing native integration with most of the tags we currently use. We contacted them and set up a demo — and it was amazing. The solution seemed pretty comprehensive, and we were so excited we didn’t bother to think about price. We knew we were in trouble when they asked us to sign an NDA before they would share pricing. Yikes! As expected, it was not in our ballpark.

So we took a step back and defined our essential requirements more tightly. We didn’t need native interfaces for every tag; only a flexible, easy-to-use system, with workflow controls, etc.

After looking at available information for multiple tools, we zeroed in on Uber Tags. Their site was simple — much simpler than what we normally recommend for B2B sites, but since they only offer one product, this simplicity worked. We felt like we knew a lot about them — their points of differentiation and their pricing — with only a small time investment. We registered for the demo and, expecting something far less robust than Satellite, we were pleasantly surprised to find a robust product with some unique features at a reasonable price.

Uber Tags home page

We took a brief look at a few other solutions but decided not to do anymore demos. Demos take time and we had found a strong solution in our price range, so unless we saw an alternative that much better priced or offered substantial unique advantages, we were going to take this recommendation to our organization.

Lessons: Decision makers don’t have time to look deeply at every solution. Make the connection quickly and clearly. Be transparent about pricing if you want to go after a price-conscious part of the market. (Not every business can do this of course, due to channel issues, solution complexities, etc.)

Giving it a Try

After the demo, we signed up for a 30-day free trial with Uber Tags — they told us they’d have no problem extending it if we needed them too. This was the clincher. We got the time we needed to play with the product and demonstrate it internally.

One of my biggest complaints about SAAS companies is that they are too stingy with their free trials. When someone tell us we can only get a one or two week free trial, it’s clear we will never be buyers.

Everyone has a regular set of job responsibilities — putting time into playing with a new software will almost always fall to the bottom of that list. So a one- or two-week limitation is usually ludicrous. The truth is, if you give me 60 to 90 days, the odds are much greater that I’ll use the software. If it’s good, I’ll come to depend on it and then I’ll need to make the case to purchase it.

Converting the Converted

We consulted with our front end development team about Uber Tags and made the case to upper management.

This may be the biggest lesson of all – just because someone hasn’t bought doesn’t mean they aren’t sold. Finding the implementation window and managing the risks can take time. For many companies, this might suggest there’s potential in providing some free implementation support or a short-term sale price to help get a buyer over that last mile. Or just keep checking in.

This is just one decision with its own unique dynamics. There are lots of potential lessons here that may apply to any company’s marketing and sales process. The important thing is to remember to take a step back when you’re playing the role of B2B decision maker and see if there are any lessons you can teach yourself on the marketing and sales side of the equation.

05/17/2013