1 December 2023 941 words, 4 min. read

The 3 recurring problems facing B2B companies

By Pierre-Nicolas Schwab PhD in marketing, director of IntoTheMinds
The research we conducted at Vivatech and Websummit shows that B2B companies face 3 specific problems that impact their business development. We analyze them in this article.

This year, the IntoTheMinds teams were at 2 trade shows: Vivatech and Websummit. At these shows, we met 51 B2B start-ups with whom we conducted qualitative interviews. We interviewed them and concluded that these companies had 3 recurring problems in their sales and marketing development. We outline them in this article.

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  • 50% of company managers say they need more time to analyze their market (competitive intelligence, export opportunities, etc.).
  • While 100% of companies understand the benefits of inbound marketing, only 20% take it seriously.
  • All the companies surveyed agree on the importance of outbound marketing but say it is increasingly difficult to reach decision-makers. Growth hacking has taken its toll.

outbound perspective

The first problem we have identified relates to the entrepreneurial profession and the job’s “multi-faceted” nature. Entrepreneurs need more time to step back and analyze their markets. It’s the “nose to the grindstone” syndrome. Another expression that came up a lot in our interviews was “being everywhere at once.”

I have my nose to the grindstone all year round. I need more time to take a more objective view of my market.

Around 50% of the entrepreneurs we interviewed said they didn’t have time for high-level marketing tasks such as:

  • competitive intelligence on their sector of activity
  • analysis of export opportunities
  • risk detection

Of course, I could argue that all this is the role of a Market Research Agency. But more fundamentally, these kinds of strategic tasks are the imperative responsibility of the company director. Of course, that’s easy to say because it’s my job, and I have the tools to do it. So far, be it from me to criticize. This blog is here to make an observation and raise awareness.

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outbound marketing strategy

Inbound marketing: the poor relation of sales strategy

The second observation concerns inbound marketing. While 100% of the companies surveyed at Vivatech and Websummit know what it is (phew 😉), only 20% practice it seriously. By seriously, I mean:

  • publishing at least one article per month on the company blog
  • having a weekly presence on LinkedIn
  • organizing webinars

And I’m not even talking about videos and podcasts, which are anecdotal among B2B companies. So, what were the reasons for not translating this into concrete action?

Of course, time is the number 1 reason. If there’s no time to research the market, why should there be for inbound marketing?

The other reasons are more specific:

  • lack of ideas for writing content
  • no training in content writing
  • lack of visibility on the ROI of such a strategy
  • no tools to do so (e.g., no blog on the website).

Even inbound marketers quickly drop out because the results take time to come.

outbound marketing

Outbound marketing

Outbound marketing is undoubtedly the practice with the greatest consensus. Logically, all the companies we met believe in it (since they’re at a trade show) and actively practice it. But all but one are complaining about the same thing: reaching prospects is getting harder and harder.

Growth hacking has taken its toll. Decision-makers are bombarded with emails, each one emptier than the last, marketing automation sequences are following one another, and LinkedIn is becoming a giant hunting ground for spammers of all stripes. The result of this flood of messages is that marketing targets become insensitive. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to capture their attention using classic outbound techniques (telephone canvassing, email canvassing).

outbound solution

It’s just one of dozens of (remarkably similar) automated emails promoting the advantages of growth hacking.

Logically, start-ups need to learn how to market to their prospects effectively. Polluted by magical promises of x leads per week, they forget that business relationships are based on one thing primarily: people.

We’re just data scientists. We need to learn how to sell.

outbound solution

Concluding thoughts and solutions

On rereading this article, all our observations seem extremely logical. I’m an entrepreneur and only manage to be good at some things. But what struck me was the distress of some companies (especially in tech) struggling to sell their products.

In the aisles of Websummit, I was recognized by an entrepreneur whom I had helped a few years ago and who was begging me to help him: “We’re just data scientists. We don’t know how to sell”, he said.

Solutions exist for each of the above points.

Insights into your market

At the risk of sounding too self-congratulatory, market research is here to provide clear answers to these kinds of complex questions, even in B2B. If you opt for a survey method, the answers are available quickly.

Inbound marketing

The most significant problem I’ve identified with inbound marketing is that companies must prepare for long-term investments. This strategy will only bear fruit after 6 to 12 months at best. Today’s companies are too often run on a short-term basis. For all the other barriers mentioned by companies, pragmatic solutions exist. You can hire someone to do it, outsource it, or get help from ChatGPT (even if it’s a little dangerous regarding SEO).

Outbound marketing

After attending Vivatech and Websummit this year, I am confident that trade shows will be an increasingly essential outbound channel in the future. They’re the only place to establish a direct, physical, human-to-human relationship. Today, that’s precisely what’s lacking. IT tools, in general, and AI have trivialized the search for contact with prospects. We’ve moved from a relational to a transactional approach. And yet, in complex sales, the human relationship is still particularly important. So, it’s crucial to get back to the basics of retailing.

Posted in Entrepreneurship.

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