Stop Selling, Start Influencing – How to create water cooler moments for your products

Published by Sunil Uttam on

How to leverage the power of water cooler moments to influence the sale of products and services in a B2B scenario.

During this COVID-19 outbreak, when most of the world is in a lockdown, not many business purchases are being made. 

This is natural since a B2B buying process is complex and lengthy.  The “buying committee” comprising of multiple stakeholders, influencers and decision-makers must come together to decide.

The priority for most businesses in these uncertain times is to continue their operations as smoothly as possible to support their customers and employees, despite this significant disruption. 

Thus, new initiatives and projects would naturally recede into the background.

So what should we as businesses do?

Now is the time to create awareness about your offerings amongst the various stakeholders.

Members of the buying committee would be less distracted at this point in time (while working from home) and more receptive to consuming information that can help their ongoing projects.

Hence, keeping them up to date on your solutions is your best bet and best use of this time so that when normalcy resumes, you would have a top of mind recall.

In Mithi, we flipped the role of the sales team to become marketeers, and work 80 (create awareness & help customers):20 (on existing pipeline followup).

What are “Water cooler moments?”

The ‘water cooler moment’ is generally defined as ‘a significant moment in television history that is discussed the next day in the workplace.’ – Urban Dictionary

So mostly a story, a news item, a new launch, etc., which provides the subject matter for informal conversations.

Remember, that a lot of these conversations happen when people bump into each during a water break at a workplace.

What do “water cooler moments” mean for us in business?

The core idea here is how do you get the right set of people from an organization, who can influence and decide on a purchase, to discuss your product or service during an “informal” or “unstructured” conversation. 

This set of people comprising of various stakeholders such as the CEO, CISO, CIO, CFO, and the actual user can be termed as the “buying committee.”

The playbook involves targetting each of the buying committee members with a specific customized message. This message would pitch the solution as it would solve their use case and explain the benefits to their position/role. 

Due to this heavy personalization, this playbook cannot be achieved by a general mail blast, which sends the same message to all the stakeholders. 

The principal of this idea is to build resonance simultaneously with all the members of the buying committee.

While I am proposing to use this idea during this unfortunate lockdown period, it is strong enough to be also used when life returns to (a new) normal.

Here is an ideal outcome you want to create

For the sake of this example, let’s create a hypothetical buying situation and a buying committee:

Situation: 

Acme Corp is looking to optimize costs on preserving email data of former employees

Solution: 

Mithi realizes that we can serve this need with our cloud platform, Vaultastic

Buying committee members at Acme Corp:

Susan: CISO – Responsible for Security of systems

Andy: The administrator and user of the tool

Joe: CFO – The budget holder

Mark: CEO

Outcome: 

Susan, Andy, Joe, and Mark happen to meet and chat around the water cooler

Mark (CEO): Guys, I recently learned of a platform, which can help with our compliance project for preserving former employee email data. Since they store all data centrally on the cloud, it can scale to accommodate more use cases later. BTW, this platform is being used by our peers.

Mark (CEO): I believe you guys, too, received an email about this platform, Vaultastic?

Susan (CISO): Yes, Mark, I got an email explaining how Vaultastic complies with our industry’s cybersecurity norms and offers options for data residency. 

Andy (User): I got a video from their team, showing how the tool works and how easy it is to configure jobs to migrate email data to the cloud. It seems like it will save us a lot of effort. BTW, all the data is search ready at all times.

Joe(CFO): To top it all, they claim a saving of 70% over using traditional means of saving former employee data. If this is really the case, it’s a no brainer.

Mark (CEO): Why don’t we schedule a meeting with their team to review this against our requirements?

This is the ideal water cooler moment you want to create.

The “Water cooler moments” Playbook:

A B2B sale is most likely to succeed if you have successfully treated the interests of all the members of the buying committee.

  1. We at Mithi send a personalized email to each of the buying committee members, with a message matching their role. The customized message helps address the concern at their level. From the example, all four members received a different message, which resonated with their roles and responsibilities. There is no point in pitching the ease of the solution to the CFO or the cost advantage to a CISO. 
  2. If you observe, each of them knew that the other had also received the email. This is achieved by actually mentioning this transparently in each mail sent. So in the letter to Mark, we would say that we also sent out relevant information to Susan, Andy and Joe. Similarly, for emails sent to the others.
  3. Thus even if one them resonates with the message, (s)he is likely to initiate the conversation. The others know that each of them has received communication and is expected to join the conversation. Knowing that the others know about this offering makes it difficult for any one person to ignore the message or forget about it. In fact, if any of them is unaware of this, it may show them in poor light.

Putting this “water cooler moments” playbook to use:

If you observe, this method of marketing is high on effort. You would need to learn about the various stakeholders in your target organization, get their contacts, and send them a personalized message. 

In all likelihood, this cannot be really automated using a bulk mailing tool.

Hence, unless you have massive sales capacity, you may want to use this strategy only for targeted named accounts.

Of course, one set of messages may not cut ice. You would have to be consistent with the delivery of followup messages too. Each followup message can contain a different benefit or metric or case study or (be creative)

It could well add on to your Account-Based Marketing strategy.

Credits and References:

I learned of this “water cooler moment” idea from Rob Addy, a Gartner analyst during one of our inquiry calls. Rob is a very smart guy and has some good ideas on marketing for B2B.

Thanks for reading. I would love to hear how this idea worked for you. Please do leave a comment below.

This post is in line with my anti advice policy, which is to share insights and learning from my life with my friends, associates and let them decide if and how to leverage this in their lives. I don’t have a fixed schedule to write, but I will attempt to write regularly. Surely it won’t be more often than once a week. I invite you to subscribe to my blog, connect with me and share your insights as well, so we can learn and grow together. 

#B2B #marketing #sales #ABM #COVID-19 #coronavirus #startup #smb #sme


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