Using marketing to deflect time-wasters like me

Everyone thinks of marketing as a magnet. But, used properly, it’s a powerful filter, too. And that can be incredibly valuable.

Here’s a true story to demonstrate:

I recently went to the Ceros website to find out more about their software (a tool to create cool-looking, highly interactive content without any pesky developers).

Great site. A snappy video to explain their platform. Great examples in their ‘Inspiration’ library. And the site itself is a clear demonstration of the kind of experiences they help people create.

Okay, I want to know more.

But here’s the question: do they really want to know more about me?

Most marketers would say, “Of course they do. You’re a creative director in a marketing agency. Why wouldn’t they?”

Well, not so fast.

The first sign that they may not be that into me is the relatively discrete “Request a Demo” button.

Not a screaming, “Get a free demo now!” button.

Not a chatbot hitting on me.

Request” a demo.

Okay, fine, I request one, filling out a short form: Name, company, email, number of employees, job title, phone number… all starred (mandatory) plus a non-starred field: ‘Anything we should know?”

Then, again, “Submit Request”.

Jeez, I’m starting to feel like I’m applying for something here.

Fine. I wait.

Next day, I get this email:

“Hi Doug,
Thanks for requesting a demo of Ceros! I understand you’re an agency who would like to use our product for your clients. Do you have a specific client you would like to use our tool for? 

We currently work directly with clients and are happy to tag team that effort with their agencies. If you have a client in mind, we would love to set up a call with you and your client to help pitch Ceros as a potential tool.

If you’re simply interested in learning more about Ceros, please check out our demo video – it gives a high-level overview of the platform, its capabilities, common use cases, FAQs, and pricing… plus it’s a pretty fun watch!

Have a look at the video when you get a chance and let me know if this is the type of tool your agency or client might be in the market for. 

Thanks, Alex”


Okay, I’m starting to get the hint.

These guys don’t want to sell to me.

At first, I’m mildly offended. (If I still had a Klout score it would have just drooped).

But that feeling quickly gives way to another one.

Admiration.

Because what may look (and feel) like kinda… stand-offish customer service is actually excellent marketing. Sound strategy, well executed.

Clearly, Ceros knows exactly who they want to sell to and who they don’t—and I’m firmly in the latter category.

And I can totally see why.

I can see how their decision to work directly with client-side brands makes total sense for them. And how most agencies would act more as blockers than as a channel to market.

And I respect their decision to not try to create an agency offer and agency-friendly—multi-client—pricing model. (In fact, I’m seeing more and more of this: content creation tools whose model is to go straight to clients, actively avoiding agencies).

I’m always advocating (well, spouting) that our first job as B2B marketers is to identify and focus on our ideal prospects.

Well, that’s what Ceros is doing.

And I’m not it.

Having been in marketing since before you, average reader, could chew your own food, I can now see the meetings behind every headline, landing page and disclaimer. As if I were dialing in. (It’s a nightmare. Send Valium.)

And the meetings at Ceros were good meetings.

Instead of just saying, “Let’s not focus on agencies” they said:

  • Let’s actively deflect agencies, unless they have a specific client in mind.
  • Instead of just saying, “go away”, let’s send them a polite email explaining how we work, inviting them to bring a customer.
  • Then send them to a short demo video.
  • In that video, let’s also include our pricing.
  • If, after all that, they still want to talk. Fine then. We’ll talk.

It makes total sense. They realize that their sales team’s time is expensive. And that wasting that time on a poor-fit opportunity means foregoing real, great-fit ones.

Allowing that to happen is bad marketing.

A push in the face or just honesty?

I did click through and watched the video. It does just what Alex promised: someone named Katy gives a high-altitude product tour, then says how they work.

The Ceros product demo video. An example of B2B marketing as a filter.
That’s Katy. (Not sure about the picket-sign trope… but hey).

They insist on a 30-day pilot for every new customer. I love that.

This signals to me that they know how to make marketers successful with their platform—and make them stay customers—and they won’t ignore that just to make a sale. (We take a similar approach at Velocity, politely (I hope) turning down one-off projects or misguided briefs that we believe won’t work.)

And the Ceros pricing is clear and unashamed: 30-day pilots from $3,000 and full year subscriptions from $37,000.

Okay. Now I know exactly where I (and Ceros) stand.

This apparently anti-marketing approach is great marketing.

It does two things for Ceros:

  1. Deflects prospects who won’t buy but will take a lot of time to not buy.
  2. Builds trust.

That second one may be surprising. But I’ve come away from the whole humiliating experience with a solid sense that Ceros gives a damn about their customers’ success. That they know how to work to achieve results and they’re strong enough to stick to that, even when it means losing short-term revenue.

That feels like a partner I’d trust and enjoy working with.

And if I meet a client that feels right for them, I’ll happily bring them to the table.

Nice one, Alex. And Katy.

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