By Thomas R. Martin
Senior Vice President and Director, Corporate Relations ITT Industries, Inc.
ITT Industries is a classic example of a business to business enterprise. Very few of our products are sold directly to consumers. The overwhelming majority of our revenue come from products and services bought by businesses, municipalities, government agencies, and other organizations. Clearly, this "B2B" marketplace thinks differently, acts differently and has a different set of communication expectations when compared to the business to consumer or "B2C" market.
When I first joined ITT Industries in 1996, the company was faced with a serious identity problem. In the 1960s and 1970s, the old ITT had personified the cliche of the conglomerate, acquiring and divesting scores of companies each year in diverse fields, from financial services to forestry, from insurance to hotels, manufacturing, and telecommunications. In December of 1995, the huge company split into three separate organizations: one focussed on insurance, one on gaming and hospitality, and finally ITT Industries, a diversified manufacturing company.
Yet our customers and investors, even our employees were unsure of exactly what we did. In an effort to address this confusion, we launched a comprehensive campaign in 1998 aimed at unifying our many strong product brands under a clarified corporate brand. As part of this effort, we adopted a new tagline, "Engineered for Life" and began to tell our stories through the voice of our engineers. Steve Minett and his company have helped us tell those stories.
In this new book, Minett skillfully explores the unique sellingand communications needs of the B2B market. As he explains, organizations are motivated by a particular set of market drivers and a purchasing decision process that is quite different from the consumer market. B2B purchasing decisions are driven more by needs than wants, more by technological applications than changing fashion.
As a result, the B2B marketplace lends itself especially well to the use of case studies, stories of successful applications and end-use solutions made possible by the products or services provided by the selling organization. In many ways, these case stories help spark the imagination of the buyer, presenting a range of new possibilities not always obvious from a simple description of product features.
Steve Minett's ideas aren't just interesting theoretical suppositions; they actually work. On behalf of ITT Industries, Minett Media has, in recent years, placed approximately 350 articles in the international trade press. In terms of the cost of equivalent advertising space, these placements represent a value of around $2 million, while the cost of achieving these results (including the cost of article production) has amounted to less than $150,000, less than 7.5% of the value. More importantly, this editorial coverage leads to actual buyer interest and, ultimately, sales.
Trade publications are eager for material that is of interest to their readers. Minett's approach in telling interesting stories helps to break through the clutter and connect with an audience of interested prospects. It may seem glamorous to be featured in Fortune, Forbes, or BusinessWeek, but articles in these major media rarely lead to direct sales. Trade coverage, on the other hand, often does.
Minett is clearly on to something. Anyone trying to sell a product or service in the B2B world will benefit from his advice. Businesses are more than a sum total of tangible assets; at heart, organizations represent a collection of imagination, solutions, and ideas. Steve Minett taps into this imaginative world in a novel and creative way. Enjoy his story.