Nemanja Zivkovic: Communities Are the Backbone of B2B Relationships

Updated: 3 hours ago

Nemanja Zivkovic is a familiar face on the Serbian marketing scene. Previously engaged in NGO organisations, Nemanja moved to digital marketing and today is the founder and CEO of Funky Marketing agency that helps B2B companies accelerate growth. We caught up with Nemanja to discuss the latest in B2B: the challenges, communities and how important it is to build relationships in a world, which compared to B2C, continues to be old-fashioned.


This interview appeared on the Marketing Parrot podcast. Listen here.


What’s the story behind Funky Marketing? How did you end up in B2B?


I had been talking to people and realised there is a gap in the market for B2B. There is still a lot of fog around it: companies talking about themselves or their features and disregarding the customer. B2B marketing is measured in a way that it was done 10 or even 20 years ago. Funky Marketing stands for relationship centric marketing – creating or closing the demand, developing the brand and content in order to drive more revenue.


Maybe those issues are driven by the fact that these companies don’t need marketing? They have enough demand not to worry about marketing. Operations are their main concern.


There are some exceptions, like outsourcing software development companies, who mostly rely on referrals, but at some point, they will turn to marketing and sales to drive business. When you start a company you turn to and partner with people you know. When that circle dries up, you turn to sales in order to find new customers and generate growth. But the latter is here to accelerate not drive, marketing is the machine that creates growth, not the other way around.


SaaS companies are an interesting case because they hover around both B2B and B2C. What’s the difference between a B2B SaaS and B2C SaaS?


The decision making process is very different. In B2C it’s easy to develop and target, because you’re getting direct insight from your customer. It’s much longer in B2B where you have this whole chain of potential decision makers and it’s very hard to identify the right one. Usually bigger companies with expensive products which in turn means more decision makers: CFOs, CEOs, the board, C-level managers and employees who will use the product. You also have to consider that the decision is not always dependent on what’s happening inside the company. They might have existing contracts for the next five years, meaning that one has to build and nurture that relationship until the end of the contract. You need to be there to guide, advise and educate them. Trust me, they will remember it when they actually need something.


How do you identify the decision makers?


Firstly, I wouldn’t even start developing a product if I don’t know where my community or target group is. Drift is an excellent example. They’re based in Boston, one of the main business hubs in the US. Drift has a very close relationship with that circle. They gather them around in order to learn about their challenges and have managed to identify gaps for creating something different. That’s how conversational marketing was born.

Then there’s in-depth customer research and this is where you need to invest the most time at the beginning. This roadmap will make it a lot easier for you in the long run. As mentioned, it’s very hard to identify the right person, but even a simple phone call will do. Who can you talk with? Who’s in charge? Get in there and find out! Today it’s a little bit easier because we have CMOs and whatnot on podcasts sharing how things are done within their company. And sometimes they share personal details, which can be handy in targeting. You get to know the person by listening to 45 minutes of a podcast. Maybe you’ll find out that he or she likes fishing. That’s great insight for starting a conversation.


Any suggestions on how to find information about clients who work on a global enterprise level?


If you don’t know how to find these people in today’s circumstances, then you don’t know anything. All information from revenue to key positions are publicly available on the internet. LinkedIn is a great organic tool for that. Find them on LinkedIn, see which conversations are they engaged in, check other social media and you should end up with a pretty good profile. If we’re talking about an older C-level executive who are not posting anything or only sharing gigs from the company page – I’d advise you to not contact them. Choose approachable people below them.

It would be superb if you know someone (anyone!) from that company, who you could invite to a coffee date and extract information about the hierarchy and culture in the company. Ask around and you will surely find some common acquaintances. It’s called dark funnel today, but these tactics have always been around.


Are there any shortcuts or possible automation one could consider?


Due to the pandemic people are more closed off than a couple of years ago. Still, if you know your customer, you know their problems and have valid solutions – outbound will work. Do your research, reach out to them, explain your point of view. You can’t automise that. Automation is meaningful when we have a working funnel in place. For example, we know podcasts drive inbound leads. What can we do to make this process more efficient? Which actions are done repeatedly? Can we optimise them with the help of a tool?


You mentioned communities. It seems there are too many already and it’s very hard to get long-term engagement. How to create a valuable community these days?


It comes down to creating value. I know people behind very successful communities which are actually profitable. Find the right people and give them exactly what they need out of the community. Stop talking about yourself, don’t promote anything – focus on providing value they can’t get anywhere else.

It’s really hard to get right. These days a lot of communities are created on Slack, but let’s be honest, no one is going to specifically log in to Slack for a single community. Or Reddit where there are a lot of rules in place in terms of the actions you can take.

I’d advise you to find the communities where your target audience already hangs. Get in there, start a conversation and invite them to your podcast for instance. This content will then be shared across the community.


Nemanja’s book and podcast recommendations:


Books


Influence by Robert Cialdini – The book on persuasion every marketer has to read

Tip from Nemanja: instead of reading business books, find all podcasts with the authors as guests. You’ll save time and extract much more value this way.


Podcasts


State of Demand Gen by Chris Walker – Learn about alternative marketing tactics

The ABM Conversations by Yaag – One of the TOP 10 B2B marketing podcasts out there. Guests include Rory Sutherland, Seth Godin and many more.

Pipeline by Dave Gerhardt – Learn how to align sales and marketing.

Lochhead on Marketing by Christopher Lochhead – How to create new categories?

The CMO Podcast by Jim Stengel – If you want to find out more about CMOs in bigger companies.

Tradeoffs by Patrick Campbell and Hiten Shah - Patrick Campbell and Hiten Shah break down what people think about popular products.

The Industrial Marketing Show by MJ Peters & Matthew Sciannella – The name says it all.

The Bigger Narrative by Andy Raskin - How does a strategic narrative drive success across a company—in sales, marketing, fundraising, product, recruiting, everything?