B2B Marketing and corporate aspirations

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There’s an old joke about two grandmothers in Miami Beach – long before it became today’s fabulous Miami Beach, when it was still populated with retirees. The two women hadn’t seen each other in a while. The first said, “My youngest grandson just became a doctor.” “Big deal,” replied the other. “My Howie’s in the medical profession, too. He’s a patient.”

I thought of that joke recently when some friends who served with me on our college newspaper sent around emails commenting on one of our few colleagues still working in journalism. He’s been working for one of the country’s best regarded newspapers, and just published another well regarded book. Big deal, I thought; I’m in the journalism field. As a consumer of too many newspapers and magazines.

But because I work in public relations, I still care about journalism, still try to think like a reporter when advising our clients, still come up with story ideas that I hope will interest reporters and editors, and still stay on top of trends.

Of the editors and writers who served on the college paper, there are three I know who still work as journalists. One works as Pennsylvania State House reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Which is great, if you don’t mind living in Harrisburg (official motto: “Making Cleveland Look Good”).

Another is a freelance reporter, who now writes for national magazines. But her first jobs included writing for a trade publication for yarn manufacturers. She used to talk about the challenges of writing for the Knitting Times included getting industry executives to take the time to be interviewed by her. One day, after placing numerous calls to a reluctant exec, the receptionist misheard my friend, and, thinking she had said she was a reporter for the New York Times, put her right through. The executive was none too pleased when he realized the mistake.

As for our former colleague who writes for one of the country’s best-regarded newspapers, after sophomore year, he decided that college wasn’t going to teach him what he needed to become a reporter, so he quit. He somehow got a job writing for that paper’s suburban weekly section before moving up, ironically enough, to serve as one of the paper’s education reporters. These days, he covers Washington, DC politics, has written books, and appears on political talk shows, providing his opinion.

Somehow, on those lofty programs, no one ever mentions that he never graduated from college.

On the other hand, there’s Harry Bernstein, who at age 93, after years editing a trade magazine for builders, generated tremendous reviews and interest with the publication of what the New York Times said is “a deeply affecting memoir,” a coming-of-age story that “is an eloquent evocation of a particular time and place,” namely a poor mill town in northern England before and during World War I. Though Bernstein had published a number of short stores in the 1930s, he didn’t achieve real literary success until seven decades later. But he kept trying.

The common denominator here may be trite as much as it’s true: you need to figure out your dream and pursue it. The lack of traditional credentials hasn’t prevented my former classmate from succeeding. The lack of full-blown success didn’t frustrate Bernstein from continuing to work on his writing to finally get a book published to enthusiastic reviews.

But from a business perspective, it’s important to remember aspirations. Lots of B2B companies talk about how they solve customer pain points. It’s an important message.

Companies often forget that their B2B customers also have aspirations that are more than eliminating pain…which, after all, is a negative focus. B2B customers also have goals they want to achieve – that include, but are not limited to profitability, expansion, market share, etc. B2B companies have keep their customers’ goals in mind, and find ways to help them succeed. Those companies that can help their customers achieve those positive goals will connect more closely with them, develop stronger relationships, and thrive.

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