One of the most important aspects of small business marketing strategy is having a marketing funnel that shows a clear pathway for building relationships with your leads.  In B2C sales, the funnel is often more straightforward since your lead may also be the end user.  B2B sales are a bit more nuanced because of the role that gatekeepers play. Gatekeepers hold the key to B2B sales, and let’s talk about how to factor them in so you can get the most from your marketing plan!

The gatekeeper role can go by many different names.  Ultimately, a gatekeeper is someone who is in a position to provide easy access to the person you want to reach at a company (or someone who can make it much harder if they so choose).  It could be an assistant, a secretary, a facilities manager, a security guard.  The title and job description may vary, but it is their ability to pave the way or shut down your communications that makes them gatekeepers.

Think about how much power that is.  Maybe you want to reach someone in the C-Suite.  On the surface, that contact may seem like the person who has all the power.  Anyway, they have the power in your negotiation, because you want to pitch something to them.

The challenge is that EVERYONE who wants to make a pitch knows that person has power.  This contact you have identified as someone who can green light your wildest dreams is someone who is receiving pitches all day long.  They may have already delegated inquiries like the one you are about to raise to others on their team, but yet they still receive pitches.  Gatekeepers may have been put in place on purpose to vet the inquiries or help time manage.

Gatekeepers may have been put in place on purpose to vet the inquiries or help time manage. #biztips #networking #smallbiz #smb #business Click To Tweet

What you may not realize is that – while this C-Suite contact may occupy the top position in the org chart – the gatekeeper could be holding just as much power.  However the information flow is managed within this team, a gatekeeper may be able to put your inquiry in front of the decision maker.  They also may be able to block your inquiry.  And they know HOW to pass your message along in a way that may jive better with the timing and the personalities involved.

A gatekeeper can take your ice cold inquiry and warm it up.

A gatekeeper can take your ice cold inquiry and warm it up. #business #networking #smallbiz #smallbusiness #smb #biztips Click To Tweet

Let’s take this a step further.  The gatekeeper not only has access, but also information.  The access may be what you are most concerned about right now, but knowledge is power.  Chatting up a gatekeeper could put you in the position to get critical details on timing, for example.  The pitch you want to make might stall if you make it next week, but if you wait three months you’ll get immediate consideration.  You have that information now, and you can plan ahead for it to be in the right place at the right time.

The gatekeeper not only has access, but also information. #biztips #business #smallbusiness #smallbiz #smb #networking Click To Tweet

If you’re following my logic, you see why gatekeepers matter.  You see why they should matter to you.  Yet, they’re often ignored.  They’re often seen as obstacles instead of allies.  Gatekeepers can be your greatest allies.  Be nice to them.

Marketing funnels are my absolute favorite tool to use when working with clients or giving marketing presentations.  There are so many important realizations that can come from seeing your marketing strategy in an end-to-end visual (read here for more on this tool).  A lot of people forget about the gatekeepers in this process.  But when you think about your path to the C-Suite or to any other decision maker, you want to build communication with the gatekeepers into the early steps of the funnel.   Nurturing your relationship with them is more than half the battle.

What can this look like for you?  Here are a few quick tips to consider:

  • Do a little gatekeeper research. Find out a bit of their background so you can reference it in conversation.  Show an interest in them.  You’re not going through them.  You’re not going around them.  You’re acknowledging them as humans.
  • Compliment them. It’s not hard to make it a practice to say something nice to them.  And, if you do get a hold of their boss, make sure to tell the boss how great their team is.  Be authentically nice for the sake of being authentically nice.  It’s a kind thing to do whether or not the good karma immediately comes back to you.  But sometimes the good karma does come back to you.
  • Send them a thank you. As the relationship builds, if the gatekeeper does something nice for you, thank them.  If they decided to grease the wheels for you, and you got an opportunity because of it, let them know you appreciate it.  That one opportunity is hopefully the next step in a long-term relationship, and this investment is a worthy one.
  • Send them a note with the invitations you make. If you have an invitation, information, or an offer to pass along to the decision maker, assume that it will go through the gatekeeper first.  Don’t ignore them.  Acknowledge them.  Address them by name.  Wish them well with what is keeping them up at night.  Then point out what the note is you want them to pass along and ask if they would forward it.  It doesn’t have to be long.  It just needs to be another step in relationship building.

Gatekeepers can be a blessing for you.  And while everyone wants to get the attention of the decision makers, you can be one of the few who is showing attention and care in the relationship with the person who holds the keys.  Your profit statement may be the better for it.

Acknowledging gatekeepers and the process of creating a relationship with them is one aspect of a strong marketing funnel.  Whatever business you have, it is important to have a clear plan for how to stay in touch with your leads, retain customers, and load your communications with intentional calls to action that will help you build loyalty and sales.  Want to know more about how to do this for your business?  Read here!