It’s time for B2B marketers to have a little perspective

Richard Hadler05/09/2018

Marketers sure do love their metrics. But unless you’re brutally honest with yourself, all those numbers and percentages will obscure vital information about your overall strategy.

You marketers need to start being more honest with yourselves.

Sure, when you tell the rest of the business how your campaigns are doing, it’s in your interests to make yourselves look good. And maybe there is more pressure than ever on CMOs to prove marketing’s ROI. Everyone in business thinks they’re a marketer, these days – especially when they’re pushing for a larger slice of the company budget.

In fact, you could say modern analytics technology has been instrumental in expanding the CMO’s role and cementing marketing as an essential B2B business function.

But it’s still time for a reality check. This relentless focus on how well you’re doing is obscuring opportunities to enhance your marketing initiatives and drive business results – and we can prove it.

As you’re about to see, there are two HUGE opportunities B2B brands almost always overlook when they start to fixate on short‐term marketing metrics.

But first, we should say a bit about what we mean by ‘perspective’. Because it really isn’t that we think you’re full of yourselves, or anything like that. It’s just that what might look like a great achievement from one angle will often seem less impressive when you take a step back and consider the bigger picture.

Take brand awareness, for example. Most B2B marketers would be very happy with a brand awareness level of 50 per cent, right? But, let’s put that figure into context:

Within that 50 per cent, there will be businesses that know who you are but prefer one of your competitors. Others might not need (or be able to afford) your services.

Meanwhile, many potential clients that may be open to doing business with you won’t currently be engaging with your brand.

Just think how many of your ideal prospects are out there right now, ignoring your marketing campaigns and getting on with business as usual!

When you get right down to it, only a tiny portion of your target audience will actually be advocates for your organisation.

Of course, generating brand awareness in half of your target audience is still a great achievement. But to effectively drive business results, you need to remember that’s only a small piece of the puzzle and be constantly searching for new ways to introduce prospects to your brand.

On closer inspection, you might even find that what you really need is a better strategy for nurturing those prospects through the marketing funnel.

Digital marketers are all about leads, leads, leads. But all the effort you exert hunting down new prospects is wasted if you don’t have a robust strategy to nurture them through the marketing funnel – and most B2B brands just don’t.

The point is, this kind of constructive pessimism is important. It’s the only way to identify where the biggest opportunities to refine your marketing strategy are and decide where to focus your attention going forwards.

So, take a break from highlighting your achievements and basking in glory – as we reveal two huge opportunities to drive business results your organisation almost certainly isn’t taking full advantage of.

Why B2B marketers should care more about brand awareness

This piece may have opened with a segment on brand awareness. But, it’s fair to say that the vast majority of B2B brands generally ignore brand building in favour of campaigns that deliver fast results.

These short‐term tactics are a great way to prove your marketing team can contribute directly to the company’s bottom line. But the most effective marketers never lose sight of the bigger picture.

Your business might be reluctant to spend resources on things that don’t provide immediate, measurable returns. But those that do invest in long‐term brand building outperform those that don’t by around 20 per cent.

Building awareness at the top of the marketing funnel is essential for getting your foot in the door when a potential client is in the market for goods or services that you provide. If someone doesn’t know who you are, they won’t consider buying from you – and every single time that happens is a missed opportunity to make a sale.

“Branding is the underpinning of everything a brand does and produces,” says Cheetah Mobile marcomms director Josh Ong. “Companies shouldn’t be viewing branding as spend in a vacuum. Instead, they should see it as an investment vital to making a brand successful.”

When someone requests a demo of your services or responds to a lead gen campaign, that action is just single moment in their personal journey.

On average, it takes 5 – 7 impressions for someone to remember your brand’s logo. What’s more, 47 per cent of B2B buyers will read 3 – 5 pieces of content as research before they ever engage a vendor.

The most effective marketing programmes reflect these behaviours, engaging prospects with multiple touchpoints at the start of their buyer journeys.

“Branding acts as the assist,” explains Ong. “It may not be the big splashy ad that gets people in the door, but it’s the essence that makes the brand recognisable.”

As we argue in How content impacts business decision‐making, content has a key role to play here. It encourages prospects to frame their problems around your solutions, helps them get buy‐in for your offering from company stakeholders and plays a key role in generating repeat business.

Of course, what form your brand awareness initiatives should take will depend on what your business does. Any number of models can work – from research reports to publishing partnerships, print media coverage and beyond.

The important thing is that you recognise the opportunity here and dedicate a portion of your budget to delivering brand awareness initiatives that drive long‐term demand for your offering.

A realist’s guide to B2B lead generation

The pressure B2B marketers are under to measure the performance of their campaigns isn’t just causing problems at the top of the marketing funnel.

Lead generation targets that place the emphasis on quantity over quality can also damage a marketing team’s ability to drive revenue and sales.

It’s no secret that vanity metrics such as ‘likes’, ‘hearts’ or ‘shares’ don’t necessarily correlate with business results. But even widely used metrics like guide downloads can be misleading.

Let’s say your business publishes its annual research report and you deliver a campaign that generates 500 downloads.

On the surface of it, you’ve smashed your targets and the campaign is a success. But when you dig a little deeper, you find that 80 per cent of the people who downloaded your report are junior staff with no influence over their companies’ spending decisions.

Worse still, of the 100 leads that remain, 75 are from small businesses that wouldn’t typically be able to afford your services. Just 25 of the people you’ve reached are ideal prospects that – once nurtured – will make promising leads for your sales team to pursue.

Now, that figure is obviously much less impressive than your original headline stat. So, perhaps that explains why so many businesses will simply hand the sales team hundreds of leads to sift through.

But this kind of practice is highly destructive.

Either the sales team will be too overwhelmed by the volume of leads to follow‐up with them all, or they’ll grow exasperated by the number of pitches they make that don’t lead anywhere.

In time, they’ll lose trust in the work the marketing team does and stop following up with any leads that come from report downloads.

That’s why it’s so important to be honest and open with your sales team, as we argue in Breaking down the silos between marketing and sales.

Work together to define what counts as a qualified lead and make sure you only pass these leads onto sales to follow‐up with. Then, implement a nurture programme to keep your other prospects engaged and guide them through the marketing funnel until they’re ready to hear from a salesperson.

Above all, establish lead generation targets that strike a balance between quality and quantity. Yes, your sales team needs a steady flow of leads to be contacting – but those leads also need to represent genuine opportunities for them to strike a deal.

Hopefully by now you’re starting to see a theme emerge: marketing metrics have their limitations.

Yes, they can be a great way to prove the value of the work marketing does. But they often oversimplify complex buyer journeys and obscure key details about the performance of your marketing campaigns.

As you’ve seen today, this creates problems at every level of the marketing funnel. So, it’s important to put things into perspective from time to time and examine the facts behind the figures.

When you can do that, you’ll be in a far better position to refine your marketing programme and drive revenue for your business.

Key takeaways

  • Brand awareness matters in B2B. Engage prospects with multiple touchpoints at the start of their buyer journeys.
  • Quality is better than quantity when it comes to lead generation. Make sure you’re passing genuine opportunities over to the sales team.
  • Always consider the bigger picture. Simple marketing metrics aren’t the whole story when it comes to the performance of your campaigns.