There’s an analogy from the world of ships and airplanes that I find useful for B2B companies who are thinking about making big changes in their marketing strategy (or any aspect of their business).
The container ships that move the billions of tons of cargo around the planet are massive - up to 400 metres long and able to carry hundreds of thousands of pounds of goods. They do not change direction easily. The secret of how they change direction and stay stable is trim tabs. Trim tabs are the small flaps at the edge of the rudder. It’s by manipulating the trim tabs that they’re able to bring about huge shifts in angle needed to move in a new direction and stay upright at the same time.
This is a good way for B2B companies to think about their marketing strategy and plan. It applies particularly well in two situations:
a) A large company wants to make a major, sweeping change in its marketing. Making big change in big companies is tough. There are hundreds of people who will be affected and often have to buy-in in order for the change to be successful.
Rather than trying to make a massive change in a single sweeping process, it’s more effective to identify a handful of small or tactical changes – the quick wins – that will bring about incremental change, demonstrate the benefits, and show that change isn’t all bad.
In this way a company can gradually make the big transition it wants through a number of less-painful steps. This takes more time – but it’s better than sinking the ship.
b) The second situation is when a company is unsure what impact marketing can have on its bottom line. The company is cautious about making a big investment before seeing results.
The same rule applies. Start with the quick wins, the easiest activities that will bring about results and ROI. Use the profits generated from the early wins to fund bigger initiatives. Again, this process takes longer, but it has a higher likelihood of success.
We’ve used this process with one of our marketing outsourcing clients for about a year now. They are a highly technical company in the energy sector, and while they have phenomenal expertise to share, they were very skeptical about marketing. But the CEO felt they should give it a try, so we started with a $65,000 annual marketing budget. With that investment we were able to create thought leadership materials (case studies, white papers, etc) and get the company’s story out into the market through a few different cost-effective tactics. Traffic to their website increased, the company started appearing in industry publications, and leads started coming in. Now, one year on, the company has seen the number of leads double and business is increasing dramatically. They’ve had to hire another salesperson to handle the volume. As a result, the whole company is feeling very positive about marketing. They are making increases to the budget, trying out more tactics and making bigger investments that will have larger and longer-term payoff. For them, 2012 is full steam ahead with B2B marketing.