I’m working on a presentation that I’ll give at a conference for CEOs of mid-sized B2B companies. The conference organizer asked me to kick things off by giving some statistics and context to the audience about what’s working in B2B marketing and what isn’t. I started to make a list of both – all the good tools and successes, and all the mistakes and failures that B2B companies make when it comes to marketing.
Sadly, there is a long list of things that B2B companies do wrong (or just don’t do) in marketing, especially smaller B2B companies. So far I have over 20 items on the list of sins. That’s a long list, and a lot to fix. But like all things in business, we have to prioritize. We have to figure out what really matters and where, if we make a change, we can achieve the biggest improvement for the lowest cost.
So I’ve boiled the list down to the 3 things that I believe are the most critical issues to address and, if fixed, will provide the most benefit to the most companies.
These problems are especially common in 3 environments: at smaller businesses, at companies who operate in extremely technical industries, and at companies where the owner / president really doesn’t have a marketing bone in his or her body.
Costly mistake #1 – Wrong tools for the job
If you want to build a house, you need a hammer. You can accomplish the job without a hammer, but it will take you longer and the resulting structure will be less sturdy. So it is with marketing.
Far too many companies spend marketing dollars and time on tools and tactics that make no sense, and they spend no time or money on the things that could make the biggest difference in their marketing. Perhaps they use direct mail to sell an extremely technical product. Or they use social media to promote a service to an audience that isn’t tech savvy. But they never take the time to write a case study. Or they haven’t updated their website in 3 years. It makes me heartsick to see so much money so poorly invested.
B2B companies have a vast array of tools and tactics to choose from. It can be tough to know which ones will work for a company given its industry, market position and audience. But companies should pay more attention to their selection of marketing tools and stop wasting money on activities that they chose on a whim as opposed to on a plan.
Costly mistake #2 – Inconsistent execution
Marketing is dating. It takes a gradual process of increasing levels of information and commitment to build a relationship. If you blow hot and cold, your target will get confused and run away. Marketing is the same – it takes consistent execution to make sure that the marketing investments made previously continue to provide returns in the form of more engaged prospects.
I see this problem occur often in the form of ‘people transitions’. It happens when responsibility for marketing is passed from one person to another within a company, or when the marketing ‘hat’ is worn by a sales or operations executive who often gets called to other duties – and has to ‘drop’ marketing whenever that other duty calls. In these situations, untold marketing dollars are wasted by companies who don’t follow up on marketing activities (all those business cards collected at a trade show, for example), or who are caught behind the eight ball and have to spend twice what is necessary because they’re behind schedule on an immoveable deadline (eg, having to get an entire trade show booth produced in a couple of weeks).
Costly mistake #3 – No marketing strategy
Most people think of marketing strategy as the 4 Ps - product, price, promotion and placement (distribution). Indeed, it is. But there’s another layer of marketing strategy that is equally important when it comes to execution of a marketing communications plan. The keys to this part of marketing strategy are Target Market, Positioning and Messaging. I’ve seen too many companies with a rough sense of who they sell to, but nothing definite on their ideal customer and target market is. Equally, they don’t define their position in the market and what their unique value proposition is – ie, how are they different from competitors. And finally, they don’t figure out the messaging that will resonate with their target market and trigger some response from them. Without this kind of strategy in place, companies waste precious time and money on marketing that talks to the wrong people, with the wrong message at the wrong time.
If B2B companies really want to improve the results of the marketing, they’ll tackle these 3 problems first.