In the B2B marketing space, I preach this all the time…don’t let marketing fool you. Don’t think that marketing is going to be the savior to keep your company from financial ruin or conversely, to provide miraculous growth. Marketing can’t help poorly run organizations, it can’t cover up bad customer service, promote a misguided pricing strategy or help a bad business model. So what good is marketing in a B2B organization?
I believe marketing can support a healthy business in 3 ways. Think of each way as a lever, a marketing lever…which you can pull and push…they move up for more, back for less. Get the picture yet? I think each business has 3 marketing levers they can utilize; Brand, Customers and Prospects.
The first marketing lever is for Brand. Marketing can help by promoting the company brand, both internally and externally. Your brand isn’t what you say it is, it is what your customers say it is…and marketing helps guide that narrative. The same for your employees, where your actions speak louder than words. If you are not thinking about marketing your company brand both internally and externally, you are just plain wrong. At least 20-30% of your marketing budget should be around Brand…where it enables your customers to feel good about being in business with you and demonstrates to your employees that you appreciate them. This takes a strategy and usually a team to execute. It also takes measurement to see if your efforts are trending “up and to the right”.
The second lever is for Customers. Everyone knows that it is FAR less expensive to sell something to someone already buying from you, but so many B2B companies are worried about new growth, that current customer growth is often overlooked. Again, this lever has two areas that can be worked, existing customers and lapsed customers. What are your specific marketing strategies to get your current and lapsed customers to purchase more from you? Again, this should be in the form of a written strategy. If you are reading this right now and can’t “pull out your strategy and point to the section where it discusses “customers/lapsed customers” you might need a new/better CMO, VP of Marketing or Marketing Director…forget might, you do! You should be spending no less than 20% of your budget/efforts here!
Lastly, the 3rd area/lever, the one all B2B companies LOVE to talk about and focus on, Prospects. New growth…fresh meat. I didn’t come up with the quote, but I once heard that your customer is someone else’s prospect. Let that sink in. (Hence why the first two levers are so important). So yes, marketing should bring marketing qualified leads to B2B organizations. Marketing should work alongside sales to ensure that the leads are coming in match the products and services that sales can deliver upon. But make NO MISTAKE…marketing is NOT sales. Just because someone wants a quote or is considering a new vendor doesn’t mean you can shoot off an email and think you have done your job Mr./Mrs. Salesperson. People still buy because of relationships and once marketing has captured their attention and led them to raise their hands as a qualified prospect, it is the job of sales to nurture the relationship and close the deal. It’s then the job of operations, customer service and billing to do their jobs well.
And the cycle continues and it is an endless cycle. Prospects become customers and need the second lever. New employees are hired and managements goals change and need the first lever. The third lever should never be ignored and needs constant attention…and on it goes, a marketing machine supporting the totality of the business.
Are you ready to look at your marketing through the 3 levers? Do you need a written strategy that can support each lever? Do you need a way to measure the effectiveness of each lever to show value in your marketing spend? The answer to all questions should be “yes” and the solution is to hire a strategist to help you get there, possibly me.