Over the last seven years, I have engaged in thousands of conversations with B2B Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs), Vice Presidents (VPs), product managers and other marketing folks who are responsible for supporting the sales efforts on behalf of their companies. It never ceases to amaze me just how many of these professionals make five basic mistakes that could cost them their jobs in 2020.
How do I know? I see B2B marketers make the following five mistakes over and over again. And when they do, results are lackluster, profitability suffers and people lose their jobs.
1. Skipping the fundamental research
You would be shocked at how many times I see B2B CMOs and other high-end marketers base the future of their product line, or even their entire companies future on assumptions about their customers, prospects, competition and general market conditions.
It’s understandable. The sales process in B2B is typically long and involves a salesperson and potentially multiple stakeholders across the operation to close a deal. Once those prospects become clients, most B2B products and services involve multiple client interactions to service those clients — so internal stakeholders easily become overconfident that they know their market inside and out.
However, we know from the research we do for our B2B clients, that about 28% of the time there is a big difference between how internal stakeholders view their competition, market, clients, and prospects. That disconnect could negatively impact their business at any time over the next six to 24 months, even precipitating a huge loss of market share of even business failure.
Quite simply, marketers who don’t spend the time and money to do the fundamental research are relying on assumptions, and risk losing their jobs or even their company’s business. Pride comes before the fall!
2. Propping up poor digital foundations
Digital properties are the front door to almost every business, and for a lot of companies, these assets drive top of funnel activities — generating leads, raising brand awareness and spearheading communications. And yet, I am always shocked by the number of short cuts most marketers take while developing their digital properties.
More than 50% of the B2B marketers we work with don’t want to spend the money or time building out the basic fundamentals required for their digital properties to convert. I see companies pick the cheapest provider to create their digital projects, forego fundamental research, skip investing to create a story that will resonate with prospects, and avoid building out a delightful user experience that will engage customers. Then, they repurpose content again and again, and pray that it will convert.
Due to budget or time constraints, or perhaps lack of digital knowledge, marketers cut corners early and instead are forced to chase conversion later. They might save money in the initial phases of building out their digital assets, and wind up spending hundreds of thousands of dollars more than needed chasing conversion rates over the months and years to follow. What do they expect? Building a house on quicksand, the house will surely sink!
3. Resist thoroughly understanding the buyer
Whenever I am engaged as a consultant or board member to assist in the hiring process for a new CMO or Director of Marketing, I always ask the candidate to do the following:
First, I break out a dry erase board and ask a candidate to list three or four buyer personas for the product or service that they are currently working on, give me three bullet points about who those buyers are explaining tom me the motivation for them to buy. About 60% of the marketing candidates in the B2B space can do that basic exercise.
Second, I ask the candidate to draw a basic buyer’s journey from left to right for one, or two or three personas. About 40% of the candidates can do that.
Finally, I ask the payoff question: During each stage of the B2B buyer’s journey, what are you doing from a marketing standpoint to move the buyer forward? About 20% of the candidates can do that. That means only 20% of B2B marketers really understand the buyer’s journey and how potential customers engage with their company and how to engage with them.
In the B2C space, if you are selling pizzas, watches, electronics or other consumer items, you can fake it. In the B2B space, you can’t expect to drive results without thoroughly understanding the buyer. Would you build a road without thoroughly understanding the users and the traffic flow?
4. Won’t engage in sales alignment
In the old days, B2B marketing was about generating a bunch of leads at a tradeshow and handing them off to sales. Now it’s about generating leads through multiple channels including the traditional ones and digital, crafting a story, building a brand, and most importantly, aligning with business development to help nurture and close deals. Marketing no longer stops the moment the sales team gets involved.
According to The Content Marketing Institute, 70% of B2B sales and marketing content created is never used and according to HubSpot 79% of B2B marketing leads never convert into sales. We have conversations with companies all the time where marketing tells us that sales can’t close, and the sales team says marketing doesn’t create quality leads. The truth is usually somewhere in between.
At the senior level, the turnover rate in B2B marketing is higher than the turnover rate is in B2B sales. The reason is simple: the sales cycle is long, relationships are formed, and specific knowledge is needed about the product and service offering in most B2B transactions.
To survive in the new ecosystem, B2B marketers will need to align their role to every stage of the customer lifecycle. They will need to provide value across the organization from internal communication, sales training, lead nurturing, proposal development and brand building all the way through the sales process to close and even thereafter.
B2B marketers must engage in a deep way with the sales team and become integral to the sales process. If not, the sales team will replace the marketer and find someone else to be the invaluable partner that they need.
5. Will not close the LOOP
Ten years ago, B2B marketers could get away with not having easy access to data about their customers. They generated leads and handed them off to distributors, sales teams, channel partners or other parties inside or outside their organizations — and they were done. Doing the hard work to uncover data about how those leads converted was much more difficult than it is today.
However, even today when every organization is awash in customer data, many global organizations we talk too still can’t “connect the dots” on the journey their customers take — which starts by understanding exactly what motivates their customers to reach out in the first place, and also just as important, what channel they come through to become a viable lead.
They can quote vanity metrics like website visits, content downloaded, leads generated and potentially even sales team close rates. But neither do they bother to trace the journey those leads pass through on their way to becoming a customer, nor do they understand why that prospect reached out in the first place and how they engaged.
But ironically, if you know the motivating factors and the channel that brought the customer, then you know exactly where to place your bets moving forward.
Marketers who are willing to uncover the data to “close the loop” between leads and sales will ensure long term results and be rewarded by their higher management. Those who don’t will be rewarded with another job in 2020.
About the Author
Scott Miraglia – President
Scott is a balanced risk-taker with nearly three decades of experience starting and growing advertising and marketing agencies. His business acumen is matched with a drive to build creative teams that thrive in open, collaborative work environments. Scott seeks out the best creative individuals, not only to provide quality service to clients but to also help shape the future direction of Elevation Marketing.