According to a recent series of articles by Adam Needles, author of “Balancing the Demand Equation”, the current state of B2B demand generation is deeply and seriously troubled - because many marketers are still failing to think of the task of creating demand as process with a series of optimisable steps through which prospect interest is turned into a life time of customer revenue.
This widespread failure to embrace systems thinking means that many B2B marketers are missing opportunities to eliminate wasted effort and transform the effectiveness of their programmes. It’s perhaps no wonder that B2B marketing budgets are - deservedly in many cases - coming against so much pressure to prove the return on investment.
Needles concludes that demand must be managed as an operational process, identifies a series of major challenges, and offers a number of recommendations, which you can read here. I’d like to complement his thinking by suggesting 7 essential building blocks that have the potential to help any B2B organisation to implement more effective marketing:
1: Define your ideal prospects
To paraphrase the old Irish proverb, if you don’t know who you’re marketing to, you’ll end up marketing (very wastefully) to someone else. So identifying the common characteristics of your ideal prospects and the key stakeholders that drive buying decisions has always seemed to me to be the essential foundation for any B2B marketing initiative.
2: Be clear about the problems you solve
But you also need to understand why you are marketing to them. And it’s not to sell your product or service. It’s to help your prospect solve a problem, address and issue or achieve a goal that is critically important to them - and to persuade them that you can solve it better than any other option available to them.
3: Identify trigger events
What causes your prospect to recognise that whatever they are doing (or not doing) today simply won’t be good enough going forwards? If you can identify the trigger events that disturb their status quo as they happen - and if you are ready with a suitable solution - you’ll be in prime position to satisfy their needs. Arriving late to the party won’t do.
4: Understand the buying process
Your sales process doesn’t matter - unless it is intentionally designed to mirror and facilitate their Buyers’ Journey. If you can’t anticipate and address their concerns and motivations at each stage of their buying decision process, you’ll struggle to convert their initial interest into a commitment to use your solution.
5: Develop buying-stage-specific content
A huge percentage of the collateral and sales tools produced by B2B marketing organisations (the American Marketing Association estimated the figure at 90%) plays no useful value whatsoever in advancing the buying decision process. Every marketing initiative must serve to effectively persuade the prospect to move from one clearly defined stage in the Buyers’ Journey to the next with you - otherwise, why are you doing it?
6: Practice continuous opportunity qualification
There’s no point in chasing opportunities that are never likely to buy, never likely to choose you, or never likely to be profitable. Yet many sales pipelines are clogged with exactly these sorts of deals. From your very first attempt to lead score, to the last stage in the buying process, you must continuously requalify prospects against those three factors. Don’t be afraid to qualify out - you’ll create the capacity to find better opportunities.
7: Assess every activity in terms of its contribution to revenue
Measuring the success of marketing programmes in terms of activities, rather than outcomes, was never a good idea, and today it’s a sure-fire way to waste resources on things that make no contribution to revenue. If you can’t measure and justify your marketing spend on any activity in terms of a tangible impact on the buying decision process, it’s time to assess whether you should be doing it at all.
A joined-up, long-term perspective
Adam concludes that B2B marketers need to go through a substantial shift in how they operate - and plan their marketing activities as joined-up processes that need to be managed over a longer period than a month or quarter. The evidence is clear - B2B marketers that take a long-term, joined-up view build sustained value for their companies in a way that tactical marketers cannot.
But this also requires that management embrace a systems mindset, have a respect for process, and see and measure marketing as an integrated part of the company’s revenue engine. This may require a change in management mindset as much as it depends on a change in traditional marketing mindsets. It may require that we balance creativity with discipline and process. But I’m convinced that the results will be worth it. What do you think?