Why is B2B marketing so bad so often? Sure, there are plenty of smart and talented marketers who produce some interesting campaigns that generate incredible results. They are exceptions and not the standard.
Don’t be offended. I’m not here to socially shame or condescendingly lecture the world of B2B marketers. I’m the first to admit I make lots of mistakes and my learning journey is full of potholes, mistakes, and wrong turns. There are many times my well-intended ideas turned into a dud. I am still learning after more than 20 years.
Marketing is the most strategic and demanding role within any company. The breadth and depth of marketing responsibilities is massive. (read my post: “The Ridiculous Scope of B2B Marketing Responsibilities”) No other function touches customers more often and longer than marketing. Marketing guides the strategic direction and success of any company. Marketing must keep the trains running with a steady flow of campaigns and programs operating on multiple channels. But marketing is often understaffed and the clock keeps ticking. Quite often that means falling back on activity-based marketing. But that’s when bad things happen.
Here are the big reasons why B2B marketing campaigns suck:
- No plan, objectives, or focus – Over and over again marketing campaigns are launched without a plan. Most campaigns seem to focus purely on lead generation. However, our research and engagements show that bottom funnel campaigns are just as important because they help sales win deals. Campaigns should have a purpose and some desired outcomes. Just ‘doing stuff’ isn’t a plan and it’s not the right way to drive revenue.
- Poor audience focus – Too many campaigns treat all contacts and roles the same. B2B purchase cycles take a long time because of the number of people involved in the process. The status quo is the biggest competitor. Engaging the right people at the right time takes data modeling analysis. Using marketing automation tools to identify areas of interest can help focus campaigns for better results.
- It’s “all about me” messaging – We have all had one-sided conversations at parties with that one person that talks about themselves the entire night. They never ask about others and rarely do they stop talking to listen. It’s boring. Marketing that only talks about your company and product is a turnoff and lacks what Ann Handley calls “pathological empathy.”
- Irrelevant content – Many campaigns seem to only use pre-existing content in asset libraries. This isn’t a bad thing. One of the beautiful traits of good content is a long shelf life. However, I experience so many campaigns that use irrelevant content – irrelevant to individual roles, industries, or the business problems. Running a campaign with existing content ‘just because’ is an activity trap to avoid.
- Marketing technology and poor data – Marketing technology helps automate workflow. If campaign steps are poorly planned, the technology doesn’t care. It does what it’s told to do. Poorly managed data will only make marketing performance worse. The best campaigns have a detailed workflow plan with data that triggers each step based on interaction. Don’t rush the workflow design process unless you want to risk alienating your customers and poor results.
- Teamwork – It’s always a good idea to let the sales team know about upcoming campaigns. Details on the objectives, follow up sequences, CTAs, content, messaging, target audience are important to share in a pre-launch brief.
- Got results? – Our research over the last two years shows over 60% of B2B marketers are accountable for marketing-sourced revenue. This percentage will increase over time as executives and managers get better at measuring results. Will random acts of marketing produce measurable results? Probably not.
Perfection in B2B marketing doesn’t exist. But too many campaigns are just flat out terrible. Dig in and work towards more effective campaigns. It takes work but even slight improvements in a few areas can help produce better results.