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    The problem with B2B marketing: Misaligned measurement is stifling innovation

    The problem with B2B marketing: Misaligned measurement is stifling innovation

    It’s a tired cliche that B2B marketing is the “boring” sibling to B2C, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. When it comes to the creativity of our advertising and its effectiveness, there are more systemic issues at play.

    Also, while B2B deals with leadership mindsets that make creativity difficult, that is only part of the problem. Most of the problem is that marketing success is measured by outcomes that have nothing to do with how advertising works.

    Delivering qualified leads who don’t know us

    The underlying B2B problem, before we even get to advertising, is that marketing success is judged by MQL. That creates major limitations.

    Marketing is a channel

    MQL has caused marketing to limit its impact to only what it can source itself, often in a competitive manner to sales. What this means in practice is that marketing pursues activities that create leads, and works to tie those leads to outcomes. 

    The term “influence” has become a dirty one when talking about marketing effectiveness, because sourced pipeline is the only acceptable form now, and everything else is seen as marketing reaching for credit.

    So, when marketing is dependent on MQLs, it means that everything revolves around creating leads, and that bleeds directly into how we use advertising.

    Marketing needs to act like sales

    One of the other major shortcomings of the MQL is that marketing needs to add a layer of qualification, and that has come to mean additional marketing touchpoints. At one point, qualification came from expressed intent, by way of a demo request form fill, but that volume didn’t feed the engine, so the “scored MQL” was added.

    The trouble with this is that it means marketing is attempting to take people from passive to passionately ready to purchase, which has never been a power that marketing possessed.

    Only about 5% of buyers are in the market at any given moment. This means marketing’s job isn’t bringing them in, but to have the brand be top of mind when customers are ready to buy. That brings us to the next issue with the MQL.

    Marketing has to create near-term outcomes

    The MQL marketing model is about handing over leads ready for sales to talk to. This has come to limit marketing to try and find only the customers who are in-market because it’s not able to move them there by way of scoring tactics.

    As a result, marketing is not creating future customers. It’s trying to scoop up customers currently in market, even when they’re destined for a competing brand. This is often a futile effort because 80%–90% have a set of vendors in mind before they do any research, and that is who they buy from the majority of the time.

    Dig deeper: Why B2B marketing needs brand building more than lead gen

    Every ad is a button that must be clicked

    All of this means that advertising in B2B is generally in pursuit of immediate outcomes, treating it as a direct response lead gen channel rather than a brand awareness one.

    B2B purchases are not impulse decisions but considered ones. The decisions in that consideration are made well in advance of the in-market moment when it comes time to purchase.

    Marketing needs to stop trying to convince people to buy product now. It needs to focus on being top of mind when customers are ready to choose a solution. The goal is not to get them to do something but to remember something. 

    And yet we judge our advertising on whether it caused the audience to do something — visit the site, download an asset, submit their contact details. And, when it fails to do that it’s deemed to have failed.

    Availability over conversion

    There’s a well-researched idea from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, that marketing growth comes from being easily thought of and easily found when buyers are choosing solutions, known as mental and physical availability. 

    Having someone know your brand and even like it only matters if that comes to mind in association with problems that you solve. Advertising campaigns built around the hope that our selling moment lines up with their purchasing moment is a lottery play. And, like with most lotteries, it rarely pays off. 

    Instead, advertising needs to be used for what it does best: Creating and sustaining awareness of our brand as a solution. We can’t control buyers’ timing, but we can ensure that we’re mentally available when it comes.

    And there are a few ways that advertising can be strategically used to increase the chances of this:

    • Reach: The best way to say top of mind is to consistently reach all buyers in the category. It’s obvious, and yet we so often treat advertising as a single conversion event, working in isolation. The real key is to persistently and consistently show up.
    • Connected messaging: Our advertising isn’t just about who we are but when to think of us. That means ensuring we reinforce the various moments when our buyers need a solution like ours.
    • Branding: Showing up with relevant messages only creates and refreshes memory structures when it all looks and feels like the same brand. That consistency breeds familiarity, which in turn helps recall.

    Dig deeper: Winning the B2B race from sales to profitability

    Advertising: The unused B2B tool

    Because of our environment, few brands are doing considered advertising — the kind that builds availability and recall. That in itself presents an area opportunity for a competitive advantage, only requiring an internal leadership decision to allow marketing to operate as it is designed to. This isn’t easy, but it is possible. 

    Even allocating a portion of the budget to long-term efforts is a tremendous step forward, one that few are taking. Advertising is expensive but necessary for growth. Those who hold it to an ROI that it can’t achieve guarantee its failure. But those who see it for what it can do have a distinct advantage. 

    Dig deeper: The effectiveness crisis in B2B marketing: Why MOps must shift focus now

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    The post The problem with B2B marketing: Misaligned measurement is stifling innovation appeared first on MarTech.

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