Crisis in B2B Marketing Leadership and 5 steps to get back on course

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A short while ago we took a light-hearted, somewhat tongue-in-cheek look at the issues with B2B marketing in our article “7 Habits of Highly Defective Marketers“.

Leadership Crisis

Let’s get real. For 90% of cases B2B marketing is failing because of lack of leadership. Without clear direction, wrong benchmarks and lack of clearly defined goals your marketing troop is running around like a headless chicken.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

There is some debate as to the origin of this quotation. The most credible argument I have found to date can be found in “The Definition of Insanity is…” by Ryan Howes, PhD, ABPP (Psychology Today, July 27, 2009)

Where did this saying come from? It’s attributed to Albert Einstein (probably not), Benjamin Franklin (probably not), Mark Twain (probably not) and mystery writer Rita Mae Brown (probably so) who used it in her novel Sudden Death. It’s not clear who said it first, but according to at least one blogger it’s “the dumbest thing a smart person ever said.”

Whatever it’s origin, in a nutshell …

If you want to change, you be the change.


And here’s how:

1. Set the right goal

The role of marketing is to create demand, raise awareness of the brand, generate qualified leads, nurture leads. Not developing aimless pretty campaign graphics. If the goal for a campaign is not set from the start, it takes a downward spiral to doom. Marketing executives will spend 100 hours to make sure the campaign materials ‘looks’ good and not spend any time on usability, deliverability, persuasive design elements and conversion. It’s called activity based marketing syndrome.

Despite its proliferation, many organisations still regard social media with a degree of skepticism if not outright disdain. After all, what is the value of any campaign if it doesn’t lead to an increase in the bottom line? In stable economic times there may be merit in this assumption, but as we all know we are in far from stable times.

With widespread internet access in the office, at home and on the move, coupled with the rapidly increasing numbers of mobile devices allowing prospects to pick and choose who they will ultimately buy from or partner with, it is more vital than ever to build solid relationships.Who are these relationships with? Prospects, existing clients, business partners and even, dare we say it, with the competition.

To quote Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”, before you “cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war

  • set the goal for your campaign
  • decide who will be the target
  • decide what will be measured as the campaign’s return on investment (ROI).

2. Drive with data

You get what you measure. Measure the right metrics and hold your team responsible against that. It doesn’t matter if your campaign is ‘creative’ if there is no conversion or you are getting bad leads filling up your database. Measure conversion, qualified leads and effect on revenue performance.

There are many tools available to measure the performance of a campaign and there are many organisation’s whose whole raison d’etre is to perform that service for you.

What if you are on a tight budget or prefer a DIY approach?

Email autoresponder services such as Aweber, GetResponse, ConstantContact or MailChimp facilitate target segmentation and monitoring of email campaign click-through-rate (CTR) and more. With a bit of clever manipulation you can also use the same features to monitor CTR on your website, interactive PDF and more.

But what about social media?

at Emagine published an informative 3 part series on how to use Google Analytics to measure social media ROI using campaign tagging, advanced segmentation and profile filters:

  • Measure Your Social Media ROI with Google Analytics: Campaign Tagging
  • Measure Your Social Media ROI with Google Analytics Part 2: Advanced Segments
  • Measure Your Social Media ROI with Google Analytics Part 3: Advanced Segments (Authors note: despite its title, this part actually deals with profile filters)

3. Create a ‘sandbox’ culture

Have a controlled environment to cultivate experiment and trying out ‘new new things’. Without establishing a culture of innovation, your marketing executives will continue to take the same old ‘proven’ steps. (This would be an ideal time to revisit that definition of insanity but I think you’ve got the message by now.)

A long time ago, in a village far away we had a playground for the local kids. One of the most popular facilities was the sandpit. It was a great place to try stuff out from excavating with the new toy digger your were given for your birthday to imitating your favourite wrestlers from Saturday afternoon TV. It was a safe place, at worst you ended up going home with sand in uncomfortable places or maybe minor abrasions from a rough landing.

To encourage innovative campaigns and allow (relatively) unfettered ability to experiment with new techniques such as the use of Google Analytics to measure ROI as described earlier, your executives need a similar space. The last thing you need is for an experiment on your “live” website or Facebook page to go horribly wrong.

In the software development arena, a sandbox is a sanitised copy of the live environment with real email addresses being replaced by addresses created specially for testing purposes.

Where practical, give your marketing executives a similar concept. Creating a replica of your live website on your intranet or an individual computer can be achieved using tools such as XAMPP.

[XAMPP logo]Available for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and Solaris, XAMPP is an easy to install Apache distribution containing the Apache web server, MySQL, SQLite, PHP, Perl, a FTP-Server and phpMyAdmin. Basically, there’s pretty much everything you need to run a sandboxed replica of your live website for the wonderful price tag of zero (excluding the computer used to host).

NOTE: If you do create a sandbox, remember to switch off, or similarly disable / redirect, any component(s) that could potentially send information to your real target audience. Make sure that any tests go to a controlled set of email addresses etc.

4. Establish the buyers persona and communicate regularly

Unfortunately, most of the time marketers don’t even know who they are trying to communicate with. Even a great campaign can fail miserably if it is designed without keeping prospect persona in mind.

Developing a persona keeps the marketing team focused on the who, what, where, when, how and why of prospect motivation that will help them create a campaign with high conversion potential.

Once developed, for maximum effect the persona should be printed out and kept in line-of-sight of each executive’s workspace. The adage “out of sight, out of mind” applies. Keep the persona in sight and thus at the forefront of the executive’s mind.

For details of creating a persona, read our article Creating a Consumer Profile [Better Writing with Jeremy Ep II]

5. Cultivate a culture of learning

The playing field of marketing is constantly evolving. Without a culture of lifelong formal and informal learning, your marketing executives are either going to design campaigns for the last century or will be under mercy of your agencies.

Attending seminars or webinars, reading trade journals or an RSS feed of creative marketing content are great ways to encourage constant learning.

Brainstorming sessions can unleash the creative beast within and produce some remarkable (and sometimes bizarre) ideas.

Without going to lavish expense, use of mind-mapping software and a projector can be a great way to capture ideas.

[FreeMind - example MindMap for Branding


7 Habits of Highly Defective Marketers

Social Media for B2B Marketing V2.0 – Free eBook

Social Media for Business – a B2Bento INKAST

Infographic: Lead Nurturing in Plain English

Creating a Consumer Profile [Better Writing with Jeremy Ep II]

Lee Rush Schwartz 3 part series on how to use Google Analytics to measure social media ROI:

Autoresponder services: Aweber, GetResponse, ConstantContact, MailChimp

XAMPP – an easy to install Apache Distribution for Linux, Windows, Mac OS X, and Solaris

FreeMind – free mind mapping software


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