Marketers: Adapt or DieSep 28, 2021
Here's 10 ways to successfully adapt to today's buyer
Despite what CEOs and founders might tell you, there’s no doubt in my mind that across hundreds of B2B companies out there, demand generation marketing is completely broken.
It’s become a cost centre that weighs down growth, quite the opposite of what it’s intended to do.
Here’s my take:
- Press releases: When was the last time you read a press release that was not your own? Are you wishing, just hoping someone picks it up and projects it for you? Like throwing one chip onto the roulette table, turning your back and praying number 7 comes in? Okidoki.
- White papers: Long-winded, complex mumbo jumbo. Especially when it’s a disruptive new technology. There’s a time and a place for in-depth research, but many marketing teams today don’t care for that detail. And they don’t care that this long-form medium is almost completely outdated.
- Case studies: The real unicorn. Despite the intrinsic value of case studies, they are deemed too hard to obtain within a reasonable timeframe to actually commit the time it takes to acquire this incredibly powerful content. Outdated case studies, 5+ years old are strewn across so many SaaS company websites. 5. Years. Old! 🤯. Why is no-one calling people out on this stuff?
- Outbound email: Just look at your stats. 1% conversion to meeting booked. Is that good? What happens to the other 99%. This practice is just like trawler fishing. You scrape everything in your wake, pick off the fish you want, and then throw the rest back into the ocean, regardless of the condition you left them in.
Have you checked your meeting-to-close ratio recently? Or even better have you checked what’s happening to it over time? According to Hubspot, in the last 2 years in the software industry meeting-to-close rates have dropped from 33% to 22%. That means even the majority of the healthy fish are not being eaten!
- Display Ads: Why are B2B demand generation marketers spending money on display ads? Yeah it drives leads, and yeah maybe it drives form fills, but don’t conveniently stop there, what does it do to revenue? Well, I can tell you, not much, because the majority of those leads are crappy and unqualified. Go look at your data.
- Paid search: Same as display. It will drive volume to hit the metrics that marketing is targeted against, typically “meetings” but what does it do to revenue? Anyone care to measure it?
- Events: Let’s fly the team and our booth to an event and hope we serendipitously meet some buyers there, let’s also hope they like our booth, and let’s give them a pair of socks in the hope they’ll respond to us hounding them after the event. That is literally the event strategy of 100’s of companies out there!
The long and short of it is this: In many companies marketing is a burden of debt rather than a force multiplier and is only maintained through irrational fear of loss of imaginary value and nothing else.
Rather than be a force multiplier, it’s become a force neutralizer.
And yet despite this, rather than find the courage to change, leaders are doubling-down on outdated practices to “fill the top of funnel”.
This is driving a divide between marketing and sales, but more importantly it’s alienating customers!
What’s most interesting about this approach is the mindset of the marketer.
There are strong elements of both instant gratification and the desire for the buyer to meet the marketer where they are at, rather than the marketer making the effort to meet the buyer where they are at.
None of this is healthy. Marketers need to get better at listening and better at giving without expecting an instant return.
Meeting the buyer where they are at is the primary shift that marketing teams need to make. And for some bigger companies that is going to be a seismic shift. Yes people will lose their jobs, yes agencies will get fired and yes money will flow elsewhere. But there can be no sacred cows when building a generational business.
Here’s 10 ways to fix it:
1) Re-analyze your unique selling points (USPs):
When was the last time you refreshed your view on what was unique about your offering versus the competitive set? Do this and you’ll start producing content that actually sets you apart.
2) Refresh your ideal customer profile (ICP).
Once you’ve analyzed your USPs, you’ll likely discover your profile of ideal customer has changed too. Get a good handle on that and now you’re suddenly speaking with companies and people that are naturally more interested in what you have to say.
3) Figure out where your buyers are hanging out - prob LinkedIn and Twitter.
This is huge. Stop for a moment and think about where your buyers spend their time. Where they network and educate themselves. If you’re not sure, find one or two and just ask them. That’s where you need to hang out too.
4) Build a team that engages with them there, daily.
You need to hire people that get their kicks from engaging with your communities on a high frequency, and who are prepared to play the long game. In my view, this should be everyone in marketing in today’s world, and everyone in sales too.
Once you know where your buyers hang out, get involved in the conversation daily, and become a trusted voice in the community. Don’t try and sell them anything, just listen and offer value every single day, and eventually when they are ready, if they show strong intent you will have a very strong lead, and likely a very happy customer. And yes, this can happen at scale, take a look at Gong.io’s social strategy on LinkedIn as a prime example.
5) Produce video content weekly - especially for complex content.
My point above about the white paper applies here. There’s a time and a place to consume complex or in-depth information, however, make it easy on the buyer and use video to explain complex or in-depth concepts in half the time, with twice the engagement. That can literally be a talking head as a starting point. But hopefully, you can do more than that.
6) Prioritize running paid ads only where buyers hang out.
Now you’re sure you know where your buyers hang out, and now you know you’re engaging with them there, you can safely run ads to amplify your brand or message to them or people or companies like them.
7) Build a niche community, and run events IRL and hybrid for that community.
Now you’re actively in a community with your buyers, they may even ask you and the wider community if you’re heading to a certain event. Your pre-event marketing is taking place right in front of you. Consider attending those events, given you know your buyers will be there.
However, now you’re in a community, and perhaps you’ve established your niche, why not build your own sub-niche community that you lead and build a small series of events around? Small audiences of highly engaged buyers mingling with happy customers.. ..now we’re talking!
8) Send highly targeted and personalized outbound emails.
Email is not dead. CEOs still read emails, but they have to be very well thought out. Now you’re confident who your ICP is, and now you’re engaging frequently with the communities where they hang out, you’re in a much stronger position to write outbound copy that will resonate, but make sure it’s targeted, personalized, adds value and is easy to read.
9) Call down on all outbound, with personalized talk tracks.
Because your email is higher quality and more targeted, and you’re confident it’s going to the right companies and the right people in those companies, it makes sense for you to commit time to call down on those prospects. But again, you’ll need to meet the buyer where they are at, treat them as the individual person they are, versus some generic buyer. You know a lot about them now, make use of that intel.
10) Make marketing accountable to a portion of your pipeline, ~25%
The reason marketing does not like being accountable to a portion of revenue, is because they know their activities are far removed from revenue, especially in enterprise sales with longer sales cycles. But that changes when you apply this approach.
Marketing should be constantly engaging with buyers, and in fact, marketing will be the ones who initially acquire trusted advisor status with the buyer, not sales. Revenue attribution to marketing becomes clearer, and in turn, marketing will be much more comfortable having a revenue number tied to their activities.
This might feel like a long road, but I can assure you that the longer road is rolling out the same old traditional marketing activities that do not impact your bottom line.
It’s adapt or die time folks.
Things move fast out there.