The common knowledge of most marketers on the open-marketplace is that customer acquisition for B2B is a one, or at most, two-step process. This is reflected pretty credibly in the operations of most marketing interventions; if you’ve ever hired a marketer to “fix” your lead-gen strategy, you are very familiar with the stages. It looks a little something like:
1. Determine Channels (Google, FB Etc)
2. Research Keywords/Messaging
3. Write Copy Based on Old Info
4. Produce as many generic variations as client is okay with (not nice, but true)
5. Create a broad audience; direct traffic to existing destinations (homepage, demo links) as “tests”
6. Launch campaigns, pray ads produce results
7. Continue to push timeline and lower expectations; pressure client to raise budget
8. Convert 1% (or smaller) of narrowed audience regularly – present results to client as “above industry average” despite there being no positive ROI, no analytics around true value, and no growth or changes month to a month beyond “copy” or bids.
…and that’s simply what it is. The standard marketing education out there tells you to create audiences or buy email lists, use whatever you have in terms of collateral, push the budget high, and create tons of ab tests…without a real plan. Yes, you will get stats and data -> and you may even get a 5% to 10% using verbs vs adjectives, or white colors vs black – or whatever other BS gimmick you’re being told. But this is so clearly confounded by statistical heuristics and misattribution errors that the difference is negligble. Somebody should have taken a high school statistics class!
But it’s actually insignificant in any scenario. You see, the standard idea for digital agency is that you have a fixed budget, and you want to get as many clicks as possible, and then with lead-magnets/landing pages AB test till death; but it’s not that simple. Yes, optimizing an ad and getting more clicks for cheaper may drive people to your site and ultimately help with conversions -> but that is HARDLY the full picture.
In fact, you are flying blind – those visitors – regardless of how cheap they are – might have absolutely no interest in your product. If you are like most companies, you don’t have a fully implemented CRM and account-based marketing system with lead data; and you definitely don’t have all your Google Analytics data in a row. Your visitors may not be who you think they are – people click on crap all the time without interest, its the very nature of the internet – consider the practice of advertising to Indian audiences to get Instagram engagement.
The critical consequence of this is actually not the wasted money; for startups, it’s the conclusion you draw. In other words, you begin to adapt your messaging and assets to fit an audience that is not going to buy your product. This is even more of a problem the earlier stage you are and the last validated or developed the product is. And it compounds, greatly over time.
There are human psychology elements to marketing on any platform that exceed the impact of any targeting, bids, or copy. Your marketing team or CMO must consider this to get the full picture.
Static Marketing Vs Dynamic Marketing
Ok, so you can tell I’m a bit perturbed by the business as usual – it’s not just due to personal experience, but my sympathy for clients and startups who are deceived and as a result never fully realize what’s out there.
In most cases (1) is actually pre-determined not by whether it actually has the ability to work, but by the preferences and past experience of who is doing your marketing. Sometimes this can lie up with reality but often we find companies go into multi-month or even year engagements and realize later on they are only addressing half the equation.
But it’s actually not the crappy or misleading process that makes performance not worth it – it’s the fundamental concept. You see, most marketing is built on the assumption that you have an audience out there on these individual platforms you can hit with ads or emails, that when presented with good content, will convert.
The problem with this conception is it doesn’t take into account other variables that might affect people’s ability or willingness to sign up for whatever you are offering; when you look at marketing as a static process you miss that your prospects may not be in a position where they can take action of any kind. Maybe they’re on the subway without internet – maybe they’re about to jump on a zoom call. You cannot control these factors; adjusting the time distribution of when ads are shown, CPM bids may help – but its not the full picture
You do not determine when emails and ads are seen.
So that’s an issue for numerous reasons; it could cut out a significant portion of your potential conversions. But that’s not the only problem – your ads might not be shown at all; assuming you’re advertising to a broad audience on a network like FB, there could be issues with reach – maybe your targets don’t open FB often – thus fewer chances to appear. Or on email…maybe they have spam filters set up and your deliverability is poor.
You can mitigate these factors by remarketing (showing ads to people who’ve visited your website) or by continuing to target the same group – but this is often ineffective. Why? Because it’s blind.
Use Your Knowledge to Your Advantage
Blind marketing is the norm in the business world. Hit your audience in groups. Make assumptions. iterate.
In the past 10 years, technology has changed – and despite privacy laws, there are ways to target customers directly – based on their email address, social interactions, what content they’ve viewed….and with ABM platforms like Pardot and Marketo, you can actually store advertising data on specific targets – what they’ve seen and clicked on. You can use programs like Leadfeeder, to identify exactly which people are visiting your site, when and even ascertain individuals and tie it back into their emails.
def: direct marketing: putting your product/service directly in front of the targets you want to become customers.
All in all, these platforms together allow to string together sequences, customized for exactly what the individuals’ needs and wants are. Of course, you might need a brilliant strategic mind to map these out and tie it into collateral in your funnel, but you can actually gear your campaigns to individuals, individual companies, rather then an amorphous group.
Yes, it’s creepy in a B2B context. But if you believe in your product, it’s this personalized sales that will allow people and companies to experience the benefits of your product.
Conclusion; The Hidden Forces of Marketing Expertise and Trendsetting
Marketing is an industry full of trends and misinformation. There are some big players out there that mange ad-spend for most of the big companies; and consequently, even lots of local, small businesses. There is a hidden force influencing the competitive landscape of multiple industries online; their motives are creating the highest profit margins possible, and their tactics reflect this. Young marketers are hired at these traditional agencies, trained, and go on to spread the gospel.
Luckily, there are a lot of much more highly educated marketing influencers, mostly individuals as opposed to agency, that have a much more nuanced approach. But on the service side, its pretty narrow, at this point, and pretty hard to find the right team for a startup. That’s not going to change for a while; luckily, we’ve come up with a unified solution for startups and companies look to tackle marketing as a more holistic process. You Don’t Need a CMO is the merger of an agency and an advisory board of 20+ top ex-CMOs and other senior marketers. We’ve come up with a few budget-friendly packages designed at generating short-term returns and positioning companies for long term success. We’ve turned around dozens of clients in industries like edtech, SaaS, mobile and more, all over the world.
If you’re a startup or high growth tech company that has the sense you’re not doing everything you could be, we might be a good fit. Book a free discovery call to talk with us and see if we might be able to create a marketing success story with you.
Remember, just because you haven’t seen the largest numbers yet doesn’t mean they don’t exist, and it certainly doesn’t mean you should give up on marketing as a whole.