Over the past few years, we’ve witnessed a variety of B2B brands that are competing to engage buyers in new and unique ways. In BrightTALK's keynote webinar from Reach 2022 day 1, Reaching B2B Buyers in an Unpredictable Era, David Pitta, CMO (BrightTALK) and Jann Martin Schwarz, Senior Director, Global Head (The B2B Institute, LinkedIn) provide excellent insights for B2B marketers in 2022 and beyond. Companies that are succeeding in their marketing efforts today aren’t afraid to take bold steps with distinctive strategies while adapting to our ever-changing climate.
Some organizations may view lead generation and brand awareness as two separate goals, however trends in B2B marketing would suggest that they are one in the same. You cannot rely on lead generation without factoring in that brand building is what increases customer awareness, product knowledge, and a solid company reputation. Lead generation also requires an audience who is ready to buy, but your organization needs to nurture those leads even before they enter the sales funnel. Without brand recognition, lead generation becomes much more difficult if not impossible.
In day 1 of Reach 2022, Jann Martin Schwarz speaks often about the 95-5 rule, which is the ratio of buyers in any major B2B category that are currently not in market, vs in-market. Only about 5% of companies are actually ready and able to buy. According to Schwarz, “marketers treat the space that they are covering as if the majority of people was in market, just waiting to buy…even the people who are supposed to care are not currently in market - they will care a year from now, three years from now, hard to tell - but right now the majority doesn’t care…and the sooner we realize that maybe we should think about finding ways to reach the 95% of potential customers who would…actually benefit from knowing that we exist…that’s where we need to focus.”
“Marketers treat the space that they are covering as if the majority of people was in market, just waiting to buy…even the people who are supposed to care are not currently in market - they will care a year from now, three years from now, hard to tell - but right now the majority doesn’t care…and the sooner we realize that maybe we should think about finding ways to reach the 95% of potential customers who would…actually benefit from knowing that we exist…that’s where we need to focus.” - Jann Martin Schwarz
Marketing can help ensure long-term cash flow and overall success for your company by building an emotional connection through brand recognition. As a result, lead generation becomes much easier because you’re working with an audience who already knows who your brand is, and what you’re known for. As far as sales funnel versus building brand awareness, in a perfect world you would put the mass majority of your advertising spend toward long term brand building and a smaller amount towards sales funnel optimization. The reason that’s unlikely to happen is because everyone cares a lot more about the short term with easily measured outcomes, and not everyone has the patience to wait for the long term results. A balance is required to invest in value over the long term by ensuring that marketing and sales are properly aligned.
Sales and marketing alignment is not a new idea, but it is a topic that BrightTALK’s audience is consistently engaging with. In Reaching B2B Buyers in an Unpredictable Era, Jann Martin Schwarz and David Pitta discuss how there is often a large emphasis on marketing as a sales support system, however that is just one role of many that marketing is responsible for. Sales teams typically want some help closing deals, but you can’t retain the best sales team without the brand reputation first.
There’s a big difference between short term revenue and future revenue as well. Anything that doesn’t support immediate cash flow often gets pushed aside, which can create problems for the brand's growth. Schwarz uses a great example of a Christmas tree farm – If you cut down all the trees now to make as much money as possible and don’t save any trees, it’s going to take 3-5 years to grow the full trees again. No money will be made in those 3-5 years and the company will go out of business. This is a case where a company is investing in short term activation without understanding that they have to plant new trees for the future, and it’ll take time to grow those new trees. Long term brand building that creates memory structures will take time, but once those relationships are acquired they are very valuable to a company.
According to Schwarz, ABM (Account Based Marketing) can often be applied in the wrong way, where everything else can fall by the wayside. It is limiting to focus only on something that’s easy to measure and explain, but you can leave out a lot of value with the items that are more difficult to measure. You can’t easily quantify some of your results, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them. ABM is also not something that differentiates you among your competitors because they’re very likely to be using the same tactics. You still cannot ignore the 95% of people who haven’t bought from you yet but will be in market in the future. You can also become obsessed with hyper targeting as an efficiency tool, when you are only targeting and prioritizing the accounts your company is already aware of. Both expanding the pool of potential customers while making sure that 5% will actually convert are necessary. Brand building works in different ways, and it will hurt you if you’re not targeting a large enough audience because no one will have heard of your brand. By the time you’re ready to close your deal, the audience segment has already changed. You build a competitive advantage by nurturing your audience long before they are in-market.
There’s a bias in favor of newness because companies don’t want to be seen as inactive, but it’s still important to make choices and follow through with them. Patience with brand messaging is necessary in order to build memory structures in the 95% audience, increase brand equity and overall value. You also need to remember that it’s much more difficult for your competitors to replicate what you’ve done when it’s your unique story that you’ve always told. The fundamental principle of the contrarian matrix that Schwarz and Pitta discuss is that “you can be right or wrong and you can be popular i.e. consensus opinion or you can be unpopular i.e. contrarian opinion." Out of those 4 combinations, no one wants to be wrong. But if you think you’re right and popular, that isn’t necessarily better than being right and unpopular. Some of the most successful people and businesses have been right and unpopular in the short term, then right and popular in the long term. Being contrarian, doing things differently, and having the courage to admit that not everything is linear or straightforward, will help set you apart from the others who will give up at the beginning.
"The first rule of marketing should be: they have to know you exist, and they have to remember it's you" - Jann Martin Schwarz
Schwarz and Pitta further discuss how successful advertising can work in a much more indirect way and a much more probabilistic way. You cannot continue to do the same things and expect the exact same results, and it is very difficult to predict buyer behavior. Prospects are constantly shifting from in-market to out of market, or bottom of funnel to top of funnel. One reason that may explain this is that many buying decisions are done so subconsciously. Items that are familiar to us tend to make us feel calm, confident, and trusting. While something that is unfamiliar tends to do the opposite, making us feel that it is a potential threat because it is unknown to us. A positively recognized company logo for instance makes you feel more comfortable, and you think of their products as better, more reliable and a lower risk to buy. Schwarz makes a fantastic point that marketing and advertising is always being targeted towards humans, whether B2B or B2C, and will continue to be about humans and revolve around how the human mind works.
Owning a strong brand is not unlike being a celebrity, according to Schwarz. You may get seated at a better table at a restaurant, upgraded when you fly, and even book meetings with important people right away. This sense of fame, or brand recognition, makes it much easier to acquire talent and opens your organization to a lot more opportunities. You cannot get there without looking at the big picture, or through a long-term lens. One issue that often gets in the way of long-term thinking is that humans tend to be risk-averse. This is a big struggle within B2B where there are higher stakes and people become defensive decision makers. Employees want to survive and sometimes taking risks is difficult to communicate to their team, especially stakeholders.
A valuable brand is an asset that requires investment just like anything else. It's important to consider much the brand itself helps recruit the right talent, build partnerships, and more just by positive brand recognition. CFO's and other leaders like tangible things, but ultimately you have to get excited about value creation from intangible and indirect, but more powerful sources. Successful strategy is about creating something that wasn’t true until you did something, and all of a sudden it became true. Two core functions are innovation and marketing, and everything else is support - when you bring the two together, that’s where value creation happens.
Are you looking to step up your B2B lead generation strategies and increase ROI this year? Discover valuable insights through our Reach 2022 Summit available on-demand with topics ranging from sales and marketing alignment, webinar workflows, repurposing content and more. Watch the full on-demand webinar for Reaching B2B Buyers in an Unpredictable Era to get started.
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