A Love Letter to B2B Marketers

Musings & Advice
Roses are red, violets are blue, let's make your brand marketing dreams come true.
By 
Emily Valentine
February 14, 2024
Musings & Advice
Roses are red, violets are blue, let's make your brand marketing dreams come true.
By 
Emily Valentine
February 14, 2024

Dear B2B Marketing Professional,

Was that you last week at your desk trying to get that last email out—and getting distracted by Oreo’s Superbowl teaser commercial? “What must it be like” you wondered, “to not only have budget for a Superbowl commercial—but for a commercial for your commercial?” You turned back to your inbox and sighed. Another year, another push from the top for “marketing to deliver more leads.”

Of course, you understand that the ultimate aim of marketing is to deliver more leads. But you also know what many of your peers tend to forget – that at this moment, 95% of your target market is floating in ignorant bliss, nowhere near ready to purchase from you. And a “Buy now!” approach to marketing isn’t going to move them—but maybe with more attention, more time, more story...    

Sweet B2B marketer, before you turn back to your emails with furrowed brow, look deep into our eyes – because we know you’re thinking what we’re thinking.

To feed that sales funnel, you need brand marketing.

Often kept on the sidelines in B2B organizations, brand marketing is what you know will help you:

  • Stir emotions (because you know even procurement officers like to feel things)
  • Leave a lasting impression (Geico gecko anyone?)
  • Achieve cumulative effects (boosting your sales, profits and market share over time)

If your organization isn't investing in brand marketing, you're missing the Taylor to your Travis. And this is the year to make the case for it.

“But we’re in B2B!” you say, shaking your head. “It’ll never work!”

As always, we’re in your corner with pro tips to share. In our experience, there are three common obstacles that stand in the way of your B2B brand marketing dreams—and together, baby, we can overcome them.

Obstacle #1 – Spreading marketing dollars too thin across a large portfolio.  

For marketing teams who have to juggle competing priorities and shrinking budgets, there’s a strong temptation (read: pressure) to make one marketing campaign to deliver on both brand marketing and lead generation. It can seem like every product manager, salesperson and executive has their own set of burning marketing needs and they’ve all got you on speed dial.  

What you can do about it:

Strike an intentional balance. Doing brand marketing right does not mean casting aside your sales and lead-gen activations entirely. It means seeking an intentional balance between the immediate gratification of lead generation and the delayed, cumulative rewards of long-term brand building. Binet and Field recommend a 54%/46% budget ratio as best practice.

Obstacle #2 – Slipping into the ROI trap.  

Naturally, leaders want to see what they are getting in return for their investment in marketing. And that can skew budget allocations toward lead gen because the results are easier to quickly quantify. Brand marketing is more challenging because it works on a longer time scale, but that doesn’t mean it lacks value. Quite the contrary – the longer you keep at it, the better your results.

What you can do about it:

Commit to the long game. Brands that play the long game of brand marketing see better business outcomes across nearly every metric: sales, market share, loyalty and profit growth. Over time, brand-building leads to more substantive sales uplifts, while lead-gen or sales activations deliver the same kinds of short-lived spikes. But most people aren’t privy to that information. Drawing on industry research from the CMO Institute, Ehrenberg-Bass and Binet and Field, you can make a strong case that long-term brand marketing will convert leads to sales more efficiently.

Obstacle #3 – Conflating marketing risk with business risk.

For Nike, taking a marketing risk may mean putting millions of dollars into a partnership with Colin Kaepernick, but for most companies, risk-taking in marketing is less about what you’re adding and more about what you’re subtracting. That can mean targeting a more focused set of verticals, using a more streamlined set of messages, and/or making a bigger splash on a smaller set of marketing channels.  

What you can do about it:  

No pain, no gain. B2B leaders and marketers may need to be reminded that adding impact sometimes means subtracting traditionally accepted tactics. Help them see that what can feel like taking a loss is actually taking a strategic step toward long-term business gains.  

Take Airbnb, for example. In 2019, the company made the risky decision to slash its lead generation budgets and put more into brand marketing. Within 2-3 years, the company announced its most profitable quarter to date, with leadership crediting its reallocation of marketing funds for the improved ROI.

Forever Yours

Dear B2B marketer, if brand marketing for your B2B company still seems far off, don’t despair. The first step to change is knowing what’s possible and what might stand in your way. You may find that a little outside perspective (like the data points above) goes a long way in reshaping the B2B marketing worldview in your organization.  

But should you need help building or advocating for your case, don't hesitate to give us a shout ;)

With love,

Joe Smith

Written by Emily Valentine & Catherine Goodson

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