The long, the short and the reality of B2B marketing: Part 2
This is the second blog post in a two-part series from the CMA B2B Council, diving into the topic of short-term conversion and long-term brand plays. Read Part 1.
In Part 1 of this two-part series, we presented the 60:40 Rule, a key finding of the ground-breaking marketing effectiveness study, “The Long and the Short of It” (The Long and Short), which can be described as:
To maximize long-term brand profitability, the ideal investment proportion of long-term (brand/building) strategy and short-term (activation/performance) strategy is 60:40.
The 60:40 Rule has been upheld by international research over the 10 years since its creation, including Canadian research done in 2022. The reality, however, is that many Canadian B2B marketers cannot directly control budget allocation. As well, there is growing pressure to produce short-term results, especially in difficult economic times. Given all of this, we provide further thoughts and possible ways forward.
Below are additional perspectives:
“Marketing outside the marketing budget” – recommended by Steve Lendt, Director, Engagement and Analytics, Motum B2B
During my corporate marketing days at a luxury fashion retailer, I came across the concept of organizations treating their employees in the same way that the company asks employees to treat customers. It was a bona fide “aha”’ moment, well before employee marketing was widely recognized. I was hired as part of an employee marketing task force within the HR department and assigned to work on how to sell, not tell, employees what to do. I knew then we were onto something. I asked the VP about the available budget, only to be told there was no budget.
With a new director, we went to work on building the case for a bigger budget needed to treat employees the way a high-end luxury retailer would treat its customers – with “white-glove” VIP service. We pitched several key marketing concepts to give employee marketing in HR a fighting chance: regular and frequent employee communication that would inspire others, improved compensation packages with options for an employee to choose the right plan for them, an online portal to celebrate service milestones with luxury brands that the retailer carried, and a superstar event gala with awards that would see high performers recognized and celebrated.
These tactics were intended to reflect luxury at every touchpoint. Luxury is costly, so we pitched a budget that was in line to cover its expensiveness. We were given 10 per cent of what we asked for and were told to make it work. And we did.
By the time I left the role, most of what we branded was baked into every internal facet of the 5,000-employee organization, covering Canada – all from the idea that marketing to your staff builds brand equity in the same way it does for customers.
“Optimize your B2B marketing mix” – recommended by Tristan Retelsdorf, Director of Marketing, TELUS Business
Your brand is more than your budget. Building a B2B brand is not just about having a catchy name, a fancy logo or a multi-million-dollar budget. It all comes back to good marketing fundamentals: Having a clear message that is consistently applied over as many touchpoints as possible. Some steps are outlined below:
1. Know your audience
The first step to building a brand is to identify who you are trying to reach and what they care about. You need to understand their pain points, goals, preferences and motivations. You also need to narrow down your niche and focus on a specific segment of the market that you can serve better than anyone else. A good rule to remember is "if you're not targeting, you're not marketing.”
2. Tell your story
The next step to building a brand is to craft your brand story. This is the narrative that explains who you are, what you do, why you do it and how you do it differently. Your brand story should be authentic, compelling and consistent across all of your channels and touchpoints.
3. Create your marketing assets
The third step to building a brand is to design your brand assets. These are the visual and verbal elements that represent your brand identity and personality. Anything a customer may see, consume or interact with needs to have consistent use of logos, colours, fonts, images, tone of voice, slogan and more. Your brand assets should be distinctive, memorable and aligned with your brand story. It’s important to be disciplined – consistently applying your brand is not as easy as it seems.
4. Empower your sales team
Finally, empower your sales team to be your brand ambassadors. The B2B sales team is often the most prominent face of your company and the main point of contact for your potential customers. Every email, phone call and meeting is about building your brand. To empower your sales team, you need to provide them with the right tools, training and incentives to deliver a consistent and compelling brand message across all stages of the sales cycle. You also need to encourage them to adopt a modern approach to B2B sales that leverages digital channels such as social media, email and video to engage with prospects in a personalized and human way.
Building a B2B brand with little or no budget is not impossible. It requires creativity, consistency and commitment. By following these four steps, you can create a brand that resonates with your audience and sets you apart from your competitors.
While the 60:40 Rule is real, we should consider it in the context of the entire marketing mix. In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, we’ve provided examples of ways that Canadian B2B marketers are achieving it, from multiple points of view.
Let’s also consider a few other ideas:
- Continue championing the 60:40 Rule. It seems counterintuitive to some, but it is based on solid research.
- In performance/conversion marketing creative, inject as much brand strategy as possible. There is new research indicating that dual purpose creative (conversion and brand) may not be the most effective or efficient way to achieve short- and long-term goals, but it can work, and separate campaigns aren’t affordable for many brands.
- Look for creative ways to trigger short-term conversion other than price discounting. It's the latter that hurts a brand's long-term profitability.
Jay Badiani, CMO, IBM Canada
Dave Burnett, CEO, AOK Marketing
Steve Lendt, Director, Engagement and Analytics, Motum B2B
Tristan Retelsdorf, Director of Marketing, TELUS Business
Robert Wyatt, Business Services Director, Optima Communications International