TLDR: B2B marketing is maturing as a business function that can significantly contribute to a company’s financial success. But to continue unlocking bigger budgets, we must focus on the marketing metrics that allow us to capture demand today AND foster demand for tomorrow.
B2B marketing has come a long way in the last five years.
What was once considered a function that ‘helped make decks look pretty’ is increasingly looked to as the secret sauce to unlocking long-term, sustainable business growth.
Just look at the recent Gartner research that shows that 73% of CMOs expect their budget to increase in the next 12 months – despite the impact of the pandemic.
And – finally! – the idea of B2B marketing being ‘boring’ is outdated and incorrect. In fact, evidence would suggest that the former is starting to outpace its B2C cousin across a number of key performance drivers.
With larger budgets has come a greater expectation for quantifiable results, quite understandably. CEOs (and perhaps more importantly, CFOs) want to see a cause and effect – “if we spend $1 on X channel, we want to see $3 back.”
This has led to the explosion of attribution platforms available to marketers that provide a granular view on exactly how a buyer has engaged with a brand before purchase, fuelling the colossal growth of performance marketing teams across the world.
Sounds great so far, right?
There’s a catch.
As we’ve relied more and more on attribution platforms to guide our decision-making, we’ve boxed ourselves into justifying our existence against their limitations.
Think of this.
Your company uses a platform that’s hooked up to all your digital channels to measure a potential customer’s journey through the funnel. It’s easy to see that they visited your website, browsed your blog for a few minutes, and filled out a form to download a white paper.
Great! Another lead to pass on to sales and an even stronger case next year for more budget to create white papers. Because that’s what works, right?
Only thing is that the lead went nowhere.
Sales followed up a couple of times with the prospect via email, but never got a response.
We’re incentivised to chase after lightweight, transactional metrics like ‘leads’ because that is what’s measurable by our technology – despite these metrics being proven to deliver a poor conversion rate into actual business outcomes.
And this results in companies all producing the same sales activation marketing strategies with diminishing returns that focus exclusively on capturing demand today, not nurturing demand for tomorrow.
And this creates companies that are risk-averse, creatively stunted and ill-equipped to handle evolving B2B buyer behaviours.
How do you solve this?
I believe the answer lies in more creative goal setting.
Finding the right mix of revenue-based quantitative objectives that unquestionably prove the commercial value of a marketing function and brand-based qualitative objectives that focus on building the long-term demand of an organisation.
Here are some examples of what this could look like in practice for a marketing lead within a B2B company, written as OKRs:
> Quantitative Goals
Objective: Ensure the company meets revenue target
Key Result: Increase inbound-sourced sales by 20% by Q3
Objective: Increase sales velocity
Key Result: Reduce average buying cycle by 10% through ABM programme
Objective: Grow marketing’s contribution to qualified pipeline
Key Result: Create 3 net-new opportunities that become qualified pipeline in 2022
> Qualitative Goals
Objective: Delight all prospects that have received a product demo
Key Result: Run 3 surprise and delight campaigns per quarter
Objective: Keep us top of mind for potential buyers
Key Result: Create a ‘retweetable’ asset every week during Q2
Objective: Don’t allow our marketing to become creatively staleKey Result: Run an ‘inspiration session’ each month with the team – activate at least one idea
Looking at the first three goals, they will be somewhat familiar to any marketer that’s ever reported directly into the C-suite (or sat within it) and should be the foundation from which any team builds their strategy upon.
They are designed to capture in-market demand – customers who are shopping for a product like the one you sell right now. And as a result, they will typically yield mid- to bottom-of-the-funnel activations, like product or account-based marketing.
The last three goals are far more rare to see on the annual OKR sheet of a senior marketer. But arguably, they are what will preserve the long-term health of their function and the business as a whole.
They are designed to be ambiguous and creatively liberating.
To give permission to take risks and venture on a new path of discovery.
To experiment with the unknown and draw inspiration from unexpected places.
Ultimately, these goals will contribute to generating out-of-market demand for your product or service and help bring customers to you when they’re ready, instead of you going to them when they’re not.
They will guide you in creating a brand buyers still want to do business with long into the future.
B2B marketing is maturing as a business function that can significantly contribute to a company’s financial success. But to continue unlocking bigger budgets, we must focus on the marketing metrics that allow us to capture demand today AND foster demand for tomorrow.