It’s 2022 and B2B marketing is hot.
Every week I read another case study from a company that has evolved beyond thinking that the function exists simply to send out the odd press release or make decks “look pretty”.
It’s obvious why if you think about it. Buyers are just different from ten years ago; they do the majority of their research online, are more likely to care about the brand and values of the companies they do business with, and find ways to connect with their work 24/7.
On the other side, the barriers to marketing entry that have existed historically (can you even compete if you’re not spending six figures on a tradeshow booth?) are pretty much gone. If you’ve got something to say and the will to say it, you can get in front of potential customers almost immediately.
CEOs know they have to invest in marketing to compete. But for many, knowing where to start – and how to avoid the pitfalls that will result in wasted budget + bandwidth – can be a tough nut to crack.
So, I called in some help from the people who have done it all before.
Below you’ll find the answers from twelve of the smartest marketers I know to a simple question – what’s an easily avoidable mistake companies make when building a marketing strategy from scratch?
Jeremy Moser, Co-Founder and CEO at uSerp
A common one I see is picking channels simply because they’re popular or viral at the moment. It’s critical to understand if that new channel is long-term or short-term, has your target market active on it, and how you can reach them without creating a negative brand image.
Developing an entirely new channel-based strategy is time-consuming and costly, not just in direct spend for content creation and promotion, but the opportunity cost of taking the time to learn new platforms instead of doubling down on what’s already working.
Pick channels that serve your top-line strategy and have clear, realistic purposes as a piece of the overall marketing puzzle.
Tina Donati, Marketing Lead at Fuel Made and Writer
I’ve worked full-time and freelanced for several B2B businesses over the years, and I tend to see this as the most common mistake when building a marketing strategy from scratch – not having clear positioning.
People often confuse brand positioning with a marketing strategy, but they couldn’t be more different. Instead, your positioning should be what helps influence your marketing strategy.
At a really high level, positioning is how your product or service compares to its competitors, including how you define it, how it competes, what’s unique or different about it, and how it’s viewed in the mind of your ideal customer.
I’ve seen too many startup businesses ignore their positioning and instead dive right into marketing their product/service. This leads to mixed messaging about your business and what it offers. Then, a few years down the road, the business runs into a huge problem because people aren’t buying since they don’t know how to properly position their product in the market.
My advice? Come up with your brand positioning at the very beginning, and stick to it. The best thing you can have is consistency. Even if your business is a few years old now, run a positioning exercise before it’s too late and maintain the key messages you come up with from it.
Andrea Bosoni, Founder of Zero to Marketing
In my experience, companies building a marketing strategy from scratch don’t spend enough time thinking about their positioning. In fact, they often tend to focus most of their efforts on tactics to drive as much traffic as possible. But without a strong positioning – the key to product/market fit – it’s basically throwing things against a wall hoping some stick.
Defining who your product is for and what problem it solves is a good starting point but it’s not enough anymore. Companies need to have a clear answer to the implicit question people have when they see a new product – “why should I choose it over the market leader?”
In a word – differentiation.
Sara Ott, Head of Community Experience at Hound.vet
Stretching yourself too thin and focusing only on quick wins. It can be enticing to want to make a big splash and do everything at once, but you have to be strategic. If you try to go for every distribution channel and create original content for every single one, you’re gonna burn out and become inconsistent very quickly. But, if you go all-in on just paid ads or conversion-oriented metrics, you’ll only see quick rewards with little long-term payoff.
Secondly, when first starting out, a lot of your “wins” depend on how investors and leaders perceive them. You have to have a healthy mixture of metrics and wins you can show investors tomorrow while also setting yourself up well in the long run to show your Series B and beyond investors. Balance and sustainable growth are the keys to success for your marketing strategy.
Marc Thomas, Head of Growth at Powered by Search
Marketers are pretty bad at estimating the amount of cash and time they’re going to need to get their marketing goals hit. An easy way to improve is to set the desired end result, then plugin conversion and traffic numbers they already know in order to estimate (roughly) how much budget and resource they’ll need to grow to their goal.
Katelyn Bourgoin, CEO at Customer Camp
Too many marketers get caught up with chasing the latest trend or copying what competitors are doing. When building a marketing strategy, they look to their peers for inspiration rather than learning from the people who really matter: their customers.
If you don’t know exactly which customers to target or what fuels their buying decisions, it doesn’t matter how great your strategy looks on paper. It probably won’t work. What is a better way? Start with your buyers’ needs and work backwards to the strategy.
Dagobert Renouf, Founder of Logology
The mistake I made was to copy strategies that worked for bigger startups, although I was still running a tiny one. For example, paid ads work great once you have brand recognition and happy customers. But when I invested $500 doing that, it completely failed. The reason is people didn’t know us, and I still hadn’t figured out the right messaging.
I did way better by focusing on building a Twitter audience. It allowed me to connect with people directly and build trust over time. I could iterate on my messaging until I figured it out, without breaking the bank.
As a bonus, it converts very well to sales, since people naturally trust a real person more than just a random ad. Focus on organic first, then paid strategies when you’re ready.
Darryl Sparey, Managing Director at Hard Numbers
I think the biggest mistakes fall into three areas.
Firstly, not having a clear idea of who you’re marketing to. Who is your Ideal Customer Prospect, and what motivates and interests them?
The second area is thinking tactics and channels too early in the process. “We need a TikTok channel” or “We should do more video” etc… If you understand who you’re marketing to, and what they pay attention to, you’ll pick the right channels and approaches to reach your prospects. Your choice of channels and tactics should be driven, ultimately, from your understanding of what influences the customer’s buying decision.
And finally, it’s understanding the cost of marketing. Everything has a cost – email or social media aren’t “free”. Whether it’s time or opportunity cost, cap-ex or op-ex, everything has a cost, and what you decide not to do is as important as what you do.
Bethan Vincent, Marketing Consultant and Fractional CMO
One of the common mistakes I see is that companies neglect the stage before building a marketing strategy – developing an overarching business strategy. This document articulates how the business will leverage all of its functions to sustain and grow market share over the short, medium and long term. The business strategy should be developed by the entire senior management team and marketing should have a seat at this table!
Ultimately the marketing strategy has to articulate how marketing will contribute to delivering on the businesses, mission and long term goals. If these are absent, it’s hard to set any kind of marketing direction.
So if you’re asked to develop a marketing strategy, your first step is to ask for the business strategy. If there isn’t one, you need to push for it to be developed.
Ryan Bonnici, Chief Marketing Officer at Whereby
I think the biggest mistake most companies make when building a marketing strategy from scratch is they let their ego get the better of them and so they try and target all the buyers, as opposed to specific buyer personas. I’d recommend starting with less, maybe even just one, and then expanding over time. You can’t be everything to everyone – and if you try you’ll likely be nothing to no one.
Olu Adedeji, CEO at Prelo
As a 2x founder, I’m obsessed with marketing and have seen so many companies make fundamental mistakes when creating marketing strategies. We’ve all made our own fair share of operational mistakes, and I’ll own up to mine, but I’m talking specifically about “avoidable strategic mistakes”.
My pet peeve is “shabby” target audience analysis. When companies fail to clearly identify their target audience, they end up spending more money on keeping “leaky” sales pipelines full and less money on other parts of the organisation that need it.
Companies must understand where their target audience spends its time because this cuts down on unnecessary marketing spending across redundant distribution channels. My heart sinks a little every time I speak with a company, and they say “we’re creating a marketing plan and schedule for Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and Tumblr.”
(OK, maybe not Tumblr but you get the gist)
Organisations that build strategic marketing plans with data from detailed target audience analysis tend to create profitable distribution channels and build better brand equity through positive customer interactions.
Brett McGrath, VP Marketing at The Juice
The biggest mistake that I see early-stage companies make with their marketing is not activating the voices inside of their company to help validate their story.
People want to hear and learn from people. The rise of the individual creator is roaring across industries and is still very new to B2B marketing. That’s where the opportunity exists and brands like Drift, Chili Piper, and Gong get it. They empower their teams to build personal brands through their social accounts, podcasts, and YouTube channels.
Early-stage companies can avoid boring marketing by letting their people be their top distribution channel.