How to get marketing success in b2b marketing?

Author
Updated on
April 16, 2024

The following perspective on the primacy of strategic narrative in marketing is both insightful and resonant, particularly in the context of the overwhelming array of tactics available to marketers today. Indeed, the strategic narrative, or how a company articulates its unique position and value in the market, can be seen as the cornerstone of effective marketing. Let's unpack why this is the case and how it can be leveraged for marketing success.

Understanding Strategic Narrative

A strategic narrative is more than just a marketing message; it's the core story that encapsulates who you are as a company, why you exist, what unique value you bring to your customers, and how you differ from your competitors. This narrative forms the foundation upon which all other marketing efforts are built. It influences perception, drives engagement, and fosters loyalty.

Components of a Strong Strategic Narrative in B2b Marketing

1. Vision and Mission: Clearly articulates where the company is headed and why it exists. This helps align all stakeholders, from employees to customers.

2. Understanding the Market: A deep dive into market dynamics, consumer behaviors, and emerging trends is crucial. This understanding ensures that the narrative is not only relevant but resonant.

3. Customer Insight: Knowing your customer deeply — their pain points, desires, and behaviors — allows the narrative to be precisely tailored to speak to their needs and aspirations.

4. Differentiation: Clearly defining what sets your product or service apart from others in the market. This could be through innovation, customer service, product features, or brand experience.

The Role of Leadership in Crafting the Narrative

The development of a strategic narrative is not solely a marketing department function. It requires the insight, foresight, and commitment of the company's top leadership, including founders, the CEO, and heads of product. These leaders have the comprehensive vision of where the company is headed and are best positioned to articulate a narrative that is both authentic and ambitious.

Practical Steps to Develop and Utilize a Strategic Narrative

1. Collaborative Development: Bring key stakeholders together to craft the narrative. This should be a collaborative effort that draws on diverse insights from across the company.

2. Integration Across Channels: Once developed, the narrative should be consistently integrated across all marketing channels — from the website to social media, from content marketing to customer service.

3. Employee Engagement: Equip employees with this narrative to ensure that every customer interaction reflects the brand's core story and values.

4. Feedback Loop: Regularly collect feedback on how the narrative is resonating with customers and adjust as necessary. Marketing is dynamic; so too should be your narrative.

5. Measure Impact: Establish metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of the narrative in achieving marketing goals. This might include brand awareness metrics, customer loyalty scores, or direct feedback from customer engagement surveys.

B2B Buying: Focusing on Events, Actions, and Behaviors

In the B2B landscape, effective understanding and influencing of the buying process require a focus on tangible elements such as events, actions, and behaviors. Here's why and how you should avoid opinions, hypotheticals, and future challenges in your approach:

Why Avoid Opinions, Hypotheticals, and Future Challenges

- Opinions are Subjective: They vary greatly from person to person and can be influenced by bias, making them unreliable.
- Hypotheticals are Uncertain: These scenarios may never occur, making them a weak foundation for decision-making.
- Future Challenges are Speculative: Predicting future issues can be fraught with inaccuracies and assumptions, diverting focus from current realities.

The Power of Focusing on Events, Actions, and Behaviors

1. Understanding Context and Motivations:
  - Events: Identify key events that trigger the need for your product or service. These could be market changes, regulatory updates, or business expansions.
  - Actions: Observe what actions your potential customers are taking. This includes the steps they take to address pain points and the solutions they currently employ.
  - Behaviors: Analyze customer behaviors, such as purchasing patterns, usage data, and engagement levels with your content or product.

2. Gaining Insights into Business Impact:
  - Direct Impact: By understanding specific events, actions, and behaviors, you gain insights into how these elements directly affect your customer's business operations and outcomes.
  - Motivation and Drivers: This approach helps you uncover the true motivations behind buying decisions, allowing you to align your offerings with actual customer needs.

Implementing a Focus on Events, Actions, and Behaviors

Research and Data Collection

- Customer Interviews: Conduct interviews focusing on past events that led to purchase decisions, actions taken to solve problems, and behaviors observed during the buying process.
- Data Analytics: Use analytics tools to track and analyze customer behaviors, identifying patterns and correlations that reveal deeper insights.
- Case Studies: Develop detailed case studies highlighting specific events, actions taken, and resulting business impacts.

 Tailored Marketing and Sales Strategies

- Targeted Messaging: Create marketing messages that address specific events and actions your customers are experiencing. This makes your communication more relevant and compelling.
- Behavior-Based Segmentation: Segment your audience based on observed behaviors and tailor your marketing efforts to each segment's unique characteristics.
- Solution Demonstrations: Focus your sales demos on how your product has resolved similar events and actions for other customers, emphasizing real-world applications and outcomes.

Continuous Feedback and Adaptation

- Feedback Loops: Establish feedback loops with customers to continuously learn about new events, actions, and behaviors influencing their decisions.
- Agile Marketing: Adapt your marketing strategies based on the latest insights, ensuring your approach remains relevant and effective.

 Example: Implementing the Approach

Scenario:
- A company offers a cloud-based project management tool.

Events:
- Market shift to remote work due to a global event (e.g., pandemic).

Actions:
- Companies implementing remote work policies and seeking tools to manage dispersed teams.

Behaviors:
- Increased search and trial of remote project management solutions, higher engagement with content about remote work strategies.

Marketing Strategy:
- Develop content addressing the challenges of remote team management.
- Highlight case studies where the tool helped other companies transition to remote work smoothly.
- Create targeted campaigns for companies that recently announced remote work policies.

Focusing on events, actions, and behaviors allows you to gain a clear, objective understanding of your customers' contexts and motivations. This approach provides actionable insights that drive effective marketing and sales strategies, ultimately leading to more successful B2B engagements. Avoid the pitfalls of subjective opinions and speculative scenarios, and ground your strategies in the reality of your customers' experiences and needs.

Making your marketing customer-centric rather than product-centric.

The storytelling framework is a potent tool for making your marketing customer-centric rather than product-centric. By focusing on the customer's journey and experiences, this framework can dramatically improve how your message resonates with your audience.

1. Normal

  • Identify the Problem:Start by clearly defining the common problems or challenges that your target audience faces. This helps in establishing a connection with the viewer or reader by tapping into their current realities.
  • Highlight the Pain:Discuss the emotional or practical pain points associated with these problems. What are the consequences of these issues? How do they affect the daily lives of your customers?
  • Stress the Urgency:Amplify the urgency of these problems. What is at stake if these issues remain unresolved? This helps in creating a sense of immediacy and increases the relevance of your solution.

2. Explosion

  • Introduce Your Solution:Present your product or service as the key to solving the identified problems. This is the "explosion" that disrupts their 'normal.'
  • Describe the Ease and Relief:Explain how your product or service makes their life easier. Focus on the user experience, the ease of integration, or operation, and the immediate relief it provides.
  • Emotional Connection:Describe what it feels like to use your product or service. How does it change their emotional state? This can be a feeling of relief, happiness, security, or any positive emotion associated with alleviating their pain.

3. New Normal

  • Illustrate the Transformation:Paint a picture of what life looks like with your solution fully integrated. How is their day-to-day life improved?
  • Emphasize the Positive Emotions:Focus on the positive emotions associated with the new normal. Are they more relaxed? Do they have more time for personal pursuits or family?
  • Highlight Resolved Pain Points:Reiterate which pain points are now non-issues. This reaffirms the value of your solution and helps the customer envision a life without the stressors you initially described.

B2B marketing has evolved beyond just digital ads into areas that foster deeper engagement and brand loyalty. It's crucial to integrate strong product marketing that involves detailed storytelling and clear communication of value propositions on your website. CEOs should leverage social media for thought leadership, directly engaging with their audience rather than relying solely on traditional media. Building a trusted brand through consistent, high-quality content across various channels like podcasts, events, and social media is essential. These efforts help create a recognizable presence that can significantly ease long sales cycles by fostering familiarity and trust.

From Marketing Manager to CMO: 16 Essential Lessons

1. Forget Acronyms
Avoid over-reliance on industry jargon and acronyms. Clear, straightforward communication fosters better understanding and alignment across departments.

2. The Story is the Strategy
A compelling narrative is crucial. Crafting a strong brand story that resonates with your audience should be at the heart of your marketing strategy.

3. Think Hard About “Offers”
Carefully design your offers and promotions. They should not only attract attention but also align with your brand values and long-term goals.

4. Push Your Team Past Incremental Thinking
Encourage your team to think beyond small, incremental improvements. Foster a culture of innovation and bold thinking to achieve breakthrough results.

5. Get on the Same Page as Sales
Aligning marketing and sales is essential. Work closely with the sales team to ensure shared goals, consistent messaging, and a seamless customer journey.

6. Don’t “Be” Finance and Ops...Partner with Them
While understanding finance and operations is important, your role is to collaborate with these departments, not to micromanage them. Build strong partnerships to drive collective success.

7. Master Internal Communication
Effective internal communication is key to ensuring everyone is aligned and informed. Regular updates, clear messaging, and open channels for feedback are essential.

8. Articulate the Strategy
Clearly communicate your marketing strategy to your team and stakeholders. Ensure everyone understands the objectives, plans, and their role in achieving them.

9. Think Short-and-Long-Term
Balance immediate goals with long-term vision. Plan for quick wins that contribute to broader strategic objectives.

10. Understand What the CEO Cares About
Align your priorities with the CEO’s vision and business goals. Demonstrating how marketing contributes to overall company success is crucial for gaining support and resources.

11. Make Hiring Your Job, Not a Side Project
Treat hiring as a top priority. Building a strong, capable team is critical to achieving your marketing objectives.

12. Create Your Own Momentum
Take initiative and drive your projects forward. Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you; create them.

13. Your Job is to Get the Job Done
Focus on delivering results. Be outcome-oriented and ensure that your efforts translate into tangible business success.

14. But Do the Job First, Before Hiring Externally
Prove the value of your strategies and initiatives before seeking external hires. This builds credibility and ensures that new hires are stepping into well-defined roles.

15. Get Comfortable Making Bets Without Perfect Data
Decision-making often involves uncertainty. Be willing to take calculated risks and make decisions with imperfect information.

16. Spend the Budget (All of It)
Efficiently utilize your marketing budget. Underspending can indicate a lack of ambition or missed opportunities. Ensure every dollar is working towards your strategic goals.

By embracing these lessons, Dave Gerhardt transitioned from a marketing manager to a CMO effectively, leading the team with vision and achieving impactful results for the organization.

The evolution of marketing strategies over just a few years is remarkable, isn't it? In 2021, many held the belief that outbound efforts, such as cold emails, were merely noisy and ineffective, with only a minuscule chance of converting into actual customers. Display ads were often dismissed as wasteful expenses, and being at the top of Google's search results seemed like the ultimate guarantee of visibility and success.

Fast forward to 2024, and we're witnessing a paradigm shift in these perceptions. Outbound strategies have demonstrated their potential to drive substantial revenue, with personalized outreach leading to impressive deal closures. Meanwhile, display ads have found a new purpose within the context of account-based marketing, providing valuable insights into buyer behavior and facilitating retargeting efforts across multiple platforms.

As for search engine rankings, while being #1 on Google remains valuable, it's no longer the sole determinant of success. Today's landscape demands a multifaceted approach that includes active engagement in Slack communities, social media platforms, and other interactive channels where meaningful conversations with buyers take place. This shift from keyword-centric strategies to buyer-centric interactions represents a fundamental change in how brands connect with their audiences.

In essence, the marketing landscape of 2024 underscores the importance of adaptability and agility. Success lies not in adhering to outdated beliefs, but in embracing new technologies and methodologies that empower brands to engage with their audience in meaningful ways. It's a dynamic environment where innovation and relevance reign supreme, and those who can navigate it effectively stand to reap the rewards of heightened customer engagement and increased revenue.

The Realities of B2B Marketing: Patience is Key

In B2B marketing, results don't appear overnight. Just like when shopping for personal items, where we might let 15 items sit in the cart for days, the process is even more complex for B2B SaaS purchases. Consider this scenario:

- The purchase involves $20k+
- There are 10 stakeholders
- Alternatives are being evaluated
- Peers' opinions are considered
- A complex procurement process is in play

No amount of conversion rate optimization can change the fact that B2B marketing requires time and persistence. Remember the number 34. On average, a buyer engages with 34 touchpoints before becoming a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL).

So, if a prospective buyer doesn't immediately click a CTA, it doesn't mean they aren't interested, your campaign failed, or your page is ineffective. It could mean they are:

- Collecting information
- Considering the solution
- Evaluating all options
- Seeking approval before reaching out

They might be ready to talk on their 35th visit. Hence, B2B marketing is fundamentally a game of patience.

In the meantime, focus on:
1. Signals of content consumption
2. Return visits to the site
3. Changes in the overall count of handraisers

The marketing efforts you put in today will generate revenue later. If patience isn't your virtue, you could buy leads for 7 cents each, but be prepared for a hit in the quality of your pipeline and eventual revenue.

In B2B marketing, patience and persistent nurturing of leads are essential for long-term success.

Final Thoughts

Your emphasis on strategic narrative as a "magic pill" for marketing success highlights its fundamental role in not only distinguishing a company in a crowded market but also in building a lasting connection with customers. By focusing on developing a clear and compelling company story, businesses can enhance all other marketing efforts, ensuring they are not just seen, but understood and appreciated in the ways that matter most. This approach not only survives budget cuts but thrives on them, by focusing resources on what truly propels long-term growth.

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