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Why Marketing Doesn’t Work

John Wanamaker famously said, “I know half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, but I can never find out which half.” If you’re involved in a small or mid-market B2B company, you probably wish you were only wasting half of your marketing money.

dollar-941246_1280One of the largest vulnerabilities of small and mid-market (SMB) companies is that they under-invest (in a BIG way) in marketing. It’s not unusual to find companies doing hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue that have virtually no marketing function whatsoever.

How can this be?

The answer is quite simple – marketing, at least how it’s primarily taught and implemented – DOESN’T WORK!
The fundamental problem with 95%+ of SMB marketing efforts is that the marketing effort is disconnected from the sales process.

There are only two reasons that a company should market:

  • Get more business
  • Keep the business they have

That’s it!

You don’t market to create awareness, you don’t market to create thought leadership, you don’t market to make yourself feel good. The only reason you should spend a dollar on marketing is because it causes revenue to increase.

Awareness only matters if that awareness moves one down the (new) marketing funnel, towards becoming a customer. Thought leadership only matters if it moves a customer to action.

And the reality is that most marketing activities don’t move people to action and are completely disconnected from “creating customers.”

The reason for this is simple. Virtually everything espoused from (so-called) marketing experts is merely a rehash of consumer-product marketing, weakly translated for SMB B2B companies. I’ve got news for everyone, what works for Proctor and Gamble, Coca-Cola and McDonalds DOES NOT WORK for the $5 – $500 million B2B company, and it sure as hell doesn’t work for companies smaller than that.

Terms like “top of mind awareness,” “wallet-share,” “brand image,” etc. matter when you are competing to influence a decision that is made in less than 3 seconds, in the aisle of a grocery store where your competitor’s products are sitting right next to yours. When you’re competing in markets of millions of customers the game is different.

The B2B sale is a completely different beast. With B2B the sale can take years (even if your “sales cycle” is months). There are multiple people involved in buying, and they all have competing priorities, values and interests. The investment you are asking them to make is magnitude’s larger, and the risk is huge! Whenever change is involved buying, the entire decision process is skewed.

In B2B, marketing’s job is to cultivate. It must soften the market, helping them understand the value proposition you bring to the table. It must provoke and educate, focusing on the problem rather than the solution. It must be a process that is fully, completely and totally integrated into sales process. Failure to do so puts your entire customer creation efforts in peril.