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The 9 Dangerous Myths of B2B Marketing

Earlier this week, I posted "The 10 Commandments of B2B Marketing" as a bit of a reminder about the proper role of Marketing in the corporate world. Not surprisingly, the post received several comments from marketing professionals, complaining that I was bashing Marketing.

Their criticisms proceed directly from a set of myths about marketing that have entrenched themselves inside many companies. These nine myths are dangerous, because they create marketing groups that spend money with little impact, and often become "sales prevention teams."

Here are those myths, why they're myths, and how to expunge them from your firm.

Click for the first myth »

Illustrations by Lorelyn Medina
  • Myth: Sales and Marketing are comparable functions.
  • Truth: Sales is essential; Marketing is not.
  • Explanation: If Sales doesn't do its primary job of closing business, the company goes out of business. If Marketing doesn't do its primary job - generating leads - Sales figures out a way to go it alone. It's a big mistake to assume that Marketing - Real Marketing - isn't important. In fact, real Marketing is the key to reducing the cost of sales and creating a more profitable company. But rather than providing that service (which is hard work and therefore contains the possibility of failure), many marketeers would rather blather on about "strategic advantage" and other airy-fairy concepts that allow Marketing to take credit for success and deflect blame for failure.
  • How to Expunge: Put the marketing group organizationally under the sales group.
Click for the second myth »
  • Myth: Marketing is needed because Sales has a short-term focus.
  • Truth: Sales focuses on whatever matches the compensation scheme.
  • Explanation: With Sales (unlike Marketing) there is a direct connection between behavior and measurement. If Sales is compensated on closing new business, they go out and close business. If Sales is compensated on profit per customer over time, they build strong customer relationships. That's the beauty of Sales, which is without a doubt the most responsive organization inside the corporation. By contrast, if Marketing isn't measured (which is usually the case), it doesn't matter whether their focus is short-term or long-term, because there's no way of knowing whether they're actually having any impact, positive or negative.
  • How to Expunge: Institute a compensation plan for sales that includes long-term goals like customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.
Click for the third myth »
  • Myth: Customers don't know what they want; Marketing has to tell them.
  • Truth: Customers know pretty much what they want; Sales helps them find it.
  • Explanation: Marketeers who've never been on a customer call often get the ridiculous idea that B2B customers are stupid and don't know what they want. In today's information rich world, most customers know more about their own business and industry than any of the companies that sell to them. Attempts to uncover "unknown needs" (as one comment put it) simply antagonize B2B customers. Executives aren't brain-dead couch-potatoes who can be convinced that they need something that they don't really need. When Marketing assumes that customers stupid and need to be told what to do, it just creates more work for Sales, who must take the extra effort to isolate potential customers from that kind of arrogance, which inevitably seep through into all the marketing materials.
  • How to Expunge: Only allow marketers to listen to customers rather than present to them.
Click for the fourth myth »
  • Myth: Marketing is responsible for product innovation.
  • Truth: Marketing lacks the skill set to innovate products.
  • Explanation: Innovation always comes from the engineering group because that's what they're trained to do. That innovation process can definitely go off target and result in products that nobody wants, which generally occurs when engineering is isolated from the customer base. Marketing likes to think of itself as bridging the gap between what customers want and what engineers want to build, but that's a false dichotomy. Engineers ALWAYS want to build stuff that people can use and they're always willing to listen to customers. When Marketing butts in, and pretends to represent the customer, it usually confuses matters, making useful products less likely. What's worse, "market requirements" become a moving target, with political overtones, constantly churning engineering goals.
  • How to Expunge: Allow marketing to present their opinions and "findings" at the beginning of the design cycle. Then make them go away until the product is complete.
Click for the fifth myth »
  • Myth: Promotion makes B2B selling easier.
  • Truth: B2B selling relies almost exclusively upon word-of-mouth.
  • Explanation: B2B customers are sophisticated. Assaulting them with B2C-style SPAM (i.e. rah-rah television advertising, jargon-laden brochures, etc.) only tells them that your company has money to waste. The only kind of promotion that really works for B2B is either word-of-mouth (as in referral selling) or case-studies (as in reference accounts.) While some forms of advertising can be effective, they must have a "real world" thrust, or B2B customers simply tune them out. When it comes to B2B, a web link to a case study is far more effective than a billboard with a babe.
  • How to Expunge: Insist upon an ROI on all marketing investments.
Click for the sixth myth »
  • Myth: Marketing can be measured through market share growth.
  • Truth: Marketing groups control segmentation, thereby guaranteeing "growth."
  • Explanation: In most cases, market size and segment comes from industry analysts who are in the pay of the marketing groups that are being "measured." As such, there's extraordinary pressure on the analysts to segment the market in ways that prove that their clients are winning. I personally saw a marketing executive successfully use bogus marketing segmentation and measurement to convince a Fortune 100 company that their firm was a market share leader in a business where it literally had no presence whatsoever. This went on for nearly five years.
  • How to Expunge: Compensate marketing on their ability to create sales leads that the current sales team can close.
Click for the seventh myth »
  • Myth: Marketing is responsible for the sales team's success.
  • Truth: Marketing often takes credit for Sales success, usually after the fact.
  • Explanation: In many large companies, the operative behavior for marketing groups is to "find a parade and get out in front of it." (I once heard a marketing executive use this very phrase to describe how to be successful in Marketing.) That;s the reason that you generally see a lot of bureaucrats clustered around successful sales campaigns is that bureaucrats, like insects, are attracted to heat.
  • How to Expunge: Make it clear, throughout the entire organizations, that Marketing is a service to Sales, not a driver of selling activity.
Click for the eighth myth »
  • Myth: Marketing is a strategic function.
  • Truth: Marketing is a tactical function.
  • Explanation: The only reason that marketing exists is to make certain that sales take place. As such, it is a service organization. While they can have a "strategy" for providing this service (i.e. spend "X" amount on demand creation, and "X" amount on lead generation), the function is only useful if it tactically increases sales, either by locating better qualified leads, prepping up those leads to buy, or making it easier for Sales to close business.
  • How to Expunge: Disallow any marketing presentation with the word "strategy" in it. This has the side benefit of removing 90 percent of all marketing presentations from the agenda.
Click for the final myth »
  • Myth: Branding is important.
  • Truth: Brand is important but branding is a waste of money.
  • Explanation: A brand is an emotion that a potential buyer associates with a product. It is created by previous experience with the product or (in some cases) social proof that the product is high quality. Especially in B2B, the branding activities that Marketing groups undertake (advertising, logos, tags, packaging) have very little impact on brand. They're mostly just noise, and in some cases become distractions.
  • What To Change: Focus on having a great product and making it easy to buy. The brand will take care of itself.

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