B2B firms invest significant dollars and hours maintaining a broad range of marketing tactics that may or may not demonstrate economic value. Often, the value of marketing activity gets measured in tactical terms—such as volume of media exposure, website traffic, webinar attendance, email click-through rates, awards for civic participation and social media “Likes” and “Followers,” rather than by tangible business outcomes such as lead generation, conversion rates, acceptance of new service offerings among existing clients, or revenue per associate.
When this situation exists, a B2B firm is not marketing; it’s simply making Tactical Soup.
Here are 3 steps to get out of the soup kitchen, or to avoid it altogether:
1. Put every marketing tactic under the microscope. If there’s no tangible connection between a current marketing tactic and bona fide business results, throw it out. Be ruthless in your tactical assessment and focus on marketing initiatives that demonstrate a direct correlation between activity and a measurable business outcomes.
2. Calculate the value received from the marketing activity. Press releases and related media exposure is a good example of marketing activity that is often overrated in terms of effort vs. tangible outcome. Unless your firm has accomplished something truly noteworthy—like discovering your profession’s equivalent of cold fusion—then the likelihood of your clients, prospects and referral sources actually noticing the media exposure and doing something about it, such as visiting your firm’s website or requesting an introductory meeting, is probably low. Exposure that’s largely based on a firm’s achievements delivers little practical benefit to existing clients and may leave them wondering if such self-promotion will result in higher client rates and fees.
3. Schedule ongoing maintenance of the activity. Unfortunately, many B2B marketing tactics are often one-off or plug-and-play solutions. Blogs and newsletters demand original, timely content; not canned information. White papers and case studies become quickly outdated. Website effectiveness requires ongoing attention to visitor traffic analytics and search engine optimization. Webinars and public forums entail lead qualification and follow-up with prospects. Email and direct mail campaign accuracy depends on a reliable and accessible database. LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook must be updated regularly to stay relevant. Before embarking on these activities, make sure you have the time and resources to dedicate to their maintenance.
B2B firms can avoid the pitfalls of tactical soup by being selective in the type and volume of marketing tactics they apply. Most importantly, they must identify a specific and measurable strategic outcome in advance of any tactic’s design or application. For example, a 25-person CPA firm with an emerging practice among medium-size, privately held businesses sought to add a pharmaceutical company to its client list. Leveraging the life science industry background of one of its senior partners, the firm proposed and published a bylined article on Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) revenue-recognition compliance—a supply chain issue of great interest and value to pharmaceutical industry executives—in a leading life science publication with more than 35,000 print subscribers and an even greater number of online readers.
Instead of simply posting the bylined article on its website and adding article reprints to its marketing kit, this firm understood three important considerations regarding the real value of media placement as a marketing tactic:
- The article’s content was not as valuable as the firm’s indirect affiliation with a respected pharmaceutical industry publication.
- On its own, publication of the article was unlikely to generate any viable, near-term new business prospects.
- For the firm to benefit from the credibility associated with publication of its partner’s life sciences expertise, it would need to proactively merchandise this inherent 3rd party endorsement.
Now that its marketing toolbox contained validation of the senior partner’s intellectual capital in a leading vertical trade magazine, the firm leveraged the value of that exposure. It used the article reprint as the cornerstone of a direct mail campaign designed to raise awareness of the firm and to initiate substantive conversations with CFOs at pharmaceutical firms matching the criteria of prospective clients it had targeted—in terms of geography, ownership, revenue growth, number of employees and apparent levels of sophistication.
The firm’s mailing included a hard copy, personalized cover letter to those targets, offering to provide a pro bono analysis of the prospect’s SOX exposure, which was followed by a courtesy phone call designed to measure levels of interest and to schedule an introductory meeting. Over the course of this six-month campaign, which effectively combined two marketing tactics—media exposure and direct mail—this accounting firm netted two new pharmaceutical industry clients.
Instead of generating marketing activity for its own sake, this B2B firm effectively applied specific marketing tactics to yield a predetermined business outcome.
Tactical Soup was not on this B2B firm’s marketing menu, and it has no rightful place on yours.