This is Lesson Eight from The Radical Sales Shift: Be A Resource Allocation Wizard. Since the launch, we’ve been posting the twenty lessons from the book on the Mezzanine Blog
If there’s any guarantee in B2B marketing, it’s that there will be limited resources. And this reality gives rise to many of the behaviours that make for a successful B2B marketer, including this lesson about being a resource allocation wizard.
Each of the 20 marketing leaders I interviewed for The Radical Sales Shift shared stories about how they had stretched budgets, created successful campaigns out of zero dollars, found vendors who could deliver what they needed on a shoestring, and other heroic tales. In talking with them, I realized that a limited budget wasn’t something they complained about or lamented. If anything, it was a challenge and badge of honor for them to make results happen where others would have wilted. And that’s an indicator of the kind of marketer who thrives in B2B – those who take pride in what they can accomplish under constraints.
The challenge of limited budgets is most prevalent in mid-market B2B companies where marketing is a new function. I’ve seen many companies where there isn’t a line item or area of the P&L for marketing – meaning there’s been no budget for marketing in the past. When the starting point is zero, it’s a long way to go to get to a reasonable budget.
But great marketers deal with this by being resource allocation wizards. They’re great at figuring out what marketing to do and when. Because there’s an awful lot to do to get marketing working in a B2B company, a strategy needs to be developed, collateral and content must be created, marketing tools have to be implemented, and campaigns and marketing tactics need to be run. Elizabeth Williams of ADP put it this way, “To run a full B2B marketing program with limited resources means you need to be very strategic and creative. You have to cover off multiple target markets, multiple decision makers involved in a purchase, and multiple touch points across multiple channels. The complexity is significant.”
Here’s how great B2B marketers make decisions about where their limited resources will be allocated:
Prioritizing Target Markets
While it’s challenging for companies to narrow their focus to one or two priority markets, they’re almost always more successful by doing so. There are two primary variables that help prioritize target markets:
Where does the company currently have the greatest traction (customer base or experience)? Which market has the greatest opportunity?
And of those two variables, the first is the most important by a wide margin. Unless there is a compelling reason not to pursue a market where a company already has traction (for example, a regulatory or economic change that will cause the decline of the market), then it’s the best place to start. In B2B, a track record is essential, and companies who have success in a particular niche or industry are looked upon favorably by potential clients in that niche – which means marketing can deliver results quicker.
Prioritizing Decision Makers
There are usually multiple decision makers in a B2B purchase, although it can vary based on the chosen target market. When it comes to prioritizing decision stakeholders, use these two variables as a guide:
Who is the most senior person involved in the decision in a chosen target market? How difficult is it to get to that most senior person?
Anyone responsible for revenue generation wants to deal with the economic decision maker – the person who has the ability to make the financial commitment to the purchase. But often that’s not possible – and the larger the organization, the more difficult it can be. So marketers should pursue the highest level they can, but must be realistic that some of their tactics will need to target less senior decision makers in order to ensure they’re getting on the radar.
- Prioritizing Aspects of Marketing
As I outlined earlier, there are five elements of marketing for B2B companies:
- Developing a marketing strategy – identifying the value proposition, target markets, and
- Raising awareness of the company – ensuring that prospects know about and think positively of the
- Generating and nurturing leads – attracting potential customers so that the sales team has the opportunity to engage with qualified potential
- Supporting the sales team – ensuring the sales team has the tools and collateral to be effective in discussions with target customer
- Increasing retention and share of wallet - educating the existing customer base about the company’s breadth of services and applications so that they do a growing amount of profit- able business with the company each
These five factors are the chain of marketing, and as with every chain, marketing is only as strong as its weakest link. Great B2B marketers identify the greatest weakness in the company’s existing marketing and address it first. Where is the key pain point in their organization’s marketing? Does the company have a market awareness problem? A lead generation problem? A strategy problem? There’s no point in raising awareness if the company has a credibility problem, or in generating leads if the company’s sales support is broken. Smart marketers allocate resources to the marketing area that needs the most attention, and then they repeat the process in order to get all five areas working in relative balance.
Prioritizing Tools, Tactics, and Campaigns
And finally, B2B marketers have to be savvy about what they’re going to tackle and when, recognizing that they need to show immediate results and also position marketing for long-term success. Often, they need to keep the long-term horizon in mind, and balance that with short-term outcomes that generate cash flow. This is where prioritizing gets hard. While the brand might be important in the long term, the investments required in order to develop and launch a new one are significant. While the corporate identity is important, it’s not more important than lead generation in the short term – because that will get positive results and more revenue in order to tackle the corporate brand issue later on.
Susan Smart of Vena Solutions agrees about prioritizing revenue generation in the short-term:
“Anything that makes an impact on revenue – whether it’s helping out with an RFP or creating a one-pager that will progress a conversation on a particular deal. In the short term, B2B marketers need to show that they are focused on revenue generation, not academic concepts like brand building.”
When it comes to prioritizing tools and tactics, B2B marketers have to resist what I call “shiny marketing syndrome.” It can be difficult to say no to new ideas and opportunities, but B2B marketers have to be strict in their resource allocation – if they pick up a new marketing initiative, they likely need to drop another. Usually it’s the non-marketing executives who make this challenging – there can be many “flavor of the month” marketing ideas.
And the last tip about resource allocation is something that B2B marketers learn early in their careers – the importance of leveraging resources for multiple purposes. As Joanne Gore shared,
“You need to repurpose your marketing assets. For example, your case study becomes a press release and pitch, which becomes a webinar, which becomes a white paper – again and again.”
Joanne shared an example of how she repurposed a number of webinars when she was at Xenos, a division of Actuate. After developing a webinar for a very technical audience, she used it as the basis for a webinar aimed at a business audience. She knew that she needed to cover off both the business and technical stakeholders involved in a typical purchase decision, and the benefit of using the same webinar base for both audiences was that there was some consistency and crossover. The stakeholders could relate to each other’s perspectives, and it took Joanne only a fraction of the time to produce the second webinar from existing material rather than starting from scratch.
To learn more, download the first section of The Radical Sales Shift: