Can an Agency Deliver Superb B2B Marketing? How Would You Even Know?

“I’ll pass your message on to my web people”

I had a brief email exchange recently with one of the nation’s noted thought leaders on sales technique and approaches.  I had pointed out, perhaps too brashly, that there was a dissonance between some of the clumsy lead collection methods employed on their website, and the cutting edge innovation which characterized both their published work and the guidance they provide to clients.

That earned me the above response.

Fair enough…but that got me stewing a bit.  I concluded that it illustrates two points that are often overlooked.

  1. The dissonance between how we sell and buy (or maybe the perfect alignment…..)
  2. The odd detachment with which astute business people assign responsibility and accountability for marketing

“Crazy Busy” buying and abdicating your business success to extraordinary sales people

I’ve been a fan of Jill Konrath since I heard her speak at @HubSpot’s Inbound13.  (Interested in hearing other great speakers at the 14 event?  Register here.)  Her presentation worked – I went and bought her book Snap Selling which I’m in the process of reading.

She does a great job outlining the challenge that sales people face trying to reach (as in really, really reach, in a thoughtful way) the insanely busy folks to whom they sell.  She explores the common competitor all B2B businesses face – the status quo.  It’s good stuff.

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And yet I wonder how many business owners will read her book, adapt their sales approaches accordingly, and experience a measurable delta in their business development efforts…..and yet continue to make buying decisions for their businesses in the same chaotic way.  It’s your company, should you really leave its success to the vicissitudes of the market – only addressing those issues that are happenstantially raised by the very rare, effective sales person approaching you?

Internet Marketing’s parallel reality

This is the bigger point, and the one which may incite vitriolic replies.

B2B marketing today is a tremendously complex process which requires great strategy, relentless execution, continuous tweaking and an abiding recognition of the pressure, impatience, skepticism and “crazy busy-ness” that are common across today’s frazzled business executives.

And yet we often default critical functions and decisions to folks who don’t have the horsepower to deliver the caliber of work which we would demand if we bought, keeping our crazy busy prospects in mind, with the same rigor with which we sell.  For example:

  • The Intern – the person in the office who is most personally familiar and facile with social media – and who knows virtually nothing about your business, strategy, products or competitors – is deputized with establishing social community engagement.  Updates on keg stands, after all, are pretty close to pithy, strategically driven, engaging posts around issues of important business value, right?
  • The “web people” –  these are the folks who put a conversion form on the page.  That’s their job.  If you have good ones, they’ll test it several times to make sure it captures and relays information correctly, and triggers whatever follow on steps you outlined for them.  But they’re not going to, nor can they be realistically expected to, bring insight to what data fields you should collect based on segmentation and progressive profiling of leads in support of your larger strategy; or map complex nurturing or lead scoring processes.
  • The “marketing people” – they are concerned with generating leads – inducing folks to click the “submit” button on the conversion form.  Constrained by the traditional silo roles of B2B Marketing & Sales, their role is limited to creating brand buzz or lead generation.
  • The “sales team” – they pounce on those leads (which might not be properly profiled by the web folks or fully nurtured by the marketing folks) with the objective of closing them.

It’s easy to see, from 30,000′, what’s missing.  The strategy, and overseer of that strategy are necessary components to coordinate and align the activities of each group.  That’s what recent research from Marketing Profs, LinkedIn and the Content Marketing Institute found.

Process or results?

Sensing this gap, many business owners turn to outside resources to help them improve their B2B internet marketing. And there is no shortage of “agencies” professing the credentials to do so – sometimes perversely manifesting a lack of qualification in their zeal to promote themselves.  Did you read about this confidence inspiring Chicago agency struggling to retain relevance?

just askin – if u want #marketing expertise, would u pick an innovator, or an #agency struggling to b relevant? http://t.co/chzgCQaJ9s

— Ed Marsh (@edbmarsh) November 27, 2013 But after several hundred words of context, here we arrive at the crux of the issue.

Can an Agency Deliver Superb B2B Marketing? How Would You Even Know? image b2b marketing blind leading blindI believe that it is simply impossible for a “marketer” who has not run a business (not an agency) to really produce optimized marketing in today’s world of a long, blurred buying process.

Critical to business growth is successful business development.  And business development today requires an enterprise wide perspective.  Simply tweaking around the edges of marketing (poking gently at the bubble from the inside in an effort to expand it without popping it) won’t work.  Yet that is inherently the approach which folks who are products of the marketing silo will take.

They lack the perspective of someone who makes the tough enterprise wide procurement decisions based on limited resources; who considers multiple, nuanced and consequential business wide implications of decisions; who sits astride marketing & sales; and who can’t simply default to assigning responsibility for underperformance to an internal function without accepting responsibility for fixing it.

An agency run by “marketers” can’t deliver peak results

That’s right. Simple and direct.  Un-provable but certain.

Certainly there are capable marketing agencies, particularly purpose built inbound marketing groups (not traditional design and media folks trying to Stretch Armstrong themselves into continued relevance) which deliver measurable results and impressive ROI.  Maybe that’s good enough.

But is “good enough” the measure to which businesses should aspire in today’s competitive global economy?  Absolutely not.  And therefore the distinction between doing better, and achieving optimal performance (without skidding out to the end of the cost/benefit curve) should be a focus of every business owner.  Sure, improvement is good.  But excellence is better.

And to achieve excellence business owners should seek business development assistance from the uniquely qualified advisors who share their comprehensive perspective.  It’s not good enough just to improve with help from those who provide an evolution of the traditional silo view.  Today that lacks the required the nuance and perspective to effectively market and sell to “crazy busy” buyers.

image – Debbie’s blog Can an Agency Deliver Superb B2B Marketing? How Would You Even Know? image

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