What’s the best B2B marketing advice you’ve ever received?
In my last post, I wrote about the advice I’d give to those just starting out or in the early stages of a career in B2B marketing. In the weeks since, I’ve been thinking about the advice I’ve been given over the course of my own career and while there have been many bits of overall career advice that have been critical along that career path, I started thinking specifically about what marketing advice has been key to my progression.
I didn’t actually have to think about it very long. Without a doubt, for me, the best piece of marketing advice has to be...
"Don’t let the big tactic get in the way of the big idea"
I first met Paul Cash – co-founder of creative agency Rooster Punk – when he delivered the keynote at a B2B marketing conference many years ago. At the time, I was fundamentally changing the strategic approach for the marketing function within my company, creating new ways of working with the business, and getting an awful lot of push-back from my wider marketing leadership team.
This keynote by Paul was the very first time I had heard anyone actively and publicly championing the same approach to marketing that I was taking. Not only that, he was a really inspiring speaker and I took away two key points that formed the foundation for all of my marketing thinking that followed:
- The 4Ps of business: Profits (with a Purpose), People and Planet. Paul talked about how successful businesses no longer focus on ‘capitalism’ but on what he called ‘value capitalism’. People don’t just buy what we do, they buy why and how we do it; and our corporate reputations are built on this. What this impressed on me is that our customers want to buy from people and organisations that they like to do business with, whose values align to their own, who they can build long-term lasting relationships with, and who they can feel connected with on an emotional level.
- Remarkable marketing: Paul challenged us to aspire to more with our marketing activity. In the B2B space, especially in the services sectors, there is little to differentiate what we sell, but then and even now the bulk of our marketing effort continues to be done on features, benefits and price. For me, this means that we need to move beyond the ‘sameness’ of our marketing activity and find ways to engage our customers in relevant, inspiring ways that are not just remarkable but are memorable. This is how we create differentiation in an undifferentiated world.
Which brings me to the advice that Paul gave me that continues to echo throughout my marketing life – don’t let the big tactic get in the way of the big idea.
This advice is even more relevant in today’s marketing environment, where the onslaught of new technology keeps introducing new tactics, tools and channels into our marketing mix. We become so focused on these tactics and channels, relentlessly in delivery-mode, that we lose sight of what we’re actually trying to achieve with all of our marketing efforts, which should be all about engaging with our customers in meaningful ways. We do this by focusing not on our products and services, but on the big issues that matter to our customers.
It’s these issues that bring the human element to what we do, make conversations more meaningful and build relationships that last, enabling us to engage with our customers in ways that will remain in their hearts and minds long after any sales promotion or marketing campaign is over.
"Tactics are for the moment; ideas are forever"
It’s the compelling and lasting nature of ideas that has the potential to transform and differentiate what we do as marketers. Ideas have the power to create impact and meaning beyond what we do. It’s through ideas that we can engage with our customers in ways that build and maintain the relationships which sustain our B2B world. And long after the tactics have been forgotten, these ideas are what will linger.