What is good marketing? Not an easy question to answer, but let's look into the marketing engine to understand more. We want to think of marketing as an exact science, but it isn't. However, the overall objective is to market your company, its products, and services and to gain interest from the markets you serve. And if it were an exact science, you wouldn't need this article, and more importantly, you could look up success.
Marketing serves several purposes. The more important goal, in my mind, is branding. If you think of big brands like Apple, Google, IBM, BMW, Nestle, etc., you may not know anybody working there. Still, you have an idea about the companies, and you 'box' them being good, bad, evil, smart, fast, sporty, etc. All the superlatives you use are established on these companies' long-term marketing investments. As you may have already noticed, I didn't mention VW. With the Diesel Gate, years ago, VW damaged its brand, and besides the penalties, and direct cost involved with the scandal, it has taken time and money to rebuild consumer trust.
A few weeks ago, I spoke to a company that told me they don't spend money on marketing. Not the first time I have heard this, and every time I wonder why they say it with almost pride? I believe that one of the major issues is that some companies compare marketing with advertising. That is, of course, not the case, as advertising is just one parameter in your marketing mix.
Branding is about associating a company with a set of values. You can say that branding becomes part of the company's DNA, and it will only work if stakeholders recognize and associate with these values. When something becomes part of a DNA, it typically means it must live through all the contact points within a company. The visuals such as business cards, letterheads, brochures, websites, and newsletters are apparent, but when it comes to how your employees answer the phone, what meets you in the reception, how employees behave when meeting clients, etc. All these elements, and more, are essential to building a brand. Some companies are so good at it that it's sometimes difficult for employees to adapt to new company cultures.
However, branding does not necessarily sell any products, but branding opens doors. If a vendor pitches a company, the vendor's reputation/branding affects how you react. I can imagine, and this is pure speculation, that a software company acquired by a large brand has significantly easier access to customers than before. The acquired company gets green-lighted by the acquirer and its brand, and your trust in the acquirer will reflect your impression.
For companies splitting, it must be a challenging exercise. If you think of EFI, which sold its eProductivity Software part earlier this year, eProductivity Software now has to redefine itself and gain trust. Even with thousands of clients, and hundreds of the same employees, this is a new situation, and when calling new prospects, they can't rely on EFI as a well-established brand anymore - at least in theory!
Marketing is ALSO about lead generation, and no, this is not advertising either - at least not only. If you sponsor a webinar, you can claim that it's advertising. You promote your brand and your products, and some organizers happily give you all the names and emails of the attendees - or leads! But what if the webinar is terrible? Poorly executed and not at all what you expect? Worst case scenario, you get a list of terrible leads; even worse, maybe damage your brand? Then what?
Another situation. You sponsor a fantastic webinar. Well executed and many attendees, but all of them you already know. Is that bad? From a marketing perspective, you can see this as brand building, but from a lead-generating perspective, maybe less.
The Internet has given us speed, new dimensions (movement) (but took away haptic), and what marketing people love - measures. You can now easily measure your marketing activities, but for some strange reason, conversions, clicks, and many other measures have become a currency and a value in themselves.
Not even the quality of conversions is sometimes asked, and some (in reality, quite a few) marketing people believe that the executions used in B-to-C marketing are the same as in a B-to-B market. They are not! The execution is different, and the measures are other!
You sometimes see ads that, in my mind, devaluate a brand in the chase of conversions. Let me give you an example. At the last general election in Denmark, a politician decided to advertise on Pornhub. Many may have noticed this unorthodox advertising, but what does that exposure do to your brand? You should ask if the product you sell - in this example, a vote for a politician - has to relate to the audience you are addressing?
Can you imagine advertising a steakhouse restaurant on a website for vegetarians? Your product needs to be matched with your audience, but you also have to ensure brand- consistency, and loyalty. I also recommend choosing media with which you would like your brand to be associated. Online advertising has to some extent, removed that frontier, but if you think about it for a second, do your marketing and communication have the same objective as Google? Google delivers your message according to 'agreement,' but they are also interested in being served as much as possible. Is this always what you want? Do you want to end up on media that you can't associate with or that have values that you disagree with?
For B-to-B customers, this is, in my mind, a critical decision to take. You could even consider whether advertising makes sense or whether other channels could serve you better. The example with Pornhub above is, in my mind, a clear example of why the choice of media is significant.
So marketing is not a one-way street. In my mind, you need to build strong branding as a fundament for your entire business. To the gentlemen who said they never do marketing, it's ok not to market your products and services via advertising, websites, etc. But you must brand your business to ensure consistency in your customer communication. But this will also provide a brand value that influences your company's price if you, at some point, want to sell.
Of course, you will need to build your brand while marketing your products and services. Choosing the channels to market your products and services depends on what market you operate. Clearly, FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) needs to be marketed differently than specialty products and even different from whether you market to a consumer- or a business market. The success measures are therefore also different. If you offer a discounted retail product, you need to see a short-term ROI on the marketing investment. The MROI can be directly measured against sales, and though this may sound easy, don't cheat yourself. There are many more retailers and products in the FMCG market; therefore, the customer acquisition cost is entirely different than in B-to-B.
The prices of the products you sell are typically more significant in B-to-B. If you sell a printing machine, nobody buys it because of ANY marketing using films, newsletters, webinars, or advertising. All of the mentioned tools are merely parameters in a long-term effort to sell. The selling cycle is typically vast in a B-to-B market, so your measures are way more challenging to set, as something you do now may only affect your business in one-two or even more years. Short-term marketing MUST be a branding exercise if you believe my above statement!
Your communication must address the critical measures for a buyer. We need to identify the pain stakes of a printer and address these in our communication. Why should you buy a new printing machine? The only reason is that it makes sense from a business perspective. When a company chooses to market an already sold machine, it is typically because they want to show other PSPs that they work with a specific customer who has chosen that particular vendor. I think that kind of marketing belongs to the past, but does it work for you?
Or what about photos of machines? Does that work for you? Or what about bad translations or so short information that you hardly learn anything? I, of course, understand that ads have limited space, but when you market your products and services, you MUST be able to deliver a message that people should react to - otherwise, it's purely branding, which I am all in for, but then measures are long-term and different!
Many marketing people believe that short is good, and I often hear that 2-3 minutes duration is good, that magazines/articles are not read, or that everything needs to be short and fast. People are busy, but people are not stupid. If you are buying a million euros investment, you, of course, seek all the information you can before you make the decision. The question is, what is the purpose of the communication you perform. Is it to drive "conversions" and then take the needed in-depth conversations with customers? Or is it to inform and educate the market? Or?
Numerous vendors often tell me PSPs are way more educated when approaching a vendor than in the past. So prospects seek information about products, compare, judge, choose - but if they don't get the information from your salespeople, where, you may ask?
Some get information from their network. I know that more printers are working in informal groups where they share information, share knowledge, and even support each other as consultants after an acquisition. I have visited hundreds of PSPs worldwide and what constantly surprises me is how well educated their people are; I often ask where they get their information from?
Do you think they get inspiration and knowledge from press releases? Have you read any of the press releases you and your competitors deliver? The quality of many of the press releases I see is low in language and content that, at best, they don't do anything. I can't believe any reads them and act on them. They may give you an overview of what is happening in the market, as numerous trade media bring these almost un-edited but valuable?
The short message format and measuring conversions are lame. Generally speaking, conversion rates on the net are between 2-5%. Some more, some less. So, according to marketing people, the needed short messages are to become part of an endless stream in Social Media channels and then hope for conversions?
With long text, long film, and in-depth communication, you get fewer views/reads/conversions, but in a B-to-B market, you don't necessarily read and view everything. You search for relevant information when you start needing a particular investment.
My brother works in the car industry, and he loves cars. He would see long, short, technical films/magazines about cars. How often do you do that? You may like cars, but I am pretty confident that when you are in the market for buying a new car, your behavior changes. You will start looking at websites, watch many films, and read more magazines, to be sure you identify the vehicles you want to test before buying and when you have purchased the car - you may not look at any of the above sources before the next time.
The former editor of Wired Magazine, Chris Anderson, once wrote that content is about availability. Marketing people may be right that short can give you a higher number of views/reads/conversions, but the quality of sales is, of course, as low as possible since customers are not buying a new press now and then.
My point is that you need to address customers with the information they need at the right time. In a B-to-B market, branding is KEY. You must ensure that customers and prospects always think of your company first and less about chasing a conversion that doesn't necessarily lead to any sales right now!
So what is good marketing?
Again, your opinion is as good as mine. One thing I, however, believe is crucial is to set an objective for your marketing investment. Do you continue measuring your marketing quality in B-to-C measures like conversions, views, and clicks - or is it about time to figure out how to make your in-depth content readily available for your prospects when they need it?
When we started INKISH, everybody said our long films wouldn't work. Long interviews wouldn't work. Today ALL our competitors ALSO have long talk formats where a conversation between two to three people leads to the insight needed for making decisions. We have continued producing films of duration where we ALWAYS say that the duration of a film is based on how interesting the topic is and not what marketing believes will convert. We continue to see more and more viewers, seeing more and more minutes, and do they convert?
Well, that's not our business. Our business is to create the best-looking and best-told stories in the industry. I will let you judge whether we can tick off, mission accomplished.