In the world of insights and research, marketing (if done at all) is frequently focused on short-term, tactical, lead generation. Agencies and suppliers come to us because they want more leads and see marketing as a support for sales and new business. In a digital environment, this seems to be an easy win. Create content to drive traffic and give you leads for your website, encourage clicks, capture data, measure, and target – and Bob’s your uncle. The problem is that this approach very often leads to disappointment and frustration.
A recent study by Professor John Dawes from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute helps us to understand why. Hold on to your chair because you might be about to have a jaw dropping moment…the research reveals that 95% of your potential customers are not in the market for your services right now and possibly won’t be for months or even years. Indeed, only 5% of B2B buyers are looking to buy at any given time. What is more, contrary to popular belief, there’s nothing you can do to convince a potential customer to think about entering the market earlier, because they already have what they need, and they won’t need to change it any time soon.
Let’s start from the beginning. Most of you will already be familiar with The Long and The Short of It the 2013 paper by Binet and Field with the IPA. This introduced the idea that brands should be spending 60% of their budget on long-term brand building and 40% on activation and direct targeting. The key insight is that you need to build memorable and meaningful connections over time to build brands and this will help your tactical marketing to work. But this was entirely based on research into B2C advertising.
The new study looks specifically at B2B marketing. It shows that if you want to grow, you need to invest in building mental availability with the 95% of your potential buyers who are not going to click on a link or respond to a CTA any time soon. Having high mental availability means being remembered; being top of mind when a prospect does think about buying your services. Customers need to be aware of your brand, and most importantly they need to have a strong emotional attachment to it, even in B2B.
This is a long-term effort especially in the lengthy and complex B2B sales cycle. To be successful your marketing needs to build and refresh memory links to your brand, which will activate when customers are ready to buy. But the study also reveals that 95% of B2B marketers expect to see significant sales within the first two weeks of a campaign . So, it is inevitable that there is a great deal of disappointment and frustration.
To build these memories, you need a marketing strategy that differentiates you from the competition and gives you a strong story and point of view; a strategy that will make you famous. Using long-term brand building activities, you can tell your story and shape the perception customers have of your company.
The main challenge for all insights firms is awareness. Yet, tactical digital marketing is not going to solve your awareness problem. What the 95:5 rule teaches us is that short-term tactics mostly hit prospects who aren’t going to buy anytime soon. Your money and time are mostly wasted.
So, does your marketing focus 95% on long-term brand building?
If the answer is no, you need to switch your focus immediately towards building brand awareness; defining and communicating your brand story and building your profile as an expert in your industry, creating engaging content to support it, implementing a PR and media plan to make you stand out within your market. When you’ve sorted out these aspects, you’ll make a long-lasting impression in no time (pun intended, of course).