Gabrielle Dunbar

Gartner’s recent ‘Brand Strategy and Innovation Survey 2019’ found that 46% of respondents cite their risk-averse corporate culture as being their greatest obstruction to innovation. Well, thank goodness for cynical corporate culture. There should be more of it.

Business leaders should feel anxious about allowing marketing to spend vast sums of money on innovation. The marketing industry is bombarded with methodologies, fads, software platforms and marketing techniques that, frankly, don’t work. Wheels, funnels, waterfalls, silos, buyer journeys, conversion paths… the list goes on and on and on. Often platforms require significant investment in terms of time and money, and can result in increased complexity and intangible results that do little to help the buyer make a decision or the seller to start or progress a conversation.

Take PPC for example. We had a client that was spending over £200k a month on PPC, which meant a lot of traffic was coming to the website and forms were duly being filled in. When a new CMO was appointed, he asked how many of those leads had converted. Nobody knew the answer, so he switched it off. In addition to saving over £2 million a year in PPC, he had also freed up the internal resources that had been deployed on trying to process those clicks. Sales revenue went up.

Another example is a company we met this week whose website is full of forms and gates. I asked him why. The inbound marketing platform had led him down a path of trying to convert traffic at every opportunity. When we asked if it was working, he rolled his eyes and admitted that he didn’t know but that maintaining the platform and the workflows now took up more time than selling did. He was almost in tears as he explained the headache that was the back-end he had to manage.

An article published by E-Consultancy referenced research conducted by economists who had previously worked at the likes of Google, Facebook, Yahoo, eBay and Netflix which suggests that the “selection effect” is responsible for the seemingly extraordinary ROIs delivered by digital advertising:

“The benchmarks that advertising companies use – intended to measure the number of clicks, sales and downloads that occur after an ad is viewed – are fundamentally misleading. None of these benchmarks distinguish between the selection effect (clicks, purchases and downloads that are happening anyway) and the advertising effect (clicks, purchases and downloads that would not have happened without ads).”

The article goes on to say that incremental benefits are the only ones that really matter. If someone was going to make a purchase anyway, then the fact that they did it after clicking on your email or following an online workflow, doesn’t mean that the workflow worked.

Digital disruption of marketing is well underway, but it’s time to take a step back, particularly in the B2B space. What really makes a difference? What do sales people really need to start and progress deals? What will help the business achieve its objectives?

Gartner suggests the best way to overcome this ‘organizational resistance to risk’ is by adopting a “crawl, walk, run” approach whereby marketers slowly build a business case that gradually builds momentum. In some cases, this may be the right approach. In other’s we think B2B marketers should sprint in the opposite direction away from the shiny new thing that is going to suck budget, time and credibility, and instead focus on the things that their salespeople need to do deals.