Efficiency vs. Effectiveness: Which is More Important in B2B Marketing?
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Efficiency vs. Effectiveness: Which is More Important in B2B Marketing?

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Featured Marketer: Steve Dawson.
Role: Co-Founder, CEO Ratio Creative.
Discussion Topic: B2B Marketing Effectiveness vs. Efficiency.

This Q&A article is a summary of the Podcast Interview.


If you work in marketing you're constantly under the gun to generate leads. But as a professional marketer, you somehow instinctively know that a strong brand makes sales easier. Now research by Les Binet and Peter Field shows what you're already thinking to be true.

Binet and Field are two advertising experts who argue for the importance of your brand. They say a strong brand primes the pump for future sales. Sure, focusing on sales in the short run is critically important. And it will certainly increase your revenues. But ignore your brand and the well will eventually run dry - whether B2C or B2B.

"Effectiveness and efficiency should get equal weighting," says Steve Dawson, CEO of Ratio Creative. He also believes companies should rely more on objective market research, instead of guessing. In this interview Dawson shares a client success story, then explains why B2B firms should pay more attention to the research of Les Binet and Peter Field.

Q - Can you share a client success story?

A - We had a US client with a global presence offering a Virtual Data Room product. Their European head office had a great opportunity with a large US Financial Corporation. But a competitor already had their foot in the door.

So, our client wanted to move fast. But they needed to reach many departments within that company. We identified 200 C-suite key decision-makers we needed to reach and crafted a tactical approach to stimulate interest in our client.

"What started out as small tactical piece generating sales, went right right upstream to help build their brand."

We asked our client if it was possible to open up their virtual data room for a limited time. In the past they generated leads with forms and handed them off to sales. Instead, we suggested they offer a 30-day free trial.

We sent each decision maker a metal car key in personalized stamped envelope. A key fob contained our client's branding with a unique ID to their data room. They could access their this from a landing page we created called Test Drive.

196 of the 200 signed up. The campaign proved to be so successful, we sent it out to 16,000 people over a three year period. The second phase of the campaign involved promoting our client's mobile capabilities. Next, we created a micro-site we called MoreThanaVDR.com that promoted different product features in further campaigns.

The campaign was sent across Europe, Latin America, and North America for over 4 years. What started out as small tactical piece generating sales, went right right upstream to help build their brand. It was hugely successful.

Q - What advice would you give a B2B firm trying to improve their marketing?

A - There was a a great piece of research by Les Binet and Peter Field on behalf of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA). This consisted of more than 700 case studies of award winning effectiveness campaigns. They looked into why those campaigns were effective.

"Focusing on sales first is the wrong way around. Marketing should start with what you want to say - your brand."

Their report, The Long and Short of It, showed patterns in the research. They looked at the effects of long-term brand building versus short term sales activity. Linkedin sponsored a further report based on this for B2B. There were many commonalities.

Mar-tech tools have led us to think more about distribution and measurement. First analytics - then the message. But this is efficiency over effectiveness. Focusing on sales first is the wrong way around. Marketing should start with what you want to say - your brand.

"Effectiveness and efficiency should get equal weighting in B2B marketing."

Our agency starts with the message. Then we look at the best channels to reach the audience. I'm not saying that everything should be more focused on effectiveness. I'm saying effectiveness and efficiency should get equal weighting in B2B marketing.

Q - What are some common digital marketing mistakes to avoid?

A - There are two things: Long-term brand building and short-term performance marketing. What's happened in recent times is mar-tech tools have excelled at marketing efficiency. This puts a company's focus on middle low level marketing funnel activity.

This has put the focus on short-term thinking at the expense of upstream brand building. So, there's no long-term growth. We all know companies must keep making sales.

"If you invest in your brand, that investment will pay dividends back over a period of time."

The problem is that the creative upstream brand building work is being ignored. This is the upper part of the marketing funnel. And this is what gives you sustainable growth beyond the next six, twelve, or eighteen months. If you invest in your brand, that investment will pay dividends back over a period of time.

Of course, the minute you stop doing performance marketing your leads dry up. But a lot of marketers are pumping money into advertising to sustain that low level activity. And they're ignoring everything to do with their brand.

Brand building is worth the effort. If you looked at the balance sheet of a company many years ago, 80% of a firm's valuation was tangible assets. Today it's the opposite. Most of a company's value is intangible assets. This is your brand. So, it doesn't make sense on any commercial level to ignore brand building.

"They key is to do brand building and performance marketing at the same time."

They key is to do brand building and performance marketing at the same time. And as we demonstrated, you can take a tactical one-off campaign and take it right upstream to build your brand. Our car key campaign lasted more than a week or a month, it lasted up to four years.

A commodity market is a race to the bottom. I'm not saying online search or display advertising are bad things. But you need a balanced approach. In the future, far more attention will be put on brand building for the long term.

Q - How can you create a strong foundation for effective marketing?

A - We're going to see more investment in research. Too many companies repeat what they've always done through force of habit. They need to learn more about the markets they are operating in.

"Companies consist of people with emotional and rational needs. Emotional storytelling is picking up and getting more traction in B2B."

Understanding consumer behavior is going to be important for them. There seems to be a growing focus in B2B on the fact we're selling to people. Companies consist of people with emotional and rational needs. Emotional storytelling is picking up and getting more traction in B2B.

It's about being appropriate. Buyers low in the funnel need information for making informed decisions. You don't emotion to convey that. But you can pull those emotional levers a little bit more during upstream brand building. Science will help us understand consumer behavior. We're also going to see a big swing back to integrated communications.

Q - How can B2B firms choose the right marketing channels?

A - My point of view had never gone away. Many firms are wising up to the fact they should use more than one channel such as email or display. What they need is both.

"We know if you use more than two channels, your marketing campaign is going to be twice as effective."

Or, they need to use email, search and display. Or, combine direct marketing, out of home communications, posters, outdoor or something else.

We know if you use more than two channels, your marketing campaign is going to be twice as effective. Email alone is not going to be very effective. You have to use email and something else.

Q - What are the advantages are of getting outside support for your marketing?

A - Large network agencies have been under attack lately. They're seen as being a bit slow and not very nimble. But one thing you get from them is real clarity on strategic thinking.

"Marketing problems start when you make assumptions, rather than relying on research."

Our agency's approach is to ask the right questions and look at how they've segmented the market. We do desktop research or we commission new research. Qualitative and quantitative research reveal what customers want and where the gaps are.

Marketing problems start when you make assumptions, rather than relying on research. These are often made about audiences and markets, or what campaign activity may or may not work. Without the research - you're guessing. Getting objective external help can pay dividends in the long run.

Q - Any further thoughts on Les Binet and Peter Fields?

A - The research in the "Long and Short of It" by Les Binet and Peter Field is highly recommended. Linkedin has picked up on it and created their B2B Institute. They offer a report on this called 5 Principles Of Growth In B2B Marketing.

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