Some B2B companies have a history of financial success despite never utilizing a long-term marketing strategy or even a short-term marketing plan. I’m talking about year-over-year top line growth. These firms simply take last year’s revenue, project it to increase by 20 percent and – poof! – it happens. While it may seem strange (or ridiculously stupid) for me, a marketing strategist, to pen a post about something that might discount my professional existence, stay with me for just a moment… (Because, of course, I would never do that.)
Past Success is a False Safety Net
There are many reasons why B2B companies do well without having marketing strategies, including that they:
- Are the biggest player in the region
- Developed a unique innovation
- Built a strong customer niche
- Have an abundance of customer loyalty
- Possess strong brand recognition
- Employ one or two rainmakers
- Live off one or two monster clients
- Benefit from a booming economy
Companies that rely on one or even two of these attributes risk falling hard. What happens when industry consolidation makes bigger players, the patent expires, the niche narrows, loyal customers opt for an “expert,” rainmakers golf full-time, the monster client needs a bigger firm or it’s October of 2008 revisited? In today’s digitally-driven, fast-paced world with no geographic boundaries, maintaining any sort of real sustainable competitive advantage can be downright near impossible. For more information on this topic, read: It’s Official! The End Of Competitive Advantage. In this article, author Steve Denning states, “Competitive advantage is transient, not sustainable.”
B2B Companies That Sat Too Long
I’ve received inquiries and consulted with many companies that operated too long without a marketing strategy. A CPA firm based in the northeast relied on one big client and one dominant rainmaker who was well into retirement age to sustain its growth. A manufacturer was losing market share when overseas competitors began copying its flagship product despite a patent. A law firm client was rocked when its monster client decided to split its business between two firms. One mid-sized CPA firm was losing the local brand recognition it had enjoyed for 50 years when industry consolidators moved into town.
A B2B company shouldn’t wait until 25 percent of its revenue has gone missing to consider implementing a marketing strategy. At that point, the natural inclination is to pull back and slice expenses — the opposite of investing smartly in long-term growth. Your best up and comers want to see a road map. A carefully crafted, well-communicated marketing strategy offers them peace of mind that the future looks bright and insight into how they might advance and contribute to the company’s success.
Get Out of That Chair!
Marketers, executives, and owners: If your company has budgeted for growth and you don’t know how it will hit projections, let’s talk marketing strategy! Here are some questions to get the conversation rolling:
- Where has your growth come from over the past 5 years and what trends do you see?
- By sector
- By product / service
- By geography
- By top 10 clients
- By professional / business developer / rainmaker
- By top referral sources
- By marketing source
- Which of your products / services are becoming commoditized in the market? (A key signal is that you are consistently losing business based on price.)
- Where do you see your competitors pushing the marketing envelope?
- What are the hot growth sectors?
- What’s most important to your ideal customers? Have these attributes changed over time?
- How has the internet changed the buying process for your products / services?
The New Year is always a great time to do the things you know you should be doing but don’t do. Last year, I received more marketing strategy inquiries than ever from large, established and very successful firms wanting to stay that way. If your competitors are getting off their butts, shouldn’t your B2B company take a stand?