The Top 4 Marketing Questions Asked by B2B CEOs (and answered by me)

by Debra Andrews | April 28, 2015

Marketing is complex – even for marketers, like me, who are obsessed with keeping up with best practices.  Many CEOs desperately want marketing to be an investment that helps their B2B enterprises gain a competitive advantage and grow but they simply don’t know how. Recently I had the pleasure of speaking to a CEO Peer Group in the Midwest and here were their top four marketing questions and my answers:

What’s an average marketing budget (% of topline revenues)?

How much? Of course, this is a popular question and I do get asked it a lot. My answer is always the dreaded, “it depends.” Typically, my clients – mid-market B2B companies – spend between 2-5% of top line revenues; Here are some of the factors that can drive a firm’s marketing investment up or down:

  • Level of industry competition:  It’s harder to stand out if there are lots of kids playing in the sandbox.  Firms in competitive industries need to market smarter and more aggressively.
  • Whether the company is new to marketing:  There is an entire marketing infrastructure – like CRM, branding, messaging, website and collateral – that needs to be built before outreach will be effective.  The first year of serious marketing will require an initial investment that should pay off in years to come.
  • Strategic goals:  How fast does the company want to grow?  Is it looking to expand into a new vertical or geographic market or launch a new product? Lofty strategic goals equate to a higher marketing investment.

What’s the best marketing investment?

Middle market B2B companies need to spend their marketing resources very wisely.  Here were my picks for the three best marketing investments B2B firms can make:

  • Strategic marketing plan:  Every firm needs a solid marketing road map that aligns with its strategic objectives.  A strategic marketing plan ensures a firm is investing in the right markets with the right message and mix of tactics, collateral and campaigns.
  • Website: A website is often the very first impression a prospect or referral source has of a business.  A bad website is the equivalent of showing up for a sales meeting with a big coffee stain on your shirt.  Today, B2B buyers seek online information to help them in making decisions about solving business challenges and seizing opportunities.  A B2B website that serves as an authentically helpful resource to those inquiring buyers is the single best marketing investment a firm can make. 
  • Evergreen, digital content:   When companies provide answers to their customers’ and prospective customers’ questions – especially the ones that keep senior leaders up at night – in the form of searchable, digital content, it will reap rewards days, weeks and even years after it is published. Common forms of digital content are blog posts, guides, tip sheets, case studies, white papers, e-books, videos and recorded webinars.

What is the best way to create brand awareness?

It’s certainly challenging for B2B middle market companies with limited resources to punch through the crowd.  Here were my suggestions for ‘making the scene and being seen:’

  • Maintain a consistent brand:  If B2B companies asked their customers and employees what made their firms different, would the answers be the same or at least similar?  Differing perceptions about a company is a symptom of an inconsistent brand message.  Many companies also fall victim to their employees using unapproved versions of the corporate logo, colors and fonts.   
  • Practice target marketing:  In the middle market, B2B companies must practice segmentation in order to build market penetration with limited resources.  Savvy CEOs and marketers will spend time understanding their buyers and creating clearly defined segments based on customer preferences.
  • Communicate often and make it count: Marketing isn’t a website, email campaign, CRM or a brochure.  Marketing is a core function that is based on consistently communicating value over an extended period of time.  B2B companies must avoid pushing self-serving messages until they’ve earned the right.  They are wise to nurture prospects by providing them with authentically helpful information in the format they prefer.
  • Dare to be different:  A company’s brand and communications should reflect its distinctness.  Building brand awareness is the opposite of a typical middle school student’s mentality of just wanting to fit in. 

What are the best KPIs/ROI measures for marketing?

This question was music to my ears.  So much of modern marketing is measurable, which enables companies to pour gas on what’s working and put the brakes on what’s not.  While appropriate marketing measures are dependent on a firm’s infrastructure and campaigns, here’s a sampling of some popular ones:

BEST: Conversions

This is when someone takes a particular action that signals he/she is now a lead. Some examples are:

  • Attending a seminar
  • Filling out a ‘contact us’ form
  • Watching a webinar
  • Taking a demo

GOOD:  Other KPIs that signal marketing is moving or not moving the needle in the right direction

Some examples are

  • Blog subscribers
  • E-newsletter opt-ins
  • Connections
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Web traffic
  • Time on site
  • Bounce rate
  • Number of pages visited
  • Delivery rate
  • Open rate
  • Click through rates (CTRs)
  • Social engagement – likes, shares,
  • Press mentions

Have more marketing questions?

If you’d like to learn more about a modern marketing methodology that’s cost effective, helps to build brand awareness and is highly measurable, contact us!

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