Being in B2B marketing for the better part of a decade, I’ve cycled through the spectrum of what I believe drives impact from a marketing perspective. I’ve seen sales enablement work incredibly well and have doubled down on brand marketing. As human behavior, technology, and marketing evolves, my thinking has evolved with it, as (I think) it naturally should.
Where I’ve landed for now (and I’m sure this will change in 2 years) is that the best B2B marketing is (almost) equal parts brand and product marketing. It’s easy to skew one way or the other these days with many thought leaders pushing “brand purpose” (which, 99% of the time is BS and hypocrisy) and others going big on product/service pushes. My hypothesis is that this 51/49 framework, a balanced mix of brand and product, is the only way to drive meaningful, long term growth.
How we do this
- We split our growth strategies and tactics into two main categories – brand (51%) and product (49%).
- 51% of our time is spent building the brand through non-product content (education, thought leadership, etc.), social, search advertising, newsletters, and PR. Never really getting into product across tactics, but covering topics and getting involved in conversations that relate to our clients, business, and products.
- 49% of our time is spent driving product interest and consideration. We do this through email marketing, webinars, sales enablement, and events.
It’s important to note that both of these complement each other, meaning the 49% influences the 51% results and vice versa. And, the more we build in the 51%, the more that spills over into the 49% results.
This framework allows a marketing team to balance the idea of building long term trust with short term conversion. The 51% is meant to build longterm trust, hook people into the brand over and over. The 49% is meant to create a short term interest boost through more direct means.
How we measure
In B2B, it’s long been a marketers dilemma to measure the impact of different tactics because some of them “don’t connect to the bottom line.” There are many sales variables that go into a B2B sale and some of the marketing tactics aren’t going to show in dollars coming in the door. But, at the end of the day, this is OK as long as you are still clearly measuring impact and set expectations with partners.
Brand metrics include (top of funnel to bottom)
- Engagement rates on social
- Web traffic
- New visitors vs. returning
- Bounce rate
- Time spent on site
- Newsletter signups
Product metrics include
- Product campaign engagement rates (e.g. digital wholesaler)
- Pardot score increases
- Leads driven via campaigns (e.g. email)
- Leads driven via webinars
Two critical implementation elements
1. Create tethering between the two as your strategizing and executing. Meaning, being able to paint a full picture of the client universe and how they interact at the brand and product level. Some of the universe may be more sales led and some brand led.
2. Ensuring any stakeholders have a clear understanding of how you’re approaching your marketing plan. Getting them comfortable with the fact that some of the time allocated may not show direct returns in 1, 2, or 3 months.
The 51/49 framework, paired with a clear internal communication plan, will differentiate a B2B brands in the long term. At least, that’s the hypothesis, for now.