I was recently asked by another B2B marketer what I thought about a particular demand generation tactic. Specifically, they were asking whether I thought its potential impact outweighed any possible harm to their brand.
This got me thinking: There are many B2B marketing tactics that could go either way, supporting your team’s efforts to scale sales pipeline or hurting your brand reputation. Which direction often depends on a number of factors, such as the persona targeted, their stage in the buy-cycle, the cadence of tactical execution and more.
While I find the four tactics discussed below to be – when used on me personally – harmful to brands, others may not if the tactics were used in the right circumstances. This is why diligence with demand gen strategy development, persona- and/or account-targeting precision and execution timing are vital to drive demand without undermining your brand reputation.
Here are four demand generation tactics I often find particularly harmful to brands.
1. Employing shady social engagement tactics
There’s a slew of social media practices (and martech solutions enabling them) that marketers have picked up like bad habits over the last few years. Here’s an example you’re all likely familiar with: You see you have a few new Twitter followers; so, in return, you politely follow those in your industry – only to get hit with an onslaught of automated direct mail pitches moments later. I’ve never responded to one of these – it’s just a more modern way of spamming. Same goes for LinkedIn.
It’s hard to understand why people do this; anyone who has the decision-making authority sought after by the purveyors of these practices typically has neither the time nor the inclination to react favorably to such a tactic. In my opinion, it’s more likely to scar your brand than generate quality engagement among your audience.
Obviously, social media is very important for B2B marketing and selling today. And there are some great social selling tactics. But it’s important not to confuse these with the more abrasive, brand-hurting social media mistakes.
2. Treating new prospects like long-time customers
This tactic can be demonstrated in a wide range of ways, from spamming cold contacts purchased in lead lists to weird direct mail practices to variations of the social media ploys discussed above. Personalizing messages to prospects is always a good idea, but it must be done in a manner that’s appropriate to that prospect’s past engagement with your brand.
Let’s take direct mail as an example. This tactic can be terrific way to set your brand apart from the competition – in a good way. Say a contact has engaged in a few pieces of key content, was scored as a sales-ready lead and sent over for follow-up. Let’s then say that sales had a good, initial call to identify the contact’s pain points, during which time the sales rep discovered that the contact/prospect was a huge San Diego (…I mean LA) Chargers fan, and the rep passes that info to you. You (putting aside your newfound hatred of the Chargers since they abandoned your city) have a LA Chargers mug shipped to their office with a nice, slightly clever note. That’s a good use of direct mail.
Now, let’s use the direct mail tactic in a different context – this one having actually happened to my colleague, Triniti, a few weeks ago. She received an envelope in the mail containing a coaster with a handwritten note on it that read:
Look forward to meeting you soon.
[Insert ambiguous URL here]
Triniti has no idea who Dan is, nor any clue where the URL will take her or for what reason. Had there been some sort of pre-established rapport, this would’ve been okay (not great in my view, but at least not as creepy). Instead, Triniti was left with an uncomfortable experience which she (and I) now attach to Dan’s company brand.
3. Using “club promotion” tactics on the wrong personas
In an initial draft of this blog post, I labelled this mistake “Overhyping the product, solution or trend” and wrote about how certain vendors hype up a new B2B marketing trends as if it’s the newest hit show on Netflix or HBO.
I then let my colleague, Kate, read the draft and she didn’t think “overhyping” was a problem. …well it is for me. Why? Because I’m an older generation-Xer, kind of a jerk and prone to eye-rolling when B2B marketers treat…say ABM…as if it’s the latest Tesla invention. To me, such tactics come across as disingenuous, incongruous and just unhelpful.
Kate, on the other hand is a millennial, who literally wrote a book on being a successful millennial. And she’s more open to this type of marketing. So, what avoiding this mistake comes down to is ensuring you’re using this tactic on the right personas. In other words, you probably don’t want to be handing out “ABM”-bedazzled hats to a 48-year-old CMO. But it’s often the case that younger professionals find this kind of stuff fun and engaging.
The key here is to be very selective when it comes to these polarizing tactics. You must have a very clear idea of which personas will view certain engagement efforts favorably and which will shun your brand for them. If you can’t figure out who’s who – don’t do it.
4. Overusing marketing buzzwords
This one slowly seeps into the daily routine of anyone who’s worked in the business world long enough. When I first entered the private sector a decade ago, I thought I’d never catch the business buzzword bug. Yet, here I am, often cringing moments after certain words or phrases exit my mouth: “growth hacking,” “move the needle,” “impact” (as a verb), “disrupt,” “synergy,” “snackable content” …I’ve used them all and much more at some point, and I’m not proud of myself.
However, I’m pretty good about not using them in anything I write for content marketing purposes. It’s one thing to hear someone use marketing buzzwords; it’s a completely different thing to read them on a company website or in an ebook.
Buzzwords and slang may seem to you like you’re conveying an engaging, conversational tone; and from time to time they do help create that tone. When overused, however, buzzwords and slang just come across as bad writing or pandering to an unsuspecting audience. One makes your brand look unintelligent and other disingenuous.
Marketers must craft their messaging and content like a good chef creates a menu: It should be just trendy enough to convey familiarity with a pre-existing demand (i.e., so audiences can identify what they’re looking at) without being so peppered with clichés that the restaurant/your brand loses any unique value and/or credibility as an industry leader.
The takeaway – being diligent with your demand generation strategy, precise with your targeting, timely with your execution and, most importantly, balanced with your benefit-to-potential-harm ratio is important to maintaining your brand’s reputation.