A Dose of Reality in B2B Marketing


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Napoleon once remarked, “A general should consider himself successful if half of what he plans comes to pass.”  This is not to say that you shouldn’t carefully plan.  But the fact is that things don’t always turn out the way you plan (just ask Napoleon about a place called Waterloo).  For example, the list is staler than you thought. The webinar topic is not as interesting.  The offer is not as compelling.  Your vendor misses the mailing or email date.  In other words, like with the rest of life, in marketing and sales, stuff happens, and sometimes in ways you never imagined. 

This is why it is important not to put all your eggs in one marketing basket. The idea that sounds good at conception doesn’t always work out that way in reality.  The more experience you have, the more likely you are to produce a winning campaign, but there is seldom a guarantee.  It is much easier to predict results over multiple campaigns than one particular campaign.  At one company, I’ve had as many as 25 unique B2B lead generation activities launching in a quarter and was able to predict the number of leads to within two percent and the cost per lead to within three dollars. This didn’t mean that every program was a winner – some were and some were not.  Some were fairly reliable and some were more speculative.  The point is – all of the programs together produced a sufficient number and quality of leads that kept the sales VP happy, and the low cost-per-lead kept the CFO and CEO happy.

I posted recently about the importance of creating a B2B marketing and sales machine.  But unlike some machines, the inputs (budget, people, programs, etc.) and outputs are not always predictable.  Marketing and sales machines need to be constantly fine-tuned to get the best results.  We marketers learn over time and apply the lessons (good and bad) to the future.   That is why the experienced marketer is usually more effective than the inexperienced – not because he or she is smarter or better educated.  Those arrows in the back you get from taking chances really pay off as long as you don’t repeat the same mistakes. When someone asks, “How do you know this won’t work?” you can answer, “Because I tried it and it was a disaster.”

Whether you are working on a single campaign or writing a plan for a year’s worth of activities, it is wise to always prepare for the worst even as you are hoping for the worst.  In Greek mythology, hubris against the gods was often attributed as a character flaw of the heroes, and the cause of the destruction which befalls people who start believing in their own infallibility.  Your ability (and mine) to keep hubris in check and will make us better marketers.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Christopher Ryan
Christopher Ryan is CEO of Fusion Marketing Partners, a B2B marketing consulting firm and interim/fractional CMO. He blogs at Great B2B Marketing and you can follow him at Google+. Chris has 25 years of marketing, technology, and senior management experience. As a marketing executive and services provider, Chris has created and executed numerous programs that build market awareness, drive lead generation and increase revenue.


  1. This is true in so many things in life! It is dangerous to sit back on our laurels and let the machine. Persistence and diligence pay off. Thanks for the great post Chris.

  2. Well said Chris. Experience, good and bad, does really matter in marketing, especially when it comes to B2B lead gen. Guess that is one reason to be thankful for all the gray hairs, wrinkles, bruises and battle scars!

    Annie Eissler
    VP, Client Services

  3. Diana and Annie, a belated thank you for the comments. Not sure if I am happy about the scars and graying hair, but the negative experiences and lessons learned sure help when creating new marketing campaigns.



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