How to Avoid the Pitfalls of B2B Marketing


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I recently read an interesting book about the middle ages, titled World Without End by Ken Follet. In it, the origin of the term pitfall was discussed. It seems that the English soldiers had trouble with the French Calvary due to their huge horses and heavy armor. At that point in history this was a big issue because the French and English spent more time fighting than co-existing peacefully. The English solved the problem by digging small pits, approximately one foot square and one foot deep, to make French horses (and their riders) fall. Thus the term “pitfall” was born. Today, the definition has been expanded to anything that has a “hidden danger.”

Not sure why I found this so fascinating but the point is – all of us face challenges in our marketing and sales strategies that are potential pitfalls. I have learned through long experience that avoiding the bad things can be just as important as doing the right things. Henceforth, here are some of my leading candidates for B2B marketing pitfalls to avoid:

  1. Unreachable goals – If the CEO or CSO says that he or she needs 1,000 leads next quarter and you only have the budget and time to deliver 500 leads, fight the urge to say “yes”. If you are operating in a market category where the competition is tough and your resources are meager, realize this quickly and insist on playing in an arena where you have a good chance at success. Unrealistic goals have been known to damage careers of many fine marketers. Don’t be one of them.
  2. Incompetent B2B service providers – If you rely on outside firms to help you with your marketing programs, understand that there is a large gap between the good ones and not-so-good ones. Hiring the wrong B2B service provider can slow you down, waste your money, and ensure that you don’t achieve the desired results (other than that, no problem). In other words, a huge pitfall. We don’t have space to go into all the details of what constitutes a poor provider, but watch out for:
    1. No domain expertise. Domain expertise means that your vendor understand the market space and has experience communicating to the potential audience.
    2. A lack of results-orientation. Nice brochures and a great website design are great but awareness, leads and revenue are what pay the bills. Many of the vendors that suffer from this malady have spent little or no time on the client side and so they have never really been there and done that – sort of like the sports announcer that never played the game.
    3. Failure to deliver. B2B marketing is all about doing stuff, not talking about it. You need partners who can create the message and get it in front of enough people to make your lead and revenue numbers.
  3. Unreasonable clients – If you are on the service provider side – like we are at Fusion Marketing Partners (our B2B Marketing consultancy) – beware of the unreasonable client. They can make your life miserable and unprofitable, a very bad combination. Unreasonable clients tend to fall into three major buckets:
    1. The all-knowing: Despite your extensive experience in your field, this B2B client will always claim to know more than you do and act accordingly. This will complicate every aspect of your relationship and lead you to swallow large quantities of antacids and such.
    2. The not nice: This type of client does not believe in the win/win concept and may actually take pleasure in creating conflict with you. The only answer to this type of situation is to “Run Forest Run”.
    3. The unresponsive: Although nice and appreciative of your efforts, the unresponsive client will frustrate you considerably, especially if you are the type of service provider that likes to deliver results. Unlike the two previous examples, with patience and persistence, unresponsive clients can sometimes turn into very good partners.
  4. I hope this will help you avoid the B2B marketing pitfalls that can limit your success.

    Onward and forward …

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. I too am endlessly fascinated by the etymology of the various phrases we use every day. Never knew that’s where “pitfall” originated. Also liked that you highlighted that results should be the primary focus of a marketing dept. We can talk messaging until we’re blue in the face, but if the pretty new webpage doesn’t drive interaction than what’s the point?

    Working in design I’ve dealt with the “all-knowing” many a time! In this market environment I would discourage jumping the gun on firing clients, but it’s comforting to hear someone else point out that sometimes customers are too smart for their own good!

  2. Jacob, thanks for the great comment. Achieving results is indeed the key, measured in terms of awareness, leads and revenue. Anything that doesn’t contribute towards results is definitely a “pitfall”.



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