Urgency is Killing B2B Marketing Effectiveness

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In my work with clients, the buying process for their complex solutions takes considerable time with buying groups that involve five or more people. On average, in one client, we proved that it took at least eight engagements with content — for each persona — over four to six months before buyers were willing to speak with sales in productive conversations.

So, we created storylines and programs to maximize the value delivery of content to increase engagement for every touch. The touch frequency was every two weeks. The programs were working well. We could track progress, see sufficient dwell time for reading the content, and confirm movement in the pipe and sales’ ability to engage. At the end of the year, this marketing team proved its programs influenced millions in revenue opportunities.

Then the company missed its quarterly numbers and the marketing team (under pressure from company leadership) decided that the way to achieve growth was to create more programs and increase the frequency of the nurturing touchpoints to a weekly cadence to push buyers forward, faster.

The marketing ops team also adjusted the lead scoring attribution to bump buyers to sales with less engagement than what we’d proven worked for the specific personas targeted in the programs.

What the company failed to consider was who controlled the outcome they wanted.

It wasn’t the company, but the buyers who were in control. Buyers don’t give a whit about your timeline. They’ve got plenty of stuff on their agenda to manage without your angst.

Buyers pushed back:

  • Engagement slowed.
  • Sales was unable to engage buyers as effectively.

Marketing teams faced overwhelm:

  • Content creation needs doubled – quality fell.
  • Programming needs doubled for production, orchestration, and distribution of content.

Sales teams grew distant:

  • Reps began ignoring the notifications in the CRM to engage “MQLs.”
  • Sales’ alignment with marketing slipped.

Even worse, because this marketing team wasn’t aware of other programs run by other marketing functions, buyers’ inboxes became overwhelmed by the overlap of programs this change created. Instead of three or four emails per month, some buyers received more than three or four emails per week.

That’s because leadership mandated the increased frequency to all marketing teams in the quest to close deals faster.

The result? The company missed its numbers again.

All these changes taken together caused a failure to orchestrate a compelling buyer experience.

Just Because We Can Doesn’t Mean It’s Wise

A new report, The Engagement Equation: How B2B Tech Marketers are Creating and Delivering Content that Captivates in 2024, points to the above example priming to repeat itself, perhaps with even more dire consequences.

Per the report, 92% of 450 respondents indicate creating more content compared to last year. As you see below in the chart, 39% say they’re creating 3 to 5X more content and 13% say they’re 10Xing their content output from last year.

In case you’re wondering how this content production is possible, 81% of them are using AI frequently or occasionally to generate content.

The report also found that 91% of respondents said content budgets have increased. I’m all for more budget spent on quality content aligned to buyer relevance. It also found that respondents are outsourcing more than half of their content creation — and are pleased with it. Music to my content marketing nerdiness!

Yet only half of these respondents use research and website analytics to understand audience behavior and tailor content accordingly. And only 39% adhere to content calendars aligned with product launches or marketing campaigns.

This begs the question as to whether the other 61% are doing random acts of content marketing?

As a side note, there’s no mention of personas. Nor were ideal customer profiles (ICPs) included. The phrase “strategic planning” specifically referenced content calendars. Per the report, “lead generation metrics are a major focus for measuring content impact.”

What could go wrong?

B2B Marketing Must Slow Down to Speed Up

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
— Abraham Lincoln.

There’s a reason this quote has stood the test of time. Preparation sets the foundation for performance.

I’m aging myself, but I remember B2B marketing when technology was just coming to the fore. Things were slower then, more thoughtful. But now that we have the tools to publish at lightning speed, that thoughtfulness has left the building. Not for all companies, thank goodness. But for many.

Justification for not doing foundational work includes:

  • We can’t afford to pause our programs to do research. We’ve got to get stuff out the door!
  • We know our buyers. We sell to the VP of X.
  • If we can just get more downloads, we’ll make our MQL number.
  • If sales would follow up on the leads we send them, they’d close more deals…
  • We’re not sure why this campaign didn’t perform. But let’s get another one launched!

Without the preparation involved in understanding your company’s business strategy, your buyers, your market(s), and the time lag of marketing, we’re opting in to suboptimal performance.

Yes, we’re choosing mediocrity.

But marketers can make a different choice.

B2B Marketers Must Commit to Better Before They Commit to More

You may think you don’t have time to slow down and do the prep work, but at what cost?

Let’s take the example above from the report that shows marketers are dramatically increasing content production — with most using Gen AI. But with no signs of building the foundation to create better content that buyers will find relevant.

A few things to think about with Gen AI:

  • It can’t think or reason.
  • It wants to please you – which explains why it responds to your prompts in predictable ways.
  • Its output is based on what’s come before – not what’s coming next.
  • If the person working with AI can’t validate the output, brand damage won’t take long.

Garbage in, garbage out is one way to think about it. To use AI well, you need a solid content marketing strategy behind the prompts. You need to know your audience — well beyond their titles. You need a plan for how your content will build the problem-to-solution knowledge your buyers need to gain momentum and intent. And you need to know enough about the subject matter AND quality writing to call foul on the AI output. And then fix it.

I say “fix” because it takes me longer to “edit” AI-generated content than to write from scratch. It’s great for brainstorming or outlines but I find it woefully lacking in its ability to write content that’s relevant with an emotional element for engagement and any insights that go beyond the “it’s been said before” mark.

Better content results in higher engagement and campaign performance. Full stop.

I’m all for creating more. But not unless it falls in the “better” category.

Buyers already have a high demand for their time and attention. When they make time to research solving problems and potential solutions, marketing content will be cast aside if it isn’t relevant, doesn’t provide new insights, or doesn’t help them answer top questions. This includes some of the word salad kicked out by AI. Any of those impressions made by mediocre content will harm marketing effectiveness.

If you take the time to build a solid foundation, you’ll make that time back in short order and continue to build a path from brand to demand for your buyers.

Don’t let urgency drive marketing output.

2 COMMENTS

  1. The article hits the nail on the head: in B2B, it’s not about who yells “Act Now!” the loudest, but who whispers “We understand you” the best. The constant barrage of urgency is akin to shouting fire in a theater full of CEOs—chaotic and counterproductive. It’s high time B2B marketing took a page from Disney’s book of patience and storytelling. Build trust, offer value, and let the sales roll in naturally. Because in the end, true magic happens when your customers feel seen, not rushed.

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Vance! I agree – B2B marketing needs more patience and storytelling to help customers feel seen.

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