3 common phrases in B2B marketing ‘trends’ that mean absolutely nothing

Ledger Bennett Insights, Opinion

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“The phrase, ‘Emperor’s new clothes’ has become a standard metaphor for anything that smacks of pretentiousness, pomposity, collective denial, or hollow ostentatiousness”.
Wikipedia

The Emperor’s New Clothes is a short tale written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, about two weavers who promise an emperor new clothes that they say are invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent – while in reality, they make no clothes at all, making everyone believe the clothes are invisible to them. In this context, the invisible clothes are common B2B marketing trends and our propensity to believe in them at all costs.

There are hundreds of blogs written on the subject ‘latest trends in B2B marketing’. If you take a step back, strip away the narrative and really question these ‘trends’, what they mean for your business and how they’d actually work in practice you might well find they’re about as lacking in substance as the Emperor’s new threads.

Here we’ll take a look at some of the biggest ‘trends’ that, when looked at in more detail probably don’t hold as much value as you might believe.

1. Account Based Marketing (ABM)
2. Personalisation
3. Sales and Marketing Alignment

Account Based Marketing (ABM)

“Account Based Marketing, or ABM is a strategic approach where sales and marketing align to focus their time and resources on an agreed upon set of target accounts”.

Having an ABM strategy in place makes people feel good. It provides a framework for reporting and feedback. To be blunt, it stokes the fire of internal communication and makes us feel busy.

But in reality, B2B marketers have been practising account based marketing for years. Targeting key accounts for cross sell opportunities to make the most of the ‘low hanging fruit’.

It’s not ‘ABM’, it’s common sense.

The whole ABM process is a distraction. The additional meetings required, the documentation, the framework creation, ABM training – the list goes on, and all these things are doing is using up more of your valuable time.

Expanding the range of services a profitable customer purchases from you is really important. Account managers must be empowered to identify and close these opportunities, in some cases with support from marketing. But, attaching a label and process to this activity overcomplicates what should be fairly straightforward, common sense relationship-led conversations with prospects and customers.

Personalisation

Personalise, personalise, personalise. It’s the modern marketers war cry.

But what does it really mean? At the highest level you’re talking about automating a person’s first name at the greeting point of an email.

That’s not going to win business.

A lot of wasted time is spent trying to get our heads around the idea of personalisation, as if it’s something new. But what we’re really talking about when we discuss personalisation in B2B marketing is accurate audience segmentation. Tailoring your content to a specific vertical for example. If you’re a SaaS business selling recruitment software, your communication with a public sector prospect who have a specific set of challenges will need to differ from communication with a global FMCG faced with something totally different.

That at its very essence is personalisation. But then, we knew that. Because the foundation of the marketing discipline is rooted in engaging with every segment of your target audience based on their wants or needs.

Of course, what’s available to us now are much richer data sets which allow us to drill down further into granular detail on a buyer persona, giving us more chance of striking an emotional connection than we’d have without that information. But it’s not new, and it’s not a trend. It’s a fundamental marketing principle.

Time would be better spent really understanding the data you’re capturing, the technology available to help you do that, and how that granular segmentation will positively impact your growth. Not creeping people out by running retargeting ads across the web with your prospects personal information all over them. People don’t like it.

Sales and Marketing Alignment

Throughout the 80s, 90s and 00’s it was the big message. There are great examples in startup culture of this working really well. But if we’re honest, in larger scale enterprises, sales and marketing alignment is about as far away as it ever has been.

The word alignment for a start, suggests two separate functions. Not a symbiotic set of skills that can’t function without the other. Which is far closer to the truth.

So the real key to success is integration and connection between sales and marketing. Getting them to act as one agile and thriving entity. Not simply improving communication or having increasing numbers of cross functional meetings, but turning the whole thing on its head and creating one cohesive ‘Revenue Team’.

So Now What?

It seems the whole marketing discipline is focusing too much on a new narrative but no real change. There’s also some evidence to suggest that a lot of these are B2C thoughts and trends creeping into B2B methodology. It’s not to say we can’t learn from our B2C counterparts but be careful about shoehorning in strategies that weren’t designed for your marketplace.

It’s easy to Google ‘B2B Marketing Trends’ and assume, when you see topics like ABM and personalisation crop up time after time that you should be taking action.

But wait! Call out the bulls**t! Take a step back and really unpick what these ‘trends’ mean for your business. How they would be practically implemented into your organisation and would the genuine impact of that activity be a) accurately measurable and b) if so, is that impact is worth the time and energy spent on it? If yes, do it and scale it. If no, step away from the buzzword.

What Happened to the Emperor?

When the emperor parades before his subjects in his new “clothes”, no one dares to say that they do not see any clothes on him for fear that they will be seen as stupid. Finally a child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”

We’re all guilty of failing to question accepted theories and commentary, hence the point of this post. What’s important now is acting on it and avoid having someone else call it out for you.

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