A Dose of Reality in B2B Marketing – by Christopher Ryan
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.