Every week I meet companies that have no idea what works and what doesn’t for their marketing. They target the wrong people with the wrong message, and rely on assumptions that are fundamentally flawed.
Marketers also often fail to notice that B2B buyer expectations have changed. Spoiled by modern B2C services like Amazon or Uber, buyers expect personalised communications and instant responses. Most companies simply can’t keep up with the changing reality.
Often B2B companies play it safe, and stick to the same marketing strategy that brought results in the past. However, something that worked in your industry 3 years ago will rarely produce the same results today. The buyer personas, their expectations, and the channels they use might all be different.
These are complex challenges with no quick solutions. And when the time comes to address them, companies often rely on these two approaches:
1) The new generation of marketers invests in trendy tools and methods they see on LinkedIn. They go for strategies that work for someone else, without thinking whether it’s the right one for their company.
2) On the other end of the spectrum you have companies that still live like it’s 1999. They get together in January to create a grand plan for the rest of the year. They then meet again in December to review the progress. If it worked, great! If not, no big deal. There’s always next year.
Most B2B companies jump from one extreme to another. There is no process in place to create a growth strategy that fits their unique situation.
So how can a B2B company break out of the vicious cycle, and find new ways to grow online? Systematic marketing experiments.
B2B companies need a process for marketing experiments
No matter how experienced you are, there is simply no way of knowing if your long-term marketing strategy will work. And if it doesn’t, you’ve just wasted a lot of time and money.
To add to the complexity, there can be many solutions to each marketing challenge you are facing. Without trying them and comparing the data, you won’t know what works best for your company.
Stop putting all eggs in one basket, or chasing the latest trends. Instead, make systematic Marketing Experiments the cornerstone of your growth process.
Marketing experiments help you test multiple strategies, and find the ones that best fit your situation. Rapid experimentation can get results in days, not months. Best of all, instead of opinions, this approach relies on data to show what works and what doesn’t.
More importantly, systematic experimentation lets you narrow the gap between your marketing and what your customers expect. That’s what Growth Marketing is all about.
Marketing experiments also put your team in a new state of mind. You no longer have the luxury of time, and have to become more creative and agile. Your team will start asking themselves – how else can we do this better?
We use experiments to achieve radical B2B lead growth for our clients. In some cases 20 hypotheses are enough to start seeing scalable growth. But when launching new products, sometimes we go as far as testing thousands of ideas at once.
How to start experimenting
Becoming an experiment-driven company takes effort and organisational change. But as a marketer, you can take the first steps today.
Here’s a good structure to start building your experiment-driven process from:
Step 1 – Deep understanding
Start by getting the data behind what’s really preventing you from growing. Audit your digital marketing and sales data. Dive into your business, customers and the market. Interview your colleagues and customers. Look at the issues that come up the most with customer support.
Based on what you’ve learned, create a customer journey for each buyer persona. Visualise the long and complex path your future customers go through. Divide it into lifecycle stages, and try to understand how you can meet the buyer needs at each stage.
Customer journeys will be the framework of your experiment-driven marketing strategy.
Look at your customer journeys, and find the bottlenecks that need to be fixed. Try to understand what’s preventing you from moving people from Leads to happy Customers. Don’t look for symptoms, like landing page conversion rates. Focus on understanding the underlying reasons, such as wrong buyer personas or value propositions.
These are some of the questions to ask:
- Are you targeting the right buyer personas?
- Do you understand the buyers’ needs throughout their journey?
- Are you reaching them with the right message and through the right channels?
- How are the leads handed over to sales?
- Do marketing and sales share data with each other?
Step 2 – Marketing experiments
Using the your best understanding of the customer journey, brainstorm multiple hypotheses for your marketing experiments. Ask yourself – what can I do to fix the bottlenecks and improve performance?
Test your tactics against each other. Each marketing experiment needs a timeline and a measurable goal. Use marketing analytics to measure and optimise experiment performance in real time.
Here are some of the key areas you can experiment with, that usually have the most impact:
- Buyer personas. Are you targeting the right people? Is there data to prove it?
- Customer journeys. Are you reaching customers with the right message at the right time?
- Messaging. How do you know if what you say is what your audience wants to hear?
- Channels. What new marketing channels could you use to reach your audience and generate leads?
- Marketing technology. What new tools would give you better ROI on your efforts?
- Innovative new ideas. Could a new lead scoring model help you get better quality leads?
Step 3 – Scaling results
Rely on data to choose the most successful experiments, and mercilessly kill the rest. Then go back to step 2, and create yet another hypothesis based on your winning campaigns. No matter how well something performed, it can always get better. This continuous loop of data analytics and optimisation will help your marketing always stay relevant and effective.
Begin from the steps above, and build them into your growth marketing strategy. Soon you will start learning what works best for your product, business and industry.
Even more importantly, the data will also show you what doesn’t work at all. You can then focus your time and marketing budget on the things that bring real results.
Marketing experiments are no longer nice to have. They are a must if you want to succeed at B2B marketing in 2020.
Stop wasting time and money on overhyped approaches or putting all the eggs in one basket. Instead, build an experiment-driven process to find the growth strategy that’s right for your company.
Kick off your growth marketing
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