B2B marketers zoom in…and miss the big picture?

In B2B Marketing on July 1, 2009 at 1:17 pm

Warning to marketers, especially in the B2B arena: the newest thing is NOT automatically the biggest thing. In trying to get our clients past the “commodity” status so common in many industries, we have developed a rabid desire to get and stay “ahead of the curve.”  As a result, it seems like the bulk of today’s news items and blog posts focus on emerging trends, with headlines like “32% of B2B decision makers on Twitter” or “Company X uses social media to gain biz.”

Well and good; we all should stay up to date on the newest tools in our arsenals. But I’m afraid that, in our competitive urgency to leap into the future, we are leaving a pretty big flank unprotected. I have a sneaky suspicion that that “32% of decision makers” had just heard the term so much that they had to check it out. Once.  And that some progressive exec at Company X  used its name in a “tweet” and a customer actually noticed.

In a relatively short period of time, we have seen the cycle repeated many times; the “new thing” becomes the “old thing” and not enough any longer. Web sites. Then active, engaging Web sites over “brochureware.”  Then interactive sites. Followed by SEO. Then SEM. Then E-mail direct mail and newsletters. Then Facebook. And LinkedIn. And blogging. And now…Twitter. (And I’m sure I skipped a few along the way.)

I’d like to see a simple research project in which B2B marketers are asked how big a part all those things mentioned in the last paragraph (excluding the obvious Web info gathering) played in their last major purchase. My guess is about 10% – all together. Which means 90% of the decision still came down to personal selling, word of mouth, traditional ads and collateral materials, and some Web research.

Again, I’m not saying you shouldn’t stay up to date and fluent in the “latest things.”  I don’t dispute their potential importance. But if you are focusing 90% of your attention there because it’s more exciting and gives you something to claim expertise at in your next pitch, you might be doing yourself and your clients a disservice.

Your homemade BBQ sauce just might make your 4th of July cookout a hit. But if you have to serve it in a glass  because you forgot the  chicken and ribs, it will be no picnic for your guests.


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