How to Recognize and Avoid the Seven Deadly Sins of B2B Marketing

By Christopher Ryan – President, Fusion Marketing Partners

You might be familiar with the acclaimed seven deadly sins. They are envy, pride, lust, gluttony, wrath, greed, and sloth. Although the business to business deadly sins of marketing are obviously not as disastrous as those listed above, they do deserve some serious consideration for the good of your business.

1st Deadly Sin: Insufficient self-knowledge. By “self-knowledge,” I am referring to the sense of what you do best in your job as a sales or marketing professional. Knowing both your strengths and your weaknesses gives you the knowledge of how to bring out the best and eliminate the weaknesses of your company. Usually, if you identify your strengths, you will be able to also identify your weaknesses, even if you have been avoiding looking at them previously. One trait that can be considered a weakness is having a thoughtful demeanor, which turns your attention in on yourself.

While certainly unintentional, this attitude is often interpreted by others as being conceited or standoffish. On the other side of the coin, an attitude of persistence and a tendency toward competitiveness or aggression might lead people to believe that you are overbearing, annoying, or unpleasant. The above discussion of self-awareness is of a personal nature, but your company needs to be aware of its business strengths and weaknesses, too. You must be aware of what your competitors do well and what their weaknesses are. Sit down and spend some time candidly and honestly analyzing what it is that your competitors do that makes them successful.

2nd Deadly Sin: Perfection. If you are a brain surgeon, or even a symphony conductor, perfectionism is obviously a necessary quality to have! But if you are a sales and marketing manager, splitting hairs can often hinder your progress rather than serving your purposes, preventing you from moving forward with your B2B marketing campaign. Not being a perfectionist does not mean that you should be mediocre in anything that you do.

Of course you should strive to be efficient and adept at your skills. But being obsessed with perfection is not nearly the same thing as being good at something. If you spend your energy worrying and stressing about getting one aspect of your marketing efforts absolutely flawless, you will give up the opportunity to maintain a steady pace of work while freeing your mind for creative output. If you get stuck on one problem and find yourself frustrated because it isn’t going exactly as you want, that’s the time to stop and think of Voltaire, who told us that perfection is the enemy of quality.

3rd Deadly Sin: “But we’ve always done it this way!” Even if the way you always did it brought you success, that does not mean that it will continue to do so. You might miss seeing the changes in the market if you aren’t focused on what’s new. Practically everything the world over has lunged forward into new, unchartered territories, and sales and marketing must stretch to keep up with it all. Things that might have worked before could be totally obsolete in just two or three years. And what you did in the field of sales and marketing ten or twenty years ago should not even be in the storehouse of your marketing mind! The successful marketing expert Andy Grove believed that paranoia was a sign of a good marketer – meaning you should always, always be questioning what your competitors are doing and how they are using any new technology available to them.

You can safely assume that there is a competitor somewhere in the world out there who is taking advantage of the next wave of technology before you have even begun to analyze its possibilities.

You can avoid becoming stagnant by being an active and aggressive consumer in whatever you buy for yourself or for your company. Observe! What are the competitors in that particular market doing? How are they trying to get your business? Why don’t you do it yourself? There’s nothing wrong with copying a good method if it isn’t patented. You are free to observe and try any sales tool out there that you can.

4th Deadly Sin: Not paying attention to the numbers. It is so easy to avoid doing what we don’t want to do, and keeping detailed data and measuring and analyzing it quantitatively seems to be one of the least popular activities. But facts and data are invaluable. Your job as a B2B marketing manager is to embrace the data eagerly and gratefully so that you can use it to the best advantage of your company. Historically, even the larger business-to-business marketing firms tried to dodge the metrics. They focused on subjective data such as brand awareness, and they spent far too much of their energy anticipating whether they would receive a top sales award for the year. Those unfocused sales personnel are long gone.

The economy now demands heavy emphasis on factual data more than subjective theories. Companies need data that will help them compete in a world-wide economy and on the internet. They need to know how well their lead generation is working. They need to know the size of their market. With each promotion, they need to measure their products’ visibility. They need factual feedback from customers. They need to know the progression consumers take in making their buying decisions.

5th Deadly Sin: Lack of testing. In business-to-business marketing, you absolutely must test your marketing efforts in order to decide what strategies get the best results. You can’t just keep going along as usual without stopping to test where you are and to calculate whether you’re staying in step with your competitors or just staying on your own course. You must refine and tweak the techniques you are currently employing, and in order to do that, you need to measure what you are doing and test exactly what the results are. You need to test your pull marketing and push marketing. Who is your target audience? What messages are you sending to them? How are your graphics and verbiage helping your B2B campaign and how are they hindering it? What offers and benefits are you using to entice customers with your pull marketing campaign?

It is my suggestion that you incorporate testing as an integral part of your B2B marketing strategy and that you use the test results to plan your spending budget. Ninety to 95 percent of your budget should be invested in marketing campaigns (control campaigns) that have been proven to have successful results, and you can spend the smaller percentage (five to ten percent) trying new, innovative programs and experimenting with lead generation to get new customers and prospects. Remember that the smaller percentage of your budget is just for testing, and you cannot expect to get the same results as in the rest of your sales and marketing strategies. This is only for experimenting. Try out new ideas. Take a chance. See if you can surpass your current control campaigns. It’s the part of your job that is most exciting and fun. And when you test a brand new idea and it is a success, you will feel the rush that every sales and marketing person thrives on.

6th Deadly Sin: Stagnancy. In his military campaigns, Napoleon made it his motto never to stand still. If he didn’t know what to do next, he aggressively attacked the enemy! Marketers would do well to mimic Napoleon’s aggressive posture. Certainly it’s scary to try out a new market or begin a new marketing campaign or to change your strategy for nailing those fast hits. There will be times when, unfortunately, you won’t have a chance to finish your planning. Maybe you won’t have all your data gathered yet. Perhaps you haven’t tested a new target market before you have to start selling to them. Maybe your research and development isn’t finished yet and you are not too sure about the outcome. It’s risky. But do not let this shortage of quantifying factors hold you back.

You have to be aggressive. It’s the only way to succeed in a competitive environment. You have your predetermined target market just as an athlete has his own set of rules and playing field. Your playing field is where prospects turn into customers as a natural metamorphosis, as long as you can present the right opportunities for them to understand your product and to interact with you. If your particular playing field is fast-paced, you might not even have time to take aim and put a good bead on your target. You just have to go for it first and analyze it later. You will gain experience and learn more by putting your best efforts out there than by trying to anticipate what will happen.

7th Deadly Sin: Wasting valuable resources. There are a multitude of distractions for a B2B sales and marketing manager, and it takes will power to determine where to put your resources. Your two most important resources are your time and your money. I have seen marketing managers waste both in abundance. Often, they spend all of their budget on hopeless ideas and marketing strategies. And they spend untold hours on these useless projects while letting the important, productive projects sit there undeveloped. There is a finite amount of time and a finite amount of available dollars to spend, and there are a multitude of projects to which you can apply them. If you spend your time on something that has little chance of success, you are falling into two traps – wasting your time on the wrong project and having too little time to spend on the right project.

As the saying goes, “Time is money.” It could be that you are a very frugal financial steward while, on the other hand, you are wasting that most valuable resource – time. Your time is precious. Too much time spent on work leaves you short on the time you want and need for your family and friends, not to mention the damage it does to your company. By paying attention to how you use your time, you can concentrate on the important marketing activities and eliminate the wasteful time-guzzlers. Imagine the freedom you would experience – and the relief of stress!

About the Author

Christopher Ryan is a prominent expert in business-to-business marketing strategies. He was a senior marketing executive at Sybase, PeopleSoft, Group 1 Software, and other companies before founding Fusion Marketing Partners. Mr. Ryan’s most recent book, HOW TO CREATE AN UNSTOPPABLE MARKETING AND SALES MACHINE, is available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.