There is good marketing out there, but there is also a ton of marketing waste. Yet businesses continue to throw time, effort and money away attempting to move the needle simply because everyone else does it. So in no particular order, here are 5 marketing efforts B2B companies do that are completely and utterly useless like the ice cream cone that spins itself.
5. Printed Product Datasheets
Have you ever bought something off Amazon? Did you need a datasheet to make your decision? Did someone mail you some piece of collateral or stop you at a tradeshow and hand you a full-color, double-sided spec sheet printed on high-glass, 80# cover stock?
Probably not. You probably went on the web and read the specifications. Or if you’re really serious and are comparison shopping, you might have even printed them (though unlikely).
When was the last time you went to a industry boondoggle, collected your free canvas bag’s worth of brochures and printed product specs and actually read any of it? If you did, I pity the life you lead.
Specifications change so often and products have so many wildly varied permutations, datasheets can’t keep up and don’t make any sense anymore. Not to mention, it takes effort to craft any piece of collateral including design, copy, print-run coordination, etc. A laundry list of a product’s capability can easily be translated to the web where it can be updated and even explained in a richer context.
Save a tree. Save a high-impact print piece for something memorable. Save your marketers the trouble of having to maintain what is essentially packing material for an idea.
4. Services that Guarantee New Followers/Visitors
Paying for Twitter or Facebook followers has almost no value since most of them are fake profiles, robots, or people lacking moral discretion who would gladly follow anybody who asked. Unless your business model has these people in mind as customers, you really need to stay away from the “quick fix” here.
Look, yeah, when you’re starting out, it can feel a little embarrassing when you have only 20 followers and half are employees or their family members. But paying for followers is like getting plastic surgery before you tried getting out and meeting people. And it’s not like anyone can’t dive in and see who your fake followers are and immediately realize that you are pumping yourself up full of hot air.
A true social program must be organically grown through great content, great sharing, and building a community within the larger network. Because when you do share, the quality of the people you share with will reflect on your brand and hopefully, it’ll mean something when they retweet you.
The same thing goes for email lists and web traffic. Why risk being blacklisted or suddenly becoming a victim of the spam you paid for?
By the way, if you have 3,000,000 followers, you better be super charismatic and relevant. You better be George Takei.
3. Events You’re Not Ready For
Live, physical, in-person, off-site events are serious cash burners. Between transportation, lodging, meals, loss of productivity, sponsorships, logistics, and marketing materials like signs, drayage, tchotchkes, collateral, booths, and booth babes, they will just eat up money for an undeterminable result.
That’s not to say all events are not worthwhile, but you must participate in events within your means. Think of it this way: if your marketing budget is $250,000, and you’re thinking about going to an event that cost $25,000, do you think that it will yield a +10% impact versus your other marketing activities?
Now sometimes, you need an event to brand a company or launch a product. Media will be there. The customers there are religious about going and are actively influencing the adoption of new products. And you have meetings planned already to make your salesforce happy and maybe even a speaking opportunity. Plus you’re going to learn and scope out the competition. The buzz of a specific event may draw you in. But just know that that’s what you will get: buzz, not business.
Also, do you feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk? Because even with all factors seemingly a-go, it can still be a game of Russian roulette. A live in-person event is one freak snowstorm, one budget cut away from being anything but an excuse to get slave-driving executives out of the office for awhile.
2. Chasing the Competition
Attempting to displace an existing product with a doppelgänger solution is a product development death sentence. Why would anyone do so? Even if a customer hates a product, if the investments made to the existing vendor are entrenched, and if the product is core to the infrastructure of their operations, removing it is like cutting off a leg. So it does no good to attempt to be a product that already exists.
Not to mention that those legacy companies have tons invested into their solutions that, while they may seem convoluted, have spread their tentacles into every corporate orifice they can find. Catching up to them is akin to reinventing the wheel.
In the enterprise software business, you’re also looking at contract renewal cycles that are annual or multi-year. Until those companies get a divorce, they’re not going to be on the dating scene.
The key is disruption, especially in software. Focus on the critical pain-points and position your solution as “that same solution but with a huge upside.” In other words, turn the existing solution into a commodity product that anyone can replicate, but move towards the next generation of performance, integration, usability, adaptability, unbreakability, etc. etc. etc. Or define a new way to solve an old problem, ideally one that can sit next to their existing investments.
Either way, don’t try to replicate someone else’s success.
1. One-on-One Job Candidate Interviews
There’s no doubt adding to your marketing team is one of the most critical steps in building a successful marketing operation, yet for some reason, when interviewing candidates, we have individual conversations with a prospect. Marketing is a team sport, but we fragment the vision and team dynamics when trying to evaluate someone who can improve the team.
This not only takes a long time, but it’s highly redundant. Then the hiring manager has to cull disparate pieces of information and make a decision. My best experiences as both an interviewer and interviewee have been when the entire core team could engage with the candidate together.
First, the team could correct itself in a discussion to keep the vision and goals straight. There was no veering away from important topics. The possibility of heading down the wrong tracks goes way down. The team also could function as a whole in seeing the same things everyone else did. Interviewers are varied in skill, but everyone has a perspective and insight that benefit from more “verbal” team members. It was also easier to tell if this person would be a fit because here they were together. A savvy hiring manager could then read the room and gauge whether or not this was a strong dynamic, and whether this candidate has the leadership capabilities that make them a valuable addition.
Second, from the perspective of the candidate, he or she can learn about the team dynamic. She could get a more complete picture of the group and the company. And everyone could be there to describe their unique perspective on the role. It also takes less time physically, since you’re meeting with a team of five rather than five individual meetings over the course of an afternoon, keeping her fresh and at her best. Rather than having to prepare different questions for everyone, she could open up her questions to the group and get clarification on the spot. And instead of being on the “circuit” answering the same questions about her background over and over again, she can do it once.
What’s really strange is how few companies attempt this type of interview process. Yet what I’m describing is how you might hire a vendor or agency, so it’s not that foreign, which is to gather the stakeholders and talk to the solution provider.
So in my perfect world, the candidate interview process might look something like this:
- HR Recruiter does a phone screen – Is this person a possible fit
- Hiring Manager does a 1-on-1 – Is this person worthy of my team’s time
- Assembled team (of whoever is available) does an in-person group interview
- Company deliberates and decisions are made
If you’re really advanced, I have heard about situations where the candidates are also grouped in like an audition and “performs” for the hiring team. That might be too much, but it does give everyone the ability to compare a fit right then and there.
What are your thoughts? Are there other marketing efforts we should retire?