Rules of modern marketing

A few rules that should guide any modern B2B marketing department:

1. Plan to compete with feature parity

There are lots of examples of companies with well-insulated technological advantages. But most of the time, a feature or two is only unique for four to six months.

In a world of feature parity, what are you really competing on? Price or something less tangible? For the most successful companies, it’s the latter.

2. Purchase decisions are rationalized decisions

We like to think that B2B decisions are rational purchases. But really they’re emotional purchases made by individuals, and later rationalized.

You can still win if you don’t emotionally connect, but you have to be outstanding because your competitors are being given the benefit of the doubt.

3. Business is consumerized

It used to be that people used different things at work and at home. No longer. Now they use Facebook at work and Microsoft Excel at home, and their iPhone wherever they are. B2B companies need to learn lessons from B2C companies and make products that offer great customer experiences, and use marketing that appeals to business buyers as individuals.

4. Tell a story

It’s no surprise: people connect to stories. What’s your story? Why were you founded and what big problems are you solving?

5. Looks aren’t everything, but they are a leading indicator

Your mom loves you regardless of what you wear, but the rest of us judge. If you look sloppy or amateur, what does that indicate about your product? Being put together, with every detail in place doesn’t make you detail oriented, but it is an indicator.

Same thing with your company. If your marketing material is sloppy, your work is probably sloppy. If it’s not, you had better be prepared to jump through hoops to prove it.

6. Revenge of the nerds (metrics matter)

All this emotional stuff doesn’t mean that metrics don’t matter. They matter more than ever. Now you can track everything, so do!

7. The customers are in control

Old marketing was about driving prospects through your sales process. Modern marketing is about accompanying prospects as they drive themselves through their own process.

It’s not about convincing someone that your product is the right one for them, it’s about being the right product for them, and letting them control the decision.


Updated Go Bag list

I’ve updated my Go-Bag slightly. Most of things remain the same, as does the goal: prepare for what is likely. This is the key thing about disaster preparedness, of course: many people prepare for insane highly unlikely events.

Unfortunately, this means that they’ve not only put their resources into things that’ll never be used, it usually means that they are ill-prepared for events that actually might happen.

Alright, here’s the new list:

Bag Nalgene for water Some sort of sterification for water Spork Change of clothes Running shoes Rain gear Flashlight Some food (bars + beef jerky) Duck tape Multitool warming packs Extra wool socks Lighter Warm jacket Warm hat (wool beanie) Paper, pen, perm marker Toiletries Hand sanitizer Whistle Earplugs Plate

Clever extras: car inverter Lantern Extra batts (but not necessary) Television or radio USB Battery pack First aid kit USB surge protector thing Emergency sleeping bag Can opener Wet wipes Paracord Wool Blanket

Don’t forget your brand’s most important audience

Who is your brand’s most important audience? A particular customer segment? A market?

For many companies, their brand’s most important audience is internal: their employees.

A well-defined corporate brand creates clarity and purpose, and communicates a clear vision of to work towards. When everyone in a company pulls in the same direction, they can achieve incredible results.

Many corporate brand efforts are laser-focused on external customers, and lose sight of people inside the organization. A corporate branding effort is a great chance to rally the troops, to re-inspire, and to reinvigorate your entire corporate effort. Use it wisely.

Corporate brands are different than product brands

It’s pretty easy to conflate a product brand and a corporate brand.

But they are different and require different strategies.

Corporate branding is (drum roll) all about the company or organization. Product branding is, not surprisingly, all about an individual product.

For many purchases, the purchaser’s relationship with the selling company is tenuous at best. If you buy a Coke, you don’t care where it was bottled (or canned). If you buy Tide, you don’t care about Proctor and Gamble. Your relationship with the brand is almost all (though not entirely) through the product. In these cases, purchasers are buying the brand the company has created around the product through product qualities and advertising.

On the other hand, many enterprise or large purchases are dependent on a corporate brand. A customer is theoretically buying a product, but what they are really buying is a relationship with the company behind the product.

In these cases, purchasers care about the culture of the company as much as the features of the product itself.

Both types of brands have internal drivers: a product brand needs to be backed up by features, and a corporate brand needs to be backed up by features and culture.

The mistake many make is thinking that they have a product brand when they really have a corporate brand. Which is yours?

More than ping pong and pizza

At too many companies, “culture” is an HR issue. How do we make our employees happy?

This misses the point. Culture is a strategic advantage (or disadvantage). Think about it: every one of the company’s products and services are created by its employees, and they are operating in the milieu that is the company’s culture.

Executives that dismiss culture as an HR issue are ignoring the one lasting strategic advantage they can have. If you build the right culture, your employees will build the right products and deliver the right services – products and services that the executive team couldn’t have imagined.