The B2B Marketer's Third Little Secret

It’s Brian E. Whitaker again, bringing you some of the little secrets of corporate B2B marketing.

Today, we’re going to talk about one of the most embarrassing secrets B2B marketers keep hidden. As a former B2B marketing manager, I can attest that it’s true.

B2B marketers struggle to have great marketing ideas.

Here’s some fresh proof from the market. Lately, I’ve been analyzing the marketing coming from the top 5 companies in my industry, looking for similarities and differences, analyzing style, that sort of thing.

And for the most part, everyone has the same ideas.

They’re using the same words with the same tone in the same way. They’re all describing their products using the same phrases. Even the colors of their websites are the same.

Interchangeable marketing is not a good thing. Why is there such boring consistency from highly trained marketing people?

One reason is that there’s a lot to do and not much time for ideas.

Marketing managers are pulled around by the demands of their business. Looking back at my corporate calendar, I averaged 22 meetings a week. Distraction, conflicting activities, and scattered time don’t support great thinking.

Here’s an anecdote to illustrate the point. To do creative work at Dell, I would find a conference room on the other side of the building. I would turn off my phone, IM, social media updates, email, and all applications except one (usually Microsoft Word).

And usually, I’d have to turn everything back on in 30 minutes to ensure something urgent didn’t need immediate attention, or I’d be interrupted by a knock on the door.

That’s no way to think creatively. But in corporate America, that’s how many are forced to think.

Another reason is that B2B marketing managers are too close to the product.

That probably sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? But it’s true. Marketing managers sometimes can’t see what’s really important.

You know the old saying, “No one would eat sausage if they watched it being made”? More times than not, that’s true of new product development. As part of product development, features are taken out or delayed. Compromises are made to control costs. Early enthusiasm gives way to tepid tolerance.

I remember one instance where a few of us had been brooding about the core value proposition of a new product. The discussion had been going on for weeks. Some capabilities had been yanked from the product, and we were all discouraged.

Then one of us had the bright idea to go and talk to an existing customer, who came up with a bright idea that saved us! In five minutes, he leapt beyond the team of insiders and took the marketing in a new direction.

There’s a reason why marketers use focus groups, win/loss interviews, discussions with sales teams, or talks with industry outsiders to test messages and storylines. Outside perspective is valuable.

And you can be the valued outsider with fresh ideas and time to think.

If you help B2B marketers solve their struggle with ideas, you’ll become a trusted advisor and valued partner in their marketing.

I’ve seen it before. Copywriters come in and bring new ideas and new ways to describe value. They make the copy better and help the client in a distinctive, valued way. Fresh thinking is one of the core reasons businesses hire outsiders.

Some copywriters even charge for brainstorming sessions. I certainly do. As part of packages I’m promoting, I’m adding a couple of brainstorming sessions – at consulting fees – to ensure we start with all the best ideas. Not sure that I’ll win deals being an idea man, but I’m trying to add value beyond my writing.

Fresh ideas are just one of the distinctive benefits you can bring to your clients. And there are many others. I’ve just written an article on all the ways a copywriter helps everyone involved in a sale. Good ideas are just part of what you can do.

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Published: June 6, 2012

1 Response to “The B2B Marketer's Third Little Secret”

  1. This is a valuable article. I want to thank you for contributing your ideas.

    The corporation is fixated on a work ethic that stifles creative thinking.

    The need for constant busyness is reinforced by your boss. The boss will peer over your shoulder and hover around like a helicopter because you are up to no good.

    The truth, however, is different. After all, you are busy ruminating over synergistic thinking and brainstorming for ideas.

    You want to take a different angle on an old issue.

    Archan MehtaJune 6, 2012 at 12:52 pm


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