The 4 Most Expensive B2B Marketing Mistakes

    A quick read for CEOs at $1M-$50M business to business companies

    By Rebekah Donaldson, B2B Communications

    After 20+ years helping CEOs, Business Owners, and Marketing Directors with B2B marketing, I've noticed a pattern in which organizations get the best bang for their buck. Below are my observations.

    Wanted: Shortest, Least Expensive Route

    If you are going to be Chief Marketing Officer as well as CEO, you need to take the shortest, least expensive route to getting found by the right people, starting meaningful conversations with the right people, and helping them through the sales process by alleviating any worries about/ objections to buying. Right?

    If one of those things isn't going well, I'd wager one of these things is going on:

    1. Tactical Tunneling
    2. Pushing Prospects
    3. Dropping Connections
    4. Skipping Strategy

    1. Tactical Tunneling

    Typical costliness of this mistake: $-$$

    Example request from executive inquiring about B2B's services: “Can you add Live Chat to our homepage so we can engage more of our website visitors?" / "Can you get press to our trade show booth?" / Could you make an infographic for our blog post? ...etc

    The answer to all three is "probably yes." But if we're looking for the fastest, cheapest route to qualified leads, all three will likely waste time and money. The reason is that B2B marketing has a lot of moving parts, and it's unlikely that the tactic this company plans to experiment with, will fix lead generation problems.

    Maybe I can use car technology as an analogy. Twenty-five years ago, my first car was a used Dodge Colt. If it was running rough, I could pop the hood and, with the engine running, twist a screw on the carburetor to see if more air would make it run smooth. If the engine died, I twisted the screw back a little the other way and restarted the engine. The engine was relatively simple, so trial-and-error was low risk, high reward.

    Now I have a new car. It has a computerized fuel injector and other stuff I don't understand. If my new car's engine acts strange, I'm not going under the hood, I'm having a pro put it up on the rack and run diagnostics with their special equipment. But thanks to those same technological improvements, my car today performs far better than 25 years ago -- better gas mileage, lower emissions, better protection in case of a crash... 

    If marketing isn't producing qualified leads, don't start twisting this screw or replacing that hose. That's unlikely to help, and could quickly run up costs. Have a pro put it up on the rack and assess it.

    2. Pushing Prospects

    Typical costliness of this mistake: $$-$$$

    Example request from executive inquiring about B2B's services: “Our telemarketing isn't generating good leads, but the firm says it may take seven tries or more before contacts respond.”

    Imagine trying out some in‐person push marketing on one of your prospects, a business decision maker, as she starts out on a cold Monday morning. She’s parked her car and is headed into a coffee shop on the corner to grab a hot drink. You’ll play the consultant who is standing outside, marketing your professional services.

    You step in front of your prospect as she approaches, extending your hand to introduce yourself. You describe your company – its innovative approach, its hassle‐free solutions – and ask her to complete a short survey. She avoids eye contact and politely excuses herself.

    “Well, are you happy with your [insert problem you solve]?” you ask, hoping to extend the conversation. “I’ll give you a coffee card if you’ll complete my survey.”

    The next morning, you do the same thing. And the next morning. Your marketing agency prepared you for this. “It may take seven tries or more before she responds,” they warned, “Don’t throw in the towel too early.” So you grit your teeth and pitch her each day. On the third day, she’s avoiding the coffee shop. So you email. You leave voicemail. You send a letter.

    Is this approach working? No. It's annoying (and creepy). Is that really what you want to be known for?

    Upshot: It’s better to attract prospects than corner them. That’s what B2B marketers mean when they talk about “pull” or “inbound” marketing. Many B2B marketers have shifted to this approach. They’ll help you be visible and helpful when prospects are looking for companies and guidance: facilitating comparisons, providing all the elements of a strong business case, and being authentic.

    3. Dropping Connections

    Typical costliness of this mistake: $$-$$$

    Example statement from executive inquiring about B2B's services: "We need more attendees to sign up for this event, but if we push the date back I need to coordinate with our web designer, the videographers, our freelance writer who generates blog articles, our marketing coordinator who sends out the company newsletter..."

    If your B2B marketing is not managed in house or by an agency partner, you will need to navigate dozens of choices — including which specialist providers are needed, how to keep different teams coordinated, how to track return on investment, how to stay abreast of best practices, technology choices, and more.

    Providing just PR, or just web marketing, or just graphic design is one thing. Seeing all the options and making them work together for you is quite another. A full service B2B marketing agency should make you more effective more quickly with much less hassle and much less worry than going it alone. They should explain all your options – not just one or two tactics. They should guide you through technology decisions, track your marketing ROI, and be a single point of contact for all your marketing efforts.

    Upshot: Seek a full service agency and let them manage all that. Which agency is best? If you need to narrow down your options, here are “test” questions you can ask to make, or shorten, your list of potential partners.

    • Are you B2B marketers or consumer marketers?
    • What is your system or method for getting results?
    • Do you cover all major marketing disciplines?
    • Do you practice inbound trust‐based marketing?
    • Can you provide case studies showing that your approach works?

    4. Skipping Strategy

    Typical costliness of this mistake: $$$$

    Example request from executive inquiring about B2B's services: “Our Adwords campaign isn't generating good leads. Could you help us put the right bids on the right keywords?”

    A program that attracts and engages the right prospects has several parts. Superbly crafted ads with appropriate bids can fill the top of the funnel by increasing desirable traffic.

    Weak landing pages are the biggest reason that desirable traffic doesn't produce leads or new business. The advertiser needs a landing page where he reassures the visitor that he is in the right place (affirm promise made in ad), drips trustworthiness, and asks for just a little information.

    Making such a page is tough. B2B decision makers resist giving their contact information to vendors/service providers. They don't want to trigger a sales call. To overcome that, the visitor needs to see much more benefit than risk to completing the form.

    Perceived risk goes down as trust markers go up. In other words, citing clients and their testimonials, awards won, media coverage earned, and other markers reduce visitors' worries about sharing their name and email.

    Upshot: If you're an executive with broad responsibilities and a new marketing effort just getting underway, you'll get much better return from a well-rounded, full service agency.


    The most successful companies see themselves from their customers’ perspective. Each year, it takes more groundwork to be visible, trustworthy, and interesting to the best prospects. It takes a methodical approach to ensure that all the moving parts of an inbound marketing program are working together. So get a generalist to look over your whole game before opening your wallet for help in a specific area.


    TEAM-DONALDSONRebekah Donaldson is a B2B marketer with 21 years' industry experience. She started in-house on the client-side; since switching to consulting in 2001, she has consulted Allstate, Cisco Systems, Interactive Intelligence, SAP, Surewest, Sutter Health, Swagelok, and TechAmerica (AeA), and dozens of leaders of $1-$50M businesses. More »

    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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