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Beyond Whack-a-Mole: A Blueprint for Enduring B2B Marketing Success

Imagine a sunny day at the county fair. You're a ten-year-old with a crisp five-dollar bill, torn between a corn dog and the allure of a whack-a-mole game. You vow to nail every one of those moles each time they pop their heads out of their hole and win the giant stuffed bear. Of course, YMMV in terms of the outcome, but chances are, you didn’t win the bear. 

If you’re a marketing leader struggling with a stretched-thin budget and limited ROI on the money you spend, there’s a lesson here. 

True marketing ROI is a long-term game, not a whack-a-mole pursuit.

Pouring money into new channels or trendy tactics without a strategic plan is akin to tossing cash at a carnival game. It's entertaining but ineffective.

The Budget Data

You’re not alone. A survey from early 2023 examined B2B marketing budgets in the United States. It reported that marketers planned to decrease their spending on traditional (read: tried and true) advertising activities by 3.6%. In addition, they planned to increase digital marketing spending (not always tried and true) by 8.8%.  

In a separate survey later in the year, 45% of B2B marketers stated they planned to increase their B2B content marketing spending by the end of 2024. When asked which tactics they planned to invest in, many U.S. respondents listed artificial intelligence and influencer marketing, which are relatively new and unproven marketing tools for B2B. 

Here’s one more interesting study. SageFrog surveyed 2,400 B2B marketers in a wide range of industries. These marketers said their top priorities in 2024 are improving measurement and launching new products/services, which is all good news. However, creating a corporate marketing strategy was the last priority on the list of ten, which isn’t good news. 

These studies tell us that many B2B marketers are trying to achieve marketing ROI by throwing more money at unproven marketing tactics that lack data and strategy. We’re here to tell you that this is the wrong way to achieve impactful and sustainable business returns. 

Marketing ROI Basics

Let’s start at the beginning. Marketing ROI measures the financial return from a campaign by comparing revenue gains to associated costs. 

The formula for calculating Marketing ROI as a ratio is:

ROI = Net Profit from Marketing divided by Total Marketing Cost.

Net profit comprises increased sales, customer acquisitions, or any other measurable outcomes attributable to the marketing campaign. Marketing costs are all expenses related to the marketing campaign. This includes advertising, promotional materials, staff wages, and other direct marketing costs. 

The rule of thumb for an acceptable marketing ROI is a 5:1 ratio. For those overachievers, an exceptional ROI is 10:1. Anything below 2:1 is considered unprofitable due to the high expense of producing and distributing B2B goods/services. Of course, your target ratio will depend on your company’s cost structure, marketing channel, and industry.

The time frame for measuring an accurate and relevant ROI should align with your typical sales cycle and the expected duration of the marketing campaign. You won’t have accurate data if you jump the gun. So why do we rush to measure ROI at a campaign's launch or adopt trendy strategies without understanding the costs? Blame it on the Amazon Effect.

The Amazon Effect

Amazon has revolutionized how we shop and receive goods and services, but its influence is more significant than that. Same-day shipping and a vast array of shopping options at our fingertips have shaped how many of us approach marketing. Why? There are two reasons. 

  • We expect and prefer short-term rewards over long-term goals. 
  • We increasingly focus on responding quickly to changing market conditions and consumer preferences, and in response, we focus less on creating thoughtful, data-driven strategies.

Immediate results may be exciting. Yet, business and marketing leaders must recognize the potential pitfalls of expecting quick returns from unproven strategies and increased budgets. Here are the pitfalls to falling for the Amazon Effect. 

Risk of Wasted Resources

Short-term marketing ROI favors channels that show immediate returns. This can lead to a bias towards short-term tactics. It neglects other channels that may require longer-term investments but have a higher potential for sustainable growth. Also, investing in unproven marketing strategies without clearly understanding their cost or efficacy can lead to wasted budget, time, and workload. 

Whack-a-Mole Decision-Making and Budgeting

In addition to wasting resources, relying on short-term ROI metrics can lead to inconsistent budgeting and strategic decisions. You may make adjustments in response to immediate performance metrics without considering the broader strategic goals or the overall impact on the brand. You may never get around to long-term strategy development because you've tapped out your budget. Whacking that trendy mole will never lead to enduring business success. 

Brand Reputation Damage

Focusing solely on short-term gains may lead to a pursuit of quick wins at the expense of brand equity. Sacrificing quality or ethical considerations for immediate results can harm the brand's reputation over time. Also, experimenting with unproven marketing strategies may negatively impact your brand reputation. Constantly emphasizing short-term gains without a clear long-term strategy can create a perception of instability. 

Failure to Build Customer Loyalty

Short-term gains focus on quick sales rather than building lasting customer relationships. Marketers neglect to cultivate customer loyalty in pursuit of immediate results. Maintainable growth relies on positive customer experiences and brand relationships, which don’t immediately translate into measurable ROI.

Inaccurate Data Interpretation

Short-term gains can be misleading and result in inaccurate data interpretation. It's crucial to differentiate between short-term spikes and long-term growth. Short-term ROI prioritizes quick customer acquisition wins and doesn’t consider customers' lasting value. Neglecting customers' long-term value (CLV) leads to underinvestment in strategies aimed at retaining and maximizing the value of existing customers over time.

Unpredictable Results

Short-term ROI provides only a snapshot of performance in a short time. This can lead to an incomplete understanding of a marketing strategy's effectiveness. It also makes predicting how it’ll perform over the long term challenging. Also, unproven strategies come with uncertainty. You're more likely to experience unexpected results. Assessing potential impact and making informed predictions about success becomes difficult without reliable historical data. 

Competitive Disadvantage

Short-term marketing ROI and unproven channel results don't accurately benchmark competitive performance. Sustainable competitive advantage stems from differentiation in strategy, branding, or customer experience. You may miss opportunities to stand out in the market if you follow the crowd. Also, brands that focus on proven strategies and established channels respond better to changes in the market. Relying on short-term ROI and unproven channels may make you more vulnerable to competitive responses. Your competitors may better understand what works in the long run. 

Lack of Long-Term Sustainability

Combining all the pitfalls above, relying on short-term marketing metrics and unproven marketing strategies compromises overall business results. This myopic point of view leads to misinformed decision-making. It also leads to neglected business investments. It damages a brand’s reputation and limits adaptability to changing market conditions. Unproven marketing strategies may provide immediate results but lack the sustainability needed for business growth.

There’s a place for short-term metrics when used to test, learn, and drive more effective marketing strategies. Balancing short-term objectives with a broader, long-term vision is essential for success in the B2B space. But in the end, true marketing is a long game. 

The Long Game of True Marketing

Adopting a long-term strategic outlook enables B2B marketers to build lasting client relationships, strong brand equity, and sustained business growth. These are the metrics that drive true marketing ROI

CLV as a Measurement of ROI

Effective marketing prioritizes establishing and nurturing relationships with customers through positive experiences. Continuous engagement and delivering value consistently over the long term builds trust and loyalty. By incorporating CLV into the evaluation of marketing performance, you move beyond immediate campaign metrics and gain a more comprehensive understanding of how your marketing efforts contribute to retaining customers and building the bottom line. 

Brand Equity Doesn't Happen Overnight

True marketing involves consistently creating brand awareness, recognition, and positive perceptions over time, contributing to brand equity. Focus your marketing messaging on building a reputation for reliability, integrity, and quality. Brand equity contributes to the factors that influence marketing performance and financial outcomes. Monitoring brand equity alongside marketing ROI provides a more comprehensive understanding of how your marketing efforts contribute to the overall value and success of your brand.

True Marketing ROI = Sustained Business Growth

Strategic marketing emphasizes tactics, channels, and campaigns that can be maintained and scaled over time. It avoids short-term tactics that may yield quick results but lack sustainability. True marketing aligns with the B2B market sales cycle and processes. It factors in the complex needs of the product lifecycle and client buying process. Long-term strategies guide resource allocation based on overarching business goals. This ensures you invest resources efficiently, preventing wasteful spending and building a stronger bottom line. 

Key Considerations for Building Sustainable Marketing Success

If you want to stop whack-a-mole marketing and start achieving measurable and impactful marketing results, you need careful planning, strategic execution, and a focus on the future. Here are some key considerations that can lay the foundation for positive marketing ROI and business growth.

Strategic Planning

Strategic planning guides every marketing campaign toward success. It involves setting clear objectives and understanding your target audience. Planning includes developing specific metrics to measure results. It also requires selecting the best tactics to achieve goals. A well-crafted marketing strategy is steeped in overarching business objectives. It provides alignment and direction for the marketing team and every team in the company.

Data-Driven Adaptation

Whack-a-mole marketing is often the result of market changes. But there's a better way to be agile and flexible. Successful brands adapt to changes by leveraging analytics and data to make informed decisions and stay ahead of industry trends. This is where specific short-term marketing metrics can be helpful. Short-term metrics, such as click-through and conversion rates, offer insights into customer behavior. They show how prospects respond to specific campaigns or within segments. A/B testing and short-term experiments can provide data on the efficacy of different elements within a campaign, including messaging and channels. An agile response to short-term metrics does allow for timely adjustments to long-term strategies. When used in this manner, short-term metrics enhance your marketing strategies' overall success and sustainability.

Consistency in Messaging

Whack-a-mole marketing often causes inconsistent content, visuals, or tone. Maintaining a cohesive visual identity, content theme, and brand voice is essential. This helps build sustainability. Consistency reinforces brand identity. It builds trust with your audience and fosters a sense of familiarity. A consistent message strengthens your position in the market over time.

Nurturing Customer Relationships

Sustainable marketing is rooted in establishing strong client connections. It’s also rooted in fostering customer loyalty and creating advocates to champion your brand. Building meaningful relationships goes beyond one-time transactions. Client engagement requires tailoring marketing efforts to individual customer preferences. It also involves actively interacting with customers on their preferred communication channels. Plus, providing excellent customer service will build trust and satisfaction.

Your Plan for 2024

Strategic planning, consistent messaging, data-driven adaptation, and relationship building form the pillars of a more impactful approach. By adopting a long-term and strategic focus, you'll create a resilient marketing foundation that adapts to change and thrives in the long run. You won’t find sustainable success in relying on short-term marketing ROI. You'll find it in continuously refining and measuring a customer-centric marketing strategy that delivers value beyond immediate transactions.

As you plan your marketing efforts for 2024, look at the bigger picture of what marketing brings to the overall business. Don’t let the Amazon Effect get you stuck in whack-a-mole marketing. With strategic planning, data-driven decisions, and alignment across teams, you can do better than that. You can build a marketing strategy that delivers impactful marketing ROI now and in the future. 

If you don’t know where to start and need help building high-performing marketing strategies, reach out today.

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