Why Can’t Madison Avenue Do B2B Marketing?

Why Didn’t B2B Start Marketing Sooner?

I doubt I need to make much of a case for the fact that most B2B marketing is less than stellar. You probably work at a company. When was the last time someone tried to sell you something and you said, “Wow, their marketing was incredible!”

I’ll guess basically never. But if Madison Avenue advertising agencies can create jaw-dropping campaigns for Coca-Cola, why can’t they do the same in the business-to-business environment?

My personal experience has revealed most marketing training does not clearly delineate between B2C and B2B strategies. Or better yet, the “Big Decision” vs. the “Impulse Buy.”  These strategies are somewhat misaligned for a selling situation with a longer sales cycle, multiple decision-makers, and a higher price point, causing the friction that exists between marketing and sales—the typical situation for a B2B company. Marketing feels they are just following best practice, and that sales doesn’t get how marketing is supposed to work. However, if marketing modifies its approach to fit the B2B selling situation and empowers sales with a clear message, an understanding of the multiple buyer personas/purchase cycles encountered within a single organization, and case studies (or equivalent proof points) that address key risks the buyer is trying to mitigate, the tension and communication issues between marketing and sales tends to decrease substantially.

We have found that marketing is eager to improve their standing within sales-focused organizations, as the pecking order is very clearly not in their favor most of the time.

I don’t think that B2B marketers are trying to necessarily strong-arm B2C marketing practices into B2B marketing. I think that due to poor ability to target hyper-niche markets, the cost-per-acquisition of marketing has historically made sense primarily for B2C brands since the 1950s/60s (Mad Men era) through about 2005. In the 50 or 60 years that have transpired in the interim, marketing as a discipline has evolved to serve B2C and impulse purchase behavior much better than major B2B purchases was because marketing budgets were comparatively small– no money meant no attention from the marketing pioneers.

As the internet became prominent, more granular targeting became possible, and it finally became cost-effective for B2B companies to place greater emphasis on marketing to generate leads, and budgets slowly continue to go up to this day. However, the discipline of marketing has not necessarily evolved on a broad enough scale for the majority of B2B marketers to have been educated in school on how B2B marketing should really differ from B2C. So the best ones learn on-the-job and most others likely never learn, creating the stereotypical friction between marketing and sales.

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