What's working in B2B Marketing?There's no one way to deliver ROI… But there is one place

Subscribe via email

RSSContact us via LinkedInFollow us

Reflections on balancing reputation and revenue

February 10, 2015 Categories: Best Practice

Marketing is always under pressure to prove its worth, with those who hold the purse strings often wanting an immediate return on investment, and this is prominent now more than ever following the recent years of “austerity” in the UK. But it’s worth remembering that marketing truly enhances enterprise value when it balances immediate revenue generation with longer term reputation-building – or to put it another way, balances sales today with enhanced saleability for tomorrow.

While B2B marketing has made significant advances in terms of measurability and commercial accountability over the past few years, in some situations B2B marketers have been guilty of forgetting the bigger picture – what our audience really thinks about our brand. By taking an integrated approach to marketing programmes we stand a better chance of succeeding in all areas: revenue generation, reputation-building and maximising overall return for the business. And with the New Year and refreshed marketing programmes now well underway, it’s a great time to check the balance between revenue and reputation. Here are some pointers that may help.

Start with the insight

To initiate any communication that will drive the right behaviour you need to really get under the skin of your target audience and unearth a simple insight that will resonate. It was through a little upfront research that we discovered that many businesses were not putting Lumia smartphones on their shopping lists because they thought no one else was – so, by simply sharing the figures of Lumia’s growing business market share and a series of customer case studies, we were able to support a rapid uptick in demand as business decision-makers gained trust in the brand.

Employ engaging techniques

There has been a huge amount of research into the science behind decision-making. While B2B marketers have always done a good job of presenting the rational arguments needed to make and justify a decision, we can neglect the often critical intuitive and emotional elements of the process. Think the recent Volvo truck ads – like this one featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme. While not every organisation will have the budget necessary to employ Jean-Claude to capture the audience’s imagination, intuitive engagement can mean taking simple steps – like fine-tuning the wording of a simple email to make it simpler to digest, and consequently more appealing.

Remain channel-agnostic

Marketers of all hues are regularly criticised for following fads and being too quick to jump on the latest channel bandwagon. Whilst there is absolutely nothing wrong with a bit of innovation in your channel strategy, the simple rule of thumb remains: to go where your audience is and to look for the blend of channels that will optimally engage your audience. Simple really!

Link sales and marketing

We’ve been harking on about the importance of sales and marketing alignment for years now and in many businesses a lot of progress has been made. But keep in mind that your customers don’t care if you have sales or marketing on your business card, they just want you to deliver them great value and great experience at every touchpoint. So maybe we need to take the sales and marketing alignment discussion to the next level and think about integrated customer engagement… now there’s a thought!

Constantly measure and optimise

For complex B2B engagements, the best results normally stem from continual improvement, so listen to audience feedback every day, measure the response you are getting, and keep fine-tuning your campaigns. If something’s not working, change it. Often this means implementing lots of micro adjustments rather than a big, costly and time-consuming change. Try to take learnings from every prospect interaction and consider whether the successful method can be duplicated across other campaigns.

Of course – each of these areas could take up an entire white paper – this is just a snapshot to give you some food for thought. If you want to discuss how any of these areas could fit into your own 2015 marketing plans then just get in touch

No comments | Posted by Robert Ainger

It’s a new year… so it must be time for some new resolutions!

January 21, 2015 Categories: At the Barn

I have two resolutions this year: one for myself and one I think we could all adopt.

My personal one – because I only eat meat and dairy (should really have been a farmer or rustler) – is to eat (with regularity) fruit and vegetables. Apparently I’ll never get ill, have boundless energy and reap other benefits which are more disputable…

My second one, which I think can apply to us all, is to make 2015 an awesome year for marketing.

And how do you propose we do that? I hear you cry…

Well, here is my five-step strategy for an Awesome 2015 (adapted from Zen).

  1. Create habits, not goals (or resolutions!). The determination to fulfil resolutions can fade with the year’s newness. Instead, think about real ways that you can improve your marketing. Focus on one new work/marketing habit at a time and give it your full attention, until it becomes automatic (a habit). Then start on another new habit.
  2. Be all in. Most people fail at their resolutions because they write them down, start acting on them all at once and then quit when things get hard. Fully commit to making one change at a time – pick a small one to start, find a way to be ‘all in’ (make it part of your routine perhaps, or form a group with other people who have the same goal to help each other along) and you’ll make your habits stick.
  3. Focus on weekly adaptations. Most people try to focus on something that will take a year to achieve – but this makes it easy to lose motivation. And what if things change during that year? Instead, focus on one week at a time. And each week, see how you can adapt your marketing techniques so that your method gets better and better over time. Review how you did, find the obstacles and plan around them for the next week.
  4. Find your crew. You can do great things on your own, but you’re much more likely to get them done if you have a group of colleagues who are holding you accountable and who you’re holding accountable, too. Hold each other’s feet to the fire. Cheer each other on. Hold regular meetings to make sure everyone is staying on track and don’t let your crew fall behind.
  5. Fill your year with curiosity and a marketing learning stance. If you find that your goals remain unreached or that your steely resolve has wandered, don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ve failed. This is just a wake-up call to let you know that you need to change something. Real failure is repeating the same behaviours and expecting a different result. As long as we treat every outcome as a learning opportunity, success or failure can be equally valuable in helping us win in the long run.

Happy New Year.


No comments | Posted by Clive McNamara

Finding your creative spark

January 20, 2015 Categories: Best Practice

At The Marketing Practice we have always believed that marketing should be the engine for growth at the heart of a great b2b business – driving revenue in the near term whilst simultaneously building reputation to improve commercial prospects for the future.

During the financial downturn of the past few years there has been massive pressure on marketing teams to focus on short-term results, and on occasions the mantra seems to have shifted from “If you can’t measure it, don’t do it” to “If you can’t guarantee the financial return in the next few months, then don’t even consider it!”

Whilst this may have had something of a cathartic effect on marketing leaders and has certainly injected a significant dose of commercial nous into their thinking, it is easy to see that short-termism has reduced the wider impact of marketing and has left some programmes looking dangerously commoditized.

There are clear signs that inspirational marketing leaders are looking to rebalance driving short-term revenue and building reputation across their programmes.  Clearly it would be foolhardy to think that they have the remit to return to the grandiose brand-building agendas of the past, but there is recognition that by injecting more creativity into their programmes, they can build differentiation and truly enhance enterprise value.

Consequently, there seems to be more and more discussion of hunting that intriguing beast, the creative big idea.  Unfortunately, this term can be misleading with its potential implication of pomp and largesse, whereas in practice what we often need is a stunningly simple creative solution to a gnarly core problem.  The real secret is in finding a way to tackle and sometimes reframe the core problem that you face.

So let’s cut to the chase.  If today’s well-balanced marketing programmes are built around brilliant creative solutions to core problems, then the secret often lies in how you frame your problem so that the most creative brains can lead you towards a true Eureka! moment (or at least a campaign that will smash its targets).

There’s no magic formula for creating compelling, memorable ideas. But it is possible to adopt ways of thinking that open up your imagination to new possibilities, illuminate problems from a fresh perspective and allow you to look beyond the conventional for something powerfully different. The teams at TMP know the value of looking at problems from unusual angles. To keep us true to this way of finding new insights, we’ve adopted some simple techniques as shown on the attached summary.

They’ve consistently helped us generate innovative and effective ideas. We’re confident that you’ll find them equally useful whenever you’re looking for inspiration and a creative solution. Either way, let us know how you get on – we’d like to know what you think.

Unlocking the power of creativity

We’ll be discussing how creative ideas can deliver tangible results at our next Sales and Marketing Forum, 24th March at the Ham Yard Hotel, London. For more details or to register your place please visit our website or contact gdavies@themarketingpractice.com.

No comments | Posted by Robert Ainger

The convergence of B2C and B2B

January 17, 2015 Categories: Best Practice

B2B marketing differs from B2C marketing in many ways – from the length of the sales cycle to the motivations of the buyer. But the fundamentals are the same. Successful marketers in either category must define their audience, hone their key messages and focus on what makes them unique. In other words, B2B and B2C have a lot more in common than many people realise. And, B2B marketers can learn a great deal from the strategies that B2C marketers employ, particularly in today’s social media era.

  • Use social media to sell to individuals. Social media marketing allows one-to-one conversations with customers and prospects. No matter what you are selling, buyers are individuals who seek out insights and recommendations. Including social media in your marketing mix can bring the necessary human element to drive engagement.
  • Customer loyalty is a primary focus for B2C marketers and should be for B2B marketers. Truly engaged customers are valuable assets that must be nurtured and protected. Even customers who don’t buy a lot, but are passionate supporters of your services and products are extremely valuable to your bottom line.
  • Deliver a simple and easy to understand message to your customers. B2B marketers frequently over-complicate their message. A more technical sale should not equal a more jargon-loaded message.
  • Social media interactions will enhance your reputation. So be committed. Engage with people, don’t just ‘put stuff up’. Explain why you’re there and ‘warm up’ a bit. Think of questions from your audience as an opportunity to build a relationship rather than immediately sell.

B2C businesses invest significant time and money to understand what makes consumers tick. Whereas most B2B companies have a clear picture of the businesses they sell to, but know very little about the individual making the buying decision.

While B2B sales are often driven by facts and figures, it’s important for marketing messages to appeal to emotions as well. The ‘consumer’ insights you gather should reveal what your product or service does for the buyer on an emotional level. How does it help them do a better job? What are the buyer’s challenges, motivations, and fears?

B2B marketers are getting better at explaining what our products do, how they do it, and why you should care. But we’re a long way from the sort of simplicity demanded by B2C.

People aren’t just buying products or services. They buy with their emotions; they are buying a story. When they narrow down their options to two or three sellers, they buy the story that best aligns with their beliefs and values.

What’s your story? What do you and your business stand for? Does your story resonate with the type of buyer you would like to have? Do you know your buyers’ needs and wants – their buyer persona? Have you populated your stories online to attract the right buyers?

In the end, B2B marketers, like their B2C counterparts, are selling to people – not entities.

No comments | Posted by Taryn Netterville

Do different: does grammar matter in marketing copy?

January 6, 2015 Categories: Best Practice

Marketing copywriting is salesmanship in print. Yes, it is, because John E. Kennedy said so. (‘E’, not ‘F’ – that was another Kennedy). He also said that ‘Mere opinions on Advertising Copy should be excluded from consideration.’

Strong words. But they popped into my head again as I watched the Telefónica O2 enterprise marketing team claim two prizes at the 2014 B2B Awards for their Local Government Digital Fund campaign. They won Best Live Event and Best Campaign for Corporate Decision Makers.


I was reminded of Mr Kennedy’s timeless insight because we agonised over the theme of the award-winning campaign: ‘Do different’.

We knew the sentiment was right. After years of budget cuts, UK councils were desperate to find fresh ways of getting things done.

The Local Government Digital Fund was aimed at helping councils who wanted to develop new digital services as a way of providing better services, without spending too much of their limited cash. ‘Do different’ was a call to action, in the spirit of Telefónica O2’s award-winning ‘Be more dog’ campaign.

But, can you ‘do different’? ‘Different’ is something you are, not what you do. We could feel the wrath of countless English-language academics descending upon us. Would the audience see our clients as hopeless illiterates?

The reality is that advertising copy is not about grammar. It’s about emotion, impact and clarity. English students do not necessarily make good copywriters (or any writers, come to that). After all, is good, formal written English a pre-requisite for success in selling?

Not judging by the emails I get from some of the best salespeople I know.

So we didn’t agonise for long, actually. We knew that ‘Do different’ was just the first attention grabber, a banner that expressed the problem and the solution in a single phrase. A bit like ‘Be more dog’, in fact, which also makes no sense if you run the dead ruler of grammar over it.

Sure enough, we got 57 entries for the Fund, 20 more than a similar campaign the previous year. We also got open rates of 41.6% for the email marketing programme and attendance rates of more than 70% for the events in London and Glasgow.

Then, at the Digital Fund final, the ‘Do different’ banner was there as the backdrop to the awards presentation and the videos accompanying the event. And there it was again at the B2B Awards, as we celebrated the Telefónica O2 team’s momentous double.

For me, the most vindicating aspect of the whole thing (is ‘vindicating’ a word? Do I care?) was that the B2B Awards focus heavily on results. I can look John E. Kennedy in the eye and say, ‘yes, John E., my advertising copy is effective and leads to sales.’

And, on a more personal note, I can look Lynn Truss, John Humphreys and other agents of the grammar police in the eye and say, ‘saucy, pedantic wretches, in my calling I would be unruly. Language evolves, or it dies.’

Otherwise, ‘Do different’ would have to be, ‘gescéadnes missenlic’, which the internet tells me is the Old English equivalent. It probably isn’t, but it doesn’t matter. I’m sure you catch my drift.

No comments | Posted by Stuart Constable

Dark Social – still a problem

December 15, 2014 Categories: Best Practice

When people hear “sharing” they immediately think of Facebook, Twitter and other popular social channels. There is a missing piece which gives more holistic view of social engagement which marketers tend to forget about. This missing piece is called dark social and as it turns out, it can take up to 72% out of your social media metrics.

So what is dark social? It’s a silent sharing of your content that happens outside the usual social media networks. In a nutshell, people copy and paste the URL and share it using email, apps and instant messaging services. If your monthly social reports are only based on metrics provided by social networks (i.e. Twitter analytics), you don’t get the real picture of how your content is performing on social.

To put things into perspective, here’s a real life example of the impact it may have on your social reporting.

A client shared their Twitter reports with us last week and was interested to see how low the clicks were compared to our reports through link tracking tool po.st. While Twitter analytics showed only 13 clicks, po.st registered 137 for the same period. Confusing? Well yes, but if you look into referrers information provided by po.st, you will soon realise that 84% of all clicks came from Email Clients, IMs, and Direct and only 11% from Twitter.

Dark Social2


What is also interesting is that dark social generates clicks even two months after your content has been posted on social networks. The maximum lifespan of a tweet is 48 hours. This is when people are able to share and click on your content. It seems like Twitter and other social networks are just a starting point, while dark social drives content further and for a longer period of time.

It all sounds positive but dark social still remains a problem because it’s hard for brands to monitor and pinpoint where exactly the traffic is coming from. So what would be the best approach? Instead of purely relying on analytics provided by social media networks, use advanced link tracking services and combine this knowledge with the analysis of your content (number of views and traffic sources). This will not only give a better view of how your content is performing on social media, but will also help you better understand your audience’s ‘digital’ behaviour.

No comments | Posted by Monika Lazarowicz

For successful lead generation, turn your proposition into a campaign message

December 13, 2014 Categories: Best Practice

It’s possible to generate leads for pretty much any proposition. Not that you should, of course – if it’s going to be impossible to sell, then it would be a good idea to reconsider the proposition.

But let’s assume that the proposition is a sound one, and that any right-thinking buyer would bite your arm off to sign on the dotted line – if only you could spend an hour with them to explain it (followed by 6-12 months going through the sales process…).

All you need is to sell them on the idea of spending an hour with you. Easy if you’re Megan Fox. Less so if you’re a ‘leading supplier of business services’.

Let’s also assume (it’s a dream scenario) that your data is entirely accurate and you have a contact strategy which is a thing of beauty (say, an integrated campaign plan with multiple touch-points over several months).

So you push ‘go’ on your lead generation campaign, but you only get a trickle of opportunities back. Why? 9 times out of 10, it’ll be because the strong proposition wasn’t converted into a strong set of campaign messaging.

What’s the difference between proposition and message?

The short answer: it’s the difference between a campaign that sounds good to an internal audience (strong proposition) and one that actually works when it reaches customers and prospects (strong message).

The longer answer:

The proposition is the articulation of the superior value (compared with the competition) that you can bring to bear on solving an issue that a prospect faces.

The campaign messaging is what happens when you take the proposition and think about what the audience needs to know there and then, what/who they are most likely to listen to, what will capture their imagination, and what will convince them to take the next step with you.

Let’s take the 4 elements of successful messaging in turn

  1. What the audience needs to know – depending on what stage the market is at for your proposition and what stage of the buying cycle your ideal prospect is at, they will respond to very different messages. The simple example would be to compare a prospect who doesn’t even know they have an issue with one who is already evaluating different solutions. Clearly you need to share very different information with people in these two scenarios – the same applies to the difference between a proposition that is brand new to the market with one in a category that’s well established.
  2. What/who they are most likely to listen to – really an extension from the previous point, the idea here is to think about the kind of information people will respond to and what sources will hold most authority (analysts, existing customers, their peers, your delivery experts….).
  3. What will capture their imagination – this is an invitation to get more ‘creative’ than any standard value proposition would allow. That could mean ‘creative’ in the design/copy sense – for example, we took a client proposition about joining up strategy with execution and turned it into a campaign about great weddings (complete with pieces of wedding cake sent to their key customers). Or it could mean ‘creative’ in a more business sense – for example identifying that building a ‘maturity model’ around your proposition will help you to open doors and sell more consultatively.
  4. Convincing them to take the next step with you – the best campaign messaging is entirely context-aware, and is rooted in the knowledge that buyers will be going through several stages and can be speeded up by focusing on selling the value of taking the next step (e.g. an hour’s meeting) rather than always focusing on the end solution. What’s the value of the hour’s meeting? What will they get that they couldn’t get from someone else? How will it help them to do their job? (In a way, this part of the campaign message is like building a little proposition all of its own for the next step in the sales process)

Get all of these 4 elements right, and prospects should be beating a path to your door – and having spent so much time on crafting vaue propositions it would be a shame for some of the mega deals to get away for lack of campaign messages.

No comments | Posted by Paul Everett

The Marketing Practice raises over £10,000 with cheeky charity event

December 3, 2014 Categories: At the Barn

TMP Foundation has raised over £10,000 for Parkinson’s UK by hosting a 24h table football marathon. Over 100 members of staff took part in the marathon, which was kicked off by the Cheeky Girls. Parkinson’s UK is a support and research charity leading the search for a cure for the disease.

The Cheeky Girls, who achieved success in the charts with four top ten hits between 2002 and 2004, are keen supporters of Parkinson’s UK because their grandmother lived with Parkinson’s for many years.

Members of staff played through the night at the Oxfordshire offices and a sub team then took additional tables to London the next morning and continued to play at various locations across the city.

The inspiration for the marathon came from a client of The Marketing Practice who has Parkinson’s. Tim Isaac was diagnosed in 2009 and wrote a powerful poem titled ‘Tick-Tock’ which has been used by Parkinson’s UK and the associated South London Young Parkinson’s Network for their ‘Stop the PD Clock’ campaign. Dame Judy Dench performs the poem alongside younger people with the condition at slypn.org.uk/stopthepdclock/.

Tim, who is the Global Marketing Director of the industry leading research firm TNS says: “It is difficult to precisely communicate the physical and emotional 1-2 punch that one experiences if you have Parkinson’s – and the collective effect on family, friends, carers is often ignored or sugar coated. I wrote “Tick-Tock” as a reflection of how I felt – and it seemed to strike a chord with others who have donated their talent towards this campaign. Finding a cure in my lifetime is the lifeline that keeps me strong, and events such as this make that more achievable.”

As well as donations from staff and the public, clients of the Marketing Practice including Canon, TNS, HP and O2 sponsored the event, and people were given the opportunity to bid for items such as a 9-day stay at the Wildfitness retreat in Zanzibar and hospitality tickets for the 2015 Capital One Cup Final through an online auction.

You can still make a donation by visiting www.justgiving.com/TMPmarathon.

No comments | Posted by Claire Lund

3 reasons behind the prime number trend

October 6, 2014 Categories: Experiments

It started off as a bit of a joke around the office here at TMP. When writing a listicle, the best way to generate interest is to get a prime number in the headline.

But after a while we started spotting them more and more. In fact, they’ve become such a trend across the web that we decided to do a little digging to see if there was anything to it.

It turns out prime numbers have always been a bit of an enigma.

They seem to crop up every now and then and befuddle us all by doing things like helping us communicate with aliens or keeping cicadas alive, before quietly returning to their regular day job of only being divisible by one and themselves.

Now they’re back and they’re lending their mysterious magic to the marketing world.

So why are prime numbers such a popular headline choice? We think it’s due to three fundamental copywriting facts:

1)  People really love reading lists.

With the seemingly endless supply of marketing related information and advice available online, dividing things in to lists makes it easier ‘to make infinity comprehensible.’

It also has a clear advantage for the viewer as it a) gives them at least a vague idea of how long it will take to read, and b) demonstrates an instant guaranteed result:  i.e. if you read this, you will learn this many things.

2)  Odd numbered lists seem more convincing than even numbered ones.

It’s a strange phenomenon, but statistics suggest that people are generally more likely to read a list consisting of an odd amount of data. This is mainly because people find the unevenness more authentic. Since all prime numbers are odd, this means that you’re more likely to come across them.

But intriguingly, there are also studies that show that the brain automatically processes things in groups of three or five. So even if you don’t actively use a prime or even an odd number, they’re still sneakily weaving their magic in your subconscious.

3)  We’re easily wooed by alliteration.

It’s the sort of thing you learn in primary school: if you want a snappy headline, alliteration is your ally. But studies have shown that alliteration actually helps the brain retain information, making your headlines instantly more memorable. And it just so happens that prime numbers work really well with the staples of alliterative listicle headlines:

3 things you need to know…

5 facts about…

7 business secrets…

See what I mean?

So given all that, it may be that the magic marketing power of prime numbers is all just circumstantial. It’s only TMP’s pet theory for now. But why not give it a go and see if it works? We’d love to hear from you either way.

And I should add for my own safety that when I was researching this article I did discover that prime numbers are secretly worshipped by the illuminati, so if I go missing you know who’s to blame.


No comments | Posted by Ruby Constable

Your subject line’s sidekick: the pre-header

October 3, 2014 Categories: Best Practice

When a potential or existing customer is wading through a sea of marketing emails on their mobile device, a well-worded pre-header could be the difference between them opening or archiving yours. Because this is what they see:


A pre-header is the text following the subject line when an email is in preview on a smartphone or tablet, (or some desktop email clients, such as Gmail). Which means pre-headers are now very important.

The facts are these: more and more in the B2B sector, buyers are opening their emails primarily on their smartphones. The stats from one of our own campaigns show a 13% growth in this trend from 2011-13, and it’s forecast to rise another 23% between now and 2017.

And according to Forrester.com, the amount of marketing emails sent per annum is sky-rocketing into the billions. Naturally, this means recipients want to be able to gauge what’s trustworthy and what’s spam as quickly and easily as possible.

So if you’re not sure what an e-mail pre-header is or how to use it, now’s the time to find out.

So how do I get a pre-header?

Email clients that have a preview function will automatically use the first text they find at the top of any email – which is often your ‘View in browser’ or ‘Unsubscribe’ links. But just doing this is a wasted opportunity. You can in fact dictate to email clients what the pre-header says – which means you can use them as another way to get the recipient to engage with your email and to further promote your message.

One way to do this is by putting the words you want in the very top left of your email (see below). However, this can sometimes look a bit misplaced when you view the actual email itself.

It’s better to ask your friendly HTML developer to put your pre-header copy into the code of your email. Then your pre-header is still displayed on the preview, but will not be visible when you view the email itself.

What’s the most effective way to use them?

Look at it like this: the pre-header is to your subject line what Robin is to Batman – a chance to give the reader a WHAM! to go with the POW! of your subject line.  So the pre-header content needs to follow the same rules as the subject line: ensure it is compelling, engaging and leaves the reader wanting more.

And the best way to achieve this? Keep it honest. Get straight to the point. And most importantly: make sure it’s benefit led.  The recipient needs to see immediately what’s in it for them. So ask yourself the questions (you should be doing this for all of your emails anyway):

  • What do I want the recipient to do with this email?
  • Why should they do it?

The key to your subject line and pre-header message is in the answer to these questions.

The bottom line is: various email clients are giving you a certain amount of extra text to get your message across and encourage the recipient to open the darn thing. So make sure you are taking full advantage of that, and not missing out on such a simple and easy method for adding to the potential selling power of your email.

If you’re going to hit them with a powerful subject line, make sure you are also calling in the pre-header to finish the job. Holy click-through, Batman.

No comments | Posted by Georgia Constable