These are the sacred cows of B2B marketing.
And I’m not here to tell you to stop doing them (well, one of them I’m here to tell you to stop doing). But lately I’ve been asked a lot about these things. Either someone asks me whether I know somebody freelance who can do these things for them or I get asked if I recommend doing them or not. It’s also no coincidence that if asked, this is what most non-marketers inside an enterprise org think the marketing team does.
These activities are not value-adding (vs. your competitors). Get them done as quickly as you can, then move on to differentiating yourself.
What? But we need a good sales deck! We need to be at the right events! Yes, you do. You absolutely do. But I’m sorry, neither of these things will put you ahead of your competition, because they’re exactly what everybody does. They’re the price of admission.
Sell Sheets & Slide Decks
I find that there’s a strong inverse relationship between the time companies spend on these two things and the impact they’re having on the market. Part of it makes sense: making general slide decks and sell sheets are internally consuming, and at best only make existing sales cycles better (don’t confuse this with sales development, which is a different and value-adding function). They don’t do much to grow new interest in your company. Thus, get them right, but get them quickly. Perfect is the enemy of the done.
Same deal on the externally facing stuff. I’ve talked about Press Releases before, so I won’t rehash that one. But what about:
At a certain point in your development, you can’t avoid doing these and spending good money on them. Some events are great, by the way. But beware of time traps. Booths are one such trap. I know they’re necessary at a certain point, but boy do I love the stage before you need them. The problem is that they’re an arms race. If nobody did them, it’s not like you’d have trouble doing business at conferences. And maybe you’d be able to walk about and network instead of being glued to a booth fielding all kinds of inbounds that aren’t your customer (and ironically, the customers you do want wizz by vendor booths with horse blinders on). But as soon as your competition does booths at events where your customers lurk, as soon as it’ll be visible that you don’t have one, you just have to do it. And it sucks, as you’re getting parity, not value-add.
My advice here is to treat the time you spend managing & executing events (as well as the other sacred cow B2B activities) as preciously as the money you spend. Remember: time spent doing these things is time lost differentiating. (N.B.: this applies to other people’s events, not your own events. When you control the positioning, message, audience, and content yourself, boy oh boy is that an opportunity to differentiate.)
Parity vs. Value-Add
Because those of us who work in the B2B marketing function are so used to being defined by the sacred cow B2B activities, we can often get away with just doing them and little else. This, by the way, is what I see in a lot of different markets. And that’s what makes them parity functions as opposed to value add functions. Though I’ve also seen clever companies (startups especially) forgo a parity activity to gain an advantage (value-add) over an incumbent. Either “we don’t need a slide deck to sell!” or “we don’t need to do expensive sponsorships, we’ll just do our own show!” are interesting approaches that are high risk but clearly show a focus on value-add vs. parity. Before agreeing to do an activity, always ask yourself whether this activity goes toward parity, or goes toward value-add. Make sure you always have enough in the value-add column every month. In a future post, I’ll focus exclusively on some great examples of value-add activities. Stay tuned!
- We B2B marketers always get asked to do press releases, slide decks, event sponsorships, and sell sheets. They’re necessary but woefully insufficient
- When doing these things, manage your time as carefully as your budget. Time spent creating & managing these things eats time spent differentiating/adding value for breakfast.
- Evaluate all your activities by “do they get me parity?” or “do they add value?” When too many answers are “yes” for the first question, reallocate resources because you’re not differentiating enough.