The more efficient your process, the more chance of success, which seems blindingly obvious but in the early stages of any technological advance, clients and agencies often take the technology development as the answer itself, rather than the delivery mechanism. This, in turn, means that differentiation; the brand and real relationship building; are often neglected at the altar of technical wizardry. Objectives tend to become quantitative in the early stages of these new technologies, especially in the client’s eyes, and it is easy to see the technology as the solution rather than the enabler.
I always regarded technology as the blessing that increasingly enabled you to “do the job properly”.
I’ve always been a firm believer in Pareto, and at the same time, I’ve got tremendous sympathy for the Marketers struggling to keep up with the technological advances in our industry. However, only 20% genuinely come to terms with the need to balance process efficiency and the technology enabling tools with the real marketing task; the 20% who are the leading players. I always regarded technology as the blessing that increasingly enabled you to “do the job properly”. However, at the crescendo of the latest technology, 80% think they are doing it correctly by having the technology. And thus it has always been, indeed since I started in B2B marketing in 1962!
We’ve come a long way since then, but throughout each of these eras, there’s a clear cycle I’ve identified. The 20% seize the advantage as pioneers, with new techniques and technologies. The real problem is the success of new techniques and technologies. They create windows of opportunity for the pioneers – but this creates the illusion it’s the technique itself that brings victory.
As we wrestle with the implications of marketing automation, moving to saturation, please remember the four most dangerous words in the English language: “It’s different this time!” When you’re the only guy with a gun, you tend to bag more pheasants than the people with bows and arrows. However, when everybody else gets a gun, you have a problem. You need to become a better shot; get a prime position; make friends with the gamekeeper.
Even before my time, we dealt with the move in selling from referral and the hand-written letter to mobile salespeople armed with the then-new technology: The motor car.
In the ‘50s and ‘60s, we saw the integration of sales teams – with awareness generating trade press advertising.
The ‘70s saw us managing the evolution to integrated marketing, combining the sales teams with above and below the line campaigns. Most significantly, lead qualification – and what a struggle that was!
Then came the challenge of direct marketing and the possibilities of database utilisation. Next were the associated theories of a ‘pink mailing’ on a Monday outperforming a ‘blue’ one on a Friday! And so on and so on.
However, did the organisations (clients) keep up? Some did, but most needed help: Often in dealing with internal resistance to change from the IT and sales directors, or external vendors claiming their particular hardware or software was the optimum solution. The wars around the integration of sales and marketing were raging.
The dawn of the Internet firmly put websites at the centre of the relationship mix. The move away from ‘interruptive advertising’ tested organisations to the full.
The basic laws don’t change
So the pioneers seized the high ground with early take up as they saw the opportunity to conduct their positioning, relationship building and timeline movement more meaningfully. However, these are the 20% and in the race to keep up and emulate the success of the 20%, the 80% leap into the technology but not necessarily the relevant strategy. I always insisted on “doing it properly” with clients and focussing on the laws of B2B Marketing which are often forgotten in the rush of technology adoption:
Relevance (product and timeline)
Relationship timeline (genuine and useful)
Brand strength (directly proportional to lead conversion)
Creativity (excellence in creativity shortening the timeline!)
The sales/marketing disconnect (It’s always lurking somewhere!)
The most successful marketers combined these marketing laws with:
Insight gathering and product development
Qualitative and quantitative measurement
Integrity and honesty in their brand
Moreover, most successfully, technology and the most efficient process
Tim Hazelhurst founded his own successful agency back in 1973; in 1980 founded Brit-Am to introduce UK clients to the USA and, in 1987, created BBN. Tim was a founding member of ABBA (since evolved into BMC) and was the first recipient of Business Marketing’s “Lifetime Achievement Award”.