While assessing four distinct gins, a few of the 27 CMOs assembled quietly wondered if there was any connection between that tasting process and the promised B2B marketing simplification workshop that was to follow. Before I explain the undiluted connection, let me provide a bit more context. I hosted this gathering right before the kickoff of The CMO Club Fall Summit, an action-packed conference that yielded liters of insights and gallons of inspiration.
Now back to the gin tasting. We started with a list of 55 potential descriptors. These were then distilled down to a few dominant characteristics. While there was a team to bounce around ideas and an expert to guide the process, ultimately it seemed to come down to, “I just like this one and don’t like that one,” something that happens more often to B2B brands than we’d like to admit. Proving once again that decisions often come down to feeling, not thinking—to affect over argument. From there, we enthusiastically explored how to apply this lesson to the challenges of simplifying B2B marketing.
Growing complexity without improving outcomes
Consistent with Renegade’s quantitative research earlier this year, more than 90% of the CMOs at the workshop agreed that their marketing had become significantly more complicated in the last 2 years. The prime causes included more targets, more martech, more data and an increased use of digital media. Importantly, only 3 of the 27 CMOs present believed their marketing activities had become more effective. If the increase in complexity is not improving results, then perhaps it is time to simplify. What’s missing from this complex mix? A single strong story that lets people understand the brand emotionally as well as rationally. Speaking of which…
A compelling brand story in 8 words or less
More than half of the group was able to articulate their brand stories in 8 words or less. As these were offered up, most were grounded in either what the company did or how they did it. Only a handful were based on a purposeful “why” and fewer still used memorable language (we tested recall after all were shared). Without my prompting, several did recall “We’re on the case” which just happens to be the purpose-driven story statement for Case Paper, a Renegade client. Having a memorable story statement that aims at the heart as well as the mind, is a critical step towards radical simplification.
More personas, more content
Every B2B marketer in the room was on the persona bandwagon, targeting between 5 and 10 separate profiles. This had led to an explosion in content development, accompanied by a shift from quality to quantity. In fact, less than 10% of the group felt their content was above average or was actually driving their business forward. While the group agreed that understanding these personas was critical to closing a sale, creating content that is anything short of outstanding is not worth the trouble for upper or mid-funnel marketing efforts.
Personalization versus personas versus consistency
This group of B2B CMOs recognized the power of true personalization although few had the tech required to make this happen. Getting there seemed a few years away and in the meantime, most believed that distinct persona-based messaging was preferable to messaging that linked back to one consistent brand story. These folks were surprised to learn that Gartner research showed that having a consistent story was 2.2x more effective when dealing with large and diverse buying committees.
Employees then customers then prospects
All hands in the room went up in the affirmative when asked about the importance of launching new campaigns internally and with existing customers before doing so externally. Ironically, 90% of these hands dropped when asked if they allowed more than 1 month for their internal and customer launches. Most cited lack of time for these efforts. Another reason here is that these new campaigns did not deliver any product news or require any change in employee behavior. Sadly, a new brand story without any other news (whether product or service) to make it real is just a new label on an old bottle of moonshine.
Final note: which brings us back to gin. The runaway favorite at this gin tasting was Monkey 47, an unusually herbaceous concoction from Germany. If you’re a gin fan, let me know your favorite.