I recently was asked to sit on the Program Committee for the 2010 MarketingProfs B2B Forum in Boston. And as part of that honor, they've started to asked me questions and pick my brain for ideas. But one questions stands out above all the rest:
What is the biggest challenge facing B2B marketers right now?
In the past I would have said all kinds of things like brand identity, managing sales expectations, trade show marketing, etc. But this year the only thing that came to mind is, "Money."
Now admittedly, the economy has hit my business pretty hard, and I knew I was biased. So I didn't just answer that way. I started going around asking trusted people that I know. And guess what. They said the same thing. And it didn't matter if I was talking to an agency person or a client-side professional. The biggest issue marketers face right now (B2C and B2B) is budget.
Now we've talked on the show and the blog about why it's important to keep a steady stream of marketing messages even in tough times. But even I know that's pure rhetoric. It may be true rhetoric, but it faces the ugly reality of accounting. So let's take this from a different angle.
Never Underestimate A Moving Truck
Here's an analogy to wrap your heads around. Your marketing program is an 18-Wheeler. It's heavy and bloated. It has lots of potential horsepower, but it's not fast on the pick up. In fact, it downright sucks on pick up. The engine has to negotiate with the gas tank for adequate fuel, which then has to take time to channel into pistons where the spark is produced, then after that gains power and the engine is warmed up you need the driver to engage the engine into the gear and the whole thing has to move the gross weight of a Saudi Prince's yacht. It takes a LOT to get it off the line. But once it gets going, there ain't no stopping it. In fact, they build whole ramps of sand on descents from high mountain passes just to be able to try and stop these things if the breaks go out. Once they get moving, they could take out your entire house and keep going without a blink.
Tortured metaphor for sure, but accurate to a "T."
The word "momentum" often gets thrown around in marketing meetings. But I don't believe many of us really have a good picture of what that means. We don't consider that keeping momentum up on a marketing effort is not just about staying visible. Frankly, you can see a parked truck just as easily as a moving one if it's parked in the right place. The advantage of staying in motion is that you can react quicker.
Instead of the three to six months it takes to get a marketing program started, it takes only a few weeks to make an adjustment. Even a slow roll is better than inertia, because you are at least able to react to opportunities in a timely fashion. And God forbid there's a significant challenge to your marketing while you're not moving. You might as well turn around and let the competition paddle your behind.
So think about it. Is some of the hold up in your own organization just a simple matter of not considering all the vulnerabilities and timeline realities that inaction may be exposing you to? It's worth considering. And it's worth discussing (at least theoretically) with your own budgetary gate keepers.