I'm Launching a Crusade Against Brand Awareness

If you're in B2B - stop focusing on brand awareness. Prioritize marketing for building trust and confidence in your buyers.

I'm Launching a Crusade Against Brand Awareness
The Holy Grail of B2B marketing - number go up.

Seriously, it's time to focus on other marketing priorities in B2B.

Here are three facts:

  1. 88% of buyers don't trust companies on B2B topics. (Source: 2023 B2B SEO Survey by OGM)
  2. 40-60% of B2B deals end up lost due to customer indecision. (Source: "The Jolt Effect")
  3. CEOs expect marketing to focus on revenue and retention. (Source: EMARKETER)

Now, tell me - how can you address those challenges by getting more brand awareness?

I'll wait.

In case you don't have time to read the rest of this piece, here's a summary of my main argument in meme format:

A meme of a person labeled "b2b marketers" standing in front of two paths, where the good one is labeled "improve trust and confidence" and the bad one is labeled "get more traffic".
Y'all, B2B marketers should really focus on improving trust and confidence.

What's Happening in B2B Marketing?

In 2024 marketing's been tough for a lot of us in B2B. The wider economy hasn't really recovered, budgets are still down, Fed interest rate is still high, and every single buyer is as risk-averse as they can possibly be.

I have been hearing the same story everywhere (including with our own sales for Kalyna!):

  1. Deal velocity is down and sales take longer and longer to close.
  2. Average contract value (ACV) is getting smaller, as buyers are more price-sensitive and haggle.
  3. Conversion and closing rates are down, with most deals stalling or ending up lost even when there was no competition.

In every sector and type of business in B2B, marketing and sales are getting really hard. Getting customers feels like fighting your way through a thick block of jello. (if not concrete!)

And it makes sense - higher interest rates make money more expensive, so everyone ends up with less disposable capital, and every investment gets scrutinized more and more. In 2024, marketing is about showing that your solution is low risk and high reward.

So... why in the world are we still trying to increase traffic and drive more views as our marketing Holy Grail?

Because when the viewers you already have don't trust you enough to buy your products or services... getting more views won't fix that.

You don't need more brand awareness.

If you're in B2B and your ACV is more than $5k - then awareness should be one of the lowest priority items for your marketing department.

Why? Three reasons:

  1. Your total addressable market (TAM) is likely not that large.
    There aren't many B2B companies out there that could actually sell to more than 100,000 customers, and most don't need anywhere close to that amount. If you sell to enterprises and mid-market, your TAM is even smaller.
  2. Enough people probably know about you already.
    I constantly look at analytics for brands that get thousands of website visitors a week. And yet 90%+ of those visits never go anywhere or lead to any kind of action. Anonymous visitors flow into company content only to flow back out again into the open web without a trace.
  3. Most revenue, margin, and cashflow impact in B2B is driven by other marketing factors.
    How slow is your sales cycle? And while we're thinking about it, how many of your deals end up lost to indecision or to the status quo?
    Because here's the beautiful and harsh truth - most of your sales and revenue performance problems are NOT caused by a lack of awareness. Instead, you're struggling against a lack of confidence and trust.

When buyers are already suspicious of false claims, hesitant to increase budgets, and risk-averse to allocating spend - awareness will NEVER improve your poor performance.

If you look at your pipeline, see a poor closing rate, and then decide that marketing needs to bring in more traffic - you're trying to replace your leaky bucket with a larger, but still leaky bucket. Even the largest container won't hold on to any water if it's got holes all over it.

So... what should you do instead?

Orient your marketing efforts around increasing confidence and trust.

Showcase not just that your company exists and what services / products it offers but HOW you provide value and WHY you're a safe investment in this tough economic climate.

Plan your marketing campaigns around questions like:

  • How can we improve our brand reputation?
  • What questions can we answer before a prospect ever gets on a sales call?
  • Why are our buyers seeking a solution like ours from us in particular?
  • What emotions does our audience feel around the problems we solve? How can we demonstrate empathy towards them?
  • How can we showcase what using our solution will look and feel like?
  • What external validation can we provide that we can indeed back up our promotional claims? (PR, customer stories, collaborations & partnerships all work great here)

New Marketing KPIs

And if you do it right, then you'll see the impact of those marketing campaigns with:

  1. Higher deal velocity (or lower sales cycle)
  2. Higher ACV
  3. Lower % of deals lost.

Stop chasing traffic. It's only going to drive your marketing into the ground and make that already limited budget a lot tighter.

Thank you to Mark Stouse, who has been endlessly patient with me the past couple of months answering all of my questions about marketing, measuring impact, and business outcomes. I wouldn't have been able to write or think this way without his guidance.