Plagued By A Performance Plateau? Stop Over-Indexing On Demand & Try This Instead

Published: May 12, 2023

1kelllB2B marketers are accustomed to seeing their sales pipeline increase with demand-focused marketing. And while that works in the short term, it fails to have staying power — the kind that grows revenue and accelerates sales years into the future. As a result, many businesses are seeing their demand programs plateau and recognizing the need for change.

That’s a big reason brand marketing has been on every agenda recently. It’s been a marquee topic at events, and we’ve seen a rise in brand strategy work across B2B verticals. The pendulum of focus appears to have swung from demand to brand as an imperative to drive results.

And while interest is high, I still notice that B2B marketers struggle to implement brand marketing alongside demand. Case in point: I recently conducted a workshop for B2B marketing leaders and strategists and found that among the highly proficient audience — whose businesses ranged from medium to enterprise — many recognized the value of brand, yet demand still dominated their budgets and their efforts.

And I get it — change is hard. B2B marketers have deep roots in demand. We have buying groups with varied needs, long sales cycles and lengthy buyer journeys that require coordination, content, measurement and optimization strategies. With that reality, it’s easy to make demand the focus. But what we miss from using demand marketing alone is sustainable business growth.

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The majority of any addressable market — 95%, according to a recent study from The B2B Institute at LinkedIn — is not active right now, and no amount of demand marketing is going to expand the active opportunity. B2B marketers must leverage brand marketing to seed future preference and intent among that 95%. It’s what will get B2B marketers over that plateau and back on an upward growth trajectory. 

Balancing brand and demand marketing is the key to overcoming that growth plateau and improving the performance of your marketing efforts. Here’s what to expect. 

You Create More Value For Sales

B2B marketers, especially those with a penchant for demand, tend to focus on generating leads and often forget about their ability to influence conversion rates and velocity through the funnel. Layering brand activity on top of demand does something that sales teams cannot do for themselves at scale — it builds interest in and preferences for your offering before a buyer enters an active buying state. And when brand work is done well and aligns with demand activities, it is easier for sales teams to connect and convert conversations into opportunities and wins. That’s indispensable marketing and more value for sales.

You Stop Paying More Than You Need To

The classic situation many demand-focused marketers find themselves in is increasing marketing spend to improve upon their existing key performance metrics — such as over-indexing on search engine marketing to counter a deficit in organic traffic.

It’s going to be much harder to win a deal — and it will cost a lot more — if buyers are exploring solutions and justifying decisions without prior knowledge or positive perceptions of your brand. Trust is essential for any high-consideration purchase. Without it, the cost to get noticed will go up and your win rate will go down — that’s not sustainable.

You Drive Business Growth

Brand marketing moves you out of the business of buying customers and into the business of earning them. It complements demand marketing by creating an environment where buyers seek out the brand, want to listen to what marketing and sales must share and perceive greater value in the brand’s offering that they are willing to pay more for. That leads to healthier margins, greater share and business growth.

As a final tip — be sure to balance brand marketing and demand marketing with intention. Brand marketing cannot be demand marketing in disguise; brand activities must lean into emotion and create memorable interactions across the addressable market until they move into an active buying state. So, dial up that emotion, make the creative memorable and open up those targeting parameters. It will pay off. 

Kelly Olson leads strategy for The Mx Group, an integrated B2B marketing agency. Olson helps B2B clients unite brand and demand activities to create results-generating campaigns. She leads a team of strategists passionate about bringing humanity and storytelling into B2B and creating campaigns that deliver on the end-to-end customer experience.

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