Here’s a hard truth for most B2B manufacturers to accept:
Marketing programs (especially new ones) require both time and patience to produce results.
If you need a tactical way to generate revenue over the next three or six months, a new marketing program likely isn’t the answer. Although in many cases you’ll find some low-hanging fruit, largely speaking, results will materialize over a longer timeline.
Shortly, we’ll look at five reasons why this is the case.
But first, let’s establish what marketing “results” should mean to you in the first place.
Our definition of “results”
Most companies mistake metrics like impressions, website traffic and leads as marketing results. But these are only key performance indicators (KPIs). They’re signals that you’re on (or not on) the right path toward a meaningful business outcome.
And that business outcome (or result) you should be seeking is:
Said differently, we’re talking about quoted opportunities with the right companies that have been facilitated through your marketing initiative.
Five reasons results require time and patience
With this definition established, let’s look at five reasons these results take time to materialize:
1. Marketing programs require foundational work
Very rarely have we engaged with a new client who had all the key foundational pieces in place to succeed right out of the gate. Those key pieces include:
- Focused, on-point messaging that will resonate with the engineers, technical professionals or other most important buying process influencers inside of the exact types of companies from the right industries in the right geographies of the right sizes that they want to reach
- A website that’s optimized to convert those exact people into opportunities because it’s equipped with that on-point messaging and supplemented by thought leadership content, product information and social proof that they’ve helped others like those target prospects realize success
- A technology stack including a CRM and marketing automation system that talk to each other and integrate with their websites to help them segment their leads based on engagement and signals of buying intent (and to allow for reporting across the entire marketing and sales funnel so they can make the right continuous improvement decisions)
- A plan for what content they need to create and distribute to those right people from those right companies to earn enough attention and build enough trust to open up sales conversations
All of these are key foundational elements for driving success through marketing. And while they don’t need to be perfected during months one to three, you’ll struggle to realize any significant impact if they’re neglected.
2. Most of your audience is not buying right now
The vast majority of your total addressable market is not actively in buying mode for the thing you sell at this moment in time. In fact, probably only 1-5% are actively seeking a solution today (or even this week).
Bit by bit, much of that remaining 95-99% will enter a buy cycle. Some next week. Some next month. Some next year. Some in three years. But that will happen on their terms – not yours. So the bottom line is this:
To assume that your messaging will persuade them to inquire about a product or service they don’t need right now is unrealistic.
This is why proactively working to generate awareness and establish your business as the expert in your space is so important in the meantime. If you can do this effectively now, then your prospects will already know you and trust you enough to come to you first when they’re ready for a sales conversation.
3. Earning someone’s attention and trust is not easy
Think about this from the standpoint of your personal or professional life. When you have an important decision to make, you don’t want to get it wrong. The bigger that decision, the more true that statement becomes. So if one of marketing’s primary functions is to build attention and trust, realize that this doesn’t happen with a snap of a finger.
If there were an easy button, everyone would push it.
Once your foundation is established, you’ll be ready to start proactively running campaigns to reach a tightly-targeted audience. But in very few cases will one, two or even three touchpoints with your brand be enough to produce a sales opportunity (or maybe even a lead). Persistence is key.
4. Marketing results will not outpace your average sales cycle length
If your average sales cycle from first touch with a prospect to purchase order is six months, then it should go without saying that marketing will not produce revenue in less than six months.
5. Marketing is not an alternative way to do sales prospecting
Many companies look at marketing as just another way to call on prospects and shove “we’re the best, buy from us now” messaging in their faces, hoping that with enough volume, some will bite.
But marketing and sales are very different things.
Marketing is what happens well before a sales conversation ever takes place – to create awareness and build trust at scale in front of a tightly defined group of buying process influencers from companies that fit your ideal customer profile.
When executed effectively, marketing not only creates more sales opportunities, but better ones, where prospects come educated and informed, already seeing your business as the expert advisor in their space. And for many of the reasons we’ve already discussed, this is a process, not an activity to knock out this afternoon.
So when can you expect to see results?
Remember that the definition of “results” that we established is marketing-sourced pipeline.
Although multiple variables will of course be at play here, I won’t leave you unsatisfied with an “it depends” answer. So generally speaking, here you go:
Six to twelve months
Here’s a typical timeline for rolling out a new marketing program, followed by some additional context:
- Months 1-3: Foundational work: Customer interviews, website optimization, technology stack configuration and deployment (CRM and marketing automation), positioning, content strategy
- Months 4-6: Content creation, campaign launch (capture existing demand and begin creating demand among the rest of your audience)
- Months 7 and beyond: Campaign continuation, reporting, refinement and optimization
During months 1-3…
You should expect zero results.
Here you’re doing the necessary foundational work here to set yourself up for success. Skip over this and you’ll never realize any significant impact from everything that follows.
During months 4-6…
You’ll watch key marketing KPIs start moving in the right direction.
KPIs are very important. But they should never be confused with business outcomes. Instead, KPIs serve as barometers to tell you if you’re moving in the right direction or not:
- Is visibility growing in front of the right people from the right companies?
- Is engagement with your content from those people on the rise?
- Are qualified inquiries on your website beginning to slowly trickle in (especially on the back end of this period)?
Following month six…
You should begin seeing business outcomes take shape.
Although many variables will affect the velocity and level of results you achieve (sales cycle length, complexity of your product/service, size of your market, saturation of your competition, etc), you should begin to see marketing sourced-pipeline (quoted right-fit opportunities) build from this point on.
So there it is
For most traditionally sales-driven B2B manufacturers, a modern marketing program is a very new thing. And if you don’t enter with realistic expectations, you’ll be setting yourself up for disappointment over the first year.
Ultimately, you’ll need to decide for yourself whether the required level of patience will be acceptable to the key stakeholders inside of your organization. If it’s not, then we recommend redirecting your efforts back into a short-term sales program and worry less about the big picture for now.