From The Editor | August 20, 2020

Who Is Your Marketing Campaign Serving?

Abby Sorensen July 2017 Headshot

By Abby Sorensen, Editor


Have you ever heard of a buyer’s campaign? It’s a rhetorical question. Why? Your customers make purchasing decisions based on their timeline and their needs – not based on when you schedule your next marketing campaign.

buyer’s journey doesn’t follow your marketing campaign calendar, yet many marketers use a strategy of rotating short campaigns.

Imagine your customers driving down the highway on their buyer’s journey. Your marketing campaign is a blur of a billboard they just zoomed by on their way to purchasing your competitor’s solution. They aren’t going to slow down to consider your message. Your buyers only care about the final destination –a purchase that will make their life easier/faster/cheaper/better. That final destination doesn’t involve a detour just because you have a great marketing campaign up your sleeve for next quarter.

“Today, buyers are in control; they have the steering wheel and the throttle. They choose how they move through the journey. They choose where and how fast. They choose when. They choose how.” So says the Weidert Group’s “Mapping Your B2B Buyer’s Journey For Inbound Marketing.” Why, then, do marketers choose to ignore this reality and instead force campaigns on their buyers?

Why are we still in love with marketing campaigns?

The decision-making group at your target buyers are not sitting in a conference room saying, “We need to buy this product/service/solution, so let’s wait and see if vendor A, vendor B, or vendor C has the best marketing campaign before we decide which one to partner with.” If that were the case, your buyers would be on a seller’s journey, not a buyer’s journey.

In reality, your buyers purchase what they need to purchase when they need to purchase it (not when you decide to run a campaign). But we hear from B2B marketers over and over and over again that they structure almost everything they do around campaigns. Even worse, many campaigns are too late to the party and start to target buyers long after they’ve set their purchase criteria and started evaluating solutions.

If buyers don’t buy based on seller’s campaigns, then why do so many marketers structure their entire professional livelihoods around campaigns? Honestly, we’re not sure. There isn’t a bulletproof answer to that question. Maybe it’s because:

  • Your budget is based on campaigns instead of broader outcomes.
  • A new product is about to launch and you *need (no, you *want) to hyper-focus efforts around raising awareness for that product.
  • The division of labor within your marketing team is based on executing campaigns, not based on helping your buyers, and it would be too much of a hassle to rip and replace the org chart.
  • You have a trade show 30 days from now and want to drive traffic to that expensive booth.
  • It’s easier to execute a campaign for the next 90 days than it is to develop a long-term road map for how you’re going to help your customers for the next 10 years.
  • You bought an expensive suite of software solutions to create, automate, and track campaign activity, so now you have to use that software in order to get ROI from it.

Some of these “why we still use marketing campaign” excuses might fly in the B2C world. You can bet Apple runs some pretty expensive and successful campaigns immediately after new product releases. But in B2B buying, a product sales cycle measured in months or years isn’t going to sell any faster thanks to your 60-day digital marketing campaign with its email marketing onslaught and banner ad blitz.

Stop campaigning, start helping.

Maybe marketers still love marketing campaigns because someone read somewhere online that campaigns, especially the “highly-targeted” and the “innovative multi-channel” ones, are so great. For example, did you know, “Marketers who proactively plan campaigns are 356% more likely to report success” (that’s according to this 2019 State of Marketing Strategy report)? Let’s not give campaigns too much credit here. That same report says marketers are 397% more likely to report success if they are “organized,” 376% more likely to report success if they do “goal-setting,” and are 313% more likely to report success if they have a “documented strategy.”

The truth is, campaigns are what marketers have always done. That’s worth repeating: marketing campaigns are what marketers have always done. What marketers have not always done is to follow their buyers. Campaigns do not help a buyer accomplish an outcome, rather campaigns are designed to sell a buyer your product or service. And your buyers don’t want to be sold, they want to be helped.

Following your buyer means putting the buyer first in every facet of your marketing. It means there is no such thing as a buyer’s campaign. Let’s eliminate “campaign” from our marketing vocabulary and instead double down on delivering helpful content to our customers at each stage of their buyer’s journey. The buyer’s journey takes more time and is more complex than any single marketing campaign can tackle on its own. Keep that buyer in mind before you plan your next campaign.