178827014I’m frustrated.

I’m frustrated because Marketing Sherpa published the following chart in August 2011, and they haven’t updated it since. It’s like they left a loaded gun on the floor of a crowded subway.

What this chart says, quite simply, is that the 1,745 B2B marketers who were surveyed had lost faith in every marketing tactic there is. And all of our shiny, new marketing technologies didn’t seem to be helping much.

tactic_effectiveness

A Loss of Faith

Was 2011 so long ago that everything has changed by now? Have we become significantly better marketers over the last two years? I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I can tell you that I’m dying to see the sequel to this chart.

Of course, I have a theory. Here it is: marketers are disappointed that the new technologies they’re using aren’t producing better results. I believe it was true in 2011, I suspect it’s still true today.

Which brings us to a discussion of an artist and his paintbrush. A great work of art has less to do with the paintbrush and much, much more to do with the artist. In spite of all the marketing gee-wizardry we now have at our disposal, we sometimes forget that the basics of marketing still apply.

If marketers are disappointed with the performance of their marketing programs, the root causes are the same as they’ve always been, assuming there’s actually a market for the product or service being offered:

1. The marketers’ targeting is off. They’re attracting the wrong people.

2. The marketers’ offers are off. They’re attracting the right people, but the incentive to create real engagement is too low.

3. The marketers’ communications are off. Tthey’re attracting the right people, the offer is good, but the value of the offer is being lost on the audience.

So in the interest of contributing something useful to the whole discussion, here are some baseline marketing strategies that are too often lost in the rush to get the next email campaign out the door. I call them the Laws of Engagement, and if you want to convert more prospects to sales, you have to honor the Laws ahead of your Technology.

1. The Law of Targeting

If you find more customers like your best customers, you will sell more.

The Law of Targeting says that in order to engage your prospects, you’ve got to be talking to the ones who will buy. Well, how obvious is that? Apparently not very. Most companies violate this Law every day, by targeting too widely and pursuing too many prospects who don’t tightly match what they have to offer. One of the secrets to targeting is to identify those prospects who share the same business pain as your best customers, and target them.

2. The Law of the Offer

Your offer must be valuable, timely, and relevant.

The Law of the Offer points out that in order to engage your prospects, you must offer them information and insight which helps them to better understand and deal with a business problem they’re facing, a problem you must be able to address. Your offer, be it information or a webinar or an analyst study or a white paper, must match their needs at the moment you’re trying to engage them (i.e. where they are in their Decision Cycle). Offering them an ROI calculator when they’re looking for category education won’t cut it.

3. The Law of Value

Every offer must have a value proposition, presented in terms of your prospect’s pain and viewpoint.

The Law of Value states that in order to engage your prospects, you must talk to them in their language about their pain. What is their pain? A business problem that they have that you appear able to solve. If you’re making an offer to these prospects, they need to be able to connect the dots between the value in your offer and the pain they’re trying to remedy. To really understand your prospects’ language, you need to talk to your prospects (or their able proxy, your best customers).

The question remains: Have we, as marketers, evolved enough in the last two years to turn Marketing Sherpa’s chart around, should they ever produce it?

Hopefully. But it bears repeating that in a world of shiny objects (the latest technology innovation goes here) and hyper competition (good ideas travel faster than ever), the basics still apply: buyers have pains, and if those pains are big enough, buyers will pay to have those pains resolved.

But to be in the game, you first have to engage them on their terms. And that’s not a technology problem.

Drew Williams is a serial marketing entrepreneur and co-author of Feed the Startup Beast: A 7-Step Guide to Big, Hairy, Outrageous Sales Growth (McGraw-Hill 2013). Drew shares his beast-building ideas at FeedTheBeast.biz/blog and @FeedYourBeast.

Photo: Thinkstock.

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Originally published Nov 25, 2013 8:00:00 AM, updated October 20 2016