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3 marketing motions successful B2B software companies do differently than peers

Study by Bain and Google finds that high-performing B2B software companies conduct marketing experiments, think about marketing measurement more and have brought more of martech skills back in-house

There are a lot of things high-growth B2B technology companies do differently with respect to marketing than their peers:

Yet a new study by Bain and Google brings something new to the conversation. The two organizations teamed up to survey “sales and marketing executives at about 1,100 US software and cloud hosting companies.”

The results suggest there are three marketing motions successful B2B software companies do differently than their peers: they experiment with marketing often, they think about marketing measurement more and they do more marketing in-house.

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1. Successful B2B software companies experiment with marketing more

The B2B software companies that are successful with marketing are very intentional about experimenting.

According to the study:

“Revenue-leading organizations in our survey—which we define as having high revenue growth and website traffic growth over the past three to five years—devote about 50% more budget and 80% more staff hours to digital marketing experimentation compared with laggards, in part to extract more value from innovations such as artificial intelligence (AI). Other companies that treat experimentation as an afterthought, or pursue it only if they have extra budget, do not realize the same performance gains.”

Comment:

Generally, companies that experiment always seem to do better than peers. This is true inside and outside of marketing. Years ago, when I was studying for an MBA, the company 3M was a case study during the program. Why? They gave engineers a percentage of free time to develop new products. That’s how Post It notes were discovered and it went on to be a best-selling product.

We need to experiment with marketing too. There are so many variables to every campaign that it’s important to design good experiments. Develop a hypothesis, establish controls the best you can and strive to isolate those variables. Companies that do this tend to outperform peers.

Set some aspect of your budget aside – say 10% – for marketing experiments.

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2. Successful B2B software companies think hard about marketing measurement

Measurement has long been an Achilles heel for marketing. And it’s easy to poke holes in attribution models.

Moreover, despite the challenge of measuring marketing, some B2B companies spend a lot more energy trying to measure and as a result, tend to be more confident in their efforts:

“High-growth firms have invested in adopting savvy measurement and attribution methods across the customer life cycle. According to our survey, they are two to three times more likely to measure signals such as account engagement and intent-based third-party data. On the back end, these companies have, on average, around 30% more confidence in their marketing measurement and attribution methods, such as multi-touch attribution, lift studies, and propensity modeling.”

Comment:

Measurement in marketing is about understanding what earns attention and persuades and what doesn’t. It’s rarely perfect and correlation is typically stronger than causation.

You may not have all the answers and you probably will never get all the answers. Yet putting that mental energy into measurement pays off measurably as this study shows.

Set time aside – say 10% – dedicated to measurement. That’s 10% of everything you do, every meeting, every one-to-one call with direct reports should have something to do with measurement.

3. Successful B2B software companies build martech skills in-house

Software companies that outperform peers tend to invest more in marketing technology (martech) and have developed that expertise in-house:

“Revenue-leading organizations have more in-house skills and more marketing technology than their low-growth counterparts (see Figures 2 and 3). Specifically, our survey found, revenue leaders are two to six times more likely to have advanced in-house capabilities such as data science and analytics, marketing automation, and account-based marketing. On average, the leaders are five times more likely to install technology serving these areas.”

Comment:

There are certain skills businesses need to have in-house. The tech skills to operate all the software marketing has purchased is paramount. It’s fine to get help when you need it but strive to build those skills internally and cross-train, so you’re not stuck when an employee leaves. If you can’t use that marketing automation tool that costs $250k a year because your $90k-a-year employee left over a 5% raise, it might be worth rethinking the budget allocation.

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You can learn more about the survey here: The Ingredients of Strong Revenue Growth in B2B Software.

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