The more B2B marketing changes, the more it stays the same.


Eric Gannon’s recap of the B2B University event in Washington DC was posted recently on the Business Marketing Institutes Tuesday Marketing Notes. It’s a great post. Without the cost of travel or attendance fees, BMI readers can partake of  “Six Lessons from B2B University“ that are detailed enough to provide real take-aways.

Here are the six points in his recap:

  1. Your Prospects Are In Charge Now
  2. Marcom 2.0: It’s All About the Content
  3. Marketing Automation is Smart. It’s the People Who Do Dumb Things With It
  4. In B2B, Social Marketing is Much More than Twitter or Facebook
  5. If You’ve Wondered How to Use Social Media for Lead Generation, Here’s How…
  6. To Make Your Marketing Program Indispensable, Link Your Marketing Results to Sales and New Business Generation

You’ll want to read his entire post for all the details he shares on each of these points. But it’s the first point that I take one small issue with. It’s not that the explanation is wrong. He notes that prospects can now “use Google, news and vendor Web sites, and social media to freely search and gather all of the information required for making their initial product and vendor selections, largely bypassing your company’s typical marketing program and ‘story’ as their sole source of their information about your product.”

My issue is the dramatic title of Point #1 that “Prospects are in Charge Now.” From my direct marketing point of view, prospects have always been in charge. Whether marketing is inbound or outbound, it’s the prospect who can take action to conduct product research on their own or respond to the outbound content offers sent out by the company.

Offering free informational content has always been the key to effective B2B outbound lead generation. The approach just gets more blog time now. My objection to the language is that marketers should NEVER think that their prospects are not in charge. With that attitude, marketers might give up actively generating leads and only nurture the leads that come their way through SEO, social media outreach and other inbound channels.

When done correctly, generating leads through email, direct mail, SEM, outbound telemarketing and trade shows still works. So marketers should not think that saying “Your Prospects are in Charge Now” is an excuse to give up proven, profitable marketing channels.

4 replies
  1. Eric Goldman
    Eric Goldman says:

    Good post! You make a good point about the buyer always having been in charge, but I think Mr. Ganon was trying to say the same thing we mean when we say that the Sales-Cycle has now become the Buying-Cycle. Yes, the prospect is now and has always been in charge, but Inbound tends to allow the prospect to contact you, and recontact you, all without you doing anything overt to spur that contact – hence the change in view.
    I would also stress that Mr. Ganon’s 3rd point is very valid and is caused more by technology vendors throwing technical solutions at clients and not giving them the right training, and especially, not giving them the right Process Specifications to make it all work properly and with minimal effort. All too often we are called in to help a client who has tried to install and then use a piece of sales and or marketing automation software, only to find that the match to their needs is off, or the way they are trying to use it will never work, or it is working but they are not seeing the results they want – all signs that the path of Continuous Process Improvements was not followed during the selection, design, installation and operation of the system in question.

  2. David Dodd
    David Dodd says:


    I admit to being somewhat ambivalent about the issue of inbound vs. outbound marketing. On one hand, I suspect that few marketers will be willing to rely solely on inbound channels, and it’s clearly true (as you say) that outbound lead generation activities still work.

    And yet . . .

    It does seem to be true that many outbound marketing and sales techniques don’t work as well as they once did, especially for B2B companies. It’s also hard to deny that many outbound techniques are not very efficient. If we execute a highly targeted, personalized cross-channel lead generation campaign and get a 10% response rate, we would probably be ecstatic. But this campaign has a “failure” rate of 90%. As marketers, we’ve lived with these kinds of inefficiencies for years, but do they still make sense today?

    In its “The State of Inbound Marketing 2010″ report, Hubspot writes, “Businesses spending 50% or more of their marketing budget on inbound marketing activities spent 60% less per lead than businesses spending 50% or more of their marketing budget on outbound channels.”

    In today’s B2B marketing environment, maybe the most effective and efficient way to “actively generate leads” is to fully leverage inbound channels and reduce (but not completely eliminate) outbound techniques.

  3. Susan Fantle
    Susan Fantle says:

    Thanks for your comments. I disagree with you somewhat, as I know first hand that outbound (when done correctly – and many people doing outbound marketing do not do it correctly) is still productive, cost-effective and used successfully by many players. You can refer to an earlier post of mine that highlights some of this use at

    Connecting with prospects “before” they take action on their own, puts a seller way ahead of competitors when the prospect is ready to solve the problem the seller’s solution can solve.

    Outbound marketing has always been a numbers game. But when the numbers work, it’s worth doing.
    Again, thanks for your “other point of view” input.


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