We are living in the age of speed: faster connections, faster answers, faster service. People expect many things to happen instantly, in real-time, and technological advancements are increasingly making it possible.
As such, it might seem counter-intuitive to suggest that we as B2B marketers are wise to slow our roll. Sometimes we tend to go through the motions too quickly, or in the wrong order, and it can hurt our results. In fact, it can prevent us from even accurately evaluating our results.
Sean Callahan recently wrote a post on the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions* blog arguing that a top priority in 2020 for B2B marketers should be to slow down when measuring ROI. The case is simple and convincing: Sales cycles have grown significantly longer but analytics haven’t responded in kind. Per the post, 77% of marketers are still measuring ROI in the first month of a campaign, even though the average B2B sales cycle is now about six months long.
“The reality is,” writes Callahan, “most marketers are showing up to their book club having only read a sixth of the book.”
This got me thinking about the argument’s broader applicability in B2B marketing. There are a number of different areas where it’s becoming clear that practitioners might be moving too quickly and doing themselves a disservice. To be clear: We’re not suggesting that you delay making decisions or drastically cut down your content production; sometimes it’s as simple as stepping back and taking a beat.
Let’s talk about four opportunities that stand out: experiences, strategies, social media, and SEO.
4 Areas Where B2B Marketers Can Benefit from Pumping the Brakes
Slow Your Experience
There are plenty of metaphors I could toss out regarding the inverse relationship between speed and quality of an experience, but I’ll go with this one: Would you rather be shuffled through a fast-moving line at a fast-food joint, or carefully walked through a restaurant menu by a knowledgeable and curious server beside your table?
Yes, customers want things quickly, but there’s a balance. It’s been nearly two decades since William McEwen made a point that remains very true today: When marketers emphasize doing things faster, they often end up doing things worse.
“If the goal is to create strong bonds that ensure customer retention, companies must focus on activities that create and sustain the customer relationships, not just on those that enhance company efficiency,” McEwen wrote in his book, Married to the Brand.
In his example he notes that a cold, tasteless sandwich from Arby’s isn’t going to yield a happy customer, no matter how fast it’s delivered. The same principles apply to any B2B experience — fast isn’t memorable. But when content is unusually entertaining, impactful, or tailored? That can stick in one’s brain.
More recently, Ann Handley preached this premise at Content Marketing World 2019, arguing that the most efficient is not the most effective. She recommends that marketers step back and ask themselves a few questions with regards to the customer experience they’re providing:
- How can I build trust and momentum for the content experience over time? And what does that look like?
- How can I involve the audience in a meaningful way so they are invested in the outcome?
- How can I create an experience that individuals rally around in a way that makes them more invested in the community?
Slow Your Strategy
Thinking through the questions above, and others, takes time. Rushing through our B2B marketing strategies invariably leads to overlooking key factors, while also generating undue stress for the team.
It’s a real psychological phenomenon: Slowing down helps us reconnect with the present, enrich relationships, and find more productivity.
“When you slow down, your mind can work on solutions to problems you may be experiencing, finding a better way to do something, prioritizing tasks and projects and eliminating or reducing conflict,” writes Suzanne Kane at Psych Central in the article linked above. These are the tenets of successful strategy.
The “Slow Your Strategy” directive runs the operational gamut, including pre-planning, resource allotment, promotion, and — as referenced earlier — measurement.
When I think about pacing a business strategy, I think about the game of chess. Great players aren’t often the quickest; instead, they proceed methodically, analyzing the entire board and mentally playing out the consequences of a possible move before pushing the next piece.
Marketers should adopt the same mindset. Strategy is by definition “a careful plan or method,” and being careful means taking our time. Don’t hurry while solidifying the seven elements of your your B2B marketing strategy:
- Goals and Objectives
- Audience Segmentation and Characteristics
- Brand Messaging
- Multi-Channel Touchpoints
- Content Types
- Content Topics
Slow Your Social
The world of social media moves so quickly, it’s easy for marketers to feel under pressure to keep up.
“Has our latest tweet already been buried on feeds?”
“Are we seeing results yet from this LinkedIn campaign?”
“Should we be on Tik-Tok?”
According to the latest B2B content marketing benchmarks report, social media is the most common content type used by B2B marketers, with 95% listing it. Yet in my experience, social often tends to be an autopilot function, disconnected from broader strategies. Bundles of messages are packaged up for scheduling across platforms, generic promotional links are hastily developed, and minimal effort goes into follow-up or interaction.
What’s the point?
Quality over quantity is a mantra that rings throughout the digital marketing environment today, and social media is a pertinent area in which to emphasize it. Take the time to think through the purpose of each platform, and each tweet or update. Prioritize value over volume. Keep in mind that aimlessly publishing without discretion can actually hurt your visibility on social feeds by diminishing your content’s overall engagement rates and causing people to unfollow.
Slow Your SEO
Every SEO specialist knows that influencing search rankings takes time. As algorithms increasingly shift from technical signals to user-based signals, creating quality audience geared toward a well-understood audience becomes all the more paramount.
If you’re displeased with your website’s search visibility, a good next step is running an SEO audit of existing content. “An SEO audit is a great place to start when you’re trying to understand the factors that are hindering your search visibility,” Tiffani Allen, TopRank Marketing’s Associate Director of Search and Analytics, writes. “The data you collect, once analyzed, should help you create a roadmap to improve rankings and capitalize on white space.”
And as Aja Frost, Head of Content SEO for HubSpot, offers to Search Engine Journal: “I’d recommend auditing all of your content for overlapping rankings and merging, redirecting, and archiving as needed so every page ranks for a unique set of keywords,” Frost said. “If your website covers the same topics again and again, even if you’re covering these topics from different angles, your pages are going to knock each other out of the results.”
This is but a sampling of examples of where slowing down with SEO can yield major long-term benefits. Scrutinizing your topical pillars, audience assumptions, and technical health of your site are additional measures that pay off.
Moving Forward in Slow Motion
While watching playoff football over the past few weekends, I’ve been reminded of how much speed affects our perception. You can watch a play in real-time and miss so many details that become evident in the slowed-down instantly reply.
There’s no time clock ticking down on your B2B marketing strategy. Obviously we have deadlines and time-sensitive objectives, but in many cases we’re probably placing undue constraints on our programs that take a negative toll on results.
We live in a fast-paced world. But slowing down our marketing efforts — from experience to strategy to social to SEO — can help brands differentiate and achieve more.
So the next time you receive a request from a boss or client that seems to skip steps or rush through critical strategic elements, there’s only one valid response: not so fast.
Take a moment to assess and validate your marketing approach for the coming year by reviewing Lee Odden’s rundown of the Top 10 B2B Digital Marketing Trends in 2020.