B2B The Movie 2: B2Basic Instinct

Last week I launched a new blog post series, in which I take a look at some of the current issues (or hype) facing B2B marketers while, at the same time, paying homage to some classic movies. The first instalment told an integrated marketing version of The Matrix. For ‘B2B Marketing – The Movie’ part 2, and just for fun, I bring you Sharon Stone’s most infamous outing… (pardon the pun :-).

B2Basic Instinct

Plot Summary:
Murder is in the air at a medium-sized B2B brand. Someone, or something, has been systematically killing the brand’s sales and profits, and the company’s Chief Operations Officer wants answers. He has called his chief suspects in for a chat – Rhys Ults, the Sales Manager and Catherine Tremendous, the Marketing Manager.

The meeting, in a dimly lit, foreboding room, feels more like an interview than a chat, a slew of provocative questions and accusations bombarding the confident marketer. Catherine – appropriately dressed and with her legs crossed modestly throughout the meeting – protests her innocence. The content marketing plan Catherine put in place has been working like a dream. The brand’s followers and social engagement have all increased and some key market influencers are now on board. Natural search rankings have rocketed, Ebook downloads are through the roof, marketing qualified leads are up, up, up, and a dozen product demonstrations have been booked.

The marketing results are textbook good, but the COO still doesn’t seem convinced. As the COO continues his grilling, Catherine sits confused. Something is amiss. No-one in her B2B industry sector is smashing their content marketing like Catherine’s team is. Catherine tentatively observes it must be Sales’ fault, which provokes a hairdryer-like response from her opposite number, the Sales Manager…

The leads Sales has been getting are just fine – that’s not the problem. The problem is converting them to deals. The brand’s competitors have just launched a few new killer product features – features our brand doesn’t have. And they’re selling their products 20% cheaper. Which perhaps wouldn’t be a problem, but too much precision targeting has meant too many stakeholders and gatekeepers in the target audience just aren’t aware of the brand, or why they should pay 20% more for it. And there’s more… The word on the streets is that the brand’s customer service is poor. A number of complaints weren’t dealt with effectively and a few customers consequently let social media know about it.

In summary, some of the brand’s marketing promotion is OK, but the brand’s product, price and processes certainly aren’t OK. The Sales Manager added to the string of Ps with a few of here own… ‘piss poor’ and ‘a pile of pants’ among them.

Catherine stares at the Sales Manager and then the COO in utter disbelief, her looks betraying that she could murder these assholes – probably with an ice pick. Didn’t these idiots know that modern marketing is about values, engagement, digital, social shares and lead generation? Everyone knows that, surely? Catherine protests that the 4Ps (or 7Ps) of marketing went out of fashion in the 1990s, alongside big hair and gratuitous movies with women flashing their bits to fill cinemas. It wasn’t Catherine’s job to sort out the product, pricing and the like. Those things aren’t Marketing’s responsibility, she argues.

As Catherine rests her case, it is the COO’s turn to stare in disbelief. He can’t quite believe what he is hearing, and asks Catherine a simple question: “Hold on a minute, do you even know how a 2% drop in our product’s price impacts our profit margin, or the extra product we’d have to shift to make up the shortfall?”

Catherine’s confidence evaporates, leaving a telling silence in the room. A silence that the dumbfounded COO fills with a warning. “Holy sh*t. What are marketing experts teaching you lot these days? Perhaps you should take a moment to learn what marketing is actually about! Now get out of my office and sort this out Catherine. I’ve got my eyes on you.”

Catherine gets away with it, for now, and heads back to her desk to re-evaluate her next move. She can’t quite believe that 4Ps and other marketing fundamentals still hold true, but – perhaps – just perhaps – she should pick up a book about marketing strategy and planning, just to be sure. Or maybe enrol in a mini Marketing MBA, or something like that? Just to check if marketers really should concern themselves with trivial stuff like price elasticity, product lifecycles, positioning, long-term brand-building and the like.

Or perhaps she should just gratuitously murder those assholes with an ice pick after all…

Director’s Notes:
The inspiration for this piece came from a recent Twitter survey I stumbled across, in which some marketers voted that the 4Ps of marketing (or 7Ps, dependent upon which model you favour) no longer have a role to play in modern marketing thinking. To be honest, I was pretty gobsmacked.

Thankfully, the marketers that felt that way were in the minority. This B2B Movie is dedicated to that minority. Any marketer that doesn’t think that the price and quality of your product / service, for example,  matter – or that marketers shouldn’t have a voice in those things – needs to stop believing in fiction and consider talking to some customers for a change, in my humble opinion.

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