The State of Marketing

There's a growing gap between marketing strategy and tactics.

We opened Pandora's box. Out came a dozen different tools for every marketing activity under the sun. And they're still coming.

We opened Pandora’s box. Out came a hundred different tools for every single marketing activity under the sun. And for every new digital channel that emerges, there are hundreds of gurus lining up to teach the secrets of “optimisation.”

Today, tools and tactics dominate discussions within marketing teams. We’re obsessed with them. Short-term sales activation is all anyone talks about.

Why? Because they’re new, shiny, and (most importantly) they drive short-term growth fast.

Tools and tactics dominate discussions.

Lead-gen tactics have a direct, timely impact on sales figures. So, they’re the perfect focus for teams under pressure to deliver results fast.

Queue the hyper targeted paid media campaigns pushing forgettable product features and services with the A/B tested CTA and email capture – all followed by an automated remarketing journey and scheduled sales follow-ups.

But the reality is that 75% of these short-term B2B campaigns are optimised in less than two weeks. And just 4% of marketers bother measuring them beyond six months because, by then, the results have either flattened (or worse decayed) and everyone’s scrambling to find the next lead-gen tactic to throw in the mix.

Short term is effective… for a while.

Short-term works. We all know the feeling of launching a new campaign and raving over the new conversions we’ve created. But it doesn’t scale.

Why does this happen? Why do short-term campaigns flatten out – even decay?

It’s because demand generation doesn’t actually generate anything. The growth hacking tools and tactics we love to obsess over don’t create demand. They just capture the existing demand. They’re hard to improve on and easy to copy.

Take a look at the paid results for any high-intent term. The ads are all identical. Scroll through LinkedIn and take note of the sponsored content. It’s dire. Almost no creativity to be found.

Long-term brand building is what generates demand. And if that’s not reason enough, your brand is yours – competitors can only imitate.

Strategy takes a back seat (along with effectiveness).

Why is it then that brand strategy is losing out to tactics? Because leadership has to choose between:

  • Performance Marketing: Our campaign is going to deliver 10 SQLs every day for the next six months.
  • Brand Marketing: We’ll increase brand awareness by ten points.

Lead-gen wins that argument because of course it does. The marketing function quickly dissolves into sales support. And you’ve now got two teams throwing everything into short-term tactics and arguing over who should get credit for the scraps.

Meanwhile, everyone’s ignoring the elephant in the room… Effectiveness. Because without brand and without that long-term strategic thinking, effectiveness goes to shit. As soon as you take your foot off the short-term “sales activation” accelerator, the results disappear.

It’s not either or. It’s both.

This is not an argument for strategy over tactics. Sure, the pendulum’s been stuck on the tactics side for a while. But that doesn’t mean the passengers on the boat should rush back over to the brand-side.

Why? Because the boat tips.

Les Binet and Peter Field did not title their book about “The Long of It vs. The Short of It.” They titled it “The Long of It and the Short of It” – for good reason.

You need both – not perfectly balanced, not fifty-fifty or any other set ratio but both. Visionary companies seek to do well in the short term and the long term – both at the same time, all the time.

You need the long-term brand-building campaigns as well as the lead generation funnel. Because while the lead gen tactics hoover up the existing demand, the brand piece creates and compounds it.

You need target segments and mass marketing. You can take advantage of  hypertargeting tech without centring your entire growth strategy around it.

And contrary to current opinion, you need to differentiate and be distinctive. You need your mission, vision, and values as well as a set of distinctive brand assets.

Sync your strategy with your tactics.