- Brand awareness, perception and preference influences buyer behaviors and choices at every stage in the buying process
- Brand strength creates advantages; brand weakness can be an obstacle to revenue and few organizations have visibility into the way their brands work
- B2B brand and communications leaders control only a small portion of what “makes” the brand; they must be stewards and champions for brand strength
In the days before measurable B2B marketing, marketing leaders hoped that business stakeholders intuitively understood marketing’s value and accepted that it was qualitative, but not quantifiable. The SiriusDecisions Demand Waterfall® changed the game, allowing B2B organizations to monitor and manage the hand-off of leads and for marketing to focus on improving lead quality. Because the Demand Waterfall has marketers focused more on what happens with what they bring to the table, marketing has developed a laser focus on revenue contribution. In this sense, a part of what makes the waterfall such a game changer (in addition to its deep visibility into lead mechanics) can also create an overemphasis that conflates visibility with importance.
The issue is that much – if not most – of marketing’s contribution is still not immediately understandable through the waterfall; some remains visible only through correlation to waterfall diagnostics. The benefit of a strong brand (i.e. high awareness, favorable/accurate perception, competitive preference) is a prime example. Our experience as individual private consumers makes it clear how important brand awareness, perception and preference are in a high-stakes purchasing process. Take, for example, the purchase of a car. Consumers engage in a variety of research and purchasing behaviors – some of which would show up in a waterfall measurement construct, and others of which would not. It’s not difficult to make an argument that many influential experiences and sources of information – ones that sway our decision and thus help the winning vendor earn our business – would not show up in a waterfall view, nor will they ever until we have metal chips in our heads that communicate our inner thoughts and offline experiences to those trying to market to us. For example, SiriusDecisions data shows that a whopping 90 percent of B2B C-suite buyers indicate that brand is moderately to significantly influential in their creation of a shortlist in a buying process. The waterfall helps us understand what a prospect does – but not necessarily what they think.
As a result of the waterfall and the ecosystem of technologies that enable its implementation, B2B marketing has undergone almost a total transformation over the past decade. In doing so, however, we are met again with the age-old problem of the most visible touches getting all the credit. Before the waterfall, sales got 100 percent of the credit because marketing’s contribution was invisible. Today, sales and demand marketing share a focus on revenue contribution, which is right for sales, but a dangerous oversimplification for marketing. Some of the most important work that marketing does (e.g. engaging with and activating third-party influencers to be advocates, building a thought leadership position for the brand in the market, creating permission and perceived value in the minds of key audiences), certainly influences buying behaviors and decisions. However, because so few organizations are correlating performance in these areas with waterfall dynamics, marketing is veering away from them and toward the gravitational pull of the touches it finds easiest to track and measure.
The reality is that communications and demand creation desperately need one another. Following the intuitive logic described in the purchasing scenario above, it becomes clear that waterfall performance should improve with higher brand awareness, better perception and increased competitive preference. Conversely, brand teams frequently need tighter tethers to the business, and are hungry for insight into how what they do impacts the business. Metaphorically speaking, a waterfall doesn’t spring from dry ground; the bigger the river, the bigger and faster the waterfall.