Making a sandwich

While definitions vary, the modern, Western-world concept of a sandwich is two slices of bread with filling in between. When analyzing a survey question from Forrester’s Marketing Survey, 2022 (during lunch), it became apparent that high-growth (>20% increase in annual revenue) companies and companies with flat-to-declining annual revenue both will use the same proverbial slices of bread to make their sandwich, but the fillings will be quite different. The survey question was “Which of the following priorities will be the most important to your organization’s marketing strategy over the next 12 months?” The top four choices from each type of company are used to make a B2B marketing sandwich.

What The Companies Have In Common

The first slice of bread, and what both high-growth and flat-to-declining companies ranked as the most important priority, was “address changing buyer behaviors.” For the second slice of bread, both companies ranked “focus on post-sale customer engagement” as the fourth most important priority. Why did each end up with the same two slices of bread but different fillings?

What Do High-Growth Companies Prioritize?

Let’s start with the first filling for the B2B marketing sandwich. High-growth companies ranked “implement a purpose-driven brand” seven percentage points higher in importance. Brand purpose is a statement of how an organization intends to change the world for the better (see the report, Building And Activating Brand Purpose). As buyer behaviors change, how the company addresses those changes in behavior must evolve with authenticity, followed by action. Don’t just take my word for it: There is more research available on how purpose-driven companies grow faster than average.

The other filling, ranked third, was “define customer needs to successfully commercialize your organization’s offerings.” Forrester defines a need as a desired outcome that has business value to the persona. A critical step to successfully commercialize your offering is to identify the who (persona) and clearly articulate the what (desired outcome) and why (business value) they should buy from you.

What Do Flat-To-Declining Companies Prioritize?

For their first filling, the flat-to-declining companies chose “improve the ROI/effectiveness of marketing” and not surprisingly ranked it 11 percentage points higher in importance. Regardless of growth rates, B2B marketing teams must adopt a new method for assessing marketing’s performance. Metrics that convey how marketing is impacting the business must move away from conventional, sourced, and influenced quantities to more meaningful marketing performance indicators (read the blog, B2B Marketers: It’s Time To Ditch Sourcing Metrics).

As their third-ranked priority, flat-to-declining companies selected “increase focus on customer experience” as their filling. This was nine percentage points higher in importance than for high-growth companies. A customer experience function strives for an end-to-end understanding of the customer relationship and aims to remove pain points, deepen relationships, and anticipate needs. Customer experience should focus on the post-sale customer lifecycle foundation and execution of customer-facing activities.

The Same Bread Can Make Different Sandwiches

Why is “focus on the post-sale customer engagement” so important for the second piece of bread on both sandwiches? Not to oversimplify, but when revenue is growing, it is imperative to protect that growth by focusing on retention. If revenue is flat or declining, then there should be a focus on retention as a more cost-effective way to curb decline.

My favorite kind of sandwich is the one that’s in my belly. The question remains: What kind of B2B marketing sandwich will you make?