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Marketing might be straightforward, but it's never simple. When selecting a mix of tactics, what works for one business won't work for the next (so, if anyone ever tries to sell you a "playbook," run for the hills).

We know, however, that as a set of fundamental principles of marketing, the following seven simply work.

So, to elevate your marketing—improve performance and impact—make sure you're ticking all these boxes.

1. Understand your customers in both broad and specific terms

Get to know the worlds they inhabit and the things they're trying to make progress on. If you know your customers' problems, you can create content that speaks directly to their pain points.

But to sell your product or service, you must also understand their fears—B2B purchases involving five- or six-figure sums can put decision makers in the firing line, after all.

You'd be surprised how few marketers bother to really know their customers. In fact, only 36% research the individuals who make up the buying committee for their products and services, according to Considered Content's B2B Effectiveness survey. The rest make assumptions.

And the big problem when you assume (other than making an ass out of u and me) is that you limit your ability to be relevant in your content, wasting budget and effort.

2.Focus on building mental availability with customers

Your primary objective should be to make sure customers think of your brand when they think of the category you play within or when they have an issue relating to that category.

That's because buyers' vendor shortlists (a) are typically limited to the brands they can recall by memory, plus maybe a couple of recommendations from their peers, and (b) are not as well researched as you might think. Most B2B shortlists comprise the three-or-so market leaders and, at best, a couple of outliers. So it's critical that when customers are ready to buy, you pop into their heads.

One of the building blocks for a memorable brand is developing and nurturing a relatively limited number of distinctive brand assets and using them with absolute consistency across everything you do.

3.Go further by being distinctive and relevant

The distinctiveness of what you do matters. A lot. You should aim to stand out from the crowd at all costs.

A new tagline and a refreshed color palette aren't enough. Every asset you use should be focused on encouraging ease of recognition. Have a strong point of view about the things that matter to customers and you'll have a better chance of lodging in the brains of today's customers with their goldfish-worthy attention spans.

True distinctiveness is about being meaningfully remarkable. Being so adds value to your offerings and takes it away from your competitors' offerings. Importantly, the points of difference should always be highly relevant to your ideal customer.

Struggling? Ask yourself these questions:

  • What's the most audacious thing you can do in your category?
  • How can you become famous among your target audience?
  • What will make customers remember your brand next week/month/year?

4.Communicate to the widest number of potential buyers

Prioritize reach over depth. Don't over-segment. Fish in the biggest pond you can that makes sense for your business. The Long And The Short Of It research by Binet and Field clearly backs up this approach. It shows that broad reach considerably outperforms tight targeting.

In B2B this makes perfect sense: It's not only one person involved in making a purchase decision, it's multiple people (e.g., senior leader, sponsor, finance, IT, admin) who influence the sale—and they all need convincing.

Besides, it's impossible to ever really know who's in the market for your services at any particular point in time (whatever intent data vendors would like you to believe).

Binet and Field talk about the "herd effect," whereby the perceived familiarity and popularity of a brand among the many enhances its appeal to the one. Useful when your goal is to win over many people in a single business.

5.Take this approach consistently over time (though in a variety of ways)

Beware of getting bored too quickly. You'd be amazed how many costly rebrands and pivots have stemmed from marketers' growing uninterest in their brands. Remember, you will have seen your own marketing a thousand times before most of your ideal customers have seen it once.

You can always mix things up within the constraints of your brand assets and positioning and find fresh new ways to communicate your message (not new messages).

6.Have an efficient way to hand off to sales/BDR teams

Don't squander results by handing off leads too early or handing them to teams that are ill-equipped to deal with what you provide.

Don't be afraid to hang on to opportunities longer than you feel entirely comfortable with. Sales teams are notoriously derogatory about "Marketing-qualified" leads, and with good reason.

7.Finally, market your marketing

Make sure the wider business—and particularly senior management—sees the value you're delivering. Don't be shy.

But remember that the boardroom should be a marketing jargon-free zone, and leave the vanity metrics at home too. CEOs and CFOs care nothing for MQLs or social media likes and comments, and nor should they. To get buy-in, we need to talk in terms of marketing's value to the bottom line or the business's unique goals. We must talk in terms of growth, rather than engagement, and revenue, not leads.

Our job isn't to try to teach nonmarketers how marketing is done. Instead, we ought to be translating and explaining exactly how we are helping the business to achieve its commercial goals.

More Resources on Fundamental Marketing Principles

10 Guiding Principles of Sales Enablement, Inspired by 'Nicolas Cage: Good or Bad?'

Ten Fundamentals That Matter More Than a Big Budget (Part 1)

Ten Fundamentals That Matter More Than a Big Budget (Part 2)

Planning Your Marketing? Don't Forget These Fundamentals

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image of Jason Ball

Jason Ball is the founder of B2B marketing agency Considered Content, a B2B marketing agency that works with tech brands, professional services firms, and manufacturers. Its B2B Effectiveness Engine—the largest database of its kind—features data insights from 1,000+ senior B2B marketers. 

LinkedIn: Jason (Jay) Ball