Why B2B marketers are risk averse (and therefore less effective than they could be)

UPDATE: It seems that Lisa Nirell has uncovered a related set of issues regarding the “condition” of marketers, and the need to take a new approach if different results are expected. Interesting read on Fast Company.

Let’s face it. The only major innovation that B2B marketers have adopted since the invention of 3 color printing is the internet. Email marketing, banner ads, blogging….. all are new ways to deliver the same content. A new medium, for sure, but does this represent the potential for marketing innovation? I think not.

Many marketers are risk averse (which means that they think that the “cost” of trying new approaches outweighs the benefits) because:

– they are afraid of losing their jobs; it follows that if they “stick their necks out” and try new things that fail, they may, well…, lose their jobs.

– they are ridiculously busy; with marketing budgets contracting, and marketing departments reducing personnel, those marketers left are barely keeping their heads above water, never mind trying something new!

– they are content with the results they are getting now; “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

But research has shown that most people misjudge risk (by enormous ranges), and in this case, the reality is that the failure to constantly innovate represents a much greater risk than simply doing the same things as before. Why?

– most B2B marketing departments are operating with fewer people and less budget than in the past. It is impossible to do the same things anymore – there is simply not enough money, and nowhere near enough people. Something has to change!

– the results that they are achieving are less than optimal (in a recent CMO survey, marketing results were seen to be “inadequate” or “inferior” more than 80% of the time!)  So, it appears to be “broke” – and needs fixing.

– if marketing results are underperforming with respect to the company’s needs, and it is impossible to continue to do things as they have been done before, then attempting to keep things the same is a far riskier strategy than betting one’s job on innovative ideas.

Marketers tend to see investments in new ideas and solutions as a “potential loss” because there is an element of the unknown in anything new – and it is now well established that humans are predisposed to favor strategies that avoid losses rather than acquiring gains. What we all have to recognize is that by maintaining the status quo, the risks have been elevated because the world around us is changing – and we need to change too.

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