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Connecting with B2B buyers: Using category entry points to drive brand sales

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This article originates from a presentation at the Revenue Marketing Summit in New York, 2022. Catch up on this presentation, and others, using our OnDemand service. For more exclusive content, visit your membership dashboard.

Hello everyone! I'm Ty Heath, Director of Market Engagement at LinkedIn’s B2B Institute think tank. If you're not familiar with The B2B Institute, we work with leading academics and practitioners to investigate how marketing can create more value, and we're going to do exactly that today.

We’ll link buying situations to brand sales, and I'll introduce a concept called category entry points.

I want to start with an idea, the idea that most purchases start not by searching Google for a product but by searching your mind for a memory. Now, if most buyer behavior starts with searching your mind for a memory, it follows that the job of marketing is not to generate clicks but to generate memories.

Marketers are in the memory business, and I think that's pretty exciting, but before we dig any deeper into this idea, let’s get a little bit of context.

Marketing’s reputational crisis

Marketing is facing a reputational crisis right now. There's a disconnect happening: many people aren’t clear on the value that we as marketers create and bring to the business.

I think we could do better at closing that gap and building bridges, especially with our finance departments. If we can learn to speak in a language that finance understands, we’ll be in a much better position.

So where's this coming from? Well, according to a study by Forbes, only 2.6% of over 65,000 board members in their database had managerial-level marketing experience.

That’s such a tiny proportion, and it feeds into a negative cycle – according to a further study, only 4% of people on boards said that marketing was an important skill for board members to have. In contrast, 47% of the people surveyed said that finance was an important skill.

Below is a chart of current business priorities and the number of non-marketers who believe a strong brand is important in achieving them.

Those priorities include things like margin improvement, enterprise growth, future cash flow, and increased productivity – I don't think there's any doubt in our minds that marketers drive opportunity here, but there's a gap in terms of what other people feel.

Source: The B2B Institute, LinkedIn Business

One of the things we like to do at the B2B Institute is to take inspiration from other fields. We can learn a lot from the field of finance. We can learn a lot from the field of customer service. There are so many different things we can draw from, but thinking about the way finance looks at capital allocation is a great place for us to start.

When finance looks at operations, they make decisions about where to invest, where not to invest, risks, opportunities, and trade-offs before eventually deciding to invest in something at the expense of something else. That’s capital allocation. As Warren Buffett says,

"The skill with which managers allocate capital to the most financially and strategically attractive projects has an enormous impact on enterprise value over time."

Psst! Nobody cares about the funnel!

So, what does all of this mean for marketing? It means it's time for us to revisit our models and how we position ourselves. We can start with the marketing funnel. We're all familiar with the funnel. It’s probably the most recognized mental model in all of marketing, and we use it all the time.

However, at the B2B Institute, we have a contrarian point of view when it comes to that funnel. We don't believe that there's an awareness stage and a consideration stage.

Written by:

Tyrona Heath

Tyrona Heath

Tyrona is the Director of Marketing Engagement at The B2B Institute at LinkedIn.

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Connecting with B2B buyers: Using category entry points to drive brand sales