October 16

Where's the passion in B2B marketing?

Marketing Strategy


I spoke yesterday at MarketingSherpa’s Demand Generation Summit and I felt led to go off topic for a bit to address why I do, what I do. Personally, I’ve been pondering the idea of passion and what role it plays in our careers as marketers or leaders.

Read Mike Volpe’s summary of my presentation at the the Small Business Hub Blog.

In my short aside, I ended up talking about things we marketers often don’t talk about. Our heart. What drives us? What role does the heart play in our job as marketers?

How do we create relevance for ourselves, our colleagues, and those future customers we hope to reach and influence?

Can you market something without passion and still be successful? If so, why would you want to?

I’ve wondered how we can be passionate advocates to others outside our companies if we don’t have close relationships and trust inside our companies?

To me, disharmony is the enemy of execution. I liked something Seth wrote a while back, "…just about every successful venture is based on an unoriginal idea, beautifully executed." I agree.

In this age of automation, depersonalization, scoring and measurement, I’m not seeing the "human touch" in B2B marketing. So how can we humanize the process and actually build relationships?

I’m sincere in my vision to profoundly change the way people think about marketing and lead generation for the complex sale.

I believe the complex sale presents a set of unique sales and marketing problems that benefit by a shift away from the traditional lead generation mind-set to a new way of thinking centered on the following tenets:

  • More ROI is reaped from the patient tending of potential customers (relationships) over time. Customers for life.
  • Lead generation is a conversation, not a series of disjointed campaigns. 
  • Build relationships with the right people and companies regardless of their timing to buy.   
  • Engage people early (preferably before) in their buying process as possible so you can create and influence their vision. 
  • The first impression matters.  So does the second.  So does every single touch after that.  Consistency and relevancy is key.
  • Sales and marketing must work together as one team.  Seeing each other as internal customers. 
  • A multi-modal and multi-touch lead generation portfolio will always outperform marketing tactics that stand alone.
  • Sales and marketing should have a unified understanding and consensus in their language on things like ideal customers and universal lead definition.
  • If used properly, the phone is the single best way to reach decision makers and to begin a dialog when you have a complex sale.   
  • Buy-in from sales and marketing as well as executive leadership is critical to the success of any lead generation program.
  • Be willing and prepared to close the loop with every opportunity that is identified.
  • The purpose of marketing is to help the sales team sell.
  • Trusted advisers win more sales than slick brands.
  • Companies don’t buy – people do. Don’t ever forget the human touch.

Again, I think the complex sale requires the human touch as a central element. It starts with our individual heart and our passion (Do I believe in what I’m doing?). Then we orient ourselves to our companies collective heart and passion (Do I believe in my company and what my company does?). Finally, we carry heart and passion outside our companies (Do we believe in what we’re doing?).

About the author 

Brian Carroll

Brian Carroll is the CEO and founder of markempa, helping companies to convert more customers with empathy-based marketing. He is the author of the bestseller, Lead Generation for the Complex Sale and founded B2B Lead Roundtable LinkedIn Group with 20,301+ members.

  1. Even without passion for their craft, people still do what they do because they are driven by something else. Money. Prestige. Still, with those kinds of reasons backing them up, they won’t last long. I love what you said about creating first impressions. And second and third ones… There really has to be consistency.

  2. I agree with you 100%. People don’t want to hear from your computer system. They want to hear from you.
    Marketers should include elements in email campaigns that are one-to-one—from one human being to another like photos or video of individual sales rep.

  3. I really appreciate what is being said here. And, I agree that personal contact with people is a big key to successfully drawing in leads.


  4. Sales IS human – I like your tenets and agree with your assertion that complex products require a different approach. The complex sale by definition requires salesperson involvement, so having marketing and sales working in lockstep is indeed essential. Treating sales as a “customer” and being customer-focused will help achieve this desirable but frequently missing dynamic. The “human touch” is the only way to have the needed relationships (sales-to-customer, and marketing-to-sales).

  5. When it comes to using passion in marketing communications, I find it a very fine line to walk with some b2b markets. Having worked with many engineers over the years, they seem extremely averse to copy in marketing collateral that has passion (or frankly, anything that hints at emotion).I have to say that writing projects involving engineers are generally more labor intensive than any other b2b group. It requires a considerable amount of rewriting and consultation. Has anybody else encountered this situation?

  6. Dave: At our direct marketing shop, we’ve been selling stuff to engineers and other technical types forever. Some of our most succesful campaigns have included emotional concepts. If a client contact with an engineering degree says, “I wouldn’t respond to that,” you may want to say, “YOU aren’t in the target group.”

  7. Brian,

    Thanks for reassuring me on my own convictions so well! I particularly like “More ROI is reaped from the patient tending of potential customers (relationships) over time. Customers for life.” and “Lead generation is a conversation, not a series of disjointed campaigns.”

    Now to convince my clients…



  8. Robert – I absolutely agree. Effective advertising uses emotion. I don’t doubt your successes. However, many engineers have little understanding of general marketing, let alone direct marketing. The client (a group of engineers) insists that their target market (also engineers) would not respond to emotion. Not true, of course. But they’ll swear six ways to Sunday that it is true. And don’t get me started on trying to convince them to “test” the copy. I truly cherish a b2b client who understands direct marketing and the power of passion.

  9. I needed this article Brian. I am sending the link to all of the marketers and sales teams in my organization.

    The fifth P of marketing: Passion.

    How can we differentiate our brand without it?

    Thanks so much.

  10. Passion…I agree…
    ….. you also make the point get your clients early…
    This has been the focus of my research…how early can you get them ? My “stupid”conclusion; get them before they have a business .
    For two major reasons …the one you mention.
    …in Asia it brings real loyalty for life; that’s the reason i formulated a business model to do just that…you might be interested in the beta results before we launch….

    Thanks for the fine info on lead generation.

    Ian ceo… startup-asia

  11. Hah! I’ve just posted about the importance of passion for salespeople over on my Sales Excellence blog.

    There was me thinking I was leading the pack and it turns out you’d posted something similar here months ago.

    Ah well, Better to be right than original I guess?!


  12. Great post. I’m currently in process of setting up a demand gen engine at my company and your bullets are a great checklist for me to remember as I work this program internally and with our vendor. Keep up the great posts in 2008.

  13. Sales and Marketing must work together, the phone is the best way to contact, first impressions count…It is amazing how people have somehow forgotton good business with the advent of the internet. Great article.

  14. wow, such great comments on top of an amazing post.

    i’m going to share this w/ my sales and marketing colleagues. hopefully we’ll be able to get some better communication channels going internally–communication between marketing and sales being mentioned frequently [by the sales team] as a serious problem. essentially, sales has NO IDEA what marketing is doing and marketing is probably wondering what we do with “all the leads” they send…
    it’s pretty messy in the sense that “marketing campaigns” will be going on and the sales people won’t have a clue as to the content of those campaigns.

    awesome post w/ great points! keep it up!

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