Month: May 2014

The Theory of Cyclical B2B Marketing: Will Traditional Marketing Campaigns Die?

Theory of Cyclical B2B Marketing
Will Traditional Marketing Campaigns Die?
By Scott Levine
Vice President Strategy

Is the B2B marketing campaign doomed? Are marketing programs that have a beginning, middle and end obsolete? Is planning for the “always-on” buyer causing marketing organizations to rethink and retool their marketing in a format that prohibits the use of the marketing campaign?

While working on KERN’s proprietary process of the evolution of marketing personas, which we call Progressive Persona Profiling, developed to align marketing communications to the modern buyer’s 10 stage journey, it occurred to me that our process is applicable to more than acquisition campaigns.

Deeper thinking led to a provocative thought: “What if this Theory of Cyclical B2B Marketing rendered marketing campaigns obsolete?” I can almost hear the gasps and oohs and ahhs coming from my readers.

So, what is the Theory of B2B Cyclical Marketing? I’ll tell you what it isn’t. B2B Cyclical Marketing isn’t what some have come to know as cyclical marketing, which usually is defined as seasonal, or holiday driven marketing. An example of traditional cyclical marketing would be those businesses that market around the school calendar year, starting with “Back to School” and ending with “Dad’s and Grads” with all of the holidays or seasonal promotions that occur between August and June each year which allows for tactical campaigns that repeat each calendar year.

I propose that the Theory of B2B Cyclical Marketing be based on the true definition of the word “cycle” which according to is: “any complete round or series of occurrences that repeats or is repeated.”

Preparing for the “always-on” buyer for B2B acquisition, requires best-in-class organizations to build relevant and compelling content and communications mapped to each stage of the modern buyer’s 10-stage journey. Let’s call this acquisition play the “Acquisition Cycle.” Referring back to the definition of a cycle which states that a series of occurrences that is repeated, identifies B2B acquisition mapped to the 10-stage journey as a cycle. Up until now, Marketers continuously built campaigns, which other than the theme, the offer and the message, were almost identical in the way that net new customers were acquired.

The “Acquisition Cycle” in an “always-on” marketing ecosystem is void of traditional campaigns, since the always-on nature of marketing enables content, web sites, micro-sites, videos, emails, lead nurture through marketing automation, strategically designed to move the buyer through their 10-stage journey until they achieve the score and therefore status of a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL.)

“Wait!” You must be thinking- there has to be a campaign in there somewhere? Actually, no, there is no campaign, there is just the evolution of the “always-on” marketing content and assets. You may reason again, “there are always campaigns, even if it is a lead generation campaign. If there is a desire or need to suddenly acquire a great deal of new customers in a specific time frame- there needs to be a campaign to facilitate this needed acquisition.”

I would contend that organizations who have built their “always-on” marketing ecosystem, mapped to the 10-stage modern buyers journey, can simply rent or purchase names, or rely on tele-prospecting to add and insert these “new suspects” into their “Acquisition Cycle” and allow the cycle to run its course until those leads have matured through lead nurturing into Sales Qualified Leads. After all, we are always repeating the process of acquiring new customers. We may have some new tactical ideas along the way, or offers that can be tested and then inserted into the cycle, but ultimately, we are repeating a series of occurrences until we have yielded Sales Qualified Leads, which is a cycle.

In addition to the “Acquisition Cycle” additional “always-on” cycles can be developed, such as the “CRM Cycle” which would be mapped to the Customer Experience Touch Point cycle, allow marketers to streamline and optimize the communications and the matching experiential marketing to facilitate brand loyalty and ultimately brand advocacy. The “Loyalty Cycle” would contain a series of touch points designed to foster brand loyalty, driving customers to remain loyal to the brand through offers or communications.

There are even more possibilities. Consider the Social Media Cycle, the Customer Experience cycle, the Win-back cycle, the New Product Launch cycle.
As organizations move more towards catering to the new buying behavior of the “always-on” buyer, the consideration that campaigns are no longer the best way to distract, engage and persuade buyers is an epiphany which is likely occurring in the minds of those marketing strategists who, until now, have been chugging along developing campaigns.

Replacing the traditional campaign, will be new components added to, or causing the switching out of older components to allow the cycle to evolve to a new plateau of optimization, and this optimization will continue, as my vision of the Theory of B2B Cyclical Marketing is in no way a “set it and forget it” creation, rather it is an evolving process which allows for adjustment to new market conditions or dynamics as the cycles are living, always optimized cycles, rather than stagnant cycles.

So, perhaps we will soon hear “I’ve just developed a great new component for the Acquisition Cycle” rather than “I’ve just developed a great new acquisition campaign” coming from the hallways of marketing organizations around the globe.

What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Write me at and let’s continue the conversation!



Part 3: Gaining a New Level of Understanding Along the Modern Buyer’s Journey
By Scott Levine, VP, Strategy—May 1, 2014
For Progressive Persona Profiling, a short, succinct description of the target is developed first. For this example, the target is the CMO of a Fortune 1000 technology company. The description of the target reads as follows:

“My goal is to never be satisfied with the status quo and to be a leader of positive change for my organization, never allowing us to fall behind while the world moves ahead, as I am not intimidated by technology. I embrace it as I position our marketing organization to create the future that I envision.”

This description was informed by primary research consisting of interviewing dozens of CMOs to understand their greatest challenges as a result of the complete redefinition of B2B marketing in 2014.

Next, we need to account for each stage of the modern buyer’s 10-stage journey. Then, five different states of thought are developed to completely understand the buyer as they move through their journey. The five different states of thought are:

Need: This is also known as a “want” state
Thinking: This is also known as a “logical” or “thought” state.
Feeling: This is also known as an “emotive” or “evoked” state.
Experience: This is also known as an “experiential” state, which can include prior experiences that impact current thought or emotive processes, or the current or perceived future experience based on the stage in the journey.
Consideration: This state is based on the need, thinking, feeling and experiential states. What are the likely considerations that the target is contemplating during each stage of the journey?
Let’s look deeper in the first stage of the modern buyer’s 10-stage journey in our CMO example, which is the stage of “Distraction.”

Stage 1: Distraction
1- Need (also known as a “want” state): What is the need or want of the buyer in each stage? We have found that posing the need or want in a question helps to frame the actual need. In our example of a CMO Progressive Persona Profile, the following questions are posed for each stage:

Do I have confidence that our marketing is effective? For this question, the need is obvious: the CMO needs to be confident that his/her marketing is effective. The implications of this need state include a need to be able to understand the ROI of the marketing through analytics and analysis to determine if, in fact, it is effective. What are the CMO’s reasons for not being confident or for questioning his/her confidence?
“My inbox is cluttered with news of marketing reports and surveys. I opened one today that asked if I had confidence that our company’s marketing is effective. Do I have confidence? Another prompted me to think if I am able to state my primary goal in one sentence. I can’t.”

2- Thinking (also known as a “logical” or “thought” state): Based on the need of gaining confidence in the effectiveness of his/her marketing, what is the CMO likely to be thinking at this stage of distraction?
“I’m here to be the leader of positive change for my organization, yet very little has changed. We still do the same old stuff, albeit with better tools and not much better results.”

3- Feeling (also known as an “emotive” or “evoked” state): This state is often overlooked and ignored, yet, we can argue that the emotive state is one of the most important. In our example, the CMO feels stagnant. He/She feels like there hasn’t been any movement in their marketing’s effectiveness and that there is a desire to change—to move forward toward the goal of confident effectiveness.
“Regarding positive change, I feel as though we’re stagnant. I know we can’t do everything, but we certainly can do something to improve. The question is what, how and when do we begin?

4- Experience (also known as an “experiential” state): This state can include prior experiences that impact current thought or emotive processes, or the current or perceived future experience based on their stage in the journey.
“With each new year comes the resolution-driven ideas as to how to move our marketing forward, yet we are still in the weeds trying to sort out campaigns and other minutia.”

5- Consideration: Based on the need, thinking, feeling and experiential states, what are the likely considerations that the target is contemplating during each stage of the journey?
“I need a better plan to accomplish my goals and objectives for this year. I’d really like to have 100-day, 6-month and 12-month plans in place to get us where we need to be.”

Our research has shown that CMOs operating in a B2B marketing environment are being challenged like never before with the greatest change in marketing happening over the past two years. The rules for creating a demand generation campaign have taken a 180-degree turn. Previously, prospects were formally being marketed to with gated assets that required registration to obtain any information. Now, in the age of the empowered and emboldened consumer, marketers must find a way to provide relevantly compelling content to these buyers for each of the stages in the 10-stage modern buyer’s journey. Many recent studies indicate that a modern B2B buyer has decided on a product or service far in advance of speaking to a sales representative. Furthermore, modern B2B buyers are conducting that research on their own terms, without registering to download white papers or watch videos.

Various outputs can be created from the Progressive Persona Profile, which include content strategy, media strategy, messaging and positioning, and even overall campaign strategies.

If you would like to learn more about this important innovation in the evolution of persona development and how KERN can help your marketing organization with Progressive Persona Profiling, please contact Scott Levine at KERN at

More information regarding Progressive Persona Profiling will be included in the new book written by Russell Kern and Scott Levine, which is expected to be published in the summer of 2014. Please download the complimentary Executive Preview of The 8 Pillars of Demand Generation for Revenue Acceleration.

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