Some B2B marketers have a bad habit of getting  very interested in a single medium or channel. It may be trade shows, or email — or even blogs, webcasts or podcasts.  They become enamored of the cool new  medium of the week and start to obsess over how they will compete with it.

It’s like that old Monty Python skit about the The Funniest Joke in the World. This joke is so funny that anyone who hears it will soon die of laughter. From their foxholes, the British use it against the Germans in World War II. Sure enough, the German soldiers hear the joke (translated in German), begin to laugh uproariously and promptly fall over dead.

Seems to me, many marketers are looking for their own fatal joke. Only, they are hoping to tell it to their prospects. They seek the perfect medium — the high power channel that will drive results and bring home the big bucks. They want an easy way to knock em dead.

Alas, the joke is on them. There is no killer medium. The magic, as they say, is in the mix.

What’s most important is to manage marketing media or
channels in a disciplined manner. Just as portfolio theory teaches us that our
best financial outcomes are typically attained through diversification, we need
to think in terms of a diversified, marketing investment portfolio.

According to Marketing Sherpa’s most recent study on
business technology marketing, the B2B media mix now includes new media such as
blogs, podcasts and paid search as well as more conventional forms such as white
papers, e-newsletters, webinars, demos, advertising, direct mail and trade
shows.  Stefan Tornquist, the firm’s research
director, contends that the companies most likely to defy the present trend
toward lengthening sales cycles are “those that use multiple tactics” in an
integrated fashion. 

That’s where the portfolio concept becomes relevant. Marketing
media – new or otherwise – are the “securities” that we manage and measure. We need
both “conservative” (proven) and “aggressive” (speculative) media investments in
our portfolio. And as the performance of the portfolio plays out, we rebalance
it – moving money into media that are consistent with past performance and our
future objectives
. We should be careful in our measurement, however. It’s
important, for example, to consider not only metrics like total leads
generated, but cost per lead as well.   

The most interesting thing about today’s growing mix of
media options is the ability it gives us to project and demonstrate thought
leadership in the marketplace. Thought leadership – the stories we craft and
tell about our industry’s direction, critical success factors and customer value
– is an increasingly vital factor in B2B technology marketing. Indeed, our
customers no longer are simply buying our products; they are now valuing our
insights, advice and perspectives on the future. 

Tech powerhouses like Cisco and IBM have done an exceptional
job of leveraging thought leadership to engage executive decision-makers –
moving beyond the lower level decision-makers that control smaller budgets and
have less corporate influence. Smaller companies, such as SalesForce.com, have
demonstrated the power of creating customer evangelists and then, enabling them
to tell their own stories to new prospects
. 

Unlike marketing that revolves around image or product, thought
leadership provides a means of cutting through the noise and elevating our
companies to a position of enduring market leadership. It also represents an
opportunity to engage and enable prospective customers at each stage of the
decision cycle: awareness; consideration; and purchase. 

To successfully position ourselves and accelerate sales, we
need to smartly map our thought leading content to the marketing vehicles that
allow us to actively leverage it.
This begins with analysis.

We are challenged to profile our target audience, determine
the stage of the decision cycle in which we are trying to engage them and then,
link these factors to the marketing media that represent the best payoffs. In
fact, we optimize our performance by integrating our marketing across media and
throughout the various stages of the decision cycle. 

As mentioned, success in these efforts depends on rigor and
discipline – much more so than intuition and gut feel. The media landscape is
now far too complex to simply wing it – and it is changing too rapidly to rely
solely on the wisdom of past experience
. 

We shouldn’t allow new media hype to seduce us into making
careless marketing investments. But new media represent new ways to interact
and share compelling stories with our prospective customers – to project
thought leadership and drive growth. We shouldn’t ignore that opportunity
either.