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The Foundational Principle of Science in B2B Marketing (and its Caveat)

Originally posted on LinkedIn

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already seen the B2B Marketing Universe: The Single Unified Framework. I’m hoping at this point you also saw that the foundational principle of it all is:

Theory > Experiment > Proof

Now – I didn’t just pull this out of my ass. According to the National Academies Press, Chapter 3: The Guiding Principles for Scientific Inquiry discloses the following interrelated but not necessarily ordered, principles:

·        Pose significant questions that can be investigated empirically.

·        Link research to relevant theory.

·        Use methods that permit direct investigation of the question.

·        Provide a coherent and explicit chain of reasoning.

·        Replicate and generalize across studies.

·        Disclose research to encourage professional scrutiny and critique.

In graphical format, Boundless.com does a good job of expanding on this:

Now – in its most simplest form, you are looking at the three core elements: Theory, Experiment, Proof.

If there is one thing that my experience on Quora has shown me, people love to give answers from a single question without knowing all the details (in mathematics, we call these variables) to form an informed hypothesis and opt to proceed on answering the question with likely a sales pitch, an opinion without empirical evidence, or just a blatant random answer.

How does this relate to B2B Marketing?

Well, let me explain. To a certain degree, B2B Marketers have a tendency to assume with confidence that what has worked in a previous company will work on another. To an extent – it does. To an extent – it also doesn’t. This should be measured as a percentage of revenue attributed to lead generation efforts that extend over a period of time (your sales cycle). You may generate more or less revenue than your last company / client but this is not the right comparison. Unless the company is absolutely identical in everything they do (100% not) then you not running a controlled experiment. Obviously, the answer is to compare a period past vs. a period present (last year vs. this year for example).

Without knowing it, you are running scientific experiments. You observe that something has worked in the past, hence you get hired by a company / client, then you experiment in a controlled environment (the company itself), and you come up with results and iterate at every stage of the customer lifecycle or every planet on the B2B Marketing Universe.

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As Neil DeGrasse Tyson has mentioned (paraphrasing) on multiple occasions,

“when you run an experiment on a theory, idealistically it should be proven in your lifetime.”

This is the dilemma in B2B Marketing. Often times, B2B Marketers aren’t given the time nor do they have the patience to understand that B2B Marketing is dependent on a particular timeframe which is much, much longer than a B2C timeframe.

Someone asked me on Quora: What is the Future of B2B Marketing and Sales?

Whereas everyone answered with advances in technology, my answer was personalization.

“We are still talking above our customers. We don’t focus enough on specific value to a prospect. What is relevant to their business at a deep individual level. All the technology and automation in the world supplements this initiative but that’s the end goal of it all.”

But what is required to achieve this? How are B2C companies advancing so much faster in their marketing innovation? Which goes on to the secondary part of my answer:

“A subset of this is understanding the true complexity of B2B marketing. B2C is more innovative. B2B is just hard as all hell. And requires the patience of a god.

Why did I say this? When lead generation is such a wildly hot topic? Because I’m not talking about lead generation. True marketing is measured by revenue. Which, by time, is measured by the sales cycle. B2C has a smaller sales cycle than B2B (minus all the touch points we miss in attribution before touched by tracking script).


B2B Marketers – I feel you. The cycle of scientific experimentation is a long-winding road especially when results (revenue) come way down the road but don’t ever speak above your customer. Focus on personalization. Making every individual prospect feel wanted / needed, solve their specific problems, work with sales to find grinding issues they have and solve them, build collateral to help facilitate the sale. If you don’t know something, then admit it and work towards a level of confidence through results via experimentation and proof. Experiment and Prove. Continue to Improve. Iterate: Fail Fast, Learn Fast, Innovate Faster.

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Andrew Yang, Managing Partner, 3 Avenues
Andrew Yang, Managing Partner, 3 Avenues
Andrew comes from a background working as a Marketing Technologist for growing software, technology, franchise, and professional services companies. With a degree in Mathematics from Queen’s University, he applies data and logic into the execution of unique marketing strategies. He is the Managing Partner of 3 Avenues that focuses on building websites, leveraging marketing technology, reporting & analytics, through to project management on more complex ideas.

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