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October 24, 2023

B2B marketing masterclass – it’s time to get famous

Kevin Mason
Director of Strategy
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Mental availability and B2B marketing

In part one, we explored a joint report from LinkedIn and the B2B Institute, ‘5 principles of Growth in B2B Marketing’ to find out how businesses make their purchasing decisions.

In the second part of this series, we’re exploring the case for brand memorability – or
mental availability – and why you should consider a route to B2B fame.

Expanding your customer base

Acquiring new customers is expensive.

Many B2B companies believe increasing loyalty is the most profitable way to grow their businesses. Others focus on acquisition strategies, targeting new key accounts they want to penetrate.

The jointly commissioned report ‘5 Principles of Growth in B2B Marketing’ by LinkedIn and the B2B Institute shows that campaigns which talk to both new and existing customers – also known as reach strategies – are the most effective.

In fact, the report’s data reveals that those relying on a loyalty strategy alone showed a zero-success rate. Loyalty tends to be a side-effect of market share, and brands with a high penetration tend to have better loyalty rates.

Bar chart showing which strategies get a business the most reach
Base: 2008-18 B2B IPA cases

Time to get famous  

So that’s the science behind B2B decision making. But is it rational or emotional? The answer, according to psychologists, is that we’re all human. and our thought processes follow the same basic patterns.

One of these is our tendency to use mental shortcuts to reach a decision. Nobel Prize winner, Daniel Kahneman, famously put it this way:

“Human beings are to independent thinking as cats are to swimming. They can do it, but they prefer not to. The brain is largely a machine for jumping to conclusions.”

Essentially, when presented with choices, or asked a question, we usually prefer to select the answer which comes to mind easiest. You may have experienced this yourself when put on the spot. Psychologists call this ‘mental availability’.

For brands, ‘mental availability’ has two levels:

The first level is awareness. Your brand will have lodged in your customers’ memories, and they’ll recognise your name. However, awareness will only get you so far, and the most you can expect is to be shortlisted from the long list of potential choices. To reach the top of your customer’s mental availability, your brand will need to level up.

The second level is fame. Take IBM, for example. Everyone knows their name, and I probably don’t need to remind you of their famous line: Nobody got fired for hiring IBM. This single creative line was repeated over and over again, forming an emotional connection that made it easy to make the choice. Long after they campaigned it, we still remember it, talk about it, share it.

And here’s the data which proves the point.

Bar chart showing how campaign objectives affect mental availability

And the winner is?

Success isn’t a contest between lead generation and brand in B2B marketing. We can see that winning B2B companies apply both in their marketing mix. But if your Sales Director still isn’t convinced by the data, perhaps this story will help.

You’ve successfully launched your lead generation campaign. In fact, it’s been so successful that your sales team have followed up with an excellent meeting with Key Prospect Biz. Your salespeople do a great job of pitching the benefits of what you offer, and your brand makes it to the Key Prospect Biz’s shortlisting stage.

But now, your salespeople have left, and things go quiet. Key Prospect Biz’s decision goes to committee, and you’re not in the room to influence the conversation.

It’s been a while since your guys’ presentation, and human memory is short. This isn’t the final stage, but you know it’s more than likely they’ll use the easiest route to jump to their conclusions. This is where brand awareness will likely drive their mental availability and get you on the shortlist. Great news!

Now it’s a three-horse race. You’re each invited to pitch to a panel of C-suite decision-makers and the influencers who got you this far.

There may be an upstart challenger brand in the running for comparison, but the other two will be recognised brand names.

Now no-one doubts your abilities to work the room as a great salesperson. But it’s a fair bet that the famous brand amongst the pack will already have had an impact on the C-suite. In fact, they’ve probably already jumped to a conclusion before you enter the room.

So, which of the three would you rather be?

Ah yes, your Sales Director says, but our ABM campaigns have made sure that everyone in the room knows who we are and what we stand for.

True. ABM is by far the most effective B2B sales activation tool in your armoury, and a good campaign will have got you this far. But it won’t have made you famous.

Fame takes time to grow. The famous brand will have been imprinted in the minds of those executives consistently over and over again. Talked about with colleagues. Acknowledged as leaders in their sector. Collectively famous for what makes them great.

It will have made them the first name that springs to mind.

Go big or go home

Your sales director still doesn’t buy it? OK, here’s a final question for them. Why is it that when successful salespeople move jobs, they’re usually tempted to work for bigger brands to advance their career?

If you’re still not getting anywhere, maybe it’s time you thought about moving jobs to a bigger brand yourself! (Only kidding.)

If you’d like to talk about supercharging your brand strategy with the latest industry data, or to discuss your creative marketing requirements, get in touch with us today at