Walker Sands study

A new study from Walker Sands says that some marketers have been putting the cart before the horse when it comes to the relationship between marketing channels and business outcomes.

“Despite claiming to understand the importance of business outcomes to their executive teams,” Walker Sands co-CEO Dave Parro says, “B2B marketers still take a channel-first approach to strategy. They’re working backward to connect the dots between channel-based KPIs and business performance—and struggling to meet C-suite expectations.”

The study says that instead, communications pros need to establish a game plan for what they want to accomplish before turning their attention to such channel-determined goals as the number of media placements, website traffic or share of voice.

That requires getting a handle on the “Why?” behind your communications efforts. According to Walker Sands, B2B brands primarily use marketing to accomplish one of these four things—strengthening their position, accelerating their growth, building reputation and sparking a brand’s relationship or interaction with its intended audience.

To accomplish these goals, the study authors stress making sure that your message remains as big a focus at the channel used to deliver it.

Walker Sands study

A group of 150 marketing leaders and 50 non-marketing C-suite executives polled by Walker Sands was close to unanimous in the belief that those overall marketing goals are growing in importance, with 98 percent of them saying that, compared to 2019, they and their executive teams “more heavily evaluated marketing success based on its contributions to key business outcomes.”

But there is a disconnect between how the C-suite and the marketing team see those goals. Almost three quarters of the leaders surveyed said their marketing staffs “struggle to understand the business outcomes” they expect. In addition, more than half (58 percent) of marketers surveyed also say that they have difficulty understanding the outcomes that their bosses want to see.

And while the importance of outcomes is generally acknowledged, the draw of focusing on channels remains strong. Only about a quarter (27 percent) of marketers say that they start out prioritizing outcomes before shifting their attention to specific channels and KPIs.

To get past this problem, Walker Sands suggests what they term “Outcome-based marketing.”

The study concludes that “with an understanding of the root problem—channel-first biases—we can start to kick less-than-efficient habits to the curb and make the shift toward an outcome-first mentality.”