Find your marketing sweet spot for B2B sales

Find your marketing sweet spot for B2B sales

By Paul Tomlinson, Published 08.09.2023

Most sales teams and CEOs today recognise that content publishing can be effective way to drive new business. Despite this, many companies cannot show that their marketing efforts are delivering results.

Where marketing is ineffective, it can be due to a range of problems such as poor site UX, poor reporting – or lack of appropriate tracking, so you don’t know whether it’s working or not.

But having spent 10 years marketing for B2B companies, I can assure you that none of these things will matter unless you publish the right content.

What constitutes ‘right’ may not be immediately obvious, and even for experienced practitioners, it may take 6-12 months for a new content strategy to really find its feet. It is, however, possible to quickly identify the types of subject matter you should be covering, based on your proposition and your customers’ goals.

This 10-minute article is intended to help you quickly identify what kind of content is most likely to drive sales for your business. I would also recommend watching this 4-minute presentation, which summarises the content of this article.

This article:

  • recaps how content publishing drives new business, explaining how different kinds of information are more relevant to audiences at different stages in the marketing funnel
  • analyses two brands well-known for highly effective marketing – HubSpot, and Red Bull – to demonstrate how this theory applies to different types of business
  • describes the most common mistakes that businesses make when they set out to publish marketing, with advice on how to avoid them.

As we will see, much of the knowledge needed to produce effective marketing already exists in your business. This knowledge will have been collected by the founders as they verified the market gap for your solution, and your sales teams will frequently lean on this information to differentiate their pitch for different customers, and to better tackle objection responses. Your customer success team, too, will develop an understanding of your clients’ objectives – which will evolve as your business scales.

The job of collating, organising and publishing this knowledge falls, of course, to your marketing team.

But if you’re going to recruit for and manage a marketing resource – as most CEOs and sales VPs do at some stage – you’ll get more for your budget if you understand the factors that determine failure and success.

The sweet spot correlates with the top of the marketing funnel

The mechanism by which content publishing leads to sales is fairly widely understood:

  1. the target customer has a research need (i.e., how to achieve a business objective)
  2. the company publishes information which answers this need
  3. through discovering this information, the target customer becomes aware that the publisher sells a solution which may help them achieve their objectives
  4. the target customer makes an enquiry – or, they leave behind their data, allowing the vendor to follow up with a sales call, or with targeted advertising.

It is less widely recognised, however, that this customer journey correlates with the marketing funnel.

When you understand this, it becomes clear that publishing the wrong kind of information at the top of the funnel is very unlikely to drive new business, and highly likely to result in wasted budget.

content sweet spot marketing funnel

Top of funnel: customer objectives

Depictions of the funnel vary, but most of them put ‘awareness’ at the top, followed by ‘interest’. ‘Awareness’ usually implies awareness of a problem or an objective, and ‘interest’ implies a desire to address it.

For an obvious example: anyone who consumes HubSpot’s content is only likely to do so with a view improving their sales and marketing efforts (why else would you Google terms like ‘how to create a social media calendar’?)

This awareness or interest typically drives the user to self-educate in their area of need: by reading information online, attending events, networking with colleagues, listening to podcasts, etc.

This is why your marketing sweet spot is your customer objectives. By publishing in this space, you anticipate an audience need which correlates with the solution you sell. This allows you to capture audiences’ attention high up the funnel and begin nurturing them before they’re ready to buy.

Middle of the funnel: your solution

The middle of the funnel is typically described as the ‘consideration’ or ‘intent’ phase. At this stage, it becomes relevant to publish information about your business’s USPs and proposition – since this is when the customer is likely to open discussions with vendors and compare competing solutions.

This information should be delivered via direct marketing/advertising channels including:

  • Paid media
  • Direct mail / email
  • PR

…and in a digital marketing context, these touchpoints should generally lead to your case studies, or your main site landing pages which set out your core proposition(s).

As explained above, many companies fall into the trap of attempting to rehash this information as marketing content. Examples would be titles such as ‘5 new features of our [software module]‘ or ‘Top reasons to upgrade your [business service]‘, which directly talk up the business’s own proposition in long-form prose.

Such articles rarely pay much heed to the customer’s underlying problem, or offer the balanced viewpoints that customers are really looking for during their research phase.

This malpractice is widespread for perfectly understandable reasons.

CEOs and other company leaders are rightfully proud of their solutions, and their creative teams become well-versed in reformatting the core value prop for different channels.

The problem with trying to deploy such information for lead generation is that:

  • your USPs are meaningless to people at the very top of the funnel, who are not yet aware of a need for a solution – even if they are aware of an objective or a problem
  • by the time people are aware of this need, they have passed the intent phase, and likely started actively researching solutions (including your competitors’).

Most companies do not want to wait for competitors to capture their leads.

To be first in line, your marketing needs to anticipate audiences’ research needs, so that you can capture leads long before they’re ready to buy.


At this point is worth mentioning the inner circle of the diagram – your basic functionality (i.e., ‘a CRM platform’; ‘a management consultancy’; ‘a recruitment company’, etc.) This core functionality is discussed in sales meetings, as the customer crosschecks your solution against their requirements. Your sales team might ask for some creative help in putting your spin on it, but the chances are that your basic functionality is similar to your competitors’ and fairly easily understood by potential customers.

And really, if your lead has got as far as a sales meeting, your marketing efforts can already have been considered a success.

The sweet spot in action: HubSpot, and Red Bull

I created the ‘marketing sweet spot’ concept to help companies identify the right information to publish for their own sales pipeline.

The ‘right’ information will vary greatly depending on your solution or business category – but the same theory applies to every brand. So, I will now give two very different examples, from a B2B and B2C brand, which will help you find your business’s marketing sweet spot.

HubSpot and Red Bull are both highly effective at publishing around the customer’s objectives.

HubSpot sells a CRM, but the majority of its marketing is positioned around the very broad customer objective of effective sales and marketing.

Similarly, Red Bull’s marketing is not positioned around an interestingly flavoured energy drink, but around aspirational, action-packed lifestyles and activities.

These examples should help you reflect on your own business, and identify exactly what should and shouldn’t go into your marketing content.

HubSpot’s marketing sweet spot

In the very centre of the marketing sweet spot are the things you would never publish: your intellectual property and your basic functionality. At HubSpot, that would be details such as their platform code, future product developments, and a whole range of internal processes around R&D, team development, etc.

The next circle out is the company’s USPs which – as discussed – make good content for sales decks and advertising, but bad marketing content. At HubSpot, these USPs include a powerful free basic version, a useful lead source attribution tool, and so on.

Next, is the company’s customers’ objectives, which form the marketing sweet spot. Most businesses know a great deal about their customer objectives. They are the primary insight that drives product development, and as mentioned, salespeople and customer success professionals typically know them like the back of their hand.

True enough: if you read HubSpot’s blog, nearly all the content is about the customer objective of effective sales and marketing. Yes, there is plenty of HubSpot upsell – but it doesn’t detract from effectiveness of their resources on topics such as PR strategy, PPC advertising, content strategy and so on.

Many of these topics are not directly CRM related – but, the people who work on these things may either use a CRM or influence the decision to acquire one, so publishing for them is worth HubSpot’s investment.

Red Bull’s marketing sweet spot

Similarly with Red Bull: no consumer has an objective of buying a can of Red Bull. The Red Bull is just a way of achieving an objective: most likely, staying up later at night or improving concentration to work.

At the centre of Red Bull’s circles of knowledge are its secret manufacturing process and its core product.

The next circle out is its USP: a high caffeine content. This leads people to actually buy the product, but it would make uninteresting marketing, since there are dozens of virtually identical products on the market, most of which are cheaper (which illustrates another useful insight: if you build sufficient audience engagement in the sweet spot, you may even be able to charge a premium for your product).

So, to make interesting marketing at the top of the funnel, Red Bull’s marketing is positioned conceptually around its audience’s objectives.

If you become exposed to Red Bull’s marketing (as opposed to its TV advertising) it’s likely that you are interested in living an action-packed lifestyle or taking part in extreme hobbies. So, you watch motor racing, consume content about action sports, or attend nightclubs and bars.

A large dose of sugar and caffeine may be beneficial in all these pursuits, but the key common denominator is a theme of extending the limits of human ability (i.e., gaining ‘wings’).

Common mistakes that lead to ineffective marketing

Having talked about the key success factors, therefore, it is now worth briefly discussing how B2B marketing most frequently fails.

In my 10+ years of B2B marketing for companies in tech, marcomms, manufacturing and recruitment, there are three commonplace errors that lead businesses to publish bad marketing.

1. The company publishes content about its own business or solution

As discussed, there are good reasons why ‘middle of the funnel’ information, which is really the domain of advertising, frequently makes its way into ‘top of funnel’ marketing channels.

In a small or medium-sized business, a CEO or sales leader may well directly recruit and manage the marketing function. Such leaders are emotionally inclined to prefer marketing material which reflects their day-to-day conversations, many of which are sales meetings – and so middle-funnel concepts are more likely to be briefed in and approved for publication, even if it’s the wrong information for the format or channel.

Enterprise-scale business suffer the same problem but for different reasons. Many senior managers are satisfied to measure their reports based on output rather than outcomes –  and similarly to the CEO, they may not have a sufficient background in content publishing to direct the strategy effectively.

If this takes place at an enterprise, it’s most likely because the company is…

2. Failing to recruit suitably qualified creative talent

When companies approach Navigate B2B, they usually know their incumbent marketing function isn’t delivering results, but aren’t sure why or how to fix it.

This is understandable, since the differentiators between good and bad B2B creativity (particularly long-form writing) are not obvious to the uninitiated.

I’ve invested a lot of time in trying to hire business writers; in my experience, about 1 out of every 20 people who want the job are suitably qualified. I get a lot of applications from very expensive and experienced copywriters, with no serious portfolio in B2B content.

Where I have hired people with the right skills, none so far have had the accompanying sector-specific knowledge that is also needed to deliver results on a client account – so we end up training them in-house. This is a massive resource drain which few sales leaders or CEOs have time for; some marketing managers may have the time, but lack the necessary creative insight needed to bring their hired writing talent up to speed.

So in many cases, unsuitably skilled people do the work. This widespread business challenge is one of the things that keeps Navigate B2B in business.

3. Prioritising investment in sales (even when marketing is needed)

Hiring a business development person is usually the fastest route to direct sales. Content publishing, on the other hand, is properly understood as a long game.

Content publishing typically produces increasing ROI over time – and in larger sales teams, it may stave off adding another salesperson to the payroll, by fulfilling a networking-and-nurturing function that can free up time for the entire business development team.

Most entrepreneurs value investments that pay back over 2-10 years, particularly if those investments are capital efficient. Such a marketing strategy, therefore, should be highly appealing to businesses which are confident in their long-term growth strategy, and which are well-managed financially.

Apply the ‘marketing sweet spot’ concept to your business development strategy

The ‘marketing sweet spot’ concept is intended as template which can be applied in as widely as possible – but corporate diagrams and metaphors invariably leave certain things unexplained.

One is the question of agency-model businesses (think marketing and recruitment) where the company fulfils an audience engagement function on behalf of another business.

In cases such as these, you may actually better-engage clients by publishing about their audiences’ objectives than their own objectives. For instance: if you are a recruitment marketing agency, the client may appreciate content which they can repurpose for candidates, over information which answers their research needs around effective recruitment. Similar things could be said for many B2B2B or B2B2C propositions.

Another is the case of a company which provides a heavily in-demand product or service, and is already recognised as a preferred supplier in the market.

For such businesses, top-of-the-funnel / indirect marketing may be less valuable than direct advertising, since a high proportion of potential customers is already aware of your solution. This would probably be the time to shift more budget to middle-funnel direct advertising around your proposition – such as events/field marketing, paid media and high-profile campaigning.

There will be other exceptions. But however cleanly the marketing sweet spot concept can be applied to your own business, you should at least be aware of the underlying theory. It will help you manage your marketing resources effectively – and every business needs some level of top-of-funnel lead generation to offset client attrition, capture emerging clients, and stabilise growth.

The first step in the process of finding your sweet spot – identifying your customer goals – should be relatively simple.

As described above, your CEO/founder, sales team, and customer success team should be able to produce a long-list of major customer objectives that they encounter on a daily basis, and use that exercise to produce a long-list of content topics which answer those needs. That would probably give you enough top-of-funnel marketing ideas for the next 1-2 years.

It will possibly take some mental wrangling to pull your mind away from what you can sell your customer, to focus instead on the things your customer wants to achieve.

If you don’t have the time or energy to understand this as a business leader, that’s OK – but there’s still no need to be making uninformed marketing investments. Your budget would be better spent either on hiring another salesperson, or delegating marketing strategy to someone who can manage it effectively.

In such cases, you could start by giving Navigate B2B a call.

Publish effective business development content with Navigate B2B

Navigate B2B has been delivering business development outcomes for companies in tech, marcomms, manufacturing and recruitment since 2017.

As a confidently commercial marketing agency, we combine first-hand experience of enterprise sales with creative excellence, to produce marketing content that senior buyers actually want to read.

With a full-service marketing and creative capability, we serve as complete outsourced marketing function for enterprises, scaleups and SMEs in the UK, Europe and the USA.

Read our case studies here, or contact us to find out more.

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