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4 Things (The Data Shows) Top Performing Marketers Do Differently

When I was in my early twenties, I worked in a comic book shop after school and on weekends.  This wasn’t just any comic book shop – at the time we were one of the largest seller of collectibles on the East Coast, slinging comics and trading cards (and way too many Webkinz).  Our mini-Amazon and the mountains of USPS boxes we amassed each week were the vision of my boss Eddy—a powder-keg of a man, explosive in ideas and temperament, incapable of sleep and obsessed with winning in all things.

Warren BuffettOne day Eddy turned to me and said, “eBay is running an auction to have lunch with Warren Buffett.  I don’t think there is another person alive who I’d rather sit down to lunch with.” Being more interested in cards than business at this point, I shrugged and told him I didn’t really see why it’s worth much of anything at all.  I think Eddy went into shock.  After a moment he looked at me, with a tone in his voice as if he was speaking to an alien completely oblivious to the order of the world, and stated, “He’s the best. Think of what you could learn just by studying what he does and getting to ask him questions.”

Why the long anecdote? Well besides the nostalgia, today I’m going to offer you some insights from the best.  Not Warren Buffett (sadly), but from the marketers who killed it in 2017 and are poised to conquer in 2018.  The data comes from a recent survey that issued to fans of this blog and to our customers.

The full study, 2018 Budget Trends in Industrial & Technology Marketing, has a ton of great information any marketer could use, but this post is all about the winners—the Serena Williams, Mike Trouts, and Meryl Streeps of the marketing world—and what they’re doing differently.

Top Marketers Don’t Do It Alone

Top performing marketers report external/paid digital marketing as a highly effective means of sourcing new customers, ranking it their second most effective tactic.  All marketers, Top Performing and otherwise, agreed that owned digital marketing activities were the best source of new customers. They also agreed on what the top 5 most effective tactics are (they had 10 options to choose from), but that’s where the similarities end.

While owned digital activities was number one for Top Performers, paid digital marketing was an incredibly close second place.  In fact, if we were to drop one outlier from the dataset, external/paid would jump up to number one for Top Performers.  In contrast, all other marketers ranked external/paid digital marketing as the 4th most effective tactic, 54% worse than owned digital. 

We’ll dig a little more into why Top Performers rank external media sources so highly in the next section.

Top Marketers Stay Top of Mind and Rank on Top

One of the most grueling questions on the survey asked marketers to reveal their 2018 plans for the 15 most popular marketing activities they used.  Overall, Top Performers and the crowd agree on most activities, plus or minus a few percentage points.  There were two areas where there was drastic disagreement, as shown in the following charts.

Tactics of Top Performing Marketers

I like this comparison because it tells a cohesive story: Namely, that winners make sure potential customers are passively aware of them. Then, they pay to make sure they’re at the top of the SERP when people start conducting more purposeful research.  The two tactics work in unison towards the goal of winning business.  In fact, 78% of Top Performers will invest in both Banner ads and SEM in 2018, whereas only 41% of other marketers will. 

For Top Performers, It’s All About Creating Great Content

Modern marketers are no strangers to wearing a lot of hats, whether its creating content, stocking the leads funnel, staying active on social, or keeping everything in their CRM running smoothly.  Top Performing marketers can see the forest through the trees – that is, they recognize day-to-day marketing activities as noise and stay hyper focused on creating content.

Challenges of Top Performing Marketers

The marketing environment is a deluge of content, with marketers fighting tooth and nail for consideration.  Focusing on producing great content helps in two ways.  First, it doesn’t waste a prospect’s consideration – once they’ve found you, if your content is great then they’re likely to thoroughly consume it, whereas if it’s flimsy/boring/ugly they’ll move on quickly. 

Second, and more importantly, as search results expand ad infinitum and social sites focus on product over profits, thus reducing your access to their users, you’re going to need to rely on organic network effects.  Great content is going to get shared either through email, social or good old word-of-mouth. Top Performers realize this and are investing in either their own content production and/or going to content creation experts capable of providing turn-key content solutions.


Top Performers are Evaluated on What They Do, Everyone Else Gets to Play Hungry, Hungry Hippos

If you’re a marketer, this next table is going to blow you away.

Evaluation Criteria Top Performing Marketers

I was so struck by this result I had to check the math. Twice.  Almost universally, when I talk to my fellow marketers they lament the madness of trying to generate more and more leads, especially in sales environments such as manufacturing and software, where sales-cycles can take many months if not years.

 It seems those a rung above Top Performing Marketers have clued into what Leo Iacocca said about hiring smart people and getting out of their way.  They let the marketers flex their expertise, get done what they think needs to get done and then check in on the results. 

Boy, does that last one make a marketer all warm and fuzzy; so on that note, I’ll take my leave. If you want to read where marketers are investing in 2018, be sure to get your copy of the full research report.

Thanks for reading & sharing,


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