Introducing Outcome-based Marketing: A Paradigm Shift for B2B Success

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There’s a growing tension in B2B marketing that has been building over the past few years. Although more C-suite executives than ever expect marketing teams to make a measurable business impact, most marketers don’t orient to outcomes. They cling to channels instead. 

Consider this contradiction: Despite the fact that 87% of senior marketers say they focus more on business objectives now than 5 years ago, only a quarter of them (27%) start their planning process by identifying the desired outcome. The rest start with channels and then try to connect traditional marketing metrics back to outcomes later. 

It’s a losing battle with an unconventional solution: Lead with outcomes over channels. 

While it’s a simple concept, it’s easier said than done. All sorts of obstacles stand in the way, including misalignment between executives and marketing leaders, resource and budget constraints, and siloed marketing team structures. But more than anything, marketers seem to be stuck in a channel-first mindset.

Outcomes first, then channels

That’s not the case with all marketers, though. Increasingly, we’re hearing from clients and prospects who ask us for help solving big business problems — without a preference on the marketing mix. These channel-agnostic requests have shifted many of our conversations to outcomes, whether it’s category creation, market penetration, talent recruitment or another broader business objective. 

These discussions — and our research on C-suite and marketing expectations around outcomes — led Walker Sands to develop an approach to B2B marketing that flips the script and puts outcomes ahead of channels. Called Outcome-based Marketing, or OBM, this philosophy starts with a North Star business objective, and everything else follows.

Our OBM framework starts with a fundamental yet powerful question rooted in our belief that great B2B marketing is outcome-oriented and audience-obsessed:

How might we [outcome] among [audience]?

Your outcome could range from increasing brand awareness or audience engagement to broader business outcomes like a new product launch or IPO. Your audience might be C-level executives in your technical industry or prospective employees. Whatever the case, with OBM, your big picture goals guide the way, not channel-specific KPIs.

What outcomes are marketers chasing?

When it comes to outcomes, many marketing leaders face a disconnect with their C-suite executives — with more than half (58%) of marketing decision-makers struggling to understand the business outcomes that their C-suite/executive team expects to see from their marketing activities, according to our survey. When marketing and executive leadership aren’t aligned on the business outcomes they want to chase, success becomes increasingly hard to measure. 

To help teams get on the same page, our OBM approach defines four high-level categories of outcomes: Position, Growth, Reputation and Engagement. While there’s no shortage of outcomes B2B brands could aim to achieve, we’ve found that, in general, most are looking to move the needle on one of these four things.

  • Position: Claim your place in the market and sharpen your competitive edge. 
  • Growth: Move the needle on your organization’s financial goals and break new ground on your company’s growth potential.
  • Reputation: Take charge of your brand’s narrative and strengthen your existing identity.
  • Engagement: Build trust with your audience and shape key industry conversations across mediums.

The three pillars of OBM

Once we’ve defined the outcome you’re driving toward and the audience you want to reach, we leverage our full suite of marketing capabilities to design and execute custom marketing programs around three pillars: How, What and Where. These pillars ensure that your strategy, messaging and channel tactics all align with your larger business goals.

  • How: From specific tactics and channels to developing creative messaging, every part of your marketing efforts begins here — an insights-backed strategy that’s clearly mapped back to your desired outcome. 
  • What: Telling your brand’s unique story through research-driven messaging and compelling creative, made to resonate with your target audience. 
  • Where: Finding the best channels across earned, owned and paid media to reach key decision-makers through channel-specific activation plans.

Channels still matter — and so does channel expertise. But in this evolving B2B marketing landscape, the media mix should be fluid and agile in pursuit of a North Star business objective — not rigid and unchanging based on the way things have always been done. That’s where Outcome-based Marketing breaks the mold.

Get in touch with our team of B2B experts to unlock the potential of OBM.


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