David Line | May 10th, 2022

Among other findings in Forrester’s latest B2B marketing survey, I was struck by the following graph. It suggests B2B CMOs in the Asia-Pacific region are more likely to add or enhance/revise internal processes in all areas over the next two years, compared to their peers elsewhere. And when it comes to strategy and planning, nearly half in APAC are likely to do so.

Forrester
Source: Forrester survey


You could infer several things from this. One is that a bunch of APAC CMOs aren’t happy with their function’s processes and performance. Another is that APAC marketing chiefs sense they are behind the curve in some areas compared to their more-satisfied peers elsewhere, particularly strategy and planning. Either way, in APAC shaking up this aspect of marketing is a higher priority.

In our experience, at least in terms of thought leadership, that seems like an accurate set of assertions. Many of our clients are among the 51% that don’t plan (or need) to revamp this part of the business, of course. But some prospects we’ve encountered seem to treat many aspects of B2B marketing – and content-driven thought leadership in particular – as an ad-hoc, short-term activity.

Some giveaways that insufficient time has been devoted to planning and strategy include if RFPs demand unrealistic deadlines, if they seek to build campaigns around buzzwords or one-off product launches, or if they don’t call for detailed publishing calendars and the tracking of relevant performance metrics.

Anecdotally, from talking with some counterparts and working with clients globally, it seems this kind of short-termism is more likely to be a chronic problem in marketing departments in APAC than elsewhere, for whatever reason. Even in organisations that ostensibly prioritise careful, joined-up thinking, sometimes planning and strategy are tied to one influential leader rather than embedded in systems and processes. When that person leaves or changes function, it’s back to the old reactive, hit-and-hope approach.

There are many reasons why B2B marketing – and especially brand-crucial thought leadership – needs careful planning and strategy, but I’ll list just the most important.

  • First is that important topics require detailed thinking and careful research, not least in what everyone else (including the competition) is doing. Without careful planning and strategy, what you produce will end up looking derivative. It’s also impossible to lead conversations, or break new ground, if you’re constantly reacting to what everyone else is saying – rather than strategically assessing that and planning your approach accordingly.
  • Second, thought leadership – whether “top of funnel” brand building or client-specific ABM-relevant content – must always link carefully to the firm’s overall value proposition, or it risks coming off as inauthentic, or too overtly commercial. This doesn’t mean you always have to “stick to your lane”, but saying bold things on new topics warrants a considered approach.
  • Third, with a smaller audience for B2B campaigns, and a higher premium placed on deep, detailed research, making an impact is expensive and ROI has to be carefully measured. It’s impossible to do this if your planning and strategy are sub-par; fire-and-forget won’t work. Or at least, it’ll win CMOs very few friends in the CFO’s office.

Of course, plans need to be flexible enough to change as needed. If events of recent months have demonstrated anything, it’s that things can change quickly. Planning for thought leadership to support and drive consistent communications should be part of any marketing strategy revamp.

In short, rushed campaigns will always look it and will often be counterproductive. The good news is that even if some have a way to go, an increasing proportion of APAC’s CMOs recognise this and are determined to change things.

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