2nd of September 2021

Published by Marketing Week See original article

The 95:5 rule is the new 60:40 rule

How does B2B marketing work?

That’s a fun question, but here’s an even more fun question:

How do B2B marketers think marketing works?

What if we were to tell you that: (1) many B2B marketers have a wildly inaccurate understanding of how marketing works, and (2) as a result of that fundamental misunderstanding, many B2B marketers are setting themselves up to fail?

Spoiler alert: that’s what we’re about to tell you!

How marketers think marketing works: The 5:95 rule

Many B2B marketers seem to think that marketing works through persuasion, ‘pushing’ buyers down a funnel by explaining the product benefits. According to our surveys, 95% of B2B marketers expect to see significant sales within the first two weeks of a campaign. And that’s a reasonable expectation, if you believe that ads convince buyers to purchase products.

How marketing actually works: The 95:5 rule

So how does marketing actually work, you ask?

The exact opposite way.

Such is the conclusion of our new research with Professor John Dawes of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute. According to Dawes, only 5% of B2B buyers are in-market to buy right now. That means 95% of the buyers that you reach are out-of-market and won’t buy for months or even years. And, contrary to popular belief, you cannot persuade the buyer to go in-market because they already have what you’re selling and won’t need a newer version any time soon.

Marketers don’t move buyers in-market – buyers move themselves in-market based on their needs. For example, if an IT manager just purchased a brand new cloud computing solution yesterday, then that need is gone, and there’s nothing a B2B marketer can do to generate an immediate sale.

So what can we do?

Give up? Focus on the 5% who are in-market? Ignore the 95% who aren’t?

No. Marketers should focus on the 95% – the out-of-market buyers.

Effective marketing increases future sales in future buying situations. How? By increasing the probability that the brand comes to mind when the buyer goes in-market. Simply put, the brand that gets remembered is the brand that gets bought. You can’t push buyers down a funnel, but you can, to quote Professor Jenni Romaniuk, “catch buyers as they fall”.

The 95:5 rule is a such a simple observation that Dawes never even bothered to write it down before. But this simple observation has profound implications.

Read the full article in Marketing Week.


Now available as an eBook exclusively to Apple iBooks


The Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science is the world’s largest centre for research into marketing. Our team of market research experts can help you grow your brand and develop a culture of evidence-based marketing.