The Problem With B2B Marketing That Nobody Is Talking About

No marketing trend or technology can last forever. In an era of constant disruption, marketers are easily distracted by all the new shiny objects promising to help them generate leads. In his Advocamp 2016 keynote, Joseph Jaffe, CEO/Co-Founder of Evol8tion, recommends a different approach: going back to the basics. Advocamp_Logo (1)

Watch his talk to learn where Joseph thinks modern marketers are going wrong and how they should re-focus towards retention—instead of acquisition—to create a cult-like following for their brands. (It will work better than paid media or fancy automated technology ever could!)

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I have to tell you I almost never made today. I had a pretty physical altercation and I’m happy to say I came out of it alive.


This is my Revenant moment. The only downside was that he tore my jeans which is why I’m not wearing jeans today. That’s my way of saying I didn’t get the memo—everyone’s wearing jeans today.

I’m an advertising guy, so like the Don Draper Days, I’m wearing a suit and tie. Today we don’t wear ties. Apparently we don’t wear pants any more. We wear jeans. It’s okay. Those days are gone at the end of the day and I think that we have to accept it.

Let’s do a little pop quiz. Anybody know who this is?


Easy one to start. It’s the CMO Salesforce, correct. Well done. That was Herod The Not So Great.


Genghis Khan.


Napoleon. (Easy!)


Chairman Mao and of course the next person we all know in the continuum is…

Ronald McDonald Identity Crisis

Ronald McDonald. I told you these were easy questions.

The question is, what do these five upstanding gentlemen have in common? The answer is all five were delusional megalomaniacs that thought they could rule the world and live forever.

Ronald McDonald represents advertising. Maybe I’m glad that I’m not dressed like Don Draper today because boy, oh boy I want to distance myself from these days.

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We haven’t really come very far from these days. We’re struggling to find resonance and relevance when it comes to paid media, when it comes the shotgun approach. Spray and pray, command and control, whatever you want to call it. That’s the way I look at these books. They’re all about change. They’re all about optimization. The Robin Hood approach. They’re all about innovation. I’m always asked this question though: “Joe, what’s the next big thing?” My answer is, “There is no next big thing, you moron. The next big thing is now.” Stop worrying about the Google Glass and all these bright and shiny objects and all these fads and these kinds of “nice-to-haves” when we still suck at email for God’s sake, CRM or our websites just totally blow. We are still struggling to take care of the basics, and that’s why I’d like to believe that my fourth book, “Zero Paid Media as the New Marketing Model,” is really just all about common sense. Why would you need to buy attention when you’re paying attention as well?


I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth because this frog represents what it’s like to be a marketer today. I just told you not to concern yourself with the next big thing but you kind of have to still because there’s just disruption after disruption. When you look at the UK for example, Addison Lee disrupted the black cab business and then Uber came and then disrupted Addison Lee. The disruptor becomes the disrupted and it continually happens. In your eyes, you’re the frog between a rock and a hard place or you’re the boiling frog ultimately just paralyzed by fear because the world has changed in so many different ways.


I love this idea. Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media company creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the largest world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Talking about the disruptor becoming the disrupted, now there’s Recharge which is a new startup. This hotel is using Recharge where you can rent rooms by the hour. Gee, I wonder what I’m going to use that for. Note to self: revisit later.

The point is, the world has changed in so many ways and this isn’t funny. Time is not on your side. This is something that absolutely shook me to the core. Fact is, 70% of Fortune 500 companies from 1990 are gone, and 50% of Fortune 500 companies from 2000 are gone. That doesn’t mean necessarily out of business, although many of them have gone out of business. It means they’re not in the Fortune 500 anymore. They’re bundled or rolled up or acquired or disintegrated or broken apart. But the fact is all of the shareholder value is gone. Wiped off the face of the earth because companies weren’t able to evolve, innovate and change quick enough.


Let me tell you where to start if you want to avoid that from happening to you. It focuses on this idea between acquisition and retention. I love this cartoon because this cartoon absolutely exemplifies when we were in college and we were chasing that guy or that girl, whatever the case may be. Once we knew we could get them we lost interest in them. Everything is about the hunt. Everything is about the conquest. As soon as we get that conversion we lose interest and we hand them off to customer service or technical support in some dusty, musty, cobwebby closet at the back. They don’t even get a cubicle those retention folk as well.

That’s a problem. It’s a real problem. You guys continue to embrace what I call ‘courting strangers’ and prostitutes because acquisition is getting you off lightly. A stranger is a first time buyer, no affinity, no affiliation, no connection, no loyalty, no love and no relationship with you. Then a prostitute is a switcher, a competitive conquest. They switch to you for the wrong reasons and they’ll switch away from you for those same wrong reasons. I just want you to own the fact that you’re a pimp. This is why I believe so many companies are doomed to fail if they don’t realign their priorities.

My daughter tells me this joke: where will you be safe during the zombie apocalypse? The answer is Costco because they have plenty of food, plenty of drink and water, and you need a membership card to get in. If you think about it, Costco is anti-prostitution and stranger-conquesting as well. This is how we have to adjust our mentality. This is absolutely grounded in business reality.

80/20 rule

If 80% of your revenue comes from returning, recurring and repeat loyal customerswhy on earth are you only spending 20% of your dollars investing in that customer? It makes no sense. 20% of your revenue comes from acquisition and you gratuitously spend, even waste, 80% of your dollars. It just doesn’t compute.

It gets worse than that as well. I’m going to use an example, another 80/20 example, because within that 80% are revenue contributions coming from retention we know that not all customers are created equally. We know that we have power customers. We know that we have customers that represent disproportionate amounts of our revenue. Again 80/20. What percentage of your shoppers do you think are responsible for consuming 80% of all Coca Cola volume? Want to shout out a number?

I gave you a clue, 80/20, right? Wrong. It’s actually lower. It’s 12%.

Trick question. What about Diet Coke? Do you think it’s higher or lower? It’s actually lower, it’s 6%.

What about Coke Zero? Believe it or not it is lower, it’s 3%.

Can you imagine if 3% of your customers were responsible for 80% of your volume or your revenue. You don’t have to. You’re in B2B, you know this to be true. In some cases, 1 of your customers might be responsible for 40 or 50% of your revenue.

We’re talking a lot about tattoos today. You should tattoo the number three all over your body because everyday you should obsess over the 3%. Get to know them by name, by face, by avatar, by Twitter handle and by social security number. Hire a private investigator. Stalk them. I don’t care what you have to do but you need to put a face behind the name and a name to the face and be able to build a relationship with them.

The rise of account based marketing

Common sense right? So obvious what I’m saying but common sense is not so common. It’s only just now that the B2B world is waking up and saying “Wait a second. We should be focusing on key accounts?” Now we’re seeing the rise of account based marketing. Hallelujah. Congratulations. Welcome to the light. It’s time to start focusing your effort on a revenue contribution that makes such a huge difference.

I’m not a guy that likes to tweak the model. I’m not a guy that likes what Eric Schmidt at Google calls it the tyranny of incrementalism. I don’t like to look at what I did last year on my budget to determine what I should do next year. I like to start off with a clean slate. In “Zero Paid Media as the New Marketing Model” I say that in a perfect world, the optimal paid media budget would be zero. Why would you need to pay for attention if you’re paying attention? Because you customers, advocacy, content, conversation, data, service, innovation and referrals to grow your business truly from the inside out.

Don’t pay for attention — pay attention

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Earlier, I said don’t pay for attention. Pay attention. This is actually something that happened to me when I was staying at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel, a Waldorf Astoria resort, and I just happened to Instagram the fact there was a beautiful hotel. What happened next was amazing. They actually contacted me as a comment on my Instagram feed and said “Is there anything we can do to help?” I was just trying to basically nest with them so I said, “Sure how about a 12:30 check out?” They said “Done” and all of that happened publicly in real time.

ZERO is also an acronym because I’m a consultant and if we don’t come up with at least one acronym every year we get thrown out of the guild. I came up with ZERO which stands for the following: Zealots, Entrepreneurship, Retention, and Owned Assets. What I’m going to focus on today is the Z of Zealots because if you really want to understand advocacy, I think you have to understand what it is to focus on this thing called zealotry if you will.

When I wrote the book I reached out to Seth Godin to endorse the book and he came back to me and he said, “Joe, you know that the zealot is kind of religious and biblical and it has certain extreme connotations. They fell on their swords, committed mass suicide for what they believed in. Just making you aware of that.” I said, “Seth do I have permission to write in the book that I made you uncomfortable?” He said, “Sure,” and I did in a sense because I love that.We got to get a rise out of people some way. We’ve got to get them to care. I think that’s what Mark Organ was saying earlier. Our enemy is apathy and just being forgotten. “Meh” is the biggest enemy, not someone that says love or someone that says hate. I’m glad I made Seth uncomfortable because if I can make Seth uncomfortable then I’m sure as hell going to make you guys uncomfortable, and you sure as hell are going to make your bosses uncomfortable. That’s a good thing because that will ultimately change the status quo.

Z is for zealots

Where do you find these zealots? Who are they, these mythical creatures, winged creatures with fire coming out of their mouths? Who are they and where do they exist? Here’s the good news or bad news depending on whether they love you or hate you (because they can do both) is that you don’t need to find them. They’ll find you. They know exactly who you are, where you live and how to get ahold of you.

Remember the idea of falling on your sword? Well, when you fall on your sword and draw your own blood isn’t that the same thing as a tattoo? Think about it. Mark Organ spoke about tattoos and it’s exactly right. I could show you my tattoo tonight (after a few drinks) but for now I’m just going to show you this:  Nike Fuel band. I don’t think it even works anymore but this is kind of like my tattoo.

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I live in Westport, Connecticut and my neighbor used to be Martha Stewart. She also had a special band. She had it around her ankle. I have mine around my wrist and my parole officer or my warden is the Nike Corporation of America. They just broke ties and severed ties with Maria Sharapova for failing a drug test. I’m a lot more efficient and a lot more effective to invest in because you don’t even have to pay me millions and millions of dollars and I will advocate on your behalf.

Activating your advocates


This is the Melt Bar and Grilled which is a grilled cheese sandwich chain in Cleveland, Ohio. If you go into the Melt Bar and Grilled and you have a tattoo of their logo on your body, you get 25% off grilled cheese sandwiches for life or the life of the tattoo. This person clearly didn’t trust the salesperson so they’ve written on 25% for life. Over 600 people have done that and they are immortalized on the walls.


I actually went. I sought out the Melt Bar and Grilled because they have a melt challenge. If any of you were big fans of “Man Versus Food” —this is a 12 pound sandwich, 7 pounds of cheese. If you finish it, you get a T-shirt and a coaster but you get again, immortalized in the store.

Did I succeed?


No, not even close…I made sure that I finished a third of it, and then I probably puked.

This is an example of what it is to really focus on going the extra mile for a company, and them recognizing and rewarding their customers for being a part of this passion. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is in fact to activate the advocates because the only thing worse than not having advocates is to have them and ignore them or neglect them. Think about it. You’ve got to activate them. You’ve got to bring them to life. You’ve got to celebrate them. They’re partially crazy but craziness is a good thing when it comes to being able to stand out from the crowd.

Customer Centricity + Influence = Advocacy

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There is a model. On the left, you see the 80/20, 80/12,80/6 or the 80/3 rule. Who are the customers that buy you a lot? You need to figure out a way to connect with them and if you don’t have specific programs in place, you better start soon.

Then you have the ones on the right. It was really great, very jarring, to listen to Mark talking about ISIS, but important because it’s a very tangible and a very, very clear image of these super fans in terms of the 1% responsible for 99% of your buzz or your content. The big mouths, the foul mouths, the disheveled, the bloggers that are living in the basement of mom and popthat are angry at the world. Whatever the case may be: Jacob Nielsen on Wikipedia talks about 1% of Wikipedia users are responsible for over 90% of all content created. Who are those people and how are you connecting with them?

Actually I want you to think about something else because here’s my formula or my equation:

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I want you to focus on that tiny sliver in the middle. I want you to work on expanding that sliver. I want you to connect and figure out the people that buy you a lot, your customers, who also talk about you to a lot of people. That’s the silver bullet. That’s the holy grail of marketing in terms of authenticity, in terms of credibility, in terms of influence. Those are the people that you want to figure out how to connect with. If they’ve got a big mouth already, get the hell out the way and just let them talk.

If they don’t have a voice—well Seth Godin was right. Turn the funnel into a megaphone. Give them a voice. Celebrate them. Jay Baer will talk about hugging your haters. In this case hug your lovers too and celebrate what they have to say. Another thing you can do is to flip the funnel, not just turn into the megaphone but flip the funnel.

In my third book “Flip the Funnel,” I spoke about acknowledgement, the “thank you” dialogue, which is real conversations and not, “Your call is important and will be answered in the order it was received.” That is recognizing and rewarding them and then finally, activation. Activating those advocates, creating and fostering a sense of community and camaraderie: a brotherhood and a sisterhood of like minded lovers and like minded people that subscribe to the same ideals, beliefs as you do as well.

Becoming an asset manager

That’s what the flipped funnel is all about. Another thing you can do is to become an asset manager. You have a portfolio of assets. Hopefully it’s a diversified portfolio. I want you to think about how you manage that portfolio. That is the ‘O’ of ZERO. Z is Zealot. The O is your owned assets. Your people, your products, your packaging, your clothing, your data, your stores, your trucks, your customer service, your apps—anything that you own and anything that doesn’t require a middleman between you and your customer is an asset.

Your employees are an asset

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It begins with your employees. Your employees are an incredible asset. On the left, Apple. Who ever thought that Apple would show ugly, geeky pesky human beings in their commercials like me and like you? Who ever thought? There were just trendy super models and then suddenly the real hero became the spokesperson, the blue shirts, in Apple’s store. Then on the right you have MailChimp.

Seriously, am I going to get excited about MailChimp, a company that has a monkey for a mascot? I don’t think so, but the people at MailChimp are so passionate about what they do that ultimately, when you see through the Instagram feed how much they love their job and love serving their customers maybe, just maybe, you’re going to want to give them your business as well.

Your “cult”ure is an asset

If your employees are an asset then surely your culture becomes an asset as well. Think about that word culture. The word “cult” is a subsection of that word “culture.” You need to figure out how to put the cult in culture. Going back to Kayak as an example. Every single person at Kayak has to be focused on customer service for 30 minutes every week or at least it used to be like that. If they didn’t, there was a Hall of Shame to publicly humiliate them for not focusing on their customers.

Your culture is an asset. Ultimately your customers, of course, are an asset.

Your customers are an asset

Hootsuite has a formalized and scaled ambassador program where there’s Hoot ambassadors, #HootAmb they hashtag. These HootAmbs are going out there and advocating on behalf of the company. What does the company do? They really grease their palms with silver. They give them swag, cool swag. It works for them and it works for that specific program.

Hootsuite_success_story-advocate_communityHow Hootsuite Grew Its Advocate Program Seven-Fold In Less Than A Year

Go behind-the-scenes of Hootsuite’s hugely successful global Ambassador program with Dee Anna McPherson, VP of Marketing at Hootsuite and Justine Velcich, Global Community Programs Manager at Hootsuite.

They’ll explain the brand’s strategy for scaling their program from just 84 loyal fans to 7X that number in 10 months.

Download your FREE eBook now

Start a customer movement

It’s not about the money. It’s the thought that counts. It’s something that you’ve heard many times before. Maybe it’s time to start a formalized customer movement that scales advocacy. Find those zealots and bring them out. Maybe it’s time to actually use technology not to slow down the process or streamline or automate, but to create a customer-centric ecosystem powered by technology. That’s just the geeky way of saying, “Find a way to find a balance between humanity and technology.” Automation works to a point, but it should never replace common sense, your brain, your heart, and your ability to go the extra mile.

If there’s anything that I would want you to take away, it’s this idea: your customers are your most influential sales people and your employees are your most credible spokespeople. If you can harness that and bring that to life and bring it to light anything truly is possible.

I just want to show you a very quick example of what happens when you find the balance between technology and humanity. When Big Data actually becomes the surprise and delight narrative, the creativity, and the connection between a big corporation and its zealots. Nike sent out five million of these customized, personalized videos to every single one of their active Nike+ or Nike Running customers.

Focusing on the right things

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Look. This idea of finding and tapping into a zealot is not for the lazy. This requires you to go the extra mile and take that extra step. It requires you to stop thinking about retention and about your customers in terms of corporate-centric verbiage or corporate-centric vernacular. You need to stop worrying about churn, cross-sell and up-sell, and conquesting. Instead, focus on uplifting, elevating, celebrating, showcasing and activating those promoters and those zealots as well.

You need to stop trading in “like,” and broadening the wrong end of the wrong funnel and know this isn’t the only answer. They can “wow” , “aha”, “cool” and “love.” You really need to trade in true love.

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I don’t know how many of you have ever seen this. If you love us, like us. Don’t downgrade love to like… ever. Upgrade love to lust. Upgrade it to a relationship and hopefully to marriage.

We talk about lifetime value of the customer. You will never get there if you trade in “like”. You just will never get there. You need to start thinking about the fact that your promoters, your lovers, aren’t all created equally. For those of you who know Satmetrics and know the Net Promoter ideology, I like to believe you have detractor-promoters, passive-promoters and you have promoter-promoters.

The detractor-promoters are defectors. They’re people that you just screw up once and they are out of here and they will turn into your biggest haters ever.

Then you’ve got the once you neglect. Those are the dormants and they can be stolen away by competitors.

Finally, you have the promoter promoters. Those are you zealots. If you want a place to start, start with your customer. Go deeper and figure out who your promoters are, your lovers, and then go deeper again and start to trade in those zealots as well.

Recurring revenue might be the holy grail of B2B in your SAS world, but it doesn’t give you license to become complacent

Instead of worrying about recurring revenue, I want you to work on renewing your vows. Instead of these automatic renewals, this is an opportunity to inject that manual override, that humanity, and make sure that you are always talking to those customers. Always elevate them to advocate on ambassador status and then figuring out how to give back them as well. Stop hiding behind technology and instead embrace humanity. I will say this, and I learnt this pretty much day one of my career when I left university, that B2B teaches us exactly the holy grail when it comes to doing effective business. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Give them a reason to believe. Give them a reason to behave. Give them a reason to get up and rock the vote. Speaking of which here’s Donald.

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Everybody’s been dancing around it today but I’m just going to go straight for the jugular and talk about this meme. This phenomenon, Donald J. Trump—because whether you love him or hate him—you probably feel something for him. Whether you love him or hate him, he is the quintessential zero paid media marketer. He has literally proven how he can get people off their proverbial tushes and into the voting booth on a primary or a caucus occasion.He is rocking the vote and he’s rocking the vote through activating those promoters and those zealots. So zero paid media marketer or “Zero Paid Media as the New Marketing Model” but also the Z of Zealot.

I do want to say one thing as well as I wrap up. I think there is a fine line between love and hate. I think there is a fine line between advocacy and zealotry. I think if zealotry is the spark that ignites the forest fire, advocacy is ultimately what fuels the flames and what keeps it burning, what keeps that coal burning, that keeps that engagement, that life, that connection, that love alive.

I think zealotry in of itself—and as an end unto itself—is not sustainable. It’s not scalable and it can never ultimately outlast what is true authenticity, true connection, true meaning, true consistency and true value. As I said earlier, there is a fine line between love and hate. I often say when a customer says “I hate you,” they’re basically just saying “I love you. I just want you to work a little bit harder to earn my love” in a sense. The enemy in fact is apathy. It is indifference. It is being forgotten. It is someone that says “I have no opinion.”

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I want to leave you with this chart. We talk about survival. You heard earlier a great quote earlier that spoke about the difference between survival and thriving as well. I saw this chart in my daughter’s classroom. It shows 5,000 years of history of civilizations.

You saw all those madmen at the beginning. None of them ultimately survived. Their dynasties, they’re delusions—and of course Ronald McDonald as well. No one lives forever. No one can beat time. No one can out pace the sands of time. The only way to do it is ultimately to be true, to be authentic. As I said earlier, to be consistent, and to give back to and celebrate the real people that have made sure that we’re here today and will be here tomorrow: our employees, our customers, our advocates, and maybe even our zealots as well.

The only way to live forever is to love together. I love all of you guys and I look forward to talking with you later. Thank you.

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3 Responses to The Problem With B2B Marketing That Nobody Is Talking About

  1. […] are the early adopters and, for better or worse, they will love you, but only if you cultivate that relationship. Grant them access to new features, make them a part of the conversation, and activate moments of […]

  2. […] are the early adopters and, for better or worse, they will love you, but only if you cultivate that relationship. Grant them access to new features, make them a part of the conversation, […]

  3. […] are the early adopters and, for better or worse, they will love you, but only if you cultivate that relationship. Grant them access to new features, make them a part of the conversation, […]

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