B2B business development - why manufacturers lost the frontier spirit

Ed Marsh | Apr 1, 2014

Hey Mr(s) hard charging, failure is not an option, damn the torpedoes, hit the beach and burn the boats, go for broke business manager....what happened?

From the conditions of frontier life, came [American] intellectual traits of profound importance . . . coarseness and strength combined with acuteness and inquisitiveness; that practical, inventive turn of mind, quick to find expedients; that masterful grasp of material things, lacking in the artistic but powerful to effect great ends; that restless, nervous energy, that dominant individualism, working for good and for evil.” Frederick Jackson Turner on traits of the frontier
American companies used to push the envelope.  Leaders and managers contributed to a vibrant environment of exciting progress and growth.

Then we created "empowered" companies and the exciting growth seemed to slow - in fact in many cases now frustrated "quasi-empowered" folks leave stagnant companies to create the vibrant growth environment in new companies - abandoning their employers for the verdant distant pastures on the horizon.

So today, most B2B manufacturing companies wallow in their bewilderment aboutnew market conditions.  The old approaches don't quite work, but they're not so completely dysfunctional that it's obvious for all to see.  So companies tweak a little here and right size a little there, without fundamentally adapting their B2B business development approach.

What happened?

Circling the wagons

b2b marketing mediocrityThere was another 'side' to the frontier push.  Danger and risk. And the preferred tactic when the fur started to fly was to literally circle the wagons creating a 360 degree defensible perimeter.

Somehow along the way, the bold push of the frontier spirit, balanced with a bit of defense, became inverted.  Now it's defend in place, with an occasional flash of spirit.

The result?  Ineffective business development characterized by disregard of rapidly growing global markets and doubling down on bland B2B marketing crap.

How many companies invest time and money in creating something only slightly less vacuous than this for instance? (thx to @DMScott)


Which question to ask....

"The question is no longer if. The real question is when.

The when-not-if paradox is not exclusive to the mid-’90s Internet rush. It’s been a dilemma for centuries, and continues to grow in magnitude and importance. Mobile devices: when, not if. Social media: when, not if. Adapting to a millennial workforce: when, not if. Expanding into global markets: when, not if.

Rather than resisting the inevitable, embrace macro-trends early to get the most out of them. The faster your move, the more you’ll be able to extract value from being an early-adopter. Change is happening at an unprecedented rate. Leaping forward instead of clutching to the past is your best bet to remain relevant and enjoy sustainable success." Josh Linkner @JoshLinkner 
And that's the problem.  Most B2B manufacturing companies are asking yesterday's questions.  "How can we be a bit more efficient with our cold calling?" or "Which magazine ad will get the most impressions?" or even "Why is XXXX company trying to export? That's just for big companies."

Not many ask "OK, it's different today.  How can we really grow again?"  You know, as in the 10-20% growth that seemed so natural in the 80s....

damn the b2b marketing torpedoes

Leaders and consultants

The ability to intuit and ask insightful questions is what distinguishes great leaders and consultants from the mediocre mass.  But today's markets are particularly unforgiving of mediocrity.  It's time to start asking the right questions....to put your B2B business development on a sustainable and profitable path.

Are you bold enough to do so?  Maybe it's time to channel your Admiral Farragut - to "damn the torpedoes" and call for full speed ahead!


business growth, international business development, SMB marketing,


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