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The Changing Nature of B2B Marketing

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Apr 17, 2015 11:00:00 AM

May you live in interesting times.

changing-role-of-marketingNo role is undergoing as much change as the marketing role in B2B organizations. While this change is certainly putting great stress on people and organizations, the opportunities presented by this evolution are literally unlimited.

For most of the last 20 years, marketing was, frankly, undervalued in the majority of small and mid-market companies. As recently as five years ago, it was not unusual for me to meet with companies that were several hundred million in revenue who had no marketing department or focus whatsoever.

In the immortal words of Peter Sellers, “…not anymore.” While there are still some companies that haven’t awakened and still think that marketers’ sole role is to build databases, write case studies, and plan trade shows; more and more companies understand and are investing in the crucial role that marketing serves.

The very way that customers go about learning, engaging, deciding and buying has completely changed, resulting in the increased importance on the marketing function. To put it in its simplest terms, any company that wants to sustain profitable growth must build a top-flight marketing capability, or they will lose.

Okay, that’s the good news. The bad news is that marketers need to step up to the changes taking place. Marketing is no longer a safe place for merely creative people who work hard. Marketers need to adopt greater knowledge and develop new skills to meet new demands.

Here are five trends every company and marketer must understand to win in this new world.

Technology

Technology has become extraordinarily important in successful marketing. By 2017 Gartner predicts that marketing departments will be responsible for buying more technology tools than the IT department.

As the graphic below (put together annually by Scott Brinker) illustrates, the marketing technology (martech) landscape has exploded in complexity. The charts are scary enough. What’s scarier is the rate of change is increasing, not slowing down.

Marketing-Technology-Landscape-Evolution

Marketers today must be aware of the technology available to them and how to apply it to meet the most important objectives of their organizations.

Own The Buyer’s Journey

B2B marketing today needs to own the buyer’s journey. The Zero Moment of Truth and plethora of information available to customers means that the sales team does not have enough insight or impact without a highly effective marketing program.

This means that marketers must fully understand who their customers are, and who aren’t. Further, they must evangelize that understanding within their organization. They must ensure that everyone in the company is clear on:

  • Who the company serves.
  • What the company does.
  • Why it matters.
  • What makes them different.

Picking up the sales process

Marketing is sales today. The initial conversations that prospects used to have with salespeople increasingly occur on your website, with no salespeople present.

This means that marketing must accept that they are just as responsible for sales being made as salespeople are. They must understand important sales principles and ensure the content they create is aligned with a clear sales process designed to create predictable success.

Accountability to Revenue

Likes, awareness and impressions are meaningless if they’re not connected to revenue. The days of John Wannamaker’s famous quote, “I know I’m wasting 50% of my money on advertising, my problem is that I don’t know which 50%” are over.

Today marketers can measure everything and they must embrace that fact. Be willing to admit that some highly creative ideas must be thrown out because it’s not creating revenue, while reinforcing the activities that are.

Data, Data, Data

Don’t get me wrong, creative abilities are still needed in marketing. The Adobe Creative Suite still matters, it’s just not enough anymore. I joke sometimes that the biggest difference in marketing over the last 10 years is that marketers have gone from being pros in Illustrator to pros in Excel.

Data matters more than ever. Marketing today is all about the numbers, and if you’re a marketer you must not only understand them, but be able to apply them to what you are doing on a day-to-day basis. Additionally, you must be able to explain what they are, what they mean and why they matter to the rest of the executive team.

The 3 Implications of These Trends

While much has been written about these trends, I’ve been able to find very little about the tactical implications for marketers. For those of you thinking, “Okay, I get this is true, but what should I do?” here’s your answer.

The ability to “speak” sales

I’ve found that in a general sense marketers have a distaste for selling. While I’m not saying that marketers must be able to “pick up a bag” and make sales calls, they must understand and embrace sales principles and the sales process. If a marketer cannot speak the language of sales, they will limit both the success their company experiences as well as limit their career path.

Business Acumen

I’ve written a lot about the importance business acumen for salespeople. Today it’s equally true for marketers. The truth is that you can no longer be just a marketer today, you must be a businessperson who does marketing.

Agility

I don’t like predicting the future. The one thing I am comfortable predicting is that the rate of change is going to get faster. It is crucial that marketers keep up with this rate of change and that means becoming more agile.

Accept the fact that you should “always be testing,” and that you’re never going to have the ideal conditions you need. Don’t let the lack of something be the reason you don’t move forward, your business is depending on it.

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