FSF: What do you mean by the B2B marketing gap and why is it such an issue?
Jade: The B2B marketing gap is the void between Junior/ Mid Level marketers and leaders on the board where strategy needs to connect the two. Often SME companies don’t employ a director level marketer and hire only operational team members, they then expect those in-house marketers to deliver on all areas of the marketing while also be strategic – this isn’t possible, it’s something I call the marketing unicorn – no one person can do it all!
Why do marketers in B2B organisations get so stuck in tactical rather than strategic work?
This is usually because they are pulled from pillar to post by colleagues who need sales support, for example never ending requests for presentation amends, brochureware, updating web pages and fulfilling last minute event management requests. It’s also because operational marketers don’t yet have the skills or experience to be strategic so they end up simply “doing” marketing rather than focusing on what are the best and minimal activities to get results against the growth goals.
What are your recommendations for B2B brand building?
Brand building is an area often misunderstood in B2B. It’s also the part seen as fluffy and not leading to results. The first step is seeing brand building for what it truly its – it’s not hands off and timid, it’s actually very aggressive in nature. The idea is that we outreach and capture those in the market at any one time in our target market, this according to some is around 5-15% of total available market. Brand building is what we do when it comes to the remaining 85-95% of people who are not yet in a position to buy. That said, we are of course also going to use brand building to nurture those already in our pipeline.
I recommend creating a strategy that focuses on both short term lead capturing so that marketers are able to demonstrate results sooner rather than later – then underpinning that with a longer term brand building programme that educates and helps potential future buyers by solving problems when they are researching and being a selfless aid to those in need of answers. A good example of a strong B2B brand building programme might look like a live advice clinic that runs once a month which is recorded and then put on a podcast and sent out across all marketing channels, the content can also be added to a YouTube channel if filmed and then chunked down into valuable bitesize content to used across social media platforms – always promoting sign up to the advice clinic or pointing people to additional helpful resources such as guides or videos.
What steps can marketers take to get their data and CRM in order?
I recommend hiring a strategic consultant for these areas, even after almost 2 decades in marketing I wouldn’t tackle this alone. By having someone provide the roadmap to get from chaos to order with everything from systems and processes to lead scoring and data segmentation – it’s a real head ache to know where to start. Again, a symptom of the B2B marketing gap is that marketers are expected to be specialists on all fronts, when really they are generalists and should have a sound understanding of the basics of each area of marketing but truly their role is to orchestrate and manage the right specialists to get the job done in each area of the strategy. Businesses often think that by having their marketer do everything that they get best value from the resource, in fact the opposite is true – this approach leads to all areas done to a subpar standard and is often why we see limited to no results from our marketing.
To answer this question wholly, it’s also really important to consider how our people manage data and CRM going forwards. Once a CRM is put in place and the data has been well organised and set up, sales people need to understand how it will benefit them to use the system correctly and leadership need to fully back this and be clear that it’s not optional.
What criteria should marketers consider when selecting a limited number of activities to start with, test, and scale?
I’m a big advocate of not overcomplicating marketing strategy. Usually B2B companies need to get the basics in place first including: brand positioning, CRM and data strategy, an online presence that serves it’s buyers and good creative that actually resonates with its target audience. Building those important elements into the first stages of an annual marketing strategy and ensuring that everything developed is based on customer insights rather than internal brainstorming (leading to errors and assumptions in what ideal clients care about) – marketers can make sure they move forward with the right frameworks.
The plan should include what insights will be measured and how they’ll know the activities have been a success and they’ll need marketing objectives that connect directly with the business goals. Selecting 1-2 activities per marketing objective is ideal because it means they aren’t taking on too much and can really go for it with those tactics, rather than spreading too thin and not making an impact on any area. For example, it one objective is to increase customer retention rates an activity might be “conduct feedback programme with existing clients and interact with customer facing teams to make adjustments and improvements, and then repeat to ensure client experience improves”.
I love activities like this because it brings marketers home to the actual definition of marketing from the CIM “marketing is the process of defining and meeting customer needs while making a profit” – instead of being obsessed with generating a volume of leads that may not line up with what the business actually needs.
In financial services, marketing is often seen as sales support. How can marketers break out of this image?
If marketers can show themselves to be more strategic and learn to have conversations in a business language that leaders can understand they’ll go a long way toward being taken more seriously. By asking the right questions like “what are our main business objectives?” and “can we discuss setting a marketing budget in line with our sales revenue and % profit” and truly understand what they mean when they talk about these things, they’ll naturally become part of more strategic conversations. It’s important for marketers to challenge unnecessary tasks asked of them and be confident and assertive in explaining why it’s in the business’ best interest for them to spend their time working on a pre-defined marketing strategy. Often leaders ask marketers to demonstrate results after a set period of time only to then flood them with operational, sales support activities and then later wondering why their marketer isn’t “bringing any value”.
I would argue that if a marketer is given a multitude of isolated and non-strategic tasks to do and they do them, they actually are performing very well within the job laid out for them by those who manage them. Closing the B2B marketing gap with a marketing strategy, correctly allocated budget (typically around 4-8% of revenue) and bringing in specialists and agency partners for execution are the big things that need to be done for b2b companies who want results.
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