As marketing leaders, we’re constantly looking at our organization’s performance—where we’re surpassing goals and where we’re falling behind. But in so many of these examinations, I find that senior leaders tend to focus most on strategy, processes and technology. Thanks in part to the reset forced upon many of us by the Great Resignation, one area that remains critically important and that truly still retains the potential to make a huge impact on B2B marketing performance is people.
Your team—the people you work with and depend on every day—are truly the foundation of your future marketing success, and in many cases, even in marketing-shy B2B, the success of your business. You can think up the most innovative strategy and implement the very latest processes employing cutting-edge technology, but if you don’t have the right people to carry your vision forward, the dream won’t generate the kind of self-sustaining momentum you’ll need to scale over time.
In order for B2B marketing leaders to be able to leverage people as powerful competitive differentiators, they should think very hard indeed about four areas. And, as we look toward the high-demand talent areas for the company of the future, I think proper attention to marketing could provide another way in.
1. B2B marketing is about understanding and building relationships.
B2B transactions are characterized by larger deal sizes, smaller deal volumes, long sales cycles and complicated decision-making. Cracking this code obviously doesn’t lend itself very well to a B2C approach that’s heavily weighted toward lightweight, top-of-funnel awareness and promotion. B2B marketing often requires a real focus on depth versus reach and frequency. Support for the B2B marketing process can only be energized by people who have the experience and expertise required to effectively nurture nascent relationships, understand and navigate complex buying committees, and deliver against very specific, nuanced buyer needs during their protracted buying journeys.
2. B2B marketing is diverse, but it can and should be integrated.
B2B marketing is a set of complex connected processes. It requires a wide range of skills to orchestrate the many formats, channels and stages effectively. For maximum impact, you should integrate these components into both a coherent strategy and repeatable processes—eliminating gaps that create points of failure for the whole. Until somehow we get to a point where we’re running a super-duper automation machine, people, and their abilities to communicate and collaborate together, are the integrating layer—the glue—that holds these pieces together and can create a harmonized whole. If people don’t function well together as a team, you get silos, and with silos, you get breakage at many possible points.
3. B2B marketing is a long game.
B2B marketing excellence still isn’t taught (at least very much) in school—each company’s products, client base and circumstances are largely unique. It takes time for even the most experienced marketers to grasp the differentiators of your offerings, the nature of your audience, your internal culture and the various organizational playbooks. To be continuously successful, teams should be able to tap into experienced mentors so they can leverage institutional knowledge and develop their own capabilities over time. And obviously, for this to be possible, teams must retain experienced players over time. Except in the case of startups, a marketing team averaging just a couple of years at the company may have trouble carrying you to lofty new heights.
4. B2B marketing is not a vendor.
Many companies see marketing as a set of real disciplines with relatively little respect for all that marketers could be bringing to the table. Some even treat us as a service unit or almost like an arms-length vendor. But like many groups, marketers are professionals who naturally seek a long-term path to real success. It’s no wonder that young talent sometimes seems to jump from company to company. To change this pattern, I believe we need to do a much better job of charting growth courses for them that make sense. Even if marketing is a limited area in your company, charting longer-term paths for marketers can pay dividends in many other processes and functions of the firm.
Where do we go from here?
My feeling is that marketing remains one of those areas where “thought product” still matters a lot and will for the foreseeable future. Combine that with the complex processes and technologies these teams tend to use, and it’s easy to see why the profession often attracts people who are good both with words and numbers. That’s why, as a potential addition to some of the more traditional talent breeding grounds within B2B companies (e.g., sales and product development), I believe marketing is, as yet, an unrecognized potential feeder to other areas. With the right focus on people, you should realize greater marketing success. And if you’re really future-oriented, you could turn it into a training ground for real expertise in areas like product management, customer success and other parts of the go-to-market value chain—or even beyond.
This content was originally published here.