The role of B2B marketing teams is transforming

B2B companies are all facing disruption in their markets. Some are dealing with new digital competitors; others want to drive towards a new solutions orientation, away from products that are no longer differentiated. Peter O'Neill states in our 2020 Leader's Report.

Many want to become best-in-class for their industry based upon customer experience. Their chief executives want their organisations to become more digital, data-driven and customer-centric, and expect their marketing leaders to drive this transformation. 

In addition to this digital transformation pressure, B2B buying itself has also changed. Sophisticated consumer marketing from companies such as Amazon, Netflix and John Lewis has trained consumers to anticipate outreach, interaction and even personalised offers. This expectation has even become embedded in the digital world of business interactions, and so business buyers now expect supplier digital engagement similar to a private consumer experience these days. They also have little tolerance for sales calls, on-site or remote, that do not provide them with immediate value. They can research suppliers and companies themselves and expect a seller to answer questions and advise as opposed to sell. 

The most critical success factor of an effective B2B marketing organisation is, therefore, the ability to ensure that the right message can be delivered to the right person at the right time in the right place: both as output of their digital marketing communication, and through an effective sales enablement programme. The best marketers now use data for end-to-end measurement and messaging to inform buyers with the information they most need. They build an in-depth understanding of the entire customer journey, and they know how and where to coordinate and focus their engagement efforts.

Leading the change to digital, data-driven and customer-centric

Successful marketing leaders make data-driven and digital ways of working the norm for their teams, and they staff and organise their functions to underpin a full digital transformation. Similarly, these leaders are now establishing processes, investing in technology, recruiting talent, and setting performance metrics that revolve around customer needs and preferences. 

But delivering the full potential of digital, data-driven and customer-centric engagement involves many challenges, not just technical ones. Most marketers are not mathematicians, much less data scientists. The complexity of getting the right tech in place can be confounding, and marketers often struggle to ensure that the technology they have is properly wired together and capable of measuring impact (online and offline), preferably by demonstrating causality. 

Combining data and digital technologies has increased the relevance of advertising, services, and even offers in B2B. To make the most of these advanced technologies, CMOs need the right technical and organisational success factors in place. 

They also need to address organisational challenges. Agile and Scrum methods are often discussed but not so easily implemented. Cross-functional collaboration does not come readily to most companies with long-term muscle memory of organisational silos. Digital business, and digital marketing especially, involves new ways of working, and these methods affect every staff member personally, from job description to office location to compensation. People and organisations tend to resist this kind of change, especially when it affects their own future.

Marketing organisations transform at different velocities

Not all organisations face the same magnitude of digital transformation challenge. Marketing’s transformation pace depends on the industries they sell in, their technology platforms, the organisational status quo, and the culture of the staff. Although the recent Covid-19 crisis has accelerated digital transformation at almost every company, the overall digital maturity cycle does take some time before business model, product and/or service delivery, sales and channel partners structures, and even the routine working habits of a company’s employees are permanently transformed.

Benchmarking your maturity progress will help set new priorities

Most B2B marketing leaders would like to know their status along the digital maturity cycle and be able to identify where they should increase, or can even decrease, their management efforts to ensure consistent development. Ideally, this should be a benchmark against your peer companies in the same industry or geography. 

The B2B Marketing Leaders report 2020

We recently sent a survey based on the four pillars of execution to 100 marketing leaders. The results of this survey were used in this report to demonstrate where marketers are at in their journey to digital marketing maturity. Check out all the findings here.

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b2b leaders report