Challenging times for marketing leaders

Now more than ever, the backdrop for any marketing leader is muddied. With marketing leaders ideally positioned to respond to changing customer needs, not all have the skills required. Repeated surveys and workforce confidence indices point to a lack of confidence in careers in advertising and media. So, what is the answer? Read on to find out more.

Essential skills put to the test

Dealing with a crisis that ebbs and flows creates a great amount of uncertainty and marketing isn’t necessarily the department an organisation looks toward to navigate it. Whereas the CMO or Marketing Director should be the driver of growth, not all marketing teams can tie their activities to return. As a result, the CFO or Finance Director is the most common role thrust into the spotlight in a crisis and marketing an area that feels the heat.

But what skills do marketing leaders possess? The answer is varied and diverse. Creative visionaries that dazzle onlookers with their creations. Innovators that pursue the latest technological marvels display a talent for a digital world. Customer-centric marketers that think like a customer and craft compelling customer journeys and inspire stakeholders. There are many skills that stand these leading lights of marketing in good stead that are stress-tested when times are hard.

Marketing leaders face a quandary

As we know, many marketing leaders like to follow the latest trends, diving into the hottest new social media channel or software. The very core of marketing is to promote a brand and its products or services. Tough competition means that getting there first or setting a trend gives a temporary advantage to marketing efforts.

Unfortunately, CMOs face a quandary when they are no longer able to invest in the shiny new thing. Instead, the reality may be restricted budgets, going cap in hand to the CFO to sign off every PO or even changing their LinkedIn status to ‘available to work’. This landscape requires a different set of skills that not all marketers possess or hold to varying degrees.

Why B2B marketing leaders are better placed

Unlike their B2Ccounterparts, B2B marketing often more closely corresponds to sales team size and effort. Where B2C is almost exclusively brand and digital in focus, b2b pulls in elements of lead management, ABM and sales funnels. In theory, the activity-linked nature of many B2B marketing teams means more correlation between effort and results.

Furthermore, where B2B marketers are successfully set up to feed the sales engine, data and KPIs shine a light on the value contributed by marketing. The challenge comes where there isn’t a single view of the truth, KPIs don’t show return or activity only loosely links to inquiries. The foundation is there to justify and support ongoing activity if the strategic foresight exists to prepare for scrutiny.

The path less-travelled for marketing skills

All is not lost for aspiring marketing leaders, those under pressure or those looking for a new opportunity. Although the marketing profession typically attracts inspiring, creative and imaginative personalities, there is room to brush up in other areas. Arguably, the modern marketer is more concerned with digital marketing, data and measurement but that isn’t reflected in all roles at all levels.

Qualifications such as CIM teach the traditional marketing techniques rooted in research, planning and budgeting. After all, remember that most business plans contain a marketing strategy, plan and budget to achieve financial targets.

Most B2B marketers know that a hungry sales department needs support and that means gearing up to link activity to sales and contribution. This approach will pacify the accountants when they come knocking or you can’t get a campaign signed off.

Where next for skills?

In conclusion, B2B marketing leaders are better placed than their B2C peers. Where ‘brand building’ and online visibility have their place, B2B is a different animal with longer purchasing cycles and larger purchases. The skills required to operate in b2b are different but there are some common areas that marketing leaders can focus on and dial up.

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