Formal or informal? B2B leaders agree to differ on training

Training may be a hot topic for B2B Leaders, but when it comes to what it means in practice, opinions vary enormously between practitioners. This, for me, was the key finding from the first quarterly B2B Leaders networking dinner, which took place at Paramount, the bar/restaurant on top of the Centre Point Tower, just off London’s Tottenham Court Road.

Having met in the viewing to admire the stunning view over the West End and City as the sun set, the attendant marketing directors, CMOs and heads of marketing descended one floor to the private Red Room for a three course dinner and informal discussion focused on how to develop the next generation of B2B leaders. Agencies and vendors were strictly excluded.

What was clear from the outset was how important all attendees regard training and professional development as part of their role, but the approaches adopted varied enormously. At one end, there were representatives large global corporates who involved their marketers in highly structured training programmes developed and managed centrally across the organisation. These typically involved working parties and project work where individuals were removed from day-to-day responsibilities, sometimes for protracted periods, in order to add to their expertise, increase their motivation and develop their potential.

At the other end of the spectrum, there was the international professional services firm with no formal approach to training for marketers at all – only the determination to encourage them to learn on the job and give them license to experiment and try things out.

In the middle, the majority of attendees readily acknowledged the importance of training for rank-and-file marketers, but all admitted problems in developing and delivering structured approaches with real impact. It seems to join the ranks of ‘perennial problems’ for B2B leaders.  

The biggest challenge was seen as access to digital skills and expertise, with many marketers struggling to embed these competencies within their marketing teams. At the same time though, there was an acknowledgement that the rush towards digital may be eroding some of the core or fundamental knowledge and disciplines that all marketers must have.

When it came to discussing professional development for B2B leaders themselves, those in attendance were in almost entirely in unison. Firstly, they agree on the importance of dialogue between senior marketers and the rest of the organisation, in order to allow practitioners to promote marketing’s cause, foster greater understanding and to further the broader aims of the business.

Secondly, all agreed unequivocally about the importance of peer-to-peer networking to help the professional development of B2B leaders themselves. The opportunity to network in an informal, honest and ‘charter house rules’ environment was considered to be invaluable to those in attendance, and particularly one where agencies (and therefore sales pitches) were not allowed.

The B2B Leaders programme is designed to facilitate just this, offering a wealth of opportunities to engage with contemporaries from B2B companies in other sectors, compare notes and exchange views. To become a member of the B2B Leaders programme, and leverage the full benefits of these events and associated content, please go to www.b2bmarketing.net/b2bleaders/upgrade