The three biggest things B2B CMOs say they need help with, now

Clive Armitage reveals the top issues plaguing CMOs

Periodically, we host roundtable dinners for our senior customer contacts.  They're always enjoyable evenings; a chance to eat great food in a cool setting (Bob Bob Ricard private dining room if you really want to know) with experienced executives who are prepared to share best practice.  We held one such event last week and I posed the question at the start of the meal to the eight CMOs around the table about how we could (metaphorically speaking) help them sleep more easily at night.  What was surprising was the commonality of answers.  Sure there were a few outliers based on individual specific challenges that some of our guests are currently grappling with but, mostly, the common pain points boiled down to three key things.    

1. Every CMO cares about pipeline generation

For sure, brand is important, reputation absolutely matters and creativity is welcomed but when it comes down to the real nitty-gritty, CMOs know they are going to be measured on pipeline created and pipeline closed.  So, top of their mind is what can be done to open up the pipeline and drive velocity.  Anyone wanting to sell in support services to the CMO has to therefore demonstrate an approach to helping here that is both differentiated but also as predictable as possible - innovative thinking is appreciated but not as much as certainty of outcome.  CMO's need to be sold on outcomes and not on outputs.  And they also really like to see where it has done before.  Preferably with a tried and trusted methodology and hopefully an award or two.

2. Change management is becoming a 'thing'

CMOs are smart people; they get to their lofty positions by understanding the need to drive commercial outcomes and to marshal the appropriate forces to deliver the results they need.  And they're also smart enough to know that the times, to coin a song title, they are a changin'.  They understand that, with the right tools and approach, they have a better chance of delivering the right messaging/content/proposition to the right individual at the right time than ever before.  Some of our dinner attendees recognised this shift as ABM and some said it was just marketing reaching the potential it has always had (and therefore didn't need the badge of ABM).  But however we characterise it, all recognised that marketing was becoming both more data-driven and more reliant on technology and this brought attendant challenges.  Namely that while the investment may have been made in new tools and platforms, the skills to support the shift were in scarce supply; understanding how to manage the process of change in marketing and how to take an organisation with them on that shift was consequently seen to be *hard*.  This means that CMOs are looking for guidance on how to transform the skills and delivery abilities of their teams quickly, and with minimum pain (and no, they do not see this as simply rebadging Field Marketers as ABMers!).

3. Specialist support is key

Agent3's business is predicated on selling stuff (technology products and consultancy) to large B2B brands.  Suffice to say, we always want to sell more stuff.  But the message from CMOs round our dinner table last night was a firm and consistent one; specialism is the thing that attracts their interest and the need to automate more and more of the marketing process is a given.  Therefore they were all adamant they did not need 'order takers' to simply execute campaigns and, instead, were only ever impressed when they were provided with a service that showed intimate knowledge of their business, provided extra value from a delivery perspective ('tell us things we don't know') and which they could then invest personal capital in from a trust perspective (file this under 'it needs to make me look good').  They also were universally frank in saying the route to get them interested was through their leadership team making a recommendation; they admitted their response to any attempts to target them was virtually non-existent.  

The overall lesson from our dinner?  If you are an agency selling to CMOs and have a specialist service that can drive pipeline while helping navigate and change entrenched organisational structures, the future looks very bright indeed for you!  Conversely, if you don't score highly in these areas, then you are going to be increasingly challenged to grab marketing budget going forward.