The making of an extraordinary B2B tech marketer
Widen's Nina Brakel-Schutt explores how to become a successful tech marketer in today's agile and ever-evolving world
With the onslaught of new technologies, soaring buyer expectations, and content overload, it’s difficult to be a mediocre B2B marketer, much less an exceptional one. However, with challenge comes the opportunity to rise above your competitors, to sustain growth, and to taste the sweet success of B2B marketing. But where do you start?
First, sharpen your most indispensable tool – your skills.
Whether you're an account executive at a start-up, a social community manager at a brand, or the head of marketing at a bustling agency, there are specific skill sets you need to succeed. While some may come more naturally than others, the crème de la crème of B2B marketers are relentless in their pursuit to do these things well:
- Communicate: Engaging prospects, existing clients, colleagues, and partners hinges on your ability to clearly transmit the right message, at the right time, via the right channel. In today’s digital age, strike a balance between human-to-human and technology-to-human interactions.
- Listen: Giving your audience what they need and want is a lot easier if you pay attention to what they say, or more accurately, what they mean to say. Talk to customer service teams, ask questions to get below the surface, join forums and communities where your target market hangs out, and always challenge organization-wide and personal assumptions.
- Analyze: Balancing your soft skills with the ability to interpret and act on data encourages decision-making based on fact, rather than feeling. Dig into data from your customer relationship management (CRM) system, digital asset management (DAM) solution, marketing automation (MA) tools, or ask your analytics team to provide you with actionable findings.
- Improve: When you feel like you have mastered a skill, push further. Practice, welcome uncomfortable challenges, ask for feedback, and make self-reflection part of your routine by setting goals and revisiting them daily.
Get on the right train
The fastest, most direct shot to mediocrity is to hop on the same train everyone else is riding. Most B2B marketers focus their messages on the products or services they are selling, communicating their business value in terms of price, capabilities, and benefits. But the problem with this approach is twofold:
- Advancements in technology, coupled with a saturated competitive landscape, have made it easy for others to replicate your product- or service-based selling points. Releasing a new software feature? Chances are that one, if not more, of your competitors are right behind you.
- Focusing your efforts on your offering, your product features, or your free trials might garner attention, but this self-focused approach is not effective unless it speaks to the biggest challenges, motivators, and needs of your customers, which likely expand beyond this realm.
Yes, the merit of the products or services you are selling matters, especially to your customers. However, all too often, B2B marketers lose sight of the bigger picture, which is to connect with their audiences in meaningful, memorable ways at the right time in the customer journey. To accomplish this, you need to understand who your ideal customers are and what makes them tick - their behavior patterns, challenges, motivations, and needs. Talk to your customers, profile their buying actions, and build buyer personas based on market and customer research, so come deployment time you know who you're talking to, where you need to be, and how to tailor your message.
Take a page out of the B2C playbook
Successful B2C marketers are pros at building and maintaining customer relationships, and so are the best B2B marketers. With B2B marketing it is easy to forget that behind every organization there are actual people with real emotions that make and influence buying decisions. Business buyers are logical but, like their B2C counterparts, they are also directed by their feelings, as they must consider how the greater organization will perceive their purchase decisions, and how a poor choice could impact their own perceived value, trustworthiness, and performance. It’s critical to establish and maintain an emotional connection with prospects, so come purchase time, you’ve given buyers the trust and sentiment they need to proceed, not with caution, but with wholehearted enthusiasm.
Have a plan with razor sharp focus
As tempting as it is to 'just get going', you need a documented strategy in place, so you know where you’re headed and what you want to achieve. A focused plan will help you prioritize ideas, meet business objectives, manage workflow, maintain a unified goal, and can even give you a much-needed reality check as to what’s feasible for the month, quarter, and year ahead.
Strategies come in all shapes and sizes, but the most useful ones are firmly rooted in these fundamentals:
- Goals: Ultimately, you're laying the framework for your success. Your strategy must define how your B2B marketing will help you meet your business goals and meaningfully engage with your target audience.
- Metrics: How will you define success? What benchmarks do you need to hit and what success metrics matter to you? You need to outline what success looks like so you have a clear measure to work toward.
- Action: Lay out the precise action steps you need to achieve your goals. For example, how many web leads do you need to reach your quarterly sales goal?
- People: Workflow, tools, human resources, and operational governance are critical for a successful marketing plan to take flight and land where it needs to.
Get the right tools in your marketing tech stack
In order to communicate with the right people at the right time, you need to use the right tools to support your marketing strategy and goals. These tools include:
- CRM and business intelligence tools that provide a view of all customer activity.
- MA tools that launch and track email and social campaigns, landing pages, and personas.
- Marketing management tools that help automate project management, review and approval, and file sharing, but also provide content analytics.
When the right platforms are used together, you can collect, track, and share data from every digital interaction with your buyers and customers. This is key to staying competitive in today’s marketing world, where so much relies on knowing the motivations and behaviors of your audiences.
Turn away business
As much as it may go against every fiber of your being, say no to sales that do not drive long-term value, revenue, and scale for your company. You need to focus your efforts, so you don’t want to waste time and resources on clients that aren’t a good fit.
Figure out your ideal customer, even if you focus on two to three personas to start, and target your relationship-building efforts, marketing communication, and energy towards driving and converting the most qualified leads. When the right customers are happy, their success will be your success via retention, advocacy, and upsells.
Have you arrived?
As a B2B marketer, you wear many hats. It might feel like you’re doing it all, from demand generation to content marketing to thought leadership. So, how do you know if you’ve crossed the chasm from mediocrity to exceptionalism?
Well, only you and your company can define success, but your ability to weed through the chaos and focus your efforts on the actions that will move you closer to obtaining your company and personal goals is the key. Continually sharpen your skills, let your customers’ needs and wants drive your marketing efforts, take care to establish and nurture relationships, and focus on the right sales, and you are well on your extraordinary way.