Close this search box.

B2B insights

From cost-centre to growth driver: How can leaders future-proof their marketing department?


The past four years haven’t exactly been smooth sailing for B2B marketers. The pandemic, a sea change in working and buyer behaviours, and an economy that’s been stunted at best have all combined to create a perfect storm for businesses.

What does this mean for marketers? Well, it’s meant that budgets are tight, every penny is under a watchful eye, and marketers are having to fight their corner and prove their worth on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, a lot of the impact that marketing can have is incredibly difficult to prove. After all, we all inherently know the power of a strong brand, but can we really measure that brand power and demonstrate the business impact it’s had? Equally, most of us are aware that only around 5% of B2B buyers are in market at any given time. So, should marketers focus just on that 5% and try and prove the return on every dollar or pound spent, or should we target those longer-term prospects who could yield huge returns, but just not today? We’d hazard a guess that most marketers know the importance of doing both.

With this backdrop, we invited a select group of B2B marketing leaders together for a roundtable in the B2B Marketing office in London. The conversation? From cost-centre to growth driver: how can marketing leaders future-proof their marketing department?

This roundtable was conducted under Chatham House Rules, so no names or companies will be shared in this write-up. However, we can share some of the main takeaways from the session.

Alignment with sales cannot be underplayed

This will come as no surprise to you, but, according to our guests, this remains the critical issue we need to tackle if we are going to truly demonstrate the value that marketing brings, and to be as effective as possible with our marketing budgets.

Ultimately, marketing teams are there to drive revenue. This is what CEOs and CFOs care about, and yet there’s still a tendency towards talking about impressions, clickthrough rates, and all the usual marketing metrics we know and love (or is it hate?).

According to one attendee, the metrics we are measured on should be the same as our colleagues in sales: revenue. According to another attendee, it’s not necessarily about being measured on exactly the same metrics as sales, but about having three or four key metrics which clearly demonstrate the value that marketing is having on revenue. Everything else can be left for internal, tactical discussions with other marketers.

The need to reposition marketing within the entire business

Another critical issue that our guests raised was the need for marketing to reaffirm the value it can bring to a business. In some cases, this could even become a full on re-education around the role of marketing.

As marketers, we know what marketing is there to do. It’s there to drive revenue. That’s why some of our guests stated the importance of sharing targets with sales. However, whether it’s due to marketing’s more traditional role in a business, or whether it’s down to a lack of understanding, it’s clear that if we’re going to truly become a growth-driver (and not a cost-centre), then we need to get the entire business to recognise that fact as well.

Repositioning marketing and tearing down outdated perceptions of what marketing is there to do and how it operates, therefore, is mission-critical.

ABM and sales enablement important areas to focus on

Our roundtable focused largely on challenges around working with sales and demonstrating value to the board, but two strategies that did come up were sales enablement and account-based marketing (ABM). Learn how ABM can help you align sales and marketing.

Whilst not everyone in the room claimed to be using these strategies, a good number of participants did mention their strategic value. Arguably, this is not surprising, given the more direct impact these strategies have on closing sales.

Whilst the value of brand-level thought leadership, for instance, will always have its place (however hard that place is to justify), the impact of sales enablement content is undeniable, and one that sales teams can clearly understand and see the value in. Investing in this strategy could be one such way that marketing leaders can help to build the partnership with sales and futureproof their marketing strategies.

In terms of ABM, it’s probably also not surprising that a targeted approach that focuses on critical accounts is going to be popular – especially when budgets are tight and under seemingly constant review.

AI has a role to play, but it’s a secondary one

It wouldn’t be a conversation about marketing in 2024 if someone didn’t mention artificial intelligence – and with good reason. The benefits are well known: greater efficiencies and more time freed up for strategic thinking. Read our latest report on ‘how tech marketers are boosting performance’.

Whilst some of those in the room mentioned how they’re using AI already in tracking the impact of marketing, all the way through to generating ideas for content, it’s clear that B2B marketing leaders are reluctant to add another suite of tools and metrics to their reporting – at least for now.

Ultimately, the bigger issue for marketers right now remains those issues we discussed above:

  1. Building partnerships with sales, based in shared KPIs and goals.
  2. Repositioning marketing as mission-critical growth driver, and not getting dragged into secondary tactical jobs.
  3. Ensuring marketing budget is spent in a way that can be clearly linked to ROI.

So, there’s plenty of work to do for marketers in 2024. The opportunity therein, however, is enormous. If we can reposition ourselves properly within the business, marketers can finally shake off their outdated perception, and finally get the recognition as a growth function.

Practical next steps marketing leaders can take

Amongst the guests of our roundtable were two representatives from SPRING Production – our partner for the roundtable, and an agency which specialises in implementing marketing production as cost-efficiently and as effectively as possible.

Based on the challenges that emerged from our roundtable, and their own industry experience, SPRING Production recommend that marketers consider taking the following steps:

  1. Do more with less. This is a constant challenge for many in B2B marketing, whether it’s stagnant budgets at one end, or the need to be active in an ever-growing number of channels and activities at the other (or both). According to Austen Donnellan, Business Development Director, UK, SPRING Productions, “We use a number of ways to help clients achieve more with less, from systems and tools which allow marketers to re-purpose content more and so avoid the need to create new campaigns time and again, through to a bespoke model of production that optimises the process to deliver much needed cost savings.”
  2. Build a team of generalists. The proliferation of B2B channels and increasing demands of the job are stretching the capabilities of marketing leaders to breaking point. Personal development, business growth and effectiveness may be better served by having a generalist view of marketing, understanding a broader range of needs and requirements but in sufficient depth to direct and manage the delivery through those with a more granular grasp, through in-housing or outsourcing.
  3. Educate internal stakeholders. In many organisations, the role, impact and benefits of marketing as a contributor to growth needs a reboot. The need to engage and educate internal stakeholders, departments and, above all, the board, is as vital in many ways to the external targeting and marcomms. The full impact of the latter can often only be realised when the former is in place.
  4. Break down silos. Content and campaigns are more effective, more engaging and have greater impact and outcomes when sales and marketing are aligned. Too much effort, time and budget is wasted on work that isn’t aligned with what the sales team require. This problem is in many ways as old as the hills, but overcoming it is vital to future-proof marketing within an organisation.
  5. Test and learn. We are facing a challenging world, dynamic marketplace and the need to work at ever increasing pace with shorter timelines. But the results are simply not working – research confirms that 75% of B2B creative is not effective (source: Marketing Week) and delivering zero impact on the bottom line. In challenging times and the pressure to deliver quickly, it’s actually more beneficial to take the time to test and learn about content and campaigns before committing to them fully.

Join Propolis, our global community for B2B marketing leaders

Related Articles

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on your website. Read more about cookies policy.