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B2B insights

Roundtable findings: Marketing leaders know what it takes to be a commercial marketer, but one area in particular needs attention

Over the course of this Propolis community sprint, we’re seeking to bring our members together to answer one question: How can marketing leaders build trust and influence with fellow members of the C-Suite in order to enhance their strategic and commercial impact?

So, rather than beat around the bush, we kicked things off with a leaders-only roundtable to try and answer that very question. Those in attendance will know just how highly subscribed this event was, with representation from technology, professional services, real estate, and everything in between.

In short, the answer that emerged was that it’s important to stop talking the language of marketing, and start talking the language of finance and sales. In other words, the way to solve this issue of trust and influence is to become what we’ve been calling ‘a commercial marketer’.

To recap, we recently defined the term ‘commercial marketer’ as follows: “A marketer whose primary skillset and value is in their ability to think strategically and drive measurable business growth through marketing. A commercial marketer thinks about the wider business objectives first and foremost, and marketing tactics and specialisms second. By comparison, a commercial marketer is not a marketer who is primarily occupied by achieving tactical wins, or results in one isolated metric.”

With that in mind, we wanted to understand exactly ‘where’ B2B marketing leaders are today on their journey to becoming commercial marketers. Are marketing leaders fully equipped to be commercial marketers, or completely lacking?

In order to answer this, our host (and Propolis Strategy Expert), Shane Redding, was joined by design-thinking mastermind and Propolis Ambassador, Scott Stockwell, to investigate.

The five key areas a commercial marketer must be involved in:

Before the roundtable, we identified five key areas that a commercial marketer should be focused on and involved in, in order to drive genuine commercial value. At a top level, these are:

  1. Business and strategy (why you’re trading)
  2. Product and portfolio (what you’re selling)
  3. Customers, community and team (who you’re serving)
  4. Marketing, industry and profession (where you’re trading)
  5. Brand, campaigns and channel (how you’re trading)

These sections were presented on a chart in a room, with each segment covered one-by-one over the course of the session. As we discussed each segment, roundtable participants could place a dot on the inner, middle or outer ring in that segment, in order to identify their level of strength in this area. We’ll share the full dataset in a report that will be shared in the coming weeks, but we couldn’t wait to share the initial findings.

What did we learn?

Looking at the spider diagram below, we can see where B2B marketing leaders feel their strengths are, and perhaps where we need to develop further.

This diagram, which is based off of the collective input of around 25 senior B2B marketing leaders, shows the modal (most frequently selected option) for each segment:

To clarify, the closer you are to the centre of this chart, the better placed you are to be a commercial marketer. The further out you go, the further removed you are from this critical area of business, and, therefore, the less likely you are to be well placed to be a commercial marketer.

The good news, then, is that B2B marketing leaders clearly feel close to the customer and their campaigns. Using the methodology outlined above, we can see that most B2B marketing leaders:

  • Are 100% responsible for setting the brand and campaign strategy.
  • Work very closely with sales (often through ABM).
  • Are highly involved in their channel strategy.
  • Frequently spend time with their customers.
  • Are well connected with customer communities.
  • And feel they have a skilled and capable marketing team.

Some of these points are probably not surprising (of course marketing leaders are highly involved in setting their brand strategy!), but it’s encouraging to see that the relationship with sales appears to be being resolved. As everyone knows, the strained or disconnected relationship with sales has been a critical issue for marketers for years, so the fact that most marketing leaders feel they now work very closely with sales is great to see.

In some instances (though not always), it’s clear that account-based marketing (ABM) is the preferred strategy for building this relationship and delivering revenue growth.

Slightly more worrying, perhaps, is the fact that marketing leaders don’t feel as close to the market and the overall business strategy as they could be. Using the methodology outlined, we discovered that most marketing leaders:

  • Have an ‘adequate’ amount of insight on their market and industry.
  • Are only ‘somewhat’ engaged with their profession.
  • Only work ‘moderately’ closely with the CEO and CGO.
  • Only join the board table by invite or request.
  • And, perhaps most shockingly of all, only estimate that they’re responsible for around 40-69% of their actual marketing strategy!

But the number one area that B2B marketers feel least involved in? Product and portfolio. In other words, the majority of B2B marketing leaders claim that:

1. They don’t formally input into product/service development

2. They don’t have any formal input into product pricing.

3. They don’t inform their company’s portfolio in any way.

    Of course, there are some that do, but the majority don’t.

    Shane Redding commented: “The increasing complexity and sheer range of a modern company’s portfolio means this has become a specialist function outside marketing, so this is not a surprise. However, this separation means that we have to work harder than ever to ensure the essential knowledge and skills that marketing bring to creating and converting demand are applied early enough to make a positive commercial impact.”

    The great news is that B2B marketing leaders are clear on how marketing needs to evolve, and recognise the importance of these areas. The next job? Making the strides necessary to evolve in those areas we’ve identified.

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