B2B marketing: 4 ways the role is evolving

B2B marketing has fundamentally changed over the past few years. No longer a support act for sales, B2B marketers are now needed and expected to play a crucial role in the sales cycle, driving personalisation and the customer experience.

The changing face of B2B marketing

Gone are the days when events, brochures, websites and ebooks dominated a B2B marketer’s tool kit. Today, you can add social media, analytics, CRM, account-based marketing (ABM), direct marketing, automation and paid search to that list.

The upside of this channel proliferation is that more of the buyer journey can be completed before a prospect reaches the sales team. Marketers have dozens of opportunities to guide and educate prospects towards specific products, before they even qualify for sales. Plus, those channels are producing data, which makes it easier to find out more about prospects at the same time as attributing ROI to marketing efforts.

However, marketers still have to combine all these channels to form a cohesive customer journey. That’s not easy. According to Forrester and CMO Council research, 86% of B2B marketers say they struggle to execute personalisation across the entire buyer journey.

But it’s not data that’s the problem. With more channels to exploit and more customer touchpoints than ever before, we’re generating tonnes of data. The problem is connecting data to actual actions. You can have all the data in the world and still no idea what to do with it.

These are the tectonic plates that are shifting, redefining what it means to be a B2B marketer today. Here’s four ways the job description has changed:

1. B2B marketers need to act more like salespeople

B2B marketers are moving away from speculative marketing campaigns based on past performance, and closer to laser-focused marketing based on data-driven insight. Because of this, you now know which assets prospects have downloaded, which assets they’re clicking on in real-time and which materials have guided prospects further down the sales funnel.

When you’ve got such a clear view of marketing’s contribution to a sale, its ROI becomes a lot easier to measure, which means marketers are increasingly being allocated sales targets. This shift towards analytical marketing is only going to accelerate.

2. B2B marketers need to be technology specialists

If marketers want to craft cutting-edge campaigns, they need the best tools. So a big part of the job is keeping up with the latest technology – understanding what’s available, determining whether it’s the right fit for your strategy and learning how to put it to work.

3. B2B marketers need to be data analysts

Each of these new marketing tools create new streams of customer data – and there’s gold in that data, you just need to know how to mine it. You can learn which campaigns are working, how much pipeline you need to ensure coverage, the measurable impact marketing is having on sales and much more.

This means the job of a marketer is now to make sure data isn’t siloed and disjointed – that the dots are connected and the data can be used – otherwise the customer experience can become disjointed too. Customers are savvy and expect businesses to know which marketing assets they’ve consumed. If your marketing channels aren’t communicating and you repeat a step in the customer journey, chances are you’ll alienate your buyer.

4. B2B marketers need to be change managers

New channels and data sources represent a big opportunity to create a seamless customer experience. However, this requires new ways of thinking and working. A big part of a marketer’s job is now to inspire and effect change. You have to:

  • Be visionary. You need to show the business there’s a better way of working – using research, demonstrations, revenue projections and statistics to back up claims.

  • Drive the change. At the beginning, that means being the person that pushes people to adopt new marketing methodologies. But it also means challenging fellow marketers to continuously experiment and refine their processes.

  • Be an evangelist. Being vocal is vital. Attribute sales to marketing activity wherever you can and celebrate it. Gather evidence that proves marketing’s value, and collate those results in an ongoing business case so you can defend your work to the hilt whenever management takes a look at budgets.

  • Innovate. Never stop experimenting and never stop learning. Once you’ve got proven marketing methodologies in one area, look for opportunities to apply them elsewhere. What works for outbound marketing may help you nurture existing accounts too.

In many ways, data-hungry B2B marketers have never had it better. You’ve got more ways to connect with customers and more information about those interactions than ever before. It’s just a matter of juggling these added responsibilities of sales, technology, data and change

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