Seventy-one percent of B2B marketers said that digital marketing and technological skill sets will be required for their roles in the next three to five years, according to an Association of National Advertisers (ANA)/Business Marketing Association (BMA) study released at the ANA/BMA16: Masters of B2B Marketing Conference in Chicago. However, a mere 7% of those polled said they have effective processes in place for capturing data on buyer behavior, attitudes and engagement.
“Our study shows that B2B marketers have much to offer, but that message is not getting through to the right people within their own organizations,” said ANA President and CEO Bob Liodice. “These marketers need to implement growth leadership initiatives, put forth a clear vision of their brands and develop strategies to remove barriers.”
However, the study also revealed that less than half of those surveyed (42%) said they even have a seat at the senior management table, and only 37% said they enjoy strong endorsement from senior management. In addition, 35% of respondents said senior management is still focused on the product and price and not on insights into the customer.
The online survey of 237 B2B marketers was conducted by the ANA and its research partner, GfK, in March 2016. It included BMA members, as well as ANA members in B2B companies.
The ANA/BMA provided a set of recommendations for B2B marketers along with the study, and several featured speakers that presented during the three-day conference echoed these points as crucial elements to marketing success:
- Partner with sales to drive business growth. Sydney Sloan, CMO for Alfresco Software, presented a session along with Peter Isaacson, CMO of Demandbase, on her company’s account-based marketing and predictive analytics journey. Sloan indicated that she and her marketing team needed to sell the idea to sales, and it did not happen overnight. “We had to show them where the revenue was going to come from,” Sloan said. “It took longer than we thought.” The sales reps had to pick specific accounts for the initial test, and she said many “dug their heels in.” After nine months, the regions that “did the homework” [of identifying accounts] were compared with those that didn’t, and the results were more than enough to rally the holdouts on the sales team.
- Inspire the entire organization to build business growth. Russell Findlay, CMO of Hiscox, an insurance company, talked about his company’s brand positioning process and marketing approach. Findlay said buy-in across the organization is crucial. “Marketing can drive revenue, strategy, culture and momentum,” he said, adding that marketers can earn their organizations’ respect “by being great at people, marketing alchemy and the numbers.” Findlay said B2B marketers need to understand the drivers of their business and where marketing adds value. “Think like a business leader first and a marketer second.”
- Shift the focus of strategy from product to customer. “The customer is always first,” said Ana Villegas, Marketing Director for North America Commercial Business and Marketing Strategy, at Dell. “Digital transformation starts and ends with the customer,” she said. As part of the case study she presented, Dell worked with its B2B agency to cement its customer focus on the website, Villegas said. “[We had a] dynamic content optimization option that let [the customer] build their own path, depending on what he is consuming. The customer picks what he needs rather than you telling him.”
- Prove ROI to ensure marketing is perceived as a competitive advantage. Measuring campaign results elevates marketing’s contribution to business growth and enables it to be perceived as a competitive advantage. At Dell, engagement on the website increased 20% in terms of unique visitors, pages viewed and downloads, while costs decreased by 50%, according to Villegas. In addition, the metrics evolved as well, and her team now scores what it calls “high-value engagement,” a KPI developed by the analytics team, as its definitive measure.
- Acquire the tools and digital skill sets needed to compete today. Linda Boff, CMO of GE, said experimentation is necessary with new technology and digital platforms. During the audience Q&A, she was asked for advice on social media for companies that “still struggle to share their stories.” Boff said: “The risk of not being out there and not sharing your stories [on social] is much higher than the risk of doing it.”