B2B Marketers: It’s Time to Become a Growth Engine

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For B2B companies to grow, their marketing organizations need to grow up

By Maryanne Hancock, Rodger Boehm, Candace Lun Plotkin

If B2B companies are serious about growth, it’s time they got serious about their marketing. Marketing needs to take on the challenge of becoming a growth engine for companies. That means CMOs have to step up and lead.

The trends that are rocking B2C companies are just as relevant to the B2B world: multiplying customer touch points, changing customer behaviors, massive floods of big data. And like their B2C counterparts, B2B companies need to put the customer at the center of everything they do.

B2B companies are clamoring for the skills and insight marketers can provide. In interviews with more 80 leaders in B2B businesses, we saw three clear needs:

  • A deeper understanding of their customers (and their customers’ customers)
  • Reliable market intelligence to identify where to compete, particularly across digital channels where there’s lots of growth
  • Methods for defining a product’s value and credibly communicating that to customers

But too many marketers aren’t delivering. A wide gap often exists between the importance given to strategic marketing activities such as gathering customer and market insights, and how well companies believe they are actually executing on them. B2B companies don’t want CMOs who can just run events or roll out ad programs; they want leaders who can drive business value and more sales. Marketers need to shift from delivering campaign success to delivering business success.

It’s not easy to be B2B

B2C marketers have generally outstripped their B2B cousins in adjusting to the new customer decision journey. To be fair, marketers in the B2B realm labor under some unique complexities and weaknesses that are tripping them up.

For one, B2B players don’t just need to understand their customers; they need to understand their customer’s customers. Also, procurement has become much more sophisticated and demanding, creating a big challenge for vendors in quantifying and communicating the value their product offers.

As if that weren’t bad enough, the marketing function in many B2B companies often suffers from a deficit of talent and credibility at a moment when it needs to stretch its tentacles deep into the company.

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