Posted by Alan Edwards ● 13-Feb-2018 09:00:00

The fearless B2B marketer or time to stop and think?

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I was taken aback by a recent announcement. This may have been because of my age, or because I’m a closet luddite? Who knows, but most likely it’s a fear that the world I know is starting to move faster than me! The announcement? The rise of ‘The Fearless Marketer’! It’s the theme for the 2018 Marketing Nation event, held by Marketo.

Think about that for a moment. Fearless is brave, unafraid, gutsy, heroic, intrepid, courageous. Wow! Haven’t B2B marketers enough to contend with, without becoming Fearless?

I have to say this bothered me (sorry, I know, Luddite). From my own experience I have seen B2B marketers being pretty fearless for the last decade. Often times too fearless for their own good and I wonder whether it has been fearlessness, or fear?

Amongst much that has changed for the B2B Marketer the most noticeable is accountability. Research shows the extent to which CEOs distrust marketing and now expect very clear returns on the vast sums invested. The B2B Marketing leader is now fully in the headlights! And will our CEOs appreciate us becoming even more fearless?

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The problem I feel is this. That marketing technology has stepped in as the ‘snake oil’ that will solve the revenue ills of marketing. Marketing fearlessness has driven rapid adoption in the hope that the ills will be cured, and marketing can unequivocally prove their contribution. Sadly, this hasn’t been the case. Huge technology investments lie semi-implemented. CEOs have been sold the potential, made the further investment, and seen no further progress. The cure is not going to be yet more technology, or more features in existing technology. The cure will be marketing having a ‘mea culpa’ moment with the CEO.

A recent discussion group of marketing and sales leaders that I ran looked at the marketing revenue issue. The group cited the fact that marketing is seldom at the table during business planning and thus able to properly position, and attribute, the marketing contribution to growth. And the number one solution? Marketing MUST reengage in the business planning / strategy process.

So how do you reengage? Here are a few tips from the discussion group:

  1. Where does the business strategy expect growth to come from? For example, new markets, new products, new customers, all of the above.
  2. What separate and distinct contribution will marketing and sales play in the growth i.e. who does what, and when. Think about the relevant timing differences between marketing and sales and their respective ability to make an impact.
  3. Determine what to measure and agree these measurements. Be very aware that in many cases the old standard metric of leads can be largely irrelevant. Accept an arbitrary lead goal and you may have lost before you start.
  4. Be realistic, do not over commit. In my experience a CEO will value honesty, backed up by a valid argument, over agreeing to fail. Avoid being the ‘yes’ person. Consider putting some budget on account while you better prove the return.
  5. Finally, be realistic about what is likely to work. In most B2B situations a series of vanity metrics like visits, follows, shares and the tactics that drive these won’t move the dial. For B2B the following is mostly true, the sales process may begin online but it will always end offline through a salesperson. It is always based heavily on, or dependent on, relationships. People to people. Tactics that are building real relationships and the metrics that serve these may be the better choice.

Whether this is luddite thinking I don’t know. What I do know is that if as B2B marketers we are to become even more ‘fearless’ then I think we need to think very hard and make sure that our leadership want us to be more fearless!


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Topics: B2B Tech PR, b2b marketer