The State of B2B Marketing – Summing Up 2013

After an intensive year of training numerous marketing professionals and advising to a good number of B2B technology companies, here is my executive’s summery about the state of B2B Marketing 2013:

Marketing has become way too tactical. In many cases it’s chasing advertising campaigns and expensive outsourced services that know nothing and couldn’t care less about their clients’ technology, industry, or business.

Companies need to realize there are no shortcuts. I’m happy to note some are getting there. Especially those that have noticed they’ve left the money hose open on their marketing tactics vendors’ grass – with no sufficient results.

Marketing is process and system oriented and should be measured by the ability to build, manage, maintain and grow demand generation systems. Too many companies still measure marketing only for brand awareness – for too long.

Marketing professionals work in an ever-changing, multi-interfaced, hyper-variable environment. For some reason, companies think marketing people need to know everything from birth, not to mention the ridiculous recruiting ads that show most companies have no idea about what marketing is.  Marketing people can’t know everything there is to know if they don’t receive proper training. Reading how to’s doesn’t get them very far on strategy and management.

The amount of content pouring into the web is burdening most companies’ businesses. Not only because of its cost but more because of the cost of breaking through the noise created by those who preach companies they need to produce more content. B2B shouldn’t behave like retail and don’t need to “spray and pray”. Go for the small numbers, tightly focused content and relationships. You’ll get there when you start listening to your clients and prospects, who in most cases will tell you what they need.

Social Media is not a marketing tactic nor a technology – it’s a core form of communication that exists since the dawn of humanity and is here to stay. Many companies neglected this form of communication and still do, blinded by the corporate shrine-walls that keep them looking inside, feasting on self-satisfaction. B2B companies practice extra hubris leaning on the thought they are academically superior. My warm advice is – wake-up and smell the coffee on the streets of a world that has shifted its center of gravity for social reasons.

To CEOs

Marketing is a core growth generator of every company pass the start-up phase. It’s not about decoration.

Your top marketing manager (whatever their title) has to be aware of the organization’s business strategy and informed about changes – if not present in top management meetings – on a regular basis.

Otherwise, marketing might do an excellent job in the wrong direction. Besides wasting resources, this might cause severe damage.

To Marketing Managers

The context of Marketing is the organization’s business strategy. Good marketing acts only in context.

Marketing strategy is derived from the business context. Hence, it creates focus.

All the rest is derived from this focus while maintaining professional, team and personal focus.

To the software industry

No, development can’t instruct marketing or substitute for it.

The good news

I’ve been training marketing professionals for five years now. The lead course is about Social Media Marketing and BI. At the beginning I had quite a few freelance and some B2B MarCom employees. Then it shifted to MarCom and marketing managers of some level. During 2013 I got the same titles but the general level of ability was rising impressively. The great surprise arrived lately – more than half of the participants are marketing VPs and for the first time a CEO landed in the room.

50% VPs is already a big surprise, but a CEO got everyone curious. I assume most of the people in the room, me included, were thinking “ok, another person who owns a one-man business, calling himself a CEO”. We were wrong.

I wanted to know why all these VPs and the CEO arrived and why now. His answer sums it up pretty well, “I realized a CEO needs to know way more about marketing than most of us think they need to know – if at all”. What made him realize that was harsh competition – the business. After checking every corner in his company to make sure they are adapting properly, he realized the missing link – marketing strategy knowledge and tactical/operational management know-how. Not outsourced but rather in-house, from the top.

I’ll raise a toast for that.

Wishing you a better marketing 2014. Cheers.

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