Being Different B2B Marketers

14th January 2018

In my most recent posts, I’ve explored why and how we can think and do differently in B2B marketing.  Yet, have we ever considered why we became B2B marketers in the first place? Some of us may have ended up here by chance or through good luck, but the majority of us made a conscious decision to go into B2B marketing. Do we remember why? We may have been seduced by the technology or the tactics but I suspect we saw opportunity, the opportunity for marketing to be different in markets where the profession has not fundamentally changed in a very long time.

Being different in B2B marketing© SergeyTay on iStock

These past few years, though, we’ve been under a lot of pressure. As our products and services become ever more undifferentiated and all the information our customers may have ever wanted now lies a click away, our organisations want and expect marketing to provide far more than ever before, but with a lot fewer resources. In too many cases, that ‘more’ isn’t even actually clearly expressed, but – in marked contrast to the previous decade – we’re now expected to actively report on marketing performance and deliver results. That pressure has led us to become more and more focused on the short-term, tactical elements of our marketing plans.

Do we even know what results we are supposed to deliver? Many of us will say ‘leads’ or ‘revenue’. But are we making assumptions? I’m not saying that lead generation and revenue growth is unimportant, of course it’s important if our companies are to be sustainable for the long term. But ‘selling stuff’ is not a strategy. And without strategy, we will never be able to fulfill our potential and contribute to the wider business dialogue, much less achieve the influence we crave.

Essential steps to be different

Isn’t it time to be different? Granted, change is difficult. There are always challenges and resistance, even from our leadership. For B2B marketing, change most likely won’t happen quickly or easily. It may not even start with our marketing leadership. But change will happen and we can either drive it, be a part of it, or be left behind. It is our choice.

That choice involves having absolute clarity on who we are and who we want to be as B2B marketers. If that involves going back to basics, learning and even re-learning what this profession of ours is all about, then that is what we must do.

We must acknowledge that if we want to be different, we must think and do different as well. Like admitting we want change and being willing to do what it takes to embody that change. Like no matter what else is going on within our organisations, taking responsibility for becoming that change. Like making sure we learn not just the tactical skills, but the leadership skills we need for a different kind of marketing career success.

How can we be different?

Being different is ultimately not about what we do as marketers, but how we do it. As with thinking and doing different, the first step is to make some conscious decisions about how we work:

  • No excuses – Focus your attention on what you can do, not on what you can’t. There will always be obstacles and those who prefer to maintain the status quo. Seek and provide clarity about what’s possible, instead of what’s impossible.
  • Prioritise – Make choices about what marketing does and doesn’t do; there will never be enough budget or buy-in or time. Concentrate on what’s important instead of what’s urgent. Only do those activities that provide the outcomes the business actually wants. Learn to say No.
  • Be future-orientated – Look towards the future, not the past. Have clarity for what you want to become. Be ruthless about what you personally need and what your team needs to get there.
  • Have courage – Take risks. The new and different always involves risk and the possibility for failure. Do it anyways; the first step is always the hardest one. Start small but think bigger and be more. Better to beg forgiveness than ask for permission.
  • Always be learning – There is always something new to learn. Consistently make the time to learn something new and challenging, something that pushes you outside of your comfort zone. Learn from those both within and outside your company – customers, competitors, those more junior as well senior to you.

Being different B2B marketers

If we are to Be Different we must continually ask tough questions of ourselves and those around us:

  1. Do I have a clear vision of who I want to be as a B2B marketer? In other words, where am I today and where do I want to be tomorrow? Plot your career path. This is not a list of job titles, these are the progressive outcomes you want to achieve in your career. Start with your own personal WHY. My 3D Marketing System is just as effective for individuals as it is for the marketing function.
  2. Am I fluent in the marketing fundamentals as well as the tactics and tools of my profession? Perform a personal SWOT analysis, understand your strengths and be brutally honest about the areas that you need to improve and what further knowledge you need.
  3. What additional marketing qualifications or other learning do I need? Your SWOT analysis will highlight those areas for further learning. While the fashion of the moment may be to learn ‘on the job’ you will most likely have to go outside your organisation for this learning. Do your research and take the courses or achieve the qualifications you need to become the marketer you want to be.
  4. Have I learned something new lately? Take on a new challenge. It can be anything and doesn’t have to be related to work or to marketing. Even the attempt to become proficient at something new, especially if it takes you out of your comfort zone, will stimulate your thinking and your imagination.
  5. Am I able to achieve what I want as a B2B marketer in this organisation? There may be too many things within your particular organisation over which you have no influence or control. You may feel like marketing is going backwards instead of forwards. You may have a new boss who just doesn’t ‘get it’ or there may be no real opportunity for progression. Your colleagues may not have the mind-set or skills to be different. If that’s the case, don’t hesitate. Go somewhere else. Go somewhere you will be celebrated instead of merely tolerated. And do it now.

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I explore these and other issues further in my new book B2B Marketing Strategy: differentiate, develop and deliver lasting customer engagement – now available from Kogan Page publishers and Amazon everywhere.

B2B Marketing Strategy


Heidi Taylor is an award-winning senior marketing strategist with 25 years' experience of helping organisations engage with their customers, creating impact and differentiation. She is a sought-after speaker at marketing conferences in the UK and internationally, and regularly contributes articles to marketing journals in print and online. You can follow her on Twitter @TaylorMadeInKew.

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