Is B2B marketing finally having its lightbulb moment?

19th June 2016

B2B Marketing in association with Circle Research have just released their High Performance B2B Marketing benchmarking report. The report found that 94 % of B2B marketers surveyed felt there are four key elements vital to marketing success – brand, strategy, customers and measurement.

The evidence is in and its undeniable. If we weren’t sure of it before, we should be now. As B2B marketers we simply must refocus ourselves on the fundamentals of marketing:

Brand, Strategy, Customers

For years now, too many of us have been completely focused on tactics and channels, with little or no alignment to our brand, our strategy (if we have one!) or our customers. In his column of 11th May, Mark Ritson calls this the ‘tactification of marketing’ and if it’s any consolation to us B2B marketers, it’s happening in the B2C world as well.

Might this be our ‘lightbulb’ moment?

The survey findings shouldn’t come as a revelation to any marketer. Brand, strategy and customers are the foundation for all marketing activity. This is not rocket science, it’s Marketing 101, what all properly trained marketers should know and understand – no matter the business environment. And yet, even amongst the 1/3 of respondents self-classifying as highly successful performers, there’s clearly a disconnect between what we may know and what we may actually do.

These are just a few of my thoughts on the key findings=>

  1. Brand

A startling 57% of high performers and 75% of the rest are working without a clearly defined brand, and even fewer actually have a brand strategy:

Brand

The report states that this is ‘leading to an inability to deliver a consistent and meaningful brand experience’.  What this means is that without a deep understanding of our brand and strategy, there is simply no way we (or anyone else in the organisation) will be able to deliver a coherent, impactful, on-going story over time about who we are as a business and why it matters.

  1. Strategy

Only 68% of high performers have a marketing strategy and goals that are aligned to the business:

Strategy

You might think 2/3 is a pretty good finding. But if you follow my blog, you’ll know that I find the disconnect between strategy and tactics deeply troubling. And I believe this misunderstanding about strategy is more widespread across all levels than we might think.

  1. Customers

How well do we know our customers in B2B? According to the research, not very well:

Customer

Knowing our customers has never been more important. Our customers’ buying behaviours have fundamentally and forever changed. The buying cycle is no longer linear and we must rethink not only how we engage our customers but how they engage with us.

  1. Measurement

According to the survey, only 17% of marketers are able to measure marketing’s contribution to the wider business. This isn’t surprising as it highlights the ongoing debate about ROI and marketing’s continuing efforts to deliver ‘value’.

Technology is providing us with an awful lot of data. And yet too often we don’t look beyond the numbers to understand what it all means. I continue to believe we are measuring the wrong things. And if, as this report suggests, we don’t understand our brands, we don’t have a strategy, and our customers are an enigma, how do we know what we want to achieve or what we’re really trying to measure?

What’s next?

This report should be a wake-up call for all B2B marketers. It highlights that we know what’s required for marketing success, but suggests that our marketing focus remains elsewhere.

If we didn’t realise it before, we must acknowledge it now and do something about it. And we can start by getting back to the marketing fundamentals, completely rethinking what we do, how we do it, who we engage with, and most importantly, why it matters.

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I hold ½ and full day workshops tailored for you and your teams to develop marketing strategy and create subsequent plans that make a difference. Please do contact me if you’d like to talk!


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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