How to keep your B2B marketing job for the next 5 years

Chris Fell

Chris is founder and managing director of BeInbound, a marketing training and advisory firm who helps B2B CMOs and their teams with their transformation to an effective, digital, inbound focused team. chris.fell@beinbound.com.au, via LinkedIn or go to www.beinbound.com.au

B2B marketers are in the hot seat. As the customers’ buying journey shifts online, B2B marketers must exert influence and build trust with their prospects in a new way.

Sales teams are engaging later and later in the buying process. As a result, the marketer’s role is increasingly important in generating revenue. It’s welcome news for marketers who struggle to get a seat at the management table, but much like any opportunity to shine, there’s also a responsibility to deliver results.

The marketing function must transform itself to a digitally savvy, online oriented, inbound marketing machine. For those marketing leaders who take up the challenge, and actively transform their marketing and skills and stay ahead of the Tsunami of disruption bearing down on the marketing function, the opportunities are dazzling.

The Marketing Performance Gap, an excellent B2B marketing book by Paul Roetzer, describes the emergence of a significant marketing performance gap for many firms around three components:

  • The ability to rebuild a strategy, plan and tactics that are effective in the new digital, increasingly inbound marketplace. To also re-engineer the process of generating qualified leads that result in revenue.
  • The ability to reskill the team, or find and keep new hires, who are able to straddle the smorgasbord of new skills required to execute digital inbound marketing campaigns that deliver quality leads.
  • The effective use of technology. Marketers struggle to select, implement and use marketing technology platforms that massively improve the cost of customer acquisition and improve productivity.

Roetzer argues senior marketers must address each of these performance gaps to build a successful marketing operation.

At the same time, marketing agencies, a traditional source of skills to bridge internal gaps, are also struggling to change towards hybrid digital-centric agencies. The old days of $5000 per month PR, paid search and SEO retainers are rapidly disappearing in favour of agencies that provide services across the full lead generation funnel.

So what are some of skills B2B marketing managers have to source?

As your website now sits at the heart of your lead generation efforts, Web orientated skills feature high on the list. With the shift in B2B buyer behaviour to online education, research and decision-making, content creation also becomes vital. Being able to write well is a core skill, perhaps better described as an aptitude, and one that is harder to teach than "marketing".

Another key challenge for many is the rise of marketing analytics. The ability to design, measure and analyse data sets is one many marketers have never been taught.

But hiring the right skills is akin to loose jigsaw pieces in a box. Without a solid strategy and plan that works in the digital, online inbound world of your buyer, assembling those pieces into a cohesive and effective whole is challenging.

So here are six skills groups senior B2B marketers need to ace:

Rebuilding effective strategy in the digital age

  • Understanding your buyer's problems and re-building buyer personas
  • Positioning and messaging across the full buyer’s journey
  • Modelling your funnel ‘maths’ - how many visitors, leads, sales ready leads (SRLs) and customers are required to meet your business goals
  • Content generation and distribution strategy that connects with your buyers
  • Social media strategy

Content creation

  • Content development over the duration of the marketing and sales funnel (often the buyer’s journey is 12+ months)
  • Website copywriting
  • Lead generation campaign copywriting such as landing pages and emails
  • Blog topic selection, writing and editing
  • High-value content writing (whitepapers, ebook, for example)
  • Development of highly engaging content such as infographics and video that cut through the online noise
  • Social media sharing content that drive up engagement

Getting found, building awareness

  • SEO keyword research, analysis and implementation
  • Guest blogging research, negotiation and maintenance
  • Social media strategy development, building, participation and monitoring
  • PR/social PR planning, integration with social media and execution
  • Email engagement with existing contacts and clients

Deepening engagement

  • Designing and building lead nurturing (workflow) campaigns that pull leads down the sales funnel to become sales ready
  • Segmentation and list management
  • Personalisation of campaigns
  • Lead scoring design and implementation

Marketing automation

  • Technical competence with marketing automation platforms
  • Basic (at least) HTML skills
  • CRM integration

Measurement

  • Closed loop reporting: How are our results tracking against our business plan?
  • Sources reporting: Where do my visitor and leads come from?
  • ROI measurement, analysis and reporting
  • Keyword and ranking analytics
  • On and off page optimisation analysis and reporting
  • Blog analytics
  • Reach analytics
  • Social media participation analytics
  • Email open rate analysis
  • Call-to-action testing
  • Landing page testing
  • Competitor tracking and comparative analytics

It’s a daunting list. And one of the biggest dangers B2B marketers face, with so many tactics at their disposal, is the absence of clearly articulated strategy and plan. That leads to “random acts of marketing” not tied back to a cohesive whole, and a world where the cost of customer acquisition actually rises.

Building a clear plan and communicating it across the marketing and sales team is an important early priority. With a clearly articulated strategy tied back to the business’ objectives, B2B marketers will be much better placed to develop the tactics and plan that will deliver the leads they need to hit targets. It’s the first vital step in building a performance-driven marketing organisation.

Tags: digital marketing, B2B marketing, marketing careers

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