B2B Marketers Take Their Seat at the Table

In 2004, I was part of research project with a professor at the Kellogg School of Management and the CMO Council that sought to understand what CMO’s believed to be critical for their success.  The most common response was a seat at the table with other senior executives.

Four years ago, I was part of another research effort focused on the CMO’s top priorities, and number one on the list was to be viewed by their peers as strategic thinkers.   Finally, I believe the day has come for that to happen.

Marty Homlish, the CMO of HP believes the line between business and consumer marketing is disappearing.  Homlish states,  “ Behind every B-to-B company is a consumer.  The way you communicate to that person is as an informed consumer.”

Technology has allowed work to follow us home and our home life to the office.  It has blurred the line between our personal and business personas.  The concept of being ‘at work’ is now more a state of mind rather than a physical location or particular time of day.

If business buyers – who were once thought of only as rational decision makers – now need to be communicated with as informed and emotional consumers who no longer fit our past perception of work hours and locations, what might this mean for the future of business-to-business marketing?

To answer that question, one must first understand the difference between how business and consumer marketing operate.  According to a Booz & Co and the ANA in The New B2B Marketing Imperative study, B2B marketing has primarily taken an “inside out” approach, focused on the needs of the company and accounts rather than customers.

By contrast, 85% of B2C marketers, who take an “outside in” approach said they were involved in growth initiative decisions which are considered to be strategic such as new market entry, customer relationships and market driven product development.

Additionally, 42% of B2C marketers play a key role in building customer relationships, versus 8% of business marketers.  B2B marketers said that “Customers are rarely driving the process and their input is seldom integrated from end to end.”

If today’s business buyers really are “educated consumers” as Homlish suggests, then business marketers can no longer be left out of customer and product  conversations.  It also means that organizations that target business buyers, who has given lip service to transitioning from being “product led” (inside out) to “customer focused” (outside in) now need to act.  And the tip of the spear for driving that change – is marketing.

By better understanding and influencing the needs, desires and emotional drivers of individual business consumers, marketers will be in the strategic conversation and lead the transition.  This is the key to unlocking the executive suite.

However, the organization is not just going to give marketers a seat at the table and there is a good possibility that executives don’t get it.   As one of the marketing directors said in the study; “Marketing is just not in the DNA of senior management.”  You will have to make it happen.

The study concludes that; “Core marketing capabilities – those that directly influence customers – have the highest correlation to market share growth.”  Senior executives may not understand marketing but they do understand growth.

Published by

scott.gillum

Scott is the Founder of Carbon Design Co and the former head of the Washington, DC office of gyro, the largest B2B agency in the world. Prior to joining gyro, he spent a dozen years at a professional services firm that specializes in B2B sales and marketing. Scott also writes a monthly column for Media Post and has contributed to three books on B2B Sales and Marketing. Follow him on Twitter @sgillum

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