customer experience, 2014 Must-Do: Become Agile in B2B Marketing

What do you need in B2B marketing this year? OK, we know. Sales. Leads. Conversions. ROI. Pats on the back from those occupying the C-suite.

But to eat those slices of cake, you need to be agile first, said Carla Johnson, principal at Type A Communications, a Parker, Colo.-based firm that provides marketing strategies.

"Why, how and what marketers need to perform in our roles has never changed so much or at such a significant rate as it is now," Johnson told CMSWire.

In this, the second part of our "2014 Must-Do" series, we look at B2B marketing. Yesterday, we discussed getting back to basics in Web CMS.

Don't Stand Still


What are the risks for B2B marketers who stay stagnant and wait for things to "return to normal"? Deadly ones, Johnson said. Marketers have to use their "whole brains" to understand and capture customers’ attention in new ways, as well as use technology and analytics efficiently and effectively.

"Marketers have to be willing to respond. Too many are paralyzed by fear and waiting for things to normalize. Change is the new normal and the only way to thrive is to understand the need for agility." 

"Things have changed so drastically in the past few years that many marketers are playing it safe with their work and their careers. But instead of enabling them to hold on, it’s actually making them move to the back of the class. B2B marketers miss a huge opportunity to create something new in an environment that needs it, and, especially in B2B, really wants it."

What's changing out there, particularly? The ability to respond in real-time is one. B2B marketers have so much information about customers and prospects and what they do at their disposal.

The savvy ones? They're using that to their advantage.

"They’re able to use data to adjust so they can engage people and create relevant experiences on the fly," Johnson said.

Know Thy Customer

Data and analytics are wonderful and must haves. But, marketers should take it further: get in a room with your customers, talk to them and listen. Nothing, Johnson said, compares to sincere people-to-people conversations to understand what matters to your customers.

"It’s not about corralling them and then marketing them to death," she said. "It’s about genuinely listening to what they have to say and then being willing to do something about it in the near term."

Avoid These Traps

What are some practices you out there today that will hold you back in your B2B marketing campaigns?

Lack of consistency. Until a few years ago, consistency didn’t matter nearly as much, Johnson said. "But now, if you’re not consistent with what, when and how you engage with people, you won’t be relevant. You’ll lose the flow, and customers will find someone else on whom they can rely."

Learning Opportunities

Focusing on your company and not the customer. "With all the focus on content marketing I wish that this was dead by now, but, unfortunately, it’s not," Johnson said. "The adage of having two ears and one mouth and using them in this proportion is ever more important now."

Not measuring. Johnson told us there's no excuse for not doing this with an abundance of great tools. "I am speechless when I hear marketers say they don’t measure," Johnson said. "Granted, not everything can or should be measured, but there’s a whole lot that should be and isn’t."

Strengthen the Marriage with Sales

This boils down to more than just technology.

"It’s marketing helping sales to understand how they make the brand story come alive," Johnson said.

If a technology client's brand story is about being easy, simple and fast, sales should not ask for a 20- to 30-page white paper to explain their product.

"That couldn’t be a worse example of actually telling the brand story," she said. "This is just one example of why marketing and sales need to work tightly so they both understand the brand story and can deliver content in smaller chunks that still satisfy what customers and prospects need."

Work with Internal Audiences

Naturally for smaller companies, marketing is the only communication group. Big companies? Corporate or employee communications groups handle this instead of marketing.

"In either case, focusing internally is often the last priority, but it needs to move up in importance," Johnson said. "Your company has to be able to live the brand story in order for it truly to come alive for customers."

Hire the Right Brand of Marketer

So now you have some ideas to help you become agile. What's next? Get people under your roof who can help you execute this strategy. If you're in the market for marketers, consider these attributes:

  • Context and mindset. New marketers can be taught skills, but they have to come to the table curious and can’t be afraid to ask questions, Johnson said. She added, "They need to be willing to listen and learn about the bigger conversation of marketing and its role within organizations, so that they have context for the work that they do."
  • Technology. "Let’s face it," Johnson said. "You can’t be a marketer in today’s world without knowing technology."

The last piece of advice goes for all marketers:

"Give up being defensive and trying to defend your territory and point of view so much," Johnson said. "Instead, listen with an open mind, and be willing to learn and collaborate with others within your organization."