B2B Marketers Its Time to Adapt Be Brave Embrace New Ideas

Stephen Liguori wears multiple hats. He's the CEO and founder of his own consulting firm, an adjunct professor at Columbia Business School and former executive director of Global Innovation and New Models at General Electric.

He's also the global chairman of the 90-year-old Business Marketing Association, which made news late last year when it became a division of the Association of National Advertisers. The Business Marketing Association has 2,500 members in B2B marketing. The Association of National Advertisers, which has more than 630 member companies, represents business-to-consumer marketers.

CMSWire caught up with Liguori this week to get his take on the state of marketing — the good, the bad and the chaotic.

Success in 'Chaotic World'

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CMSWire: What are successful B2B marketing teams doing well today?

Liguori: Successful teams are doing what I like to call "getting comfortable, being uncomfortable." That is they are realizing that in this highly disruptive and chaotic world that you have to develop ways for you and your team to process new technologies, respond to new competitors and engage new types of business models that serve your customers better ... all at the same time.

Successful marketers realize they have to take a 360-degree approach to their function. The days of being just the advertising and promotion people are over. You need to be heavy into strategy, how to deliver real customer outcomes, how you make money, etc. If you are a traditional CMO and think of your job as advertising and promo only, then change or fire yourself.

CMSWire: Where are some areas B2B marketers are struggling and how so?

Liguori: Areas of struggle fall into two buckets. The first is around the dizzying number of social-, digital- and data-driven solutions coming onto the market. How can you stay on top of the best ones and at the same time drive your firm's results is a real challenge. I try lots of small pilots before I jump into anything ... but I am a serial innovator. Keep testing and learning.

Another area I think relates is the changing nature of business models. You can make money in so many different ways by developing for your customers' easier methods to access you. Do you do digital to drive revenue or just leads? I know a team that put up a self-serve online site for spare parts and replacements. Before they knew it, 20 percent of their orders were online ... even though the sales force said no customers were asking for it. Be brave and try new ideas.

CMSWire: What do you think of the potential in social media for B2B marketing teams?

Liguori: Unless you've been under a very big rock you know social media is a critical part of all our toolkits. The challenge for B2B marketers is not to think of it as a "consumer" tool. Everyone uses social media. The key for B2B is to appeal to your customers with meaningful messages where and when it makes sense for them. Get with it and try it if you are not. I have seen some great work in this area.

CMSWire: Fill in the blanks. B2B marketers need more _____. B2B marketers need less _____.

Liquori: More of a 360-degree or an end-to-end approach to marketing. Less thinking I'm only a second-class citizen so I only do limited-impact work.

CMSWire: The technology landscape for marketing is vast. What are your suggestions for B2B marketers about choosing technology that works for them?

Liguori: Choosing new technology is a never-ending challenge now. As I mentioned above I am committed to a "test and learn" approach always. In addition to that I strongly urge marketers to understand more about programming skills and data and analytics. No doubt about it, they are here forever as a key part of marketing.

CMSWire: What are some tried-and-true marketing tactics in B2B that will stay for the long haul? 

Liguori: What's going to stay the same is the ability to make a positive connection among your colleagues and your customers. Be real, be yourself, be positive and make a difference. With all this wild technology the ability to deliver real value and feel appreciated is as important as ever. Do it for your team and your customers, and you will stand out from the crowd.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by Matt From London.