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Editorial

B2B Marketing: Acknowledging Risk Helps Manage Change

5 minute read
Ashley Shailer avatar
Many CMOs are realizing that the traditional organization of marketing is actually hindering the activation of omnichannel programs.

I coach my 6-year-old daughter in softball. At that level (6U for you Babe Ruth enthusiasts), playing the outfield is akin to being banished from ball activity for a minimum of 15 minutes. Whether it’s center field or Siberia, no 6-year-old wants to go there.

However, the often overlooked responsibility of a 6U outfielder is to back up the infielders when they miss a hit or thrown ball. 

When 6-year-olds play softball — they miss a lot of catches. They miss MOST of the catches, and the player on backup starts to see a lot of action!  

Changing the player’s perspective on their position can alter the team’s performance and dynamic — they’ll experience some risk and uncertainty (Will I play well? Can I handle all of this backup?) but also reward (I feel a part of the game in an important way!)

Acknowledging B2B Buyer's Tolerance for Risk

B2B marketing has reached an inflection point. Many CMOs are realizing that the traditional organization of marketing is actually hindering the activation of omnichannel programs. The old world of skills and tool specialization are counterintuitive to surrounding a buyer with tactics that work together to convey a campaign or program theme. 

One session I attended during the Executive Leadership Exchange at this year’s Forrester B2B Marketing Sales and Product Summit in Austin discussed adding a “buyer risk profile” to a traditional buyer persona. The thesis statement was this: When a buyer makes a successful buying decision — the organization benefits. When a buyer makes a poor buying decision, he or she bears the burden, more or less, by themself.

Therefore, acknowledging a buyer or buying committees’ tolerance for risk in the context of a purchase will help a marketer develop the right tools to coax a buyer along in their decision-making. 

Related Article: The New Priorities of Next-Generation B2B Marketing

Managing Change for Sake of B2B Buyer

While this idea was presented in the context of a B2B purchase, I can’t help but think that a similar idea is relevant when considering change management within the internal B2B marketing function. 

When a marketing team has “John-who-does-the-webinars” and “Jane-the-web-person” and “Peter-who-does-all-our-social-media-posts” it’s easy to think of marketing as a collection of siloed activities. 

To the buyer: it is not.

Marketing (B2B, B2C, doesn’t matter) is a part of the buyer’s lifestyle. Your buyer experiences your B2B marketing alongside display ads for their abandoned Amazon shopping cart, while receiving notifications from business and personal email inboxes. Nowadays, many do this from the comfort of their home office alongside their pets and their Peloton. The average buyer expects timeliness, personalization and synchrony in the way they are marketed to, regardless of whether their search is for enterprise data storage or deodorant. 

Related Article: Are You Suffering from Account Blindness in B2B Marketing?

Learning Opportunities

Siloed Marketing Team Can't Deliver Synchronous Experience

But how can barriers be dissolved when John, Jane and Peter identify so completely with their specialty? You can change the essential responsibilities or environments of a position, but no change is successful without enthusiastic, productive adoption by the team. Anyone who’s ever been through a reorganization knows that it takes a while for the dust to settle, and for a department to operate smoothly and confidently again.

How do you gain consensus and build adoption when there’s perceived risk involved?

Master the Art of Buy-In

Never assume that your team understands the reasoning or motivation behind a reorganization or shift in job requirements. Begin to build consensus through transparent, data-informed reasoning and leverage multiple communication channels to tell the story.

Set a Realistic Timeline

Nothing exacerbates the perception of risk like rushing a transformational change. Set a realistic timeline that includes well-communicated milestones and opportunities for open dialogue. 

Empower Your Team to Provide Feedback on How It’s Going

The quickest way to destroy your credibility as a leader is to be unwilling to listen and act on the feedback of your team. If you’ve mastered the art of buy-in, you’ve communicated your vision and gained your team’s enthusiasm. Give them the tools to communicate how they would change or improve your plan.

Give Your Team Tools and Opportunities to Communicate With Each Other

If you’re changing your marketing organization to be more synchronous and buyer-focused, you will need to be hyper aware of how the team communicates with each other. Address areas of friction, stigma and uncertainty head on with productive forums.

Make the World Bigger Through Cross-Training

Cross-training forces empathy for teammates and a more holistic understanding of the buyer’s experience. How does Peter help to amplify the webinars that John runs? How do those webinars function as a tactic in a broader campaign plan? Get your team thinking about the whole wheel instead of each individual spoke. 

Conclusion: Leadership Can Inspire Change

Change is risky, and it’s naive to think that your team won’t experience risk when you usher in new processes or philosophies for buyer-centric marketing. However, good leaders can mitigate the feelings with solid communication and a reasonable timeline, leading to a better brand experience overall.

About the author

Ashley Shailer

Ashley has spent more than fifteen years in the B2B marketing space designing and implementing world-class demand creation and lead management strategies. She’s held client-side and analyst roles in marketing systems and marketing operations, and consulting roles that feature her unique expertise in content and messaging as it relates to lead management and account-based marketing.

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