B2B Marketing, 'disintermediation', being a 'jerk' & social selling

Ed Marsh | Apr 20, 2015


Today's post is built on a collection of recent articles I've come across that seem to fit together.

"Nothing happens until somebody sells something"

Remember that common quote from a decade or two ago?  It was appropriate at the time.  When companies were obsessing over internal procedures, B2B marketing was collecting business & bingo cards, and buyers were controlled by sales people, it made sense to focus folks on the fact that they needed to concentrate on getting out and selling.

But that was before buyers took control.  Today by the time they speak to a rep they have decided what they want...and probably even what they'll pay.  So selling something, today, isn't the crux of the business process but rather the denouement of the buying process.

"And when you understand what is different today – all this amazing technology, all the data you can leverage – you recognize the future of marketing starts with an entirely new philosophy about what marketing should or could be. Marketing becomes a true reflection of an always-on society by recognizing that it’s not a department. Marketing is now a way of business.
And when I use the word marketing, I’m talking about engagement, understanding who the customer is, how they’re different than customers before, what the context of their engagement is. Then building a digital infrastructure, and a complementary real-world infrastructure, to deliver an entirely new and meaningful experience."
Q: Another emerging theme is that because marketing is the most customer-facing bit of the organization, it’s perfectly placed to relay customer wants and needs back to the organization in a better way. Marketing becomes central to the company’s operation.
A: "It’s positioned appropriately. It’s not staffed appropriately, nor is it recognized or funded appropriately today. But it is well-positioned and it will become much more significant within the organization, with greater responsibilities and accountabilities. It starts to drive product road maps. It starts to drive employee engagement. It starts to drive culture. It starts to drive the customer experience including customer service and loyalty. To me, the marketing organization could become the most powerful form of the organization, a new model which everything else could branch from."  Brian Solis in CMO.com interview in advance of the Adobe EMEA Marketing Summit

Inappropriate staffing, funding & recognition - be a jerk...but not a Jerk

Everyone is a prisoner of his own experiences. No one can eliminate prejudices – just recognize them.” – Edward R. Murrow, television broadcast, December 31, 1955

If you buy what Brian says (and I do - as I've written on a number of occasions) then that means there have to be changes.  They'll disrupt the status quo and they'll likely cause some substantial angst in the marketing and sales departments.  A recent Harvard Business Review article describes this as 'disintermediation' and asks how sales people should be paid when they're less responsible for the outcomes (as marketing is more so.)

Marketing will have the most to gain, but frankly in most companies isn't led and staffed by folks with the skills, perspective, experience and business acumen which will be required.  Sales will feel like it has the most to lose - and if loss can be accurately measured by head count & budget, they're right.

Bodies (rather brains) and budget need to be allocated according to buyer behaviors - and with 70% of the buying journey taking place in the internet shadows, before they're willing to speak to a rep, that means that resources need to be realigned.

This means that the shift to a marketing (wrong term, since now revenue growth is a single continuum of demand gen, lead gen, nurturing, closing and service) organization is a strategic challenge which must be envisioned, championed and managed by the CEO.  It's simply not enough for an insightful VP Marketing to implement some program within the "marketing group."

This disruption will require vision & change management to succeed.  It will require you to be an active "jerk."  Can you?  Without being a "Jerk"?

Knowledge, Insight & Expertise

But you, and everyone else in business, knows all this already.  So that begs the question, if so many know it, why do so few actually act on it?  

That's the difference between knowledge and insight.  The ability to extrapolate what the trends mean and how to not only survive, but in fact thrive, is the core of insight that's much less common.

And then, although the insight exists in many cases, the effort to act on it falls sadly flat.  Why?  That's where expertise fits in.

And this is one of the biggest challenges, in my experience, for successful business owners.  They're accustomed to leveraging extraordinary insight and expertise in their core business areas...and confirmation bias kicks in.  They assume they'll hit the same high bar in all areas.  They rarely do.

So if in fact marketing is evolving into a new model from which everything else branches (YES, even in B2B manufacturing companies!) then marketing expertise is required to leverage the insight which comes from market shifts.  Expertise isn't website design (like everyone's cousin) or social media comfort (like every intern) or email blasts (like every Marcom person) or SEO (every frustrated web designer) or layout a brochure (like every designer.)  Of course each of those are important, and rare individuals elevate those tasks to high levels.  But the expertise B2B companies need is the fusion of business acumen (and experience) with a visceral understanding of digital marketing.

And that means that the typical process through which companies select outside B2B marketing resources is upside down.  The discussion of "How will you approach this" should never devolve into specific steps or tactics.  CEOs should listen for echoes of business lessons learned, and an articulate discussion of the business environment and challenges - and a high level approach to understanding and responding to specific market conditions.

This is a strategic business issue - and it merits corresponding perspective and expertise.

Want to understand how the sales & B2B marketing environment has changed for manufacturing companies?  Check out our eBook "Manufacturing Revenue Growth."

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