In B2B markets there has been a shift toward inbound marketing in recent years. This, in turn, has modified the skill sets required by marketers. Today the main skills required by marketers include:
- Strategy, planning and segmentation.
- The ability to write high quality, engaging, thoughtful content.
- Content sourcing and editorial skills.
- Detailed knowledge of information delivery channels.
- A deep understanding of the market, customers, and the purchasing process.
- Search engine marketing.
- Website development.
- Project management.
- Email marketing.
Quite a list! Of course, any good B2B marketers should already have finely tuned skills in many of these areas but some are entirely new and not easily acquired in the short term. Taking each in turn.
Strategy, Planning and Segmentation
These are key skills for any marketer but even more so when using inbound marketing. It is essential to identify exactly what the business would like to achieve, what really sets it apart from the rest and its key customer groups. Planning relates not just to the standard marketing planning process but also embraces the important task of creating an effective content marketing plan.
Content Writing Skills
Any inbound marketing process relies on the ability to deliver high quality, relevant and engaging content. Any content should flow well, be grammatically correct and engage the reader from the start. Writing for the web requires a particular style that is not too dry or over complicated and more chatty in style than would be expected in traditional printed media.
All of the above takes time to learn but it is crucial to success. As more businesses realise the potential of pull marketing then more and more content is published online. The challenge is to stand out from the crowd.
Not all content needs to be written from scratch as most businesses sit on a large amount of existing information of potential use to customers and prospects This may include engineering information, how to use guides, quality information, qualification reports and so on. A re-writing process may be required but the bulk of the information often already exists.
Most businesses will employ a range of people with detailed product or market knowledge. There may be some with a slightly controversial view on future trends or what is happening in the market place. If this information can be teased out and presented in a readable, easily accessible form it can be of real interest to customers and prospects.
The challenge for the marketing department is to select from the array of information available, re-write, update and schedule as required.
Content is of little use if it cannot be found by prospects and customers. The marketing department must therefore carefully research which channels have the most chance of reaching and engaging the prospect or customer.
The sales department is a key source of information at this point. With the most appropriate delivery channels identified the marketing department requires detailed knowledge of how to work those channels to deliver the desired outcome.
Market And Customer Profiling
Closely coupled with the above is the ability to profile the decision maker the content is required to engage. Different decision makers may need different content and the content may change depending on the stage of the sales process. Again, sales are a valuable resource at this point.
Search Engine Marketing
There is little point having a website if it cannot be found when a prospect searches for information. It is important for the modern marketer to have a detailed knowledge of how search works. In search, the goalposts move regularly and it is important to stay up to date.
SEM is often outsourced but there are no professional standards in search. The discipline attracts many cowboys and a marketer who does not have an understanding of search and is up to date with current trends can easily be caught out.
There needs to be a hub for all the information the business may publish. That hub can be a more aggressive sales medium than the content itself. The website must be both a resource for existing customers and a lead generator for potential new customers.
Website design and SEM are closely linked. Brand and visual are important but not at the expense of SEM. The modern marketer must understand the relationship between the two. Any website must be designed to facilitate frequent updates.
Inbound marketing done on an ad-hoc basis will not succeed as consistency is required to produce any meaningful results. Project management involves delivering to the plan (see above) which in turn involves progressing those who have promised either rough or completed content to deliver on time.
Email marketing is defined here as delivering information (not a sales pitch) relevant to customers at the appropriate time via the medium of Email. To achieve this is far from easy and requires mastery of many of the skills outlined above.
It is vitally important to know customers needs (and segment them appropriately) to deliver relevant content and, most difficult of all, deliver it at the appropriate time.
Some of the skills required to implement a pull marketing process can vary month to month. Special projects like a product launch or a new venture can cause peaks in demand. There is customer experience and referral processes to manage. The demands on a marketer go on and on.
The transition to inbound marketing often requires the existing marketing team to acquire new skills, some of which take time to develop. Sometimes outsourcing part of the process can give the existing team to get up to speed and help deal with short term peaks in demand. The potential advantages of inbound marketing are well know but it is important to be aware of the potential personnel costs.