How should you recruit and / or train the right B2B marketer for your business? Marketing, when implemented properly, can be the growth engine for your business but putting the right marketing person or team in place is crucial to success and not as easy as it may first appear.
WHAT IS B2B MARKETING
First, it is important to define what you expect from marketing. Put twenty business owners in a room and ask them that question and you may well end up with twenty different answers but we suggest the purpose of marketing is to generate growth – it is as simple as that.
Existing customers may generate the majority of that growth or it may come from new customers and that, to a large extent, defines the type of B2B marketer (or team) that is needed and the skill set required. Marketers, like many other business disciplines, tend to be pigeon holed according to one, or more sub sets of the full range of marketing skills. To find a person, or indeed a team, with the full range of marketing skills is unusual in the SME marketplace.
Before deciding on the type of B2B marketer (and hence the skill set) required it is important to take a step back and consider the strategic position of the business. What level of growth can reasonably be expected? What level of growth can be expected from the existing customer base? Are key customers growing and are there new key projects available? What new products (if any) will be required to support those projects?
What is happening in the marketplace and what impact will these changes have (if any) on the existing customer base? What measure of new business is required? Will that new business come from existing or new markets? These are all key questions to ask before trying to define objectives for the marketing department and therefore the type of B2B marketer (or team) required.
THE TWO TYPES OF BUSINESSES IN B2B MARKETS
The majority of businesses in B2B markets tend to be well established and rely on their growth from existing customers. Marketing activity in this type of business tends to be a care and maintenance function focussed on keeping key influencers within existing customers informed, expanding the contact base and influence, maintaining and re-enforcing the brand (including exhibitions and press), competitor and new project monitoring.
There was a time when the sales organisation performed many of the information type tasks outlined above but as summarized here by David Meerman Scott times have changed, the old push has changed to pull. Marketing now has a key role in engaging existing customers and reinforcing the brand with appropriate information (content).
It is true there is an enormous amount of rubbish written about inbound (content marketing) but when executed correctly by someone (or team) with the appropriate experience it is a key tool in the battle to grow business from an existing customer base. When delivered correctly it leaves sales free to build relationships, manage the sales process and close.
There is always the risk for the business reliant on growth from existing customers that the market will change, key customers will fail to grow (or worse, shrink), key influencers may leave or a new competitor arrives in the marketplace. That risk may be mitigated by attempting to develop new customers or markets but, as noted above, this requires a marketer with a different skill set.
For the business that is new to a market, trying to grow business from a low base, the situation is reversed. Their priority is to generate sales leads, close new business and once closed develop and retain those new customers to build their customer base as soon as possible. However, the new business focussed marketer does not in general have the skills (discussed above), or in many cases the inclination, to generate business from existing customers.
SKILLS REQUIRED BY THE MODERN B2B MARKETER
So what are the skills, required by the ideal marketer (or team) able to grow business from both existing and new customers.
- Brand management.
- Exhibition management.
- Social media.
- PR and press.
- Top level design, documentation and print.
- Sales forecast support.
- Market and competitor research.
- Website management.
- Strategy and planning.
- Potential customer and contact research.
- Project management.
- Customer database management.
- Supplier management.
- Content creation and distribution.
- Email and nurture.
- Search engine marketing (SEO).
- Paid search.
- Website and landing page design and delivery.
At the top of the list are skills almost exclusively required by the “existing customer B2B marketer” moving through the middle where skills are increasingly more focussed on “new business,” reaching the bottom of the list where skills are almost exclusively required by the “new business marketer.”
For the business either focussed entirely on existing customers or new business it should be possible to use the skill set list to recruit and / or train the relevant marketer. However, for the business intent on both growing sales from both new and existing customers there is a problem. If they are a relatively small SME it is unlikely they will be able to afford to employ a team of specialists and, as already discussed, to find one (perhaps two) people with the full range of skills is unlikely.
ACQUIRING THE NECESSARY B2B MARKETING SKILL SET
A business could engage an agency to deliver the range of skills required and employ a generalist to manage that agency, as outlined in this post from Christopher Ryan but there are several potential issues.
A limited number of agencies do have a full skill set and are quite capable of delivering the required growth from both new and existing markets but at a cost beyond most SME’s. However, most agencies claim to retain the full marketing skill set when this is not the case. As a result most agencies are generally more suited to generating demand from either new or existing customers, not both.
Obviously there is the cost issue when employing an agency but worse that cost does not buy any long term benefit for the business as the marketing skills are retained by the agency and when they go they leave no legacy. Further costs are accrued as someone within the business must be available to interface with the agency. They must be at a level to be able to manage suppliers and have sufficient skills to be able to understand what an agency is offering and critically question that offer, its effectiveness and ROI.
One solution may be a hybrid approach of either employing, or promoting from within, one or more individuals with the necessary aptitude to be trained up to take on the full range of marketing tasks. They may be trained by either a series of specialist mentors or a true full service agency that takes on the daily implementation of the marketing function in the short to medium term.