What type of B2B Marketer Does Your Business Need?

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.

How To Define Responsibility For B2B Lead Generation

In my experience one issue that creates friction in a business more than any other is the argument over who is responsibility for B2B lead generation. However, often the argument is a response to a more deep seated problem.

It is a fact (often ignored) that internal company politics can have a significant impact on business performance. It is natural staff and middle managers want to progress in the business. For management in particular this requires they deliver against targets and are credited with their part in any major business achievements. It also means they need to avoid association with any negative events.

Managers (and staff) can therefore waste time on positioning rather than concentrating on what is best for the business. The situation is made worse in closely related departments like sales and marketing and strong leadership is required to ensure petty squabbling does not impact on performance.

In larger businesses, where there are separate departments with different heads the potential for conflict is obvious. If the sales numbers are hit the sales department may claim credit, ignoring the impact of marketing. If the numbers are missed then the sales manager may wish to blame the marketing process for delivering insufficient (or poor quality) leads.

Marketing may blame sales for ignoring the larger picture in the pursuit of short term opportunities. They may despair at sales people who claim the reason for poor sales performance is the competitions superior product, or pricing or promotional spend. They may be constantly frustrated that sales follow their own agenda rather than their carefully crafted strategic plan.

In smaller businesses with one manager responsible for both sales and marketing their background (be it sales or marketing) often leads to one area dominating to the detriment of the other. Whichever element suffers then tends to be driven by the other rather than working together to maximise results.

The answer is often to clearly define the objectives for the sales and marketing functions and to ensure that those objectives do not overlap. Both functions may then be credited (or not) with achieving their objectives and on the resulting outcomes on the sales numbers. A natural dividing line is the initial sales lead.

Using the existing sales forecast and the business yearly sales targets it should be possible to calculate what business is already identified and how much more is required. Average closure rates v leads should be well known, it should therefore be possible to calculate the number and type of sales leads required.

Marketing then becomes responsible for generating sufficient quantity, type and quality of sales leads and sales for taking those leads to a successful conclusion. All that is then required is strong management to ensure leads are not routinely discarded but are acted upon. Some sales people will inevitably persist in falling back on their long established relationships with a small group of key customers rather than chasing down new leads.

B2B marketing people need to be managed out of the soft and woolly world of branding and relationship management and into the world of quality lead generation. This may go against their education (blame the CIM for that) and damage some egos but is a necessity for the overall good.

Specifically differentiating the responsibility for B2B lead generation from that of lead conversion may seem an over simplistic approach and in some businesses it may be. However, in a business where petty politics get in the way of sales number delivery it is important to start somewhere. Once firm dividing lines have been established and understood they may be relaxed (to a point) and modified over time.

How To Set Up A B2B Lead Generation Team

How should a B2B lead generation team be organised? What tasks need to be completed? What can be covered in house and what should be outsourced?

The first step is to identify precisely what exactly should be classified as a lead and at what point they should be passed through to sales. It is crucial this is agreed between sales and marketing at an early stage to prevent problems, and potential finger pointing, at a later stage.

The next step for the lead generation team is to decide what tactics, both online and offline, will be used to generate those leads. Wherever possible that decision should be based on solid analysis of what has worked well (and not) in the past.

Whatever tactics are built into the lead generation process it is probable content will be the fuel for that process. Content should build credibility and deliver the information the customer decision making team need to make their purchasing decision.

A well designed process will both generate high quality sales leads and help the sales department progress an opportunity to the point of sale. However, to build an appropriate content marketing process is challenging and requires significant time and effort. Typical problems faced by any B2B lead generation team involved in content marketing include (priority order)

  • Producing enough content
  • Producing engaging content
  • Delivering enough variety
  • Inability to measure cost effectiveness
  • Lack of knowledge
  • Lack of time

To construct the best B2B lead generation team it is first important to identify what tasks are required, decide who is best to take on each task then allocate accordingly. Nobody can know the business, what it stands for its customers and market better than the business owners, senior managers and employees so nobody is better placed to generate content.

If the in house marketing department is inexperienced in inbound marketing, external short term support in the form of a mentor or outsourced marketing department can help. Often, external support or guidance may help in building the all important inbound marketing strategy and plan.

The sales department is crucial to success. It is important to integrate them into the process as they are best placed to identify what information is required by customers and prospects and at what point in the process. They will also have an important view on the best delivery methods and how to engage and deliver variety.

An experienced editor in chief (be they in house or external) is important to undercover and modify existing sources of content, combine them with new content and deliver consistently against the content marketing plan.

If the required content marketing skills reside in house then organising effectively is normally simply a process of allocating tasks and ensuring the sales department are integrated effectively. However, in most cases some key skills will be missing that may be filled by outsourcing to a specialist as a specific task or by taking on a mentor. Where external parties are used it is important to acquire from them the appropriate skills so they are only required on a short to medium term basis.

 

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