B-to-B Marketers Are Having an Identity Crisis

Debbie Qaqish
B-to-B Marketing
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Key Takeaways

What? Technology is quickly transforming marketing from a cost center to a revenue center.

So what? B-to-B marketers struggle to keep up with these external changes and finding their identity in today’s digitally driven marketplace.

Now what? Successful marketers accept that change is constant and focus on working for organizations that embrace the role of marketing as revenue generator and primary owner of the customer relationship.

​Dec. 19, 2017

Between stubborn misconceptions about marketing's value and a flood of new technology, marketers face a tough job of defining their role in the modern business 

Defining the role of today’s B-to-B marketer can best be described based on the best-selling book, Who Moved My Cheese?, by Spencer Johnson. Using a motivational fable, Johnson describes change in one's work and life, and four typical reactions to those changes by two mice and two "little people," during their hunt for cheese.

Most marketers today feel like their cheese is constantly being moved, and they struggle with their identity. Factors contributing to this stress include internal legacy thinking and market drivers of technology and customer control.

Internal Legacy Thinking

Not surprisingly, a major contributor to the marketer’s identity crisis is how different roles in a company still have a legacy thinking regarding marketing’s capabilities and value. I was recently working with a new vice president of marketing who was supposedly hired to transform marketing from a cost center to a revenue driver. However, every change she tried to implement, from how to allocate the budget to how to build her team, was met with resistance by the executive team.

My council to VPs and CMOs looking to assume a role in a new company is to look at what is done, not what is said. That is your best guide for how much change you can actually bring about.

As 2018 approaches, it boggles my mind that sales and marketing alignment remains a big problem. In the majority of companies, especially larger companies, the sales team still views marketing as its support team and a cost center. I find in working with my clients that younger companies, younger sales and marketing folks and fast-growth companies tend to realize that marketing is a critical element of today’s revenue engine.

For the last seven years, I have taught one class in the MBA program at the College of William and Mary. My topic is always on the transformation of marketing from a cost center to a revenue center—what I’ve coined “revenue marketing.” This year, a speaker came in after me who was talking about marketing. Ironically, the MBA class taught the speaker about revenue marketing as the speaker was unaware of its existence. This is a sad commentary, but the good news is the millennial generation and younger understand the transformational power of revenue marketing at a base level.

Market Drivers of Technology and Customer Control

Recent studies indicate that investments in marketing technology are beginning to drop. Why? Because marketers can’t even use what they have. They are literally drowning in technology. Nothing has changed marketing more than the rise of technology. The traditional marketing skills must now be greatly expanded to include data, analytics, technology—a full use of left-brain capabilities.

Many of the marketing executives I work with are hiring marketers not with a specific platform expertise, but an ability, capability and curiosity to adopt and use multiple technology platforms as needed for the business. This is a smart strategy as there more than 5,000 pieces of technology available and major shifts in the core elements of a successful martech stack.


 Marketing Technology: The MarTech Landscape of Tools and Software


In addition, marketers are working more with other parts of the organization, so the skills of communication, consulting and influencing are also critical. This all must be placed into context for achieving the business goals of the company and the business goals of the marketing organization.

Add to this impressive mix of required skills the critical need for a better customer understanding. Why? Because the customer is now firmly in control of the buying process and decides how and when they interact with your company. I am shocked by B-to-B marketers’ lack of knowledge about and interaction with their customers and predict this will be the single biggest change in the B-to-B marketing organization in 2018. Marketing will move from having to ask sales what they think about the customer to being the ultimate relationship manager of the customer. Marketing will be able to provide real-time insights to customers and will share that information across the organization. Ultimately, how companies make decisions based on customer knowledge will be enabled by marketing.

Who Moved My Cheese?

Is it any wonder that today’s B-to-B marketer has an identity crisis? Between internal legacy thinking and outside market influences, marketing is experiencing a period of intense transformation. To successfully navigate this ever-changing and fast-moving environment, today’s marketer needs to have a laser focus on what they want from their career. They need to find the company where they can grow their skill set and not wait for something to “happen” to them. It seems like over the last 18 months I have counseled an ever-growing number of marketing executives to find the right company and the right environment. Finding a way to manage and even thrive in today’s marketing environment will continue to be a required capability. Your cheese will continue to move. What you control is your company environment. Choose wisely in 2018.

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Author Bio:

Debbie Qaqish
Debbie Qaqish is principal partner and chief strategy officer of <a href="http://www.pedowitzgroup.com/?utm_source=PR&utm_campaign=AMA%27s%20B2B%20Marketing%20newsletter&utm_medium=Bylined%20Article " target="_blank">The Pedowitz Group</a>. She manages global client relationships and leads the firm’s thought leadership initiatives. She has been helping B-to-B companies drive revenue growth for over 35 years.
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