The existential crisis of B2B marketing

Are you the new CAO?

Unlike its consumer goods cousin, B2B marketing has always been under pressure to prove its worth. The intricate interplay with sales clearly makes it more difficult to define and measure its specific ROI. Especially when dealing with large organizations with many stakeholders, complex decision patterns and extended buying journeys. 

Today, the universal call for documented business efficiency and control, the pressure increases to present tangible, proven results: What, exactly, will you achieve with that budget? Where, exactly, is the ROI? 

At the same time, the task is becoming more difficult. Planning horizons are closer than before, and "strategy" begins here and now. "Brand building" used to be about the long-term; now it is expected to deliver concrete, measurable results within the next few months. 

As for product marketing and sales support, customers and leads are far better informed than they used to be. They often have instant access to objective, comparable facts about you and your competitors. And they are increasingly immune to conventional, partial advertising and promotion. They are also very much in charge of the buying process. And, just like before, marketing rarely knows what is being discussed inside the buying organization.

Face the music and make the most of it

To summarize, the CMO is often in a tough spot, and doesn't always have the answers, not even to the most fundamental questions, like: "Who has the final say about the choice of supplier?"

The old ways simply don't work anymore. Some would even call it an existential crisis. The only way ahead is to face the music and make the most of the new scenery:

  • Set more operational objectives, which essentially means: How can you help sales reach all potential decision-makers and influencers; engage them more whole-heartedly; close the deals faster; maintain acceptable terms; get more mileage out of the framework agreements; defend and expand existing accounts.
  • Accept that "long-term" is becoming an obsolete concept, and focus more on the "now"
  • Become as customer-centered as your colleagues in sales, which means that you must monitor customers' internal discussions more closely. And no, I am not talking about hidden microphones.
  • Create real customer engagement, which means: Focus on the relatively few companies prioritized by sales right now.

The new CAO

In many ways you will need to be more like sales.

The question is: If you set more operational targets; If you do become more customer-centered; If you focus more on the "now"; If marketing aligns its objectives, strategies, activities and follow-up with sales... Why keep two separate functions?

Why not join forces for real. Together you can engage more people on the customer side more efficiently. Expanding your reach. Holding on, month after month, adapting your human and digital interaction to their response. 

It may not happen tomorrow, but... Are you the new Chief Account Officer?

Rolf Andersson
Senior Writer & Strategist at Freya News

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