The best B2B marketers are clear about customer needs, measure their impact effectively and, most importantly, are able to support and influence colleagues to deliver commercial results, according to new research by business agency Omobono.
For the past eight years, Omobono has completed annual research on the state of marketing for global business brands. Along the way, we have learned which channels work best, what issues marketing leaders face and the keys to success.
In this year’s report, ‘Marketing’s Age of Illumination’, in partnership with Marketing Week, we spoke to more than 1,100 participants around the globe to reveal key insights about the changing role marketers are playing in helping their organisations drive change, growth and improved customer and employee experiences.
We finish a series of three articles based on our research by explaining how successful marketers are becoming influencers in ways that transcend their traditional role. We see increasing numbers of marketers play a role in areas like talent acquisition, IT procurement and corporate strategy, as well as traditional areas like brand building and lead generation. This creates some interesting challenges but also fantastic opportunities to really take the lead.
From our analysis, we see four pivotal roles emerging, which the most influential marketers are adopting:
1. Marketers as corporate strategists
One of the most prominent findings from our research was the role that marketers are playing as strategic leaders. A healthy 67% of marketers say they are seen as fairly or very influential in their business, with 61% saying marketing’s importance has increased in the last two years. Communicating business strategy (90%) and demonstrating commercial impact (85%) have become the top priorities for marketers.
Looking at the organisations where marketing has most influence at a strategic level, influence is driven by two main factors. The first is the ability to prove commercial impact. This makes measurement an incredibly high priority, something which, worryingly, only 7% of marketers claim to be confident in. The second is large amounts of CEO and board-level buy-in.
2. Marketers as HR supporters
Marketing’s support for HR is an area we’ve seen grow in significance, particularly for the largest organisations, where the talent pool for the best people narrows and becomes highly competitive. The need to develop a strong employer brand and communicate the employer value proposition to new candidates is a core strategic imperative.
Some of our most interesting work this year has been on employer brand and employee experience. For one client we planned out every stage of the employee journey from application to first 30 days, mapping out every area the employer had to delight and inspire. This type of project is now being held up as industry best practice, has led to a huge rise in quality applications and is a perfect case study for how adding “marketing thinking” to a non-marketing problem can elevate it to the next level.
However, very few of our respondents see their role as an accelerator for HR, with only 13% of marketers saying “ensuring their organisation lives the brand” is their main objective. This does go up to 19% for organisations with £50m to £499m turnover, but then declines again to 9% for those with £500m+. The data suggests that as organisations get larger they need to focus on employer brand more, so it becomes a higher priority. But in the very largest enterprises it is harder to achieve due to their size, so drops down the priority list again.
3. Marketers as sales enablers
The challenge of aligning sales and marketing is nothing new. However, new tactics like ABM (account-based marketing) are shifting this relationship, encouraging sales and marketing to work closer together, allowing for more continuity and cohesion in message and experience from prospect to pitch.
In the organisations where marketing is most influential, it is often due to a close relationship with the sales teams and ability to prove commercial impact. Comments like “we are seen as a genuine component of the sales process” and “marketing creates approximately 60% to 70% of our leads and therefore is seen as very influential”are common.
Conversely, marketers who say their department is less influential often cite a “sales-led” environment as a result. Things like “the company is sales-focused” and “I see marketing playing a supportive role” are prevalent. In many B2B organisations, the relationship with sales can make or break a marketer.
Critical to developing this relationship is the ability of marketing to tangibly help with sales success. For example, we’ve been helping marketing teams support their sales teams throughout pitch processes, with insight and creative work, to increase pitch wins by three times. This ability to point to commercial impact as a result of improving a process is what brings these teams together.
4. Marketers as IT allies
It’s evident to all marketers how tech-dependent their roles have become. Working closely with IT is now a must for anyone in a marketing role, which is putting pressure on marketers to constantly improve their digital skills.
What we see from the data is a recognition from the vast majority of respondents that this is where the skills gap currently lies in their teams.
However, with more complexity comes a need to remember the human user at the end of the process. Marketers have a vital role to play in IT projects, ensuring that the voice of real users is heard when making IT decisions.
How do I get there?
So, how do marketers lead the charge and infuse every part of their business with marketing goodness? It starts with being really clear on knowing your customer. Invest in your own insights, bring them to the boardroom and teach the rest of the business something they don’t know. This is a good area to grab competitive advantage as 30% of B2B marketers see this as a core objective for the coming year. Insight is power.
Second, get measurement right so you keep your seat at the table. Marketers who aren’t making time or budget for tracking are not just selling themselves short, but also are unable to properly evaluate the past or make strategic decisions about the future.
Finally, marketers need to become arch relationship developers and collaborators. The only way to influence is to build trust, so marketers need to create strong bonds both sideways and upwards. Remember, internal sell-in is considered a top-two challenge for all organisations over £10m revenue. The ability to rally internally is essential to building a rewarding career.
This is a challenging but exciting time for marketers to be practising their craft. Without doubt things are more complex than ever, but by focusing on the fundamentals – rich insights, commercial impact and forging strong relationships, marketers are proving pivotal to success.
We believe we are entering ‘Marketing’s Age of Illumination’. It’s time for marketers to light the way.
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