B2B Marketing Is Not Dead, But The Top-Down, Marketing Silo Is Eroding

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Laura Ramos, an analyst at Forrester, says she is concerned about the future of the business marketing profession. “In particular, for those of us marketing high technology products and services.” She cites four trends countering marketing’s value:
  1. Commoditization (I translate this as hyper-competition.)
  2. Consumerism and the social groundswell (Forrester’s terminology for the fact that social media now empowers customers to spit back at marketers and share experiences with one another.)
  3. Ad avoidance translates to sales call avoidance (Great point…sales calls are part of the larger genre of commercial messaging clutter, a phenomenon often and mistakenly limited to advertising.)
  4. Globalization (This was a referral the sometimes more favorable economics of fulfilling many marketing services offshore, in other countries.)

Laura says marketers miss the impact of these looming trends:

…Marketers who simply want to know which tactics work best and which statistics matter fail to see beyond the front of the funnel. Without this broader perspective, marketing will become obsolete as the Web, blogosphere, and social networks let businesses connect buyers directly with product development and bypass marketing all together.

I responded with the following:

If you consider all four forces — which I agree with — at a macro level, the shift becomes relatively clear: b2b marketing is becoming more of a holistic business function that is everyone’s job, versus its former status as a standalone, well-defined, tightly controlled business unit. As head of marketing at a b2b Web software company, I see this plain and clear. My leadership role is evolving to one of inspiring and defining frameworks, whereby the power of my team is less about direct reports, and more about lateral contributions and coordination across all other business functions — i.e., product development, sales and customer experience functions.

One example where this becomes plainly obvious is on our team blog; it has become one of our most important venues for driving our reputation, communicating with customers and upholding humility and transparency (the latter a major competitive advantage). But it’s about far more than recruiting and editing posts from our business unit leads. It’s about giving all of them the tools to be active, accountable contributors to the marketing function.

I’m excited about these changes, and I think they’re long due. But the thing that really keeps me up at night is being disciplined about creating accountability frameworks, and better visibility into how this new type of marketing leadership directly impacts our corporate goals and bottom line. You touched briefly on that — it is very much my fundamental concern as marketing lead. To quote Albert Einstein: “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” But quantifying and qualifying is pretty damn important, regardless!

Finally, I’m sure the four forces you note above also are threats to Forrester’s syndicated research business as well. It would be extremely valuable to hear Forrester’s own experience in how these shifts are changing the way you do business and market to potential customers (I guess I’d fall into that bucket, based on calls from your sales team).

I’m finding that potential vendors we do business with are the ones who can talk very openly with customers. With so much choice, that’s often what stands out the most. It’s not about where a company product is today, but how dedicated it is to confronting risk, friction and other challenges — and constantly improving in partnership with customers.

What do you think?

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Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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