What Skills do B2B Marketers Need to be Effective in 2014?

Customer Insight

The world of B2B marketing is in a constant state of flux.

Hardly an earth-shattering statement, but one you would be hard pressed to disagree with. Advances in technology and innovative new business models mean B2B marketers today work in a more complex and dynamic environment than our predecessors. How you perform today is as much to do with keeping up-to-date with the zeitgeist, as it is rolling out a tried and tested marketing plan. If ever there was a need to write a personal development plan, it’s now.

What does this mean for the sills required by Joe B2B Marketer to be effective in 2014 and beyond?

1. You must understand how to measure ROMI

Marketers at all levels must get to grips with measuring return on investment. Open rates, click through rates, event attendance and reach are no longer good enough. What’s the impact on sales pipeline and how do we as marketers positively impact these numbers?

The good news is technology makes this easier to achieve, but also this means marketers need to get closer to sales. Make 2014 the year you learn how to be friends with the sales director.

2. You have to get to grips with digital marketing

The effect of new technologies on marketing has been transformational. Changing not just what we do, but how we do it.  2013 was without a doubt the year digital grew up and social media began to show real value.

But do you know your social channels and how to work with them properly? Do you understand how to integrate digital marketing into everything you do? B2B marketers need to get smarter at using social media yes, but also marketing automation, website analytics, conversion tracking, mobile apps and so on.

As a marketer in 2014 it’s time to truly get digital.

3. You must know your data protection laws

More technology invariably means more data. More data means more regulation. More regulation means more careful data management. It is essential marketers understand their responsibilities in this space.

But it’s not just about the legalities. Are you cleaning your data regularly, segmenting it effectively and using it to create personalised brand experiences? There is without a doubt a huge opportunity for marketers here, but let’s not forget about the opportunities of using data from multiple sources too a.k.a. big data.  An understanding of the new European Data Protection Regulations should be high up on your list of skills to acquire too.

4. It’s time to get creative with your integrated marketing

Typically when we think of creativity we consider the creative execution: messaging, branding / design and media channel selection. There is increasing scope for creativity in each of these areas, but marketers should remember the crucial role they play as the bridge between customer and business. Let’s not forget to look for creative approaches to managing that relationship through new channels and business models too.

5. Yes content marketing is important and you need to do it well

2013 was the year of the content avalanche. B2B marketers looking for fresh sales leads ramped up the volume of content being produced. With the increased volume it became apparent that if a channel existed, a marketer would use it; the field of dreams scenario.

Every single marketer using a content strategy needs to work out how to rise above the din that is content marketing. Otherwise the ROI is likely to be somewhat slow to appear. Marketers must learn how to create content that is engaging, educational or entertaining, preferably all three. Optimise it to attract eyeballs and distribute it well to gain maximum attention. On top of that you must know how to measure the impact of your content strategy. Google Analytics anyone?

6. The value of events is increasingly important, but embrace the change

The landscape for events is evolving too. With new technologies come greater opportunities for before, during and after show experiences and also entirely new event formats. What can you do to embed digital tactics into your event?

With research indicating 70% of a buyer’s information search is now completed before they contact a vendor, event marketers need to tailor their campaigns to the correct stage in the buying cycle.

7. There will always be a need for partnerships

The age-old pitch from agencies that “we like to be a partner to our clients” might seem like a broken record, but it is worth considering for driving up effectiveness.

Agencies need clients but it should never be a one-way street. Client side marketers need to know how to get the best from their agencies (note this is unlikely to be by beating them up).  At the same time agencies really should be a partner to their clients. Invest time to understand your clients’ businesses, hire and retain staff and incubate new team members. Reward clients with excellence in consultancy and execution; they deserve nothing less.

8. Get to grips with using emotion in B2B marketing

In B2B we generally sell based on rational data: product specifications and speed tests for example. Business buyers only really care about the features. But is that accurate?

Your customer is a person, not a machine. People use emotions in decision-making and even more so when making big-ticket purchases. Consumer marketers know this and use emotion heavily in their communications, but this might just make the difference for B2B marketers in 2014 too. Learn how to get in touch with your emotional side in 2014 and apply that to your marketing and communications.

Let me know if the comments below what you think are the key skills marketers need in 2014 to be effective.

(A version of this article first appeared on the B2B Marketing Magazine Blog.)