Thinking of a career as a B2B marketer? Smart choice. While there aren't as many B2B marketers as there are consumer marketers, the profession is growing and is full of opportunity for strategic thinkers who want to make a real impact on the businesses they work with.
I had the good fortune to interview 20 exceptional B2B leaders over the last year and I share their tips for success in The Radical Sales Shift: 20 Lessons from 20 Leaders on How to Use Marketing to Grow Sales in B2B Companies. They shared some pretty consistent insights on what it takes to be successful in B2B marketing – here are three big ones.
1. You’re not the art department.
In B2B companies, marketing is sometimes (wrongly) perceived as 'birthday cakes and party hats' – creative stuff that’s nice, but not really all that necessary or useful when it comes to revenue generation.
But that's not what strategic B2B marketing is about at all. It’s far from being just colours and logos and pretty brochures. It requires a very specific combination of skills: creative with financial/analytical, qualitative with quantitative. To be a powerhouse B2B marketer, you need to be able to think with both sides of your brain. So if you happen to have a very analytical and scientific mind, but not necessarily a strong design sense, don't rule marketing out. There's very likely an amazing career ahead of you in B2B.
2. Have the right attitude.
While there are plenty of opportunities out there, you have to recognize that B2B marketing isn’t a cakewalk. There are real resource challenges. Many B2B companies have never had a marketing function before and are just learning how much it costs, how long it takes, and what kinds of results to expect. To be successful, you have to understand that:
- B2B marketing is about revenue generation. Your boss will expect you to focus on profitable revenue generation, and all your activities should be adding up to that goal.
- You need to have skills in a whole bunch of different areas (translation: you’ll have to wear some unexpected hats, including web designer, SEO expert, content expert, videographer, you name it).
Having the right attitude means that you like to dig in on new things that you haven't done before, and that you don't mind rollling up your sleeves to get things done.
3. Deliver quick wins.
As a marketer, you know B2B has a long buying cycle, and that it takes time to grow the pipeline and show real ROI. But because things take a while, people who may not be in the know (see: the folks who sign your paycheques) are probably going to get impatient if you don’t show them something within a month or two.
The fact is, it can take a year to see the real impact of marketing. Which makes it a pretty precarious situation for marketers. Unless you show results within 3-6 months, you’ll end up getting fired; most B2B owners and managers aren’t interested in waiting around.
So the solution? Deliver results and deliver them fast. Show your colleagues tangible outcomes of your marketing activities – get in some quick wins early and give them the confidence they need to support your efforts in the long run. Put together some new messaging, refreshed sales collateral or an updated website. Show them you’re delivering tangible outputs and they’ll probably encourage you to keep doing it.
Over the next 5-10 years, we’ll see the number of job opportunities in B2B marketing grow exponentially. If you’re thinking about a career in marketing, consider it. It may be a little less glamorous than consumer stuff. But just because it doesn’t have big, shiny reputation, doesn’t mean it’s not an amazing chance to strut your skills – and establish yourself as a strategic contributor in an industry that’s seeing explosive growth.
Want more tips on becoming a successful B2B marketer? Download the first section of The Radical Sales Shift below: