According to Forrester, a million B2B salespeople will lose their jobs by 2020. Their roles will be eliminated by the growing legions of buyers who conduct their research and transactions online and prefer the 'self-serve' approach to buying - which leaves the sales team out in the cold. Forrester's report “Death of a (B2B) Salesman,” has all the details.
That’s bad news for salespeople, but it’s an opportunity for B2B marketers. As the new buyer-driven purchasing process shifts the role of the sales department, it creates a huge opening for marketing.
More B2B companies, who have traditionally done all their revenue generation through salespeople, are turning to marketing to increase their market awareness, generate leads and reduce their sales costs. In short, they are realizing that they need marketing to increase and accelerate revenue generation.
That’s good news for B2B marketing companies. Technological and societal change is driving our growth, and our industry is growing by leaps and bounds. It's a wave of change that will continue for the next decade, and promises to take our companies to new heights.
But There's A Problem
But the changing dynamic of sales and marketing for B2B companies is also causing a problem.
Plenty of B2B companies need marketers, but there just aren't enough of them to go around.
- Most marketers are creatives or brand people. They’ve grown up with marketing as collateral and events and brand building, which is important, but it's no longer the whole picture.
- Or, they’re part of the new generation of marketers who know social media inside out, but don’t have the strategic outlook and business acumen to really make marketing hum.
So, we have two groups who each offer half a solution. Good B2B marketing is about bringing together left and right brain thinking, hard and soft skills.
To be successful, marketers have to combine financial and data know-how with creative and communications acumen. And finding that combination in one person is a lot harder than you'd think.
Solving The Problem
At The Mezzanine Group, a B2B marketing company based in Toronto, customer acquisition used to be the #1 growth constraint. But lately, we've begun to see talent acquisition as the bigger issue. Our greatest challenge is finding the brilliant B2B marketers who will achieve results for our clients. Believe it or not, we look at about 200 marketers for every one that we hire. We need to come up with new ways of finding talent – and one of the best ways to do that is to create it.
Creating The Next Generation of B2B Marketers
Kudos to companies like Hubspot who are making exceptional efforts to train the next generation of powerhouse B2B marketers. But Hubspot is just one company, they can't do it all by themselves. Here are 4 ways that leaders in B2B marketing agencies and industry roles can help create the next generation of B2B marketers:
Talk up B2B opportunities to your consumer-marketing peers
Make a show of it! Too few marketers know just how strategic, sexy and awesome B2B marketing is. Never miss an opportunity to share a recent success or tell the story of the impact you’re making in your company or clients. Consumer marketers often think that they have all the fun. Do you best to dispel that perception.
Guest-speak at college and university marketing classes
Make connections with your local educational institutions and your alma mater. Offer to do a guest-lecture or case study on B2B marketing. There is relatively little academic content on B2B marketing, so teachers are generally happy to get access to practitioners. Make a special effort to connect with undergrads and students in continuing professional development classes, as they are making decisions about their career direction. Put B2B marketing on the radar as a good next career step.
Take your stories to mainstream media and to marketing associations
Promote the impact that marketing has in B2B companies and the strategic role you play in your company’s success. Raise the profile of marketing as a growing function within traditionally non-marketing companies (like manufacturers).
Launch a paid internship program
Bring in new talent for bite-sized projects to teach students and new grads about B2B and expose them to the opportunities. You get the benefit of test driving your next potential hire before you make them an offer.
It's up to us as marketers to spread the word about the possibilities that B2B marketing holds. Those million jobs aren't going to fill themselves; building skills now for the needs of the next few years will position the B2B industry for the meteoric growth that's coming. And those businesses with the great marketers on their teams will be the ones to rise to the top.
Want to know more about what makes a great B2B marketer? Check out The Radical Sales Shift: 20 Lessons from 20 Leaders on How to Use Marketing to Grow Sales in B2B Companies.
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