Friday, 1 July 2011

"There are two types of B2B marketers in the UK, those who work for household names, and those who don’t"

Nigel Cooper,

Why common sense?

If you are now expecting a stream of technical textbook sound bites look away. By far the most important quality for any B2B marketer in 2011 is common sense.

In fact the most important quality for any employee in 2011 is common sense, and I would personally argue that the same was true in 1971, 1981, 1991, 2001 and will still be true in 2021.

Now we’ve got that out of the way let’s get back to the question, “Is there a difference in the B2B marketer from now compared to five years ago?  In a word: no! Other than learning how to use the latest piece of technology  -  which is by the way another historical and future constant from the fax, to the mobile, to the internet to twitter and whatever comes tomorrow, most of which comes from the likes of Apple and Microsoft and is designed to be user friendly, I don’t think the basic B2B skill set has changed much.

There are two types of B2B marketers in the UK, those who work for household names, and those who don’t. The vast majority of companies in the UK and therefore the vast majority of B2B marketers sadly don’t have the luxury of a household brand to work with, so for them life is different – not tougher, just different.

If you want some clarity on that, compare being the head of B2B marketing at Cisco and the head of B2B marketing at P&MM. Both have similar objectives in terms of generating interest and opportunity for their products and services, both are regarded as leaders in their fields, both might have 1% of the annual profits to spend - but there the similarities start to become ever so slightly disproportionate.

In our world, sales managers have £500 to spend on this month’s targeted industry sector campaign and want results – i.e sales leads. 

Creative thinking on a £1,000 budget

B2B marketers must think differently. There are literally thousands of B2B marketers working for companies with less than 200 employees and not every customer at that level uses Google to search for what they are looking for, so chucking money at an SEO campaign isn’t always the right answer despite the university text book.

Marketing degrees now and from five years ago, unfortunately still fail to give the aspiring marketer the skills needed to succeed in B2B marketing – some don’t even major on it despite it being the most quantative form of marketing employment. Perhaps creative thinking on a £1,000 budget doesn’t fit with £9,000 a year university fees! Whatever the reason, the reality is that those who teach marketing are far removed from the day-to-day pressure to make the sale that keep the business afloat.  I think that brand marketing is great for consumer products and truly awesome at a B2B level for a handful of FTSE brands, but is pretty useless for the rest of the B2B environment.

Why common sense? Because B2B marketers work much more closely with sales through a joint approach.  Ninety nine per cent of B2B brands are unknown to all but their existing customers and prospects so it tends to be controlled and measurable hard-pitched sales activities which bring in business. B2B marketers have a lot less resources at their disposal and some very real day to day challenges which makes their role much more varied, robust, creative, challenging, demanding and potentially rewarding, hence common sense tends be an important feature.

It may not be as sexy as brand marketing, and I’m sure every marketer would love to head up BMW’s brand marketing team who successfully deliver customers into showrooms because they’ve seen the mainstream marketing communications, but, alas, there are very few of those jobs around but there are tens of thousands of B2B marketing positions and a lot of graduates on the way.

Nigel Cooper, executive director, P&MM Events & Communications
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