Waves of change are something marketers are used to. We even welcome them when we plan our entrances and exits under favorable market conditions. But if a heavy swell hits the horizon before we’re ready, marketers can be overwhelmed by the force and turbulence of change.
In 2020, several tidal waves disrupted traditional marketing. Fortunately, we have never been so well prepared and equipped to deal with this chaos. Today’s marketers are the change makers in corporate organizations: They drive digital transformation and innovation, break down silos and lead success in the digital economy.
Marketing is more important than ever due to the changing behavior of buyers and the consumerization of IT.
So how can we successfully ride new waves of change without collapsing into a gnarled obliteration? The answer consists of two mindsets and one skill: trust, curiosity, and competence. The 3Cs.
Trust: Replicate the Silicon Valley bragging rights wherever you are
I’ve worked in the B2B technology ecosystems for startups and companies in Silicon Valley for more than 25 years, giving myself the opportunity to ponder the magic formula that makes the valley tick. I found a “holy trinity” that gives Silicon Valley its boast: money, talent and culture.
Money drives growth. Whether in mature industries with large addressable markets or in emerging opportunities with great future potential – Silicon Valley is not afraid to use its money where it is. SV startups attracted 44% of the country’s VC funding in 2019 – not to mention the ten billion more that private equity and big tech companies have invested locally.
Talent is abundant in the valley, too: an impressive 46% of the Bay Area’s population have a college degree (compared to 28% nationally) and 20% have at least one college degree. It takes smart, educated people to win as often as valley companies.
But above all, culture is Silicon Valley’s weapon for success. Workers exude confidence. Risk taking is recommended. Failure is celebrated. The bureaucracy is abhorred. The valley wholeheartedly welcomes the “art of doing what is possible”, with all the pitfalls and setbacks that come with it.
Silicon Valley does not have a monopoly on the Holy Trinity. VCs and other investors are quickly becoming geographically agnostic. Innovators from Montreal to Melbourne and Beijing to Bangalore level the playing field year after year. This is especially true for software where physical location is not an issue and the cost of global scaling is low. There’s no reason talent needs to be local, especially given the global adoption of remote working that is being forced by COVID-19. Even for roles where physical presence is important, players in other locations can take advantage of the urban exodus currently taking place.
So what’s left? That culture of trust! The Silicon Valley Boast! And as any business coach or personal development guru will tell you – that’s all you baby.
Silicon Valley has already exported its culture of dreaming big and failing fast to other regions around the world. You can fly from San Francisco, fly 15 hours, pick up your bags and go to a startup accelerator or coworking space in Berlin or Singapore. Silicon Valley is an attitude, not a point on a map.
For those who may not have the experience or inclination to run the Silicon Valley pursuit right away (look at you, other Athenians), I say that inner trust begins with the friends, family, and other trusted gamblers that yours make up personal social environment infrastructure. For me, it’s my husband, three children, and two cats, and my supportive father and siblings who give me the strength to try, fail, and try again. They are the people who pick you up, dust you off, celebrate your victories with you, love you unconditionally – and build your trust.
Curiosity: Learn to hack growth no matter how tall you are
Between 2000 and 2017, 52% of the Fortune 500 were bankrupt, acquired, or simply no longer existed. Research firm Innosight has predicted that a full three quarters of the Fortune 500 will be replaced by 2027.
Whether you’re a brave startup looking for market share or an established industry player, you can’t afford to sit on your market position and past successes.
Startups need to learn how to flash and gain first mover benefits. Established businesses need to learn how to use account-based marketing (ABM) and deal-based marketing (DBM) to sustain growth. Both must learn from each other in order to be successful in the relentless new world of digital transformation.
Start with the three most powerful words in the English language: “I don’t know.” Admit you don’t know everything and learn best practices wherever you can.
The world of B2B marketing has radically changed and continues to change.
- Buyers are digitally controlled, socially networked and mobile and have full access to research information.
- A third of decision-makers are millennials, who see the B2B buying process differently than their predecessors.
- According to a recent McKinsey report, twice as many B2B buyers prefer digital touchpoints over traditional sales interactions.
- Self-service is now normal and marketing makes up 70-80% of the trip.
As a marketer, you need to be willing to stay curious, constantly learn, and try new methods to stimulate growth. Since nothing is static, you always have to learn new skills, hacks, and perspectives. In fact, I would say that if you are unable to constantly learn new ideas and mechanisms about where you are now, you should be willing to switch roles or even switch companies.
Competency: Master five core competencies to drive growth transformation
Trust and curiosity are important, but they won’t get you very far if you don’t know what they’re doing.
Marketers have five jobs – and you need to properly place them in every bucket to be successful. According to the Aberdeen Group, SiriusDecisions and other researchers, companies that successfully match B2B sales and marketing increase their sales and profit growth by 20 to 30%. Here are the five skills B2B marketers need to transform their organizations:
- Positioning. If you don’t yet know where you stand in the hierarchy of competitors and what makes your offerings unique, your customers won’t either. Ask, “Why should the customer choose you?” and “Which customer needs do we solve?” Then, target all of your marketing messages to it. Be the category leader if you can. If what you’re doing doesn’t have a category, create it!
- Tell stories. An ancient Native American story says, “Tell me the facts and I’ll learn, tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story – and it will live in my heart forever.” I don’t care how technical your product is. If your content doesn’t use the art of storytelling to convey how your product fits into people’s lives, it won’t sell.
- Engagement. Once you have your positioning and storytelling in place, you still need to find the right way to get your content out to the right buyers. Buyers consume an average of 5-6 pieces of content on most B2B trips. So choose your content mix carefully. Target all decision makers in your account-based marketing. Use both inbound and outbound methods. Personalize (because you can). And make sure you appeal to buyers with your unique brand experience online and offline.
- Monetization. At some point, mindshare needs to be turned into wallet sharing. You need to know how to measure, analyze, and optimize marketing automation, personalization, maintain tracks, and perform lead scoring from inbound, webinars, and events. If you think this is “the sales department problem,” think again. Closing the deal is part of marketing success whether or not you sign on the dotted line.
- Acceleration. At some point in your company’s development, positioning, storytelling, engagement, and monetization will work smoothly on all pistons. But guess what: your work isn’t done yet! Once you have the basics, you can accelerate the growth of your business by creating an ecosystem of industry analysts, consultants, and strategic partners.
The most important metric for the competency of your marketing machine is the contribution of marketing to the sales pipeline and ultimately the sales-related results. The most important metric for your own success as a B2B marketer is how well you master the 3Cs of B2B marketing success.
* * *
It’s a great time to be a marketer. You sit in the driver’s seat. Let yourself be inspired! It is your time and your turn to grab the wave and have the ride of your life.
More resources for marketing success
Four successful ways to combine inbound and outbound marketing
Four marketing approaches that distinguish successful B2B brands
How To Influence And Make Change: Four Skills Every Marketing Director Needs