6 Ways B2B Marketers Are Falling Short Today

Marketing Roller CoasterAs I came back from the B2B Marketing Innovation Summit, put on by Demandbase, I couldn’t shake the feeling that we aren’t doing enough. That I’m not doing enough.

Sure, marketing is changing faster today than it did yesterday. Blah blah blah. It doesn’t matter how fast marketing is changing! The real question is “how are you changing?”

Here are six areas that struck me. No, they aren’t new. But they are places many B2B marketers, including myself, should be doing so much more.

1. We need more actionable insights.

If we have insights we can’t do anything with, we aren’t improving. We are just cluttering our minds and our desks with information that is far more interesting than useful. And as marketers, we are all trying to improve our marketing, right?

We do this by focusing our analysis, but increasingly we have access to new tools or technologies that let us act directly on insights that were never actionable before.

2. We need to test. And test and test and test.

Just spend a few minutes on WhichTestWon and you will quickly see that we can’t rely on our gut. We need to test our ideas and measure the results.

3. We need to move much faster.

Most marketing organizations move at the pace of refrigerated molasses, while the audiences we are trying to reach are moving along like a rushing river. In large companies, an idea that was valuable because it was timely loses nearly all of its value by the time a marketer gets around to doing something with it.

The output of long planning cycles should be a framework or direction that allow us to make decisions quickly and infrastructure that let’s us execute quickly. Not a rigid plan that keeps us from taking advantage of opportunities as they rise.

And yes, it took me more than three weeks to get this published after the event, so I’m looking in the mirror when I say we need to move more quickly.

4. We need to sweat the little stuff without forgetting the big stuff.

Today we are using data to segment our audiences and develop ever more sophisticated and granular programs. As we focus on these smaller and smaller audiences, we risk missing the opportunity to join the larger conversations happening in our market.

5. We need to be more relevant to our audience.

I don’t care one bit about most of the ads I see or even the marketing emails I receive, including the ones from companies that actually want to reach me. We need to redouble our efforts to be relevant and valuable to the people we want to reach or they will just keep tuning us out.

6. We need to master data.

Yes, we all use data today. Many of us see significant benefits from it. But at the root of nearly every item on this list is the ability to do so much more with data and technology today than we could just 24 months ago. And I’ll venture most of us still aren’t doing as much with it as we should.

Your turn

What are the shortcomings and areas of opportunity you see today for B2B marketers? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter (@wittlake)!

Photo Credit: Intamin10 via Compfight cc

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  • Carlos Hidalgo

    Eric – I always enjoy your posts and they are great food for thought. One thing I would add is we need to transform (this may contradict your 3rd bullet point of moving faster), but transformation is key. I see many marketing organizations, especially at the enterprise level, that are built in a very old fashioned, silo approach which limits the ability to align people, process, content and technology to our buyers. There needs to be wholesale change in many of these orgs in order to operate at maximum effectiveness. This does take time, but if marketing is going to be the strategic department it should be it must be done.

    • Thanks Carlos. I agree about transformation, I actually think it is part of learning to move faster. As you point out, silos and organizational structures, as well as rigid planning and execution processes, make moving quickly and even sharing information effectively a challenge. Thanks for the comment!

  • Paul Wilson

    Eric – I also enjoy reading your insights very much and have grown to like you without knowing you, but this time, my advice would be, ‘dont go to the B2B Marketing Innovation Summit by Demandbase again’, it seems to have freaked you out, made you want to heap more stress on your life, and you are too precious for that!

    • HA! Thanks for the comment and kind words. I came away maybe a bit more stressed, yes, but mostly inspired by some of the things that really are achievable today that were either impossible or extremely challenging in the past.

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  • Steve Peck

    I think this is an excellent list with your point #1 about the need for actionable insights being very near and dear to my heart.

    In terms of what I’d add, I’d say B2B marketers need to consistently be less self serving and do more to focus on the needs of their customers.

    If all you do is talk about yourself and your awesome products, over time nobody will listen. But if you show up with an original thought that helps your customer improve themselves or their job performance, they will pay attention and like your brand better for it. This obviously sits at the core of todays content marketing movement, but I think all too often B2B marketers forget this important aspect of any effective content strategy…

    • Thanks Steve, I totally agree with your point about being helpful. I’d actually like to suggest raising the bar one notch higher on that front:

      Your content should be useful even to someone who is determined to never become your customer.

      This goes along with not forgetting the big stuff. If all of our content is only useful to customers or those in the process of becoming customers, we are missing the opportunity to make ourselves relevant and useful to a significant portion of our potential market an d to a key source of long-term growth for our business.

      Thanks for the comment, I appreciate it!!

      • Steve Peck


  • Dara Schulenberg

    As usual, my head is nodding in agreement Eric. I would add that we also need to (continue) to break down the operational silos – in marketing and throughout the enterprise. And as a complement to the need to move faster, embracing an agile approach is a significant cultural shift that must occur.

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  • Brilliant post Eric! Just spent a few minutes on WhichTestWon (guessed and got today’s one wrong!) – what a great site!

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  • chandru sharma

    Yeah… This is nice blog to read and it has lot of useful information to do digital marketing for b2b clients.

    Chandru From Bizbilla – Global b2b portal

    • Your website is very huge ! How you managed to update every section of it?

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  • Mhonika Bharathi

    I can understand how digital marketing is taking B2B sales to a new level but B2B products are more complex and they need a human interference to make the customer understand the product.So as a B2B Marketer do you really think the “Human Factor” can be replaced by digital marketing?

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  • mjonnes

    I am a B2B marketer in Sports Gloves . I work with B2B clients.

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