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Proof of Life: 4 Reasons Why B2B Lives On

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In a recent speech, Rick Segal, worldwide president of GyroHSR, stated that B2B marketing is obsolete.  Following the speech, he participated in an interview with B2B Online. In it, he not only claimed that B2B marketing is obsolete, but that it “very well may be dead.”  The reasons for his assertion are primarily the rise of mobile technologies and his claim that “no longer do businesses market to other businesses, but to individuals who are shifting continuously from at-work to at-home states of mind throughout the day.”

While I’ve never met Segal, nor do I doubt his experience in the B2B marketplace, I fervently disagree with his statement.  To explain why, here are my four reasons why B2B marketing is still alive and kicking.

1. Sales Needs It


It was not long ago that Marketing was seen as merely a cost center to most organizations.  Marketing offered no intrinsic value beyond designing brochures, making sexy presentations, and ensuring brand compliance.  When cuts had to be made, Marketing was one of the first targets. After all, Marketing had no value (or if it did, it didn’t know how to prove it).

However, this is not the case anymore.  Marketers in the B2B world are providing and proving value more than ever before.  They are working alongside their sales counterparts in the development of demand-generation and lead-management strategies.  They are helping to propel deals through the sales pipeline through the development and execution of lead nurturing.  They are focusing on generating quality (versus quantity) leads.  They are providing metrics that show the value of their work and how marketing spend is directly generating revenue.  More and more, sales organizations are understanding and appreciating the value of their marketing teams. Together, both groups are working to meet revenue goals.

2.  The B2B Buyer


In his statement, Segal mentions the use of mobile technologies and people who are shifting continuously. He is absolutely correct.  The B2B buyer is changing, and that change now has them in control of the buying process. Sales used to be in control of disseminating information to the buyer.  Not so anymore. Today, the buyer (or more often, buyers) now control and manage the entire process and involve Sales much later in it.  Buyers have access to information like never before.  Peer-to-peer interaction, social networks, and online research have shifted the power to the buyer, thus making Marketing all the more important.  Why?  Because Marketing is better positioned to engage the buyer in a one-on-one dialogue, while doing so in a mass context.

Buyers today are not just looking for a vendor. They want the assurance of a business relationship.  They are looking to buy from partners who will provide value, understand their needs, and grow with them.  Building this relationship requires consistent, relevant, timely content centered on each buyer’s needs. Today, marketing is the entity driving this in B2B organizations.  So as the buyer continues to transform, marketing will be ever so vital to customer acquisition and retention.

3. The Focus on Revenue


One of the reasons Marketing has traditionally been a corporate doormat is its inability to show value in what it was delivering.  This is no longer the case. With the attention to metrics and the use of automation and BI technologies, Marketing is now able to show its impact on pipeline and revenue.  This shift in focus is putting Marketing on par with sales from a revenue goals perspective. It’s also bringing alignment to organizations.  While many marketing groups are still in the process of developing this approach, the awareness and understanding of revenue impact as the key barometer of success is certainly there.  This shift in focus has revived marketing groups and is allowing them to showcase their impact on their companies.

4.  Enabling Technologies


The marketing automation industry is a little more than a decade old. Yet the last three years have seen a significant increase in awareness where marketers are now looking to these technologies as keys to success.  While adoption rates are increasing slowly, marketers are beginning to understand that combined with the right people, process and content, marketing automation can enable them to meet the needs of their buyer and deliver the most quality leads to sales.  These technologies have truly been a game changer for B2B marketing organizations. When used correctly, they breathe new life into a marketing organization, giving them exponentially greater resources to drive revenue.

I have said it before and will continue to say it over and over again: “There is no better time to be a B2B marketer!”  Proclamations of its death---while provocative---are surely premature.  B2B marketing is just hitting its stride!


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Carlos Hidalgo is CEO of The Annuitas Group the leader in the development of marketing & sales lead management processes. He is a frequent speaker on the topic of lead management process, demand generation and marketing automation and is passionate about helping their clients improve the return on their marketing and sales investments.

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  • by Kathy O'Leary Fri Feb 25, 2011 via blog

    I couldn't agree more. I've been doing B2B marketing for 25 years. It remains different that B2C for a plethora of reasons, while incorporating many techniques and tactics from the consumer world.

    Well said.

  • by Marc Pickren Fri Feb 25, 2011 via blog

    I don't think B2B marketing is obsolete. Just because as consumers we are changing from work to home throughout the day doesn't mean business still can't reach us no matter where we are, i.e. mobile marketing. Like you said in the B2B buyer section, the buyer is looking for the "relationship" rather than just being sold to. As a buyer we want to feel like we are more in control of the sales process, which is why marketing has joined forces with sales to improve how businesses market to the buyer and how the buyer completes the sales.

    Great post, must RT.

  • by Ann Handley Sat Feb 26, 2011 via blog

    I think Marc nails it, above. B2B marketing isn't obsolete, but it's changing, for many of the reasons you lay out here, Carlos. The rise of Content Marketing is another indication of how B2B marketing is changing, and that again maps into some of your points. A B2B organization's content is increasingly the first touch to a customer -- whereas that touch previously might have been by a salesperson. So that means that your content has to be quality, engaging, smart, informative and... well, awesome. That's a scary thing, maybe. But it's also a tremendous opportunity.

    Perhaps B2B sales (in a traditional sense) is really what's dead. But B2B marketing is only getting more interesting.

    Great post, Carlos!

  • by Steve Parker Sat Feb 26, 2011 via blog

    I also couldn't agree more. The idea that B2B buyers of $100K data warehousing systems can now be won over by trivial consumer tactics like coupons, funny videos or free toys, for example, is naive and oversimplistic. B2B selling has become much more of a buying rather than sales process. Buyers do a lot of research online before wanting to engage with a company--typically much later in the cycle than before. Although search and social media enable B2B buyers to conduct some of their research in the same way a consumer might research a new car purchase, that does not mean that suddenly B2B buyers behave exactly the same as consumers. Big differences remain. Probably the biggest one is that while consumers typically make their own decisions (or at most consult a spouse), B2B buyers seldom have sole authority over a purchase decision--especially big ones. Typically they're part of a group or committee that decides. Yes, the group are humans and they have emotions, but these decisions are still made following rational evaluations. This has huge implications, not the least of which are opportunities for content marketing, social media and online communities to influence the buying group in powerful ways that don't typically apply to individual consumers.

  • by Steve Revill Sun Feb 27, 2011 via blog

    An excellent post, thanks. I find myself agreeing with you all, too.

    There's never been a more exciting time to be a B2B Marketer (I've been one for the last 12 years). Some of the organisational behaviour around the Decision Making Unit may be the same, but the 'information search' and 'evaulation of alternatives' stages of the buying process are increasingly being conducted online and via social media.

    With the increasing adoption of these tools amongst senior business people (whether in 'work', 'commute' or 'home' modes), there are more possibilities than ever for B2B Markters to engage in dialogue with prospects and customers.

    I'd say B2B Marketing is not only very much alive but only just coming of age!

  • by Gary Mason Sun Feb 27, 2011 via blog

    I would argue that the fact that new B2B marketing disciplines like Executive Sponsor Programs and Customer Advisory Boards are gaining more traction is evidence of thriving B2B marketing.

  • by Melanie Oakley Mon Feb 28, 2011 via blog

    Brilliant article and replies! The first time I've felt compelled to reply too..... mainly after years of sitting in or working with corporates that had the 'old' mindset that marketing didn't matter (beyond a pretty piece of collateral)....well clearly it does! With the buyer in control (phew!) it is imperative for businesses to prioritise marketing in the business generation process. Marketing must optimise both content and channel in order to a) first listen to buyers and then b) add value. Not rocket science but still has to be said.

    Influencing the buyer's thinking (to drive consideration of the vendor/solution) is only going to happen with a much much greater focus on the content that matters to the buyer and not the vendor! 77% of all UK large enterprise IT buyers (in a study we conducted last year) agreed or strongly agreed that IT decision makers now expect vendors to publish good quality, fact-based information as part of how they communicate with their market. Buyers will engage with vendors when they get something in return. So I agree there's no better time for B2B marketers than right now.

  • by Aurelius Tjin Thu Mar 3, 2011 via blog

    Very Right! Thanks for sharing this Post.

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