It's undeniable that 2020 has fundamentally changed the world of marketing—and, with it, the expectations of the millions of professionals in the field. For B2B companies, those expectations were changing fast even before the pandemic hit. Now, the pace of change has accelerated dramatically.
To navigate such a rapidly changing, complex world, B2B marketers must be ready to take on a new, consultative role. Marketers must now become solutions architects and manage the entire sales and marketing ecosystem—creative, messaging, experience, digital media, offline media, data, analytics, and more—to better align with customers' changing expectations and to solve their emerging problems.
The opportunities are both exciting and challenging. Here are six ways to embrace your new role and get ahead of trends to make yourself an even more valuable business partner.
1. Erase lanes every chance you get
Whether on the agency or client side, the world of a B2B marketer has long consisted of separate lanes—for media, creative, experience, analytics, public relations, sales, and so on. But in many cases, those internal structures were built for a world that no longer exists.
Planning, executing, and measuring efforts exclusively from each other will result in returns that diminish at an accelerated pace. Your customers don't care about your internal structure. Whether or not you do, they see business interactions as a part of one long and complex story. B2B customers in particular don't differentiate between paid and organic touchpoints; all they're concerned about is whether they're receiving value at every point in the journey.
The B2B customer journey is long and complex; nothing about it is linear. Merging cross-functional teams to tackle problems is critical to success today. It will be table stakes tomorrow.
2. Recast yourself as a steward of trust
Marketing has been changing for years from a one-way channel to a conversation. When done right, conversations lead to long-term relationships, and those are built on trust. Customers won't engage in conversation if they don't trust the company that's reaching out to them.
To move from marketer to solutions architect, you should be thinking about how you are participating in a clear value exchange with B2B customers throughout the purchase cycle. If they give you their data or attention, how do you offer them something that makes their job easier? Consistently delivering such transparent interactions requires thoughtful solutions if you are to build trust.
Marketers, particularly in B2B, need to see themselves as stewards of that trust.
3. Build a powerful partner bench
Even if your role is bigger, you cannot effectively be all things to all clients. In such a complex ecosystem, identifying partners to come alongside your B2B marketing efforts has never been more important.
An end-to-end solution can consist of customer data platforms, marketing automation technology, demand-side platforms, analytics tools, data management platforms, customer relationship management tools, and more. Even if you're working for or with a company with tremendous scale, you will need to partner to get best-in-class technology and expertise in all of those areas.
We are living in an age of partnerships. Microsoft makes world-class apps for Apple devices. Google's Android operating system is running on Microsoft's devices. Strategic partnerships can make the pie bigger and benefit everyone by adding a lot of business value. They can also solidify your role as a strategic partner and solutions architect.
4. Focus on unlocking the potential of data
Data is a critical asset, and clients are becoming more conscious of its value. All the while, restrictions and implications around data are ramping up. Many are unsure of how to use it, and they are looking to marketers to show them how to break down the barriers that keep data locked in silos.
Data just might be the area where B2B marketers as solutions architects can have the biggest impact on solving thorny business problems. No B2B marketing campaign should get off the ground until a complete data discovery is performed. Too many marketing efforts move forward when data is not flowing, systems are not talking to one another, and data hygiene issues have not been properly resolved.
Getting the data conversation right from the start will save time, money, and frustration while opening up business opportunities that were previously held captive.
5. Get up to speed on regulatory activity
Bombarded with changes, companies are looking for consultative experts, and they expect marketers to stay on top of the latest in data, compliance, and regulation. They need strategic businesspeople to help them manage risk across activities and partners.
Although you cannot provide legal advice as a marketer, you can stay up to speed on regulatory changes and share best-practices and optimization strategies, helping clients to use data in compliant and ethical ways. Ensuring trust is important here, too, as you'll need to assure clients that their customers' data is being collected securely and used safely.
6. Stay nimble
We're all operating in unchartered territory. Although there is no cookie-cutter solution for an agency or a company, you can remain relevant by being ready and willing to continually evolve. That may mean reinventing your role to stay ahead of the curve and adding new skills, experience, and tools when needed.
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The marketing industry, like so many others, has been forever altered by the global events of 2020. As we evolve to meet greater expectations and help companies solve new problems, we have an opportunity to do bigger and better things as marketers.
And "solutions architect" has a nice ring to it.
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