In many B2B organizations there hasn't been a traditional marketing function. The public relations or communications team may handle corporate branding, for example, while regional marketing or business-unit level marketing generates demand and handles product marketing.
That's changing, in part because of greater access to data, new business model innovation, and a desire to sell more within established accounts.
More centralized core marketing functions are becoming more prevalent, in part because they can fuel growth by turning to customer and account insights to reveal new product and revenue opportunities.
Combine that with an unsteady economy and customers who expect B2B businesses to provide the same high level of experience they get with consumer brands, and the case for a single marketing team gets stronger.
When you think through what type of marketing leader you want to be in the face of such expanding business pressures, four strong B2B marketing archetypes emerge. They go beyond the roles that most senior marketing executives find themselves in—i.e., just great brand builders and stewards.
These are the four marketing leader/chief marketing officer archetypes:
- Growth and revenue optimizers, who take on the tighter alignment of customer journeys with Sales and Service. These CMOs have a goal of optimizing investment that drives demand, conversion, and loyalty.
- Culture builders and connectors, who take on the human element of transformation of the business, setting a vision for the business internally and externally. They have the goal of connecting across functional areas toward a shared set of outcomes and purpose.
- New product and service innovators, who take on product and service innovation that drives improved experiences in service of growth across new areas. These CMOs have a goal of increasing markets served, customer segments, ways of selling across company offerings, and opportunities to upsell into existing customers.
- Ecosystem builders, who source and build valuable partnerships that expand the product or service offering and overall value proposition. They sign up for the goals of developing financially motivated, win-win relationships to increase reach in the market and the value provided to customers.
The reality is that most CMOs and marketing leads must play all four of these roles at different times, along with being world-class brand builders, to ultimately succeed. Moreover, those marketing leaders must understand the trends that are shaping the CMO world of today.
Here are five B2B marketing leadership trends that can lead to more revenue, stronger brands, loyal customers, and effective leaders.
1. CMOs as Growth Integrators
B2B marketers are widening and narrowing their scope of responsibilities as they play a more significant part in driving business growth.
They are playing a more critical role in the company's most important nexus—the intersection of product or service and the ways customers experience it. There's a significant shift: More CMOs are setting the customer experience (CX) agenda, and occasionally CXOs report to them. The CMO is in a unique position to weigh CX investment to achieve optimal demand generation.
Accordingly, CMOs are working harder to prove how Marketing delivers value to the organization, taking on specific growth targets. They are taking a more active role in uncovering new pockets of growth and the segments that offer new opportunities.
Board-level expectations are behind these changes—i.e., insistence that marketing investments be able to prove their value—beyond traditional marketing KPIs. That means marketers are using a different language, switching out marketing buzzwords for financial terms that speak to the enterprise's strategic and financial goals and objectives.
2. Enrichment of Customer Understanding
Driving loyalty is always important, but in leaner times it's vital. Customer experiences that focus on the post-purchase journey are essential to lasting relationships.
Just as CMOs in consumer companies are stepping up their investment in CX, B2B organizations need to boost engagement with their customers.
The single view of the customer, which B2B brands have been chasing for decades, is quickly becoming untenable. As centralized marketing comes into focus, marketers are finding ways to approach a company's siloed data set from a horizontal and more holistic perspective. They're trying to live inside a customer's head and understand a day, a month, and a year in their life.
Customer data platform tools are rapidly improving, and a new generation of marketing leaders is increasingly skillful at understanding how to harness data to reach new and existing customers in different ways. The technology to realize account-based marketing (ABM) is fully in place at most companies. This year, more will finally be able to deliver on it, as long as marketers help identify revenue opportunities and set more business growth-oriented performance measurement.
3. Proving Marketing Investment
Turbulent economies push companies toward fear-based budgeting, wherein Marketing is often one of the first places companies look to save money. Moreover, because the C-suite is eager for quick sales gains, it's also common for companies to
href="https://www.marketingprofs.com/articles/2019/41763/brand-marketing-vs-performance-marketing-finding-the-right-balance">shift more funds into performance marketing at the expense of branding initiatives.
The most effective CMOs know that defending their budgets is always part of the job. But market turbulence means they need to be even more pre-emptive by contributing to business strategy, adding growth insights and helping set broader company objectives.
We expect more CMOs to lean into these four areas:
- Self-service demand generation. Automation is making it easier for digital tools to service customers around the clock, even offering sophisticated price configurations—without having to interact with a salesperson.
- More disciplined test-and-learn efforts. It's not enough to experiment occasionally. Marketers know that innovation and growth require a commitment to pilot measures, making learning a priority.
- Social strategy. Shopify, Square, and Adobe are killing it on TikTok. B2B brands are becoming more willing to think about social media beyond LinkedIn. Few companies should be on every channel, but all should know what social media channels offer the best opportunities to engage with their customers.
- Reporting metrics. The C-Suite is no longer satisfied with marketing-specific measurements. Clicks aren't enough. They need reporting that helps them make better strategic decisions while maximizing limited resources. CMOs need to ask: What are the marketing KPIs that drive to commercial KPIs ,and what are the dynamic commercial intelligence the company needs to thrive?
4. Declaration of a Personal Marketing Purpose
If that level of integration sounds like it requires wearing too many hats, we agree. Navigating too much ambiguity will limit effectiveness, and anyone who tries to be every single flavor of marketing executive is on the fast track to career despair.
So—since there's no classical model for a B2B CMO—now is the moment to write a personal purpose statement.
Consider the four archetypes, then decide which works best for your company's growth trajectory—and your own. (And, in this era of epidemic burnout, leaders who honor their personal purpose and ambition aren't being selfish. They're setting a vital example to their teams.)
All that calls for asking some tough questions, acknowledging that many B2B marketing professionals currently operate in an atmosphere of dissonance:
- What are you responsible for now?
- What are your aspirations?
- What does your company think you do versus what you actually do?
- Who should you be, in terms of your own goals and the ambitions of the organization?
- And what three critical enablers do you need to succeed?
Wherever you are today, be deliberate in crushing the expectations you have set for yourself, the commitments you have made to your leadership team, and the ultimate promise you have made to your customer.
5. ESG: Getting Real
Although we won't go as far as others and predict a pullback in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) commitments, we believe this is a pivotal year.
Companies know that ESG policies are under scrutiny, and the demand for accountability keeps growing. Although they might have begun as far-off goals, ESG commitments are promises. Employees, customers, and investors are watching, and companies must deliver on them and transparently report on their progress. And that has serious implications for those in marketing.
But as deadlines and target dates grow closer, marketers will get more cautious about how they frame ESG messages. Pledges to reduce greenhouse emissions in manufacturing by a certain percentage in 2025, or to use all sustainably sourced manufacturing components by 2030, will need a closer look. And though early marketing efforts around ESG often jumped over proof points, it's no longer safe to do so.
Companies aren't back-pedaling. But savvy marketers will recognize this moment is a turning point for storytelling. They'll pull back on the lofty—and too vague—messages that characterized many nascent ESG efforts. Instead, they'll chase stories that articulate sustainability wins, substantiated with the proof points that best resonate with customers.
* * *
The last few years have tested CMOs with numerous challenges and varying degrees of unpredictability. Crisis-tested, they are going into 2023 with clear aspirations and strategically redesigned marketing organizations that are built to find new paths to uncommon growth.
More Resources on CMO Trends
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