2012 Resolutions for the B2B Marketer

Well here we are.  2011 is history, and we embark on another year.  At the end of 2011, I resisted the temptation to become a prognosticator, figuring that I didn’t want to deal with the ramifications of my predictions potentially not coming true.  Instead, I have chosen to produce a list of resolutions for this New Year.  These resolutions are not mine alone.  They stem from discussions I’ve had with marketers over the past year.  Although there are five, I’m hoping that each B2B marketer should resolve to focus on at least one for 2012.

Resolution #1:  Don’t be Self-Centered

I receive 3-5 calls or emails per week asking if I have 30-minutes to view a demo or learn how a product can make my business better.  In most of these cases, I’ve never spoken with the sales rep.  Usually, I don’t have a need for their product or service.  If this is still the marketing and sales approach for your organization, you should resolve to stop it in 2012.

The truth is, your buyers do not care about your product and service nearly as much as you want them to or think they should.  What they want to know is:

  • Do you understand the day-to-day issues they are facing?
  • Do you have information that can better educate them?
  • Do you understand them, their needs and their current situation?

When you begin the conversation, “can I show you a demo,” you’re showing that it’s about you, not them.  In 2012, instead of accosting your buyers with product literature and “sales pitches”, commit to understanding them so you can develop a content plan that engages them.  Ensure your content is more about them and less about you. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the difference it will make.

Resolution #2: Drive and Embrace Change

Perhaps no word or concept strikes more fear and angst into an organization than the word “change”.  The fact is, change is not easy and it’s rarely met with open arms.  I have had many CMOs and senior marketing/sales people tell me “we know it’s broken but changing it would be too hard.”  They’re right.  Change is hard.  But, in order to succeed and drive the revenue that is expected from marketing by the CEO, it must occur.

There is no doubt that the B2B buyer has changed dramatically. Without adapting (or changing) to the new buyer, growth will not occur.  So, in essence, change is not an option.  It’s essential.  The branding and communications focus of yester-year is no longer applicable in today’s B2B buying process.  Instead, the buyer of today expects an introduction, dialogue and eventual engagement. If marketing and sales teams are going to succeed in our new world of B2B marketing, change must happen.  So drive and embrace that change!

Resolution #3:  Be a Realist

I recently went through the process of building a house.  During construction, we lived in a rental about two miles away which gave us the opportunity to drive by and watch the work on our new home progress.  Early on (to this novice eye) it seemed that little to no progress was being made.  For weeks we would drive by and simply see a hole in the ground.  What was being done? Why was there no foundation being poured? Why wasn’t the framing complete?  The simple answer was that building a house takes time.  The builder was taking the time to lay the right piping, to ensure the sides and bottom where the foundation was to be poured was level, and to confirm that each stage of the build process was properly inspected for quality.

B2B marketers should adopt this same philosophy – the change mentioned above takes time. It won’t be completed in a matter of weeks.  While the temptation of marketers is to commit to quick timelines and to expect complete transformation in a short time, the reality is that it’s just not feasible.

Recently, a marketer told me of some of their plans for the New Year:

  • Develop buyer personas for their top five buyers and chart the buying journey for each
  • Develop and implement a demand generation strategy including content marketing and development
  • Implement and launch a marketing automation system and integrate it with their CRM system
  • Develop and implement a lead management process to ensure more value from their automation investment.  They were committed to doing this in a unified approach with sales.
  • As part of their demand generation strategy, develop a nurture program for prospects and customers

After listing these items the marketer asked, “how do we develop the project plan for this that covers the next two years?”  In essence, she got it.  She understood that this was not a 45-day quick hit, that automation is not plug and play and that the change involved would take time.  No matter what any consultant or automation vendor will tell you, these are not short term initiatives.  As you look to transform your organization in 2012, be realistic with your time frame.  If you run across a vendor who tells you otherwise, ignore them.  They are probably just looking to make a quick sale.

Resolution #4:  Work at It

Living in Colorado, I must admit that I have been fully swept up in Tim Tebow mania.  I am a Denver Broncos bandwagoner and refuse to miss a game.  One of the things that I so admire about Tebow is that he consistently shows through both words and actions his commitment to improve.  His detractors discuss his poor mechanics, his low quarterback rating, how he needs to improve, etc.  When pressed on these comments, Tebow’s response is always the same, “I am going to keep working hard to be the best NFL quarterback I can be.”

Imagine how organizations could flourish if the same resolve was in every B2B marketing and sales professional.  Numerous studies have shown that there is a large skills disparity that exists in today’s B2B marketing and sales professional.  The good news is that there are several resources that will bring about the professional development needed to overcome the gap. There are conferences by SiriusDecisions, MarketingProfs, DemandCon and OMS.  You can read blogs like the FunnelHolic, Propelling Brands, Marketing Interactions, etc.  In addition, training and certification are available through organizations such as  The Marketing Automation Institute . So make 2012 an educational year where you learn the new skills that are needed to succeed.  Don’t let another year pass without developing professionally.

Resolution #5:  Have Fun!

I know I have said this before but I think it bears repeating: There has been no better time to be a B2B marketer. I meet more marketers who are deflated with their current roles. And while, for some, that may very well signal a need to change jobs, for most it’s just the result of not seeing what a great place they’re in.  The relevance that marketing has taken in organizations, and the need for marketing excellence to propel revenue has provided a huge opportunity never seen before.  Knowing that your work is making a difference is fun. So go for it and enjoy the ride!

2012 can be the year that marketers do what is necessary to up their game.  The opportunity is before you. Resolve to make it happen.