I know for a fact that many B2B marketers are quietly worried about keeping up with the ever-increasing number of skills required to succeed in their roles. Skills gaps and ‘getting left behind’ are serious concerns for several marketers I have spoken with. With that in mind, I thought I’d use my latest instalment of ‘B2B Marketing – The Movie‘ to highlight this particular challenge.
With a very slight ‘adult themes’ warning attached (and also as recently featured on B2B Marketing Magazine’s website), I bring you ‘Bridget Bones’s To Do List‘…
Our B2B marketing heroine – Bridget – thinks she’s a failure. Her career is seemingly going nowhere, she can’t afford a holiday and she generally feels like poo. And her two best friends both just got hitched. She can’t remember the last time she had a date with anything other than her favourite brand of red, which is always the first thing she turns to when she returns home to her tiny flat after pulling yet another 14 hour shift at the office. And that is one source of the problem…
Bridget’s been working until stupid o’clock every night, and still can’t get all of her marketing work done. No matter how much work she does, another pile just appears in its place. It’s always ‘mailing list this’, ‘blog post that’ and ‘presentation the other’. She is losing the war of B2B marketing attrition.
But the fatigue-inducing hours aren’t the worst thing… What upsets her more than anything is the unshakeable sense that, despite the hours she’s invested in her career, she’s just falling further and further behind other marketers. Doing lots of boring, menial stuff like email marketing, while other B2B marketers are swanning around doing award-winning, glory stuff with Instagram stories or Artificial Intelligence. She also can’t shake the deep-rooted fear that she doesn’t even fully understand all of the thousand-and-one tasks, tactics and theories that she hears people talking about at marketing events and in the marketing press. It’s all just too much for Bridget to bear. As she drifts off into an exhausted sleep, her final, Rioja-fuelled thought of the day, is that B2B marketing just feels like one big, insurmountable challenge.
The next morning, in a fit of defiance (or possibly desperation), she decides to get her diary in order – to break her to-do list down into bite-sized chunks. But that just makes her feel worse. The catalogue of ‘stuff’ to master is mountainous… segmentation, content marketing, SEO, customer satisfaction, product development, behavioural economics, ROI calculations, data protection, user journey mapping, website optimisation, cookie laws, international transcreation, event management, brand differentiation, web accessibility, social media marketing, PR, Account-Based Marketing, revenue attribution, lead scoring, WeChat tactics, profit analysis, conversion rate optimisation, tone of voice… oh dear lord, Bridget just wants to cry. Or get thoroughly pissed on Rioja again.
When all seems lost, help comes from the unlikeliest source. In a rare moment of compassion and genius, Bridget’s usually lustful boss – Chief Marketing Officer, Daniel Beaver – surprises Bridget with three pearls of wisdom…
- A time management course equips Bridget with training and new tools to manage her diary, set realistic goals and to push back on unachievable deadlines. It includes mapping her week out as slices on a pie chart to visually highlight which slices (or tasks) are too big and which are too small. It helps her to quickly identify the unimportant-but-urgent tasks getting too much attention and the important tasks not getting enough, so she can re-prioritise and regain control of her working week.
- CMO Beaver then agrees to invest in a basic level of marketing training for all his team, so that no-one feels left behind on essential marketing skills. That includes a few in-house courses delivered by friendly agencies and suppliers, plus time out to attend free industry webinars and trade shows. Bridget is also given a half-day per month to catch up on required marketing reading, and – as icing on the cake – Beaver coughs up to pay for an external course. Digital superstardom, here we come!!!
- And last, but not least, CMO Beaver brings it to Bridget’s attention that “who else could cope with that volume of skills?” He points out that it takes a bit of a superhero to be able to put commerciality, psychology, technology, analytics, creativity and a host of other talents in the mixing bowl and turn it into customer preference and profit. Like other B2B marketers, Bridget isn’t, in fact, a failure. Indeed, she is actually frikkin’ Wonder Woman.
With Bridget’s sense of achievement, career-development and self-belief back on track, the B2B marketing world looks optimistic once again. Bridge returns back to her normal, confident self. Daniel Beaver – alas – also soon returns to his normal misogynist self. Pearls of wisdom delivered, he insalubriously suggests a pearl neckla… CUT. CUT. CUT. Who wrote that? Sack the writer. This B2B movie was meant to have a family-friendly rating.
It is no surprise to me that some B2B marketers feel nervous about the ever-increasing proliferation of skills they need to master (or at least to have a basic grasp of) in order to succeed. It strikes me there are two ways to get on top of this… Either wait for someone else to give you the skills you need, or go out and get them on your own.
On the former point – waiting for someone else to help you – it does no harm whatsoever to raise this point with your boss or Chief Marketing Officer. Highlight particular skills you feel you are lacking and ask for an open discussion about how you might address them. They may surprise you with an offer of help, but you also shouldn’t be surprised if they ask you to first articulate how that skill will help you to achieve your objectives, or to outline the potential benefit of that skill to your company.
On the latter point – taking matters into your own hands – here is a list of things I’ve personally tried in the last two years (some on my own, and some driven by my boss). I share them in hope they provide some ideas or inspiration to help even just one reader stay ahead…
- Learn by doing. For example, start your own blog and market it. Offer to help a friend who has their own business with their marketing. Or perhaps approach a local business in your neighbourhood or even a charity. Set up a LinkedIn company page, or run a PPC campaign for them, or take a look at their SEO, or ask them about their target segments. Go create an advert for their business. There is an almost unlimited number of ways in which you can help someone else and help yourself at the same time. I’ve done several of those things for a few charities and small businesses, and it’s a great feeling to contribute.
- Read loads. Dr Seuss said “The more you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Taking the Doctor’s advice, I set myself a minimum target of reading three marketing blogs post per week plus 3-5 marketing or business books per annum, and I recommend that you do the same. I try to vary it up and read articles or books on things outside of my comfort zone, such as books on pricing strategy, copywriting or psychology. I hope it might inspire you too.
- Ask for freebies. As per Bridget above, invite your marketing department’s tech vendors and agencies to pop in and train you on something. If your marketing department has a healthy, equitable business relationship with agencies and vendors, I think it’s fine to ask them to invest in a little bit of added-value.
- Seek other freebies. In addition to attending free webinars and seminars, many major conferences are now offering live streaming options or post-event summaries. B2B Marketing magazine’s annual ‘Ignite’ conference – the largest B2B event of its kind in Europe – was semi-live on Facebook this year. Other conferences, such as CopyCabana, shared some videos from their sessions after their event last year. It’s like Christmas come early (for marketing geeks) 🙂
- Group learning. If you work in a marketing team, hold meetings or lunches where you share best-practice tips with each other. My colleagues do this from time to time and they’re great.
- Network with peers. If there is a B2B marketing networking forum in your area, force yourself to go along and get stuck in. I’ve become very active in the Business Marketing Club in the UK to do just that and have probably tripled the number of people I can now ask for new perspectives on B2B marketing. If there isn’t a B2B networking community locally, maybe you could set one up? That would be a great marketing project.
- Seek out a mentor. A mentor can be a great catalyst for your career. Again, in the UK, the Business Marketing Club (link above) run a professional mentoring scheme. I’ve enrolled in it and am currently supporting a brilliant, super-cool, up & coming marketer (who I’m absolutely certain I’ll learn a whole bunch of stuff from too). If there isn’t an official mentoring scheme near you, perhaps one of your friends or relatives knows a business person that might give you some of their time?
- A mini-MBA. I haven’t tried it yet but, when I can save the cash, I fully intend to enrol on (the enlightening) Professor Mark Ritson’s mini marketing MBA, run in conjunction with Marketing Week magazine. My next-door neighbour works in a PR agency and he rated it very highly as a great intro to (or a healthy refresher / reminder of) the marketing essentials.
- Come back to this blog, on a regular basis of course. Saving the best ’til last, naturally 😉 I’ll continue to share useful tips and tricks on this site, and hope to get a few guest bloggers on here too. Please come back!
Most of those, I suspect, are obvious recommendations – but the point isn’t the list of options. The point is that we can each help ourselves to develop the skills we need. In my case, I long ago learned I just needed to get off my ass to just do it. That would make a great strapline, by the way 😉
Go be Bridget the Wonder Woman.
Further B2B Movies
A cautionary tale on the use of marketing jargon: Jason and the Jargonauts >
Ignore the basic skills of marketing at your peril: B2Basic Instinct >
Marketers are living in a bizarre reality known as The Marketrix >