Earlier this year I attended a Business Marketing Club (BMC) debate for client-side B2B marketers, chaired by my pal, Ross Chapman – Marketing Director for Aptitude Software. (For the purposes of disclosure: I’m on the Executive Council of the not-for-profit BMC). The debate focused on how marketers have fared with or without professional marketing qualifications. You can read Ross’ fun perspective on the topic here >
One of the recurring themes during the lively debate was the varied range of skills that us B2B marketers need to master (or at least be semi-fluent in) in order to succeed. To illustrate the point, the marketers present at the debate attempted to construct ‘The Vitruvian Marketer’ – the perfect B2B marketer (in reference to Leonardo da Vinci’s perfectly proportioned human being – The Vitruvian Man).
I found the task of creating the perfect B2B marketer equally fun and tough. Fun enough and tough enough that I wanted to share my personal perspectives and – for the first time ever – reveal a photofit of what I believe the perfect B2B marketer looks like. Brace yourself, she’s a fairly peculiar looking soul…
Before I go on and summarise how I came about this horror-show of a perfect marketer, I just wanted to raise three key points:
- At the debate we had only 5 mins to develop our perfect marketer, so this was my instant gut reaction;
- I’m (evidently) only a basic user of photoshop, so please don’t write in about my appalling artwork!; and
- While I hope my choices below make some semblance of sense, I’m not happy with the lack of diversity in my perfect B2B marketer’s DNA, so I’m going to apologise for that now and compensate a little by naming her Caroline – in honour of the super lady that helped me get my first job in marketing.
Moving swiftly on, here is my attempt at the DNA of the perfect B2B marketer
In no particular order…
1. Empathy and actionable insights
I’m biased in my approach to marketing in the sense that I favour a ‘market orientation’ approach (as opposed to a ‘product orientation’ approach). Saying that a less formal way, I prefer to start all of my marketing planning with the customer. I believe that B2B brands are only in business to fix customer problems, so understanding their problems and developing empathy with their working lives is always the starting point for me. There are two principal ways that we can develop that understanding and empathy, and subsequently turn that knowledge into actionable insights:
- listening to customers directly, or
- analysing information available to us about them, their companies and their behaviours.
So, starting with the ‘analysing information’ piece, I propose that Lt. Commander Data of Star Trek fame would make an admirable B2B marketer. For the listening part, I could initially look no further than mothers. However, putting a photo of your mother into my photofit would be a little bit awkward, so instead I opted for Wonder Woman, and her lasso of truth 🙂
2. Turn knowledge into money
Equipped with those actionable insights, we’re able to build the products that our customers need, and then sell as many of those products as possible at optimum prices. That requires a skill I probably admire more than any other in business – entrepreneurialism – a heady blend of opportunism, commercial and financial nous, ambitious goal setting, guts and salespersonship. I could have picked any number of well-known candidates here, such as Elon Musk or my favourite business pin-up, Sir Alan Sugar (I’ll explain what I mean by that in a future post), but, for the purposes of the photofit, I opted for Sir Richard Branson.
3. Objectives, strategy and tactics
With target customers in mind, a viable product, strong proposition and a specific business goal to aim for, we’re still not there. We’re nothing without a marketing strategy of how to achieve that goal. Which has to take into account a whole host of nasties, such as competitors (aka ‘assholes’), positioning, offers, media choices and the like. And strategy decided, we’re then nothing without the ability to plan and execute tactics to deliver that strategy. The perfect B2B marketer needs to be able to master and blend all of those things. For that reason, every one of us needs a little bit of legendary Chinese General and Strategist, Sun Tzu, inside us.
4. Winning hearts and minds and contracts
Sooner or later, our knowledge, products, proposition, positioning and the like need to actually meet reality. And that’s where our beloved promotional activities kick in. Our promotional activities need to get noticed, stop customers in their tracks and persuade them to try us. No problemo, if of course you’ve got a little bit of these three people in your DNA…
- For unmissable creativity, Steven Spielberg;
- For unignorable powers of persuasion, Sir Winston Churchill; and
- Just because he’s an absolute creative legend and probably the best storyteller in all of marketing, Dave Trott. (Yes, I’m a big fan).
It’s heavily related to all of the points I’ve mentioned above, but I wanted to give special mention to ‘bravery’. We operate in highly competitive markets and customers are incredibly busy, so our products and promotions need to truly stand out from the crowd to succeed. And that can only happen if we do things differently, which means being brave. No bravery = underwhelming performance, in my opinion. So us B2B marketers would do well to act like a little man with a huge heart and nerves of steel – Mahatma Gandhi.
6. Data and technology
I couldn’t possibly create the perfect B2B marketer without mentioning data and technology. I won’t insult or bore you by telling you what you already know – that tech and data has become critical to most aspects of our profession – so instead I’ll just tell you that I’ve added Mark Zuckerberg to the list as my martech and data representative.
7. Last, but not least…
A more inward-looking trait to end up with – we can’t achieve anything as marketers on our own. B2B marketing is most effectively played as a team sport. A team not just comprising fellow marketers, but also colleagues in Sales, Finance, IT, HR, external specialist suppliers and more. Which means teamwork is a vital component in a marketer’s make-up. So, to complete Caroline, our perfect B2B marketer, I propose that we borrow a little bit of Captain America, the ultimate team player.
The perfect B2B marketer, plus a few closing remarks
So, there we have it. Caroline, our perfect B2B marketer, is part Gandhi, Churchill, Branson, Zuckerberg, Trott, Spielberg, Wonder Woman, Captain America, Lt. Commander Data and Sun Tzu. Oh, go on then, and your mother. A rather amazing individual, albeit a bit peculiar looking. I’m sorry Caroline.
Of course I’m not suggesting this as a definitive list. This was my personal assessment, given 5 minutes to think about it at a marketing debate (even if the consequent amateur photoshop took me well over an hour). There would arguably be further vital skills to add to the mix… accounting, psychology, global cultural awareness, unadulterated positivity, powerpoint etc. (Yes, I’m joking about the powerpoint). I guess the underlying point is that each of us need to be a multi-skilled superhuman to succeed, which leads to two closing remarks for fellow B2B marketers:
- give yourself a small pat on your back for keeping up with the demanding world of B2B marketing; and
- aspire to emulate your own respective marketing superheroes.
That’s it for this week. Try coming up with your own frankenstein’s monster, I mean perfect marketer – it’s fun. And if you’d like to read about another superhuman marketer, check out my tenuous tale of Bridget Bones’s To-Do List >