The Expanding Role Of B2B Marketing

B2B Marketing changeTwo years ago I wrote that Change is Coming To B2B Marketing. I predicted that changes brought on by digital, social and mobile technologies had placed the customer firmly at the center of marketing strategy. And it was straining traditional marketing strategy.

Along the way since then, studies indicated that Marketing leaders felt unprepared for the changes that had come. And we’ve seen the increasing level of discussions on how marketing was evolving into content marketing and employing social business strategy.

And now the topic of conversation in B2B Marketing is change itself: our need to transform our organizations to be more customer-centric, agile marketing departments, with the technology and the talent required to meet demanding customer needs.

This sentiment was also echoed last week at the Business Marketing Association’s annual conference titled the “BMA Blaze.” The conference was attended by nearly 800 corporate B2B marketers, publishers, agency heads and consultants from around the world.

Billed as the world’s largest B2B Marketing event, I was honored to present on the need to win the battle for custom attention through better content and storytelling.

The main theme of the event was undoubtedly about all the disruption, change and transformation happening in B2B Marketing.

Eduardo Conrado, outgoing President of the BMA and SVP of Marketing and IT at Motorola  (yeah you read that title correctly!) stated that previous year conferences had covered the classic challenges in B2B marketing such as lead generation and sales and marketing alignment. But at this conference, he said, “the role of marketing and the transformation of the industry is taking center stage.”

BMA National President and CMO of Emerson, Kathy Button Bell, proclaimed this to be a “scary and exciting time” for B2B Marketing. Kathy joined Forrester VP-Principal Analyst Laura Ramos in presenting the results of their latest survey of more than a hundred senior B2B Marketers.

The Expanding Role of B2B Marketing:

  • 97% agreed that the pace of change is accelerating. Kathy proclaimed that this is forcing us to live in a “state of perpetual beta” where we must learn to iterate on the fly, to be transparent and unusually flexible.
  • 34% of senior marketers feel overwhelmed by the change occurring in B2B Marketing. And 21% felt that the skills for which they were hired are now completely obsolete.
  • 90% of marketers see the need to respond to bad news about their company in minutes
  • 79% reported feeling confident in their ability to navigate change.
  • 97% of B2B Marketers stated that they are doing new things – things they have never done before as part of marketing.
  • 87% said that the role of marketing is expanding as their input is being sought more often. This was being reflected in the areas of corporate strategy, all the way to the board level.

And some other highlights from my tweets / notes:

  • Marketing leaders need to be forces of change. Chief Marketing Officer = Chief Innovation /  Inspiration / Transformation Officer ~ Kathy Button Bell
  • B2B Marketers need to stop hiding behind the notion that our products or services are “complex”
  • Quite simply we need to become more agile and adaptive to change
  • Marketing people need to be trained in sales ~ Phil Kotler
  • We are all in sales ~ Author Dan Pink
  • The key to effective selling is making it personal ~ Dan Pink

I was excited to meet and see so many B2B Marketers talking about how we can drive change in our organization instead of being victims to it. If you attended, please add your thoughts on the conference in the comments below? Or tell us: how is your organization managing the change happening in your business?

Let me know what you think in the comments below. And please follow along on TwitterLinkedInFacebook and Google+ or Subscribe to the B2B Marketing Insider Blog for regular updates.

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

15 thoughts on “The Expanding Role Of B2B Marketing

  1. Hi Michael,

    Thanks for the round-up. Wish I could have been there. Your notes tells me our earlier conversation – Marketing is in the Throes of a Buyer Revolution – continues in full force. B2B Marketing is still finding its’ way through the chaos and looking for answers. I suspect this will continue for more years to come. Like a rookie QB turning pro – B2B Marketing is struggling to adapt to the “speed” of the new game of marketing in the digital age.


    1. Yep, you nailed it Tony. I think we have about 2-3 more years of disruption and then only the agile will survive. Mary Meeker’s already talking about how “wearables” are coming about 6 years earlier than technology cycles would predict and that this generation of rising professionals truly seem different. (covering that in a future post). Should be w wild ride.

  2. Good update. I think the Sirius event had 1,500 plus but 800 is respectable .

  3. Michael –
    This is a great summary. The disruption that the B2B marketing industry is experiencing has been a major point of conversation within and through the BMA for the last several years.

    Yes, our roles are expanding and changing. With that, I think that we also need to think about what that means to each of us as individuals, what we want to see come from our profession, and how we’re willing to take a leadership role in moving marketing’s influence forward both in our industries and the companies for which we work.

    Thanks for a great session on capturing customer attention! It’s also great to see storytelling move front and center in these conversations, along with technology.


    1. Thanks so much Carla. It was great seeing and speaking with you and the rest of the amazing B2B Marketers at the show. One of my favorite questions explored at the show was “what does Marketing do?”

      I think it’s important for us to understand, to define for ourselves and for our companies.

  4. excellent. i heard it was great. superb article and very helpful for someone who could not make it. I was delighted to hear CDW talk as well in the IT technology B2B space.

  5. Great post. I just located your blog and wished to let you know that I have certainly loved reading your blogs. At any rate I’m going to be subscribing to your feed and I really hope you are writing again soon.

  6. Michael,
    my comment is more a question or if you wish a suggestion for your next b2b mktg efforts and contribution.
    1) Is it finally the time to say more loudly that B2b (especially for industrial products) not the junior league of B2c?
    2) With the acceleration of web importance (sometime defintely exhagerated) are b2c and b2b more close, or are more converging?nks for your efforts in bringing b2b in the forefront.

    1. Hi Antonio,

      My view is by no means the only one so I would love to hear from others but I think that there is certainly much more parity in the marketing efforts between B2B and B2C. In some ways, I think B2B marketing is much harder. We have longer sales cycles, more complex messages and more people to convince. So wqe may be more advanced in providing helpful information to our audiences. But we also need to start using more and better data and insights to drive our decision-making as our B2C colleagues have been for years.

      And so I do think we are getting closer together and our differences are becoming smaller.

  7. Great post. I just located your blog and wished to let you know that I have certainly loved reading your blogs. At any rate I’m going to be subscribing to your feed and I really hope you are writing again soon.

  8. Very good read. As a MBA student I see some of the traditional concepts of marketing are still alive but the wave of innovation is flowing. I feel digital technologies push B2B marketing towards sales and the boundaries are getting more blurred.

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