Confessions Of A B2B Marketer

Just in case you are wondering, I am not going to start spilling crazy secrets that might put my job in jeopardy. I wish I knew all the secrets so I could transform the world of B2B Marketing forever with a tell-all book.  What I do know is that B2B Marketers have a ton of options today.

But which ones are really working to drive our strategy and our business forward? In this post, I will offer a preview of the thoughts I will deliver during the Focus Interactive Summit on Progressive B2B Marketing.  Here is a copy of the presentation Confessions of a B2B Marketer as well.

So what happened in B2B Marketing? It used to be so easy. Talk to sales to identify what kind of support they need from marketing in order to deliver their annual numbers. How hard can it be? After all we are hunting big elephant-sized deals. We know where they eat, sleep and hang out. We know we just need a few high profile events, a lot of nice court-side tickets to the game and limo rides for the C-Suite.

Then the economy turned. Events? Squeezed out. Customers? Well we need to focus on wringing out every lead and every deal from our funnels. So we started throwing more money at digital tactics that could show a real return on the investment. Unfortunately, not all marketers understand digital so well. So what did we do?

We sent email and made cold calls.  Not just a little more, we sent tons of email and cold calls and then we added even more. Upsell. Cross-sell. Sell. Sell. Sell. The result of all this was redundancy like B2B marketing has never seen before. Lists became “tired” as response rates drops. Opt-outs increased and our brand image suffered — all because we were spamming our customers.

“The best laid plans…” We did not plan for this. But unfortunately too much of our marketing is done based on gut feel. And we often lack the guidance we can achieve from a proper strategy and planning process. We had become sales order-takers and now we were paying the price.

What we need is an alignment between Marketing and Strategy. Not Marketing Strategy to achieve marketing objectives. But strategy to achieve our business objectives!

What we need is Insight-driven marketing that starts with the customer. When we start with customer needs and pains and then craft solutions, offers, content and marketing programs towards the customers, our businesses will start to sustain growth.

This is not about tactics. It is about strategy. It’s about aligning with sales on business outcomes and working together to craft plans to achieve those outcomes. It’s about customers and getting them to chose us over the competition because we have better met their needs. And then creating a trusted relationship so they stay with us.

So What’s Hot in B2B Marketing (based on popularity from the B2B Marketing Insider Blog)?

  1. Digital marketing skill shortage: online, search, social and display techniques
  2. All things “Social”: ROI, blogs, personal branding, response management
  3. Retention and loyalty are back…along with the employee engagement that drives it
  4. Sales and marketing alignment is (still) the hottest topic
  5. Quality vs. quantity of leads debate rages on
  6. Strategic marketing planning

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.

12 thoughts on “Confessions Of A B2B Marketer

  1. Lots of good points here, Michael. I especially was glad to see content programs listed under your insight-driven marketing comment. I think that too often content planning is still more than an after-thought rather than part of an overall customer engagement strategy. The “we need a white paper now” or “let’s pull together a XX” directives tend to be reactive instead of proactive in many B2B marketing environments. I’m glad to see so many more B2B marketers are talking about content as a strategy rather than as a tactic.

    1. Hi Diane and thanks for your comment! Content is so important and more than anything needs to be based on insights and strategy and customer pains. I have been in large companies and small and content is the one challenge I have found at both. I like to put it this way: the only reason ANYONE will interact with your brand before they buy is content.

    1. Mark: thanks so much for stopping by and for commenting! You could backdate this article 10 years. Even for social, one of my most rewarding experiences was working on customer advisory boards back in the 90s. We didn’t call it social or community but that’s what it was. I do think millenials are changing the game a bit…should be a fun ride.

  2. Your summary of the last few years and the future is excellent Michael, I hope you write the book one day as well.

    It would be great to talk more and share some ideas too if you get a chance.

    Best regards

    Jim at KnowledgeBank

    PS It would also be great to get your feedback on our b2b marketing blog at

  3. Very good summary of current state of B2B marketing. The point 4 is really hottest, completly agreed. May be, the notion ‘planning’ is not quite relevant. I think marketers have to demonsrate much more strategic insight then just planning. I mean in term of skills.

  4. Great points Michael. I’d like to hear your comments on 2 things I think B2B marketers struggle with: Acting like a B2C marketer, and not investing in relationships with their top accounts (80/20 rule type accounts). I’m seeing $$$$ still pouring in to the “brand message” while avoiding the real driver of sales and retention: Investing in relationship with decison makers.

    Have a great holiday season.

    1. Hi Rob, thanks for your comments. I can’t speak for everyone but I haven’t seen a huge swing in the marketing mix toward branding. I think brand marketing in B2B was cut drastically in the recession. It’s coming back a bit now but I think there is an appropriate mix. Recessions and booms throw the mix out for a while but in the times in the middle (like now?) I think we see something closer to the right mix. As for the relationships, I couldn’t agree more. In my past life I started a customer advisory board with our top customers. They always saw our new product ideas first, they always helped drive our strategy and when we made mistakles, they let us know. I think every B2B company needs a large and influential customr advisory board and large retention marketing programs. Thanks again for the comments and questions. Have yourself a great holiday as well!

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