The accelerating pace of change, the need for collaboration and quickly evolving marketing skill sets make this the best time to be a b2b marketer, according to presenters at the Business Marketing Association of New York's B2B Rising conference, held last week in Manhattan.
“To be successful marketing must do things today that it hasn't ever done,” said Laura Ramos, VP-principal analyst at Forrester Research, at a conference session titled “Marketing Rising.” “The role of the CMO is expanding, in being responsible for millions in the pipeline and working across functions—such as with IT—in understanding how to use technology to fill customer needs. It's time for a new job description for the CMO.”
Session panelist Katrina Klier, managing director-global digital marketing and communications at consultancy Accenture, agreed.
“Most CMOs today live and die by financial results,” Klier said. “This allows him or her to have a much more prominent seat at the table; but to do that, they also need help. This has caused CMOs to reach out to CIOs, even as CIOs themselves are getting pressure to get closer to customers. The common, unifying language is data.”
Klier said marketing increasingly relies on “the creative mastermind” and cited the ongoing need for “data gurus, whose favorite playground is the big database.”
“Also, marketing analysts find the trend lines; integration mavens pull out themes and ideas from research; and the amplification ninjas spread the word,” she said. “Who can do all these things? The big thinkers.”
But big thinking must gain C-suite buy-in, said Chris Golec, CEO of targeting and personalization company Demandbase Inc.
“It's imperative that the CMO have a technology strategy overlaid by a customer lifestyle strategy,” Golec said. “You're competing with the next big idea down the street. And at the same time you have to sell people on how you're going to help change the world.”
BMA panelists acknowledged that with its myriad challenges, marketing often has to cope with reduced budgets and staff.
“Adaptivity is what we're encouraging CMOs to look for within their teams—to accept change, to take risks and do things differently,” Ramos said. “Marketers can look within agencies for ideas or even use several different agencies to pick new adaptive models. The marketing organization of the future will look smaller, but will have a plethora of outside resources to work with.”
In a conference keynote, Columbia Business School professor David Rogers described “the habits of great b2b marketers,” with a particular emphasis on the changing role of the CMO.
“Chief marketers shouldn't think about huge data sets, but rather how to use data to solve problems,” said Rogers, faculty director of Columbia's Executive Education program on Digital Marketing Strategy. “They should be ready to experiment; we live today in a test-and-learn culture. And they must think like a media company.”
Rogers said marketers are seeing their roles shift to a “nexus of interactions” with customers and other businesses.
“Think peer-to-peer, not b2b,” Rogers said. “Strong marketing value resides in providing customer service, answering their questions and incentivizing them through recognition.”