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B2B marketing is falling down on the Job

I heard a horror story the other day from a consumer packaged goods executive ranting about a meeting with a vendor.  “I gave the guy an appointment, and he spent the whole time presenting his product,” she said.  “[He] never asked me a thing about my situation, and what I needed.”  Another exec chimed in, “Yeah, when I hear about an interesting new solution, what I need most is to sell it internally.  I’m not getting the help I need from the vendors these days.”  I am cringing.  What is going wrong here?

Of course, my first thought was sales training.  Clearly the reps in these situations need a training refresher—and stronger management, and possibly an improved incentive compensation plan—to handle the engagement more effectively.

But I also cringed at the marketing failure.  We marketers should be helping with these sales opportunities to increase their chance of success.

So I set down a list of oft-forgotten B2B marketing imperatives.

  1. Marketing’s role is to provide sales support.  Unlike consumer-facing companies, where Marketing owns the P&L and Sales is one of its levers, in B2B, Sales typically owns revenue responsibility.  Our job in Marketing is to make Sales more productive.  It’s a mindset that doesn’t come naturally to marketers.  Some would debate this interpretation of marketing’s role.  But when a sales rep goes in to a meeting without the tools needed to close, it’s Marketing’s failure as much as anyone’s.
  2. Provide Sales with the tools they need.  This means presentations that can be easily tailored to target industries and particular target accounts.  It means pre-call preparation documents— company history, personnel backgrounders, installed technology analyses. It also means a library of content assets the sales rep can choose from, filled with white papers, research reports, case studies, infographics, videos, and ebooks.
  3. Prove the ROI on your solution.  Marketing must gather the data—and the stories—to prove the value of the product or service to the prospect.  This might mean independent third-party research.  It also means case studies, ROI calculators—whatever points can help the internal advocate represent the project inside the firm.
  4. Resist the plea from Sales to pass unqualified leads.  I’ve made this point before,  but it bears repeating.   Some Sales people will claim that everything going on in their territory is their business, and there’s logic in that.  But if you let them know that a mere inquiry came in from an account in their territory, and they pounce, only to find it unworkable, you know darn well what you’ll hear from Sales: “The leads Marketing gives me are useless.”  A legitimate complaint.  But there’s an even more important consequence here: Marketing has failed to enhance Sales productivity.
  5. Be careful how you promote marketing success.  If Marketing is heard in meetings to claim responsibility for a certain level of revenue, watch out.  Sales is making the same claim.  So you might want to couch it in ice hockey terms, like an “assist.”  Take full responsibility for interim metrics like cost per lead, and lead-to-sales conversion rates, which are more in the direct control of Marketing.

I hope readers will comment on other imperatives for successful B2B marketing today.

Ruth Stevens

Ruth Stevens advises clients on customer acquisition and retention. Ruth serves on the boards of directors of the HIMMS Media Group, and the Business Information Industry Association. She is a trustee of Princeton-In-Asia, past chair of the Business-to-Business Council of the DMA, and past president of the Direct Marketing Club of New York. Ruth was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing by Crain’s BtoB magazine, and one of 20 Women to Watch by the Sales Lead Management Association. She serves as a mentor to fledgling companies at the business accelerator in New York City. Ruth is an author and contributor to many notable business publications. Her books include B2B Data-Driven Marketing: Sources, Uses, Results and Maximizing Lead Generation: The Complete Guide for B2B Marketers, Trade Show and Event Marketing, and co-author of the white paper series “B-to-B Database Marketing.” Ruth is a sought-after speaker and trainer, and has presented to audiences and business schools in Asia, Australia, and Latin America. She has held senior marketing positions at Time Warner, Ziff Davis, and IBM.

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