B2B marketing is more complex than ever before. A familiar refrain, one that unfortunately continues to be true.
More tools. More technology. More competition. More customer expectations.
Every B2B marketing team faces these same obstacles. Yet, some of them succeed disproportionately. Why?
To be a great B2B organization, you must now employ and manage a superb marketing team. Today’s marketers must be fast, intelligent, nimble, and—at all times—data-driven.
At Convince and Convert, we know a successful marketing team after working with some of the world’s most iconic brands. Certain commonalities are present in essentially all great B2B marketing teams. I’ve narrowed it down to seven ingredients for success. Some may recognize you, but a few may surprise you.
- Clarity on Goals and Success
- Align Marketing and Sales
- Prioritize Responsibilities
- Encourage People to Have Ownership
- Provide Real-Time Feedback
- Advocate for Positive Company Culture
Great B2B Marketing Teams: 7 Success Ingredients
There is no magic pill or a one-size-fits-all solution to building a highly successful team. What we see, though, are seven themes that repeatedly surfaced in our work with marketing leaders:
Clarity on Goals and Success
The lead-off question with our clients is, “What are your team’s goals?” That’s usually followed by asking, “How will working with us get you closer to success?”
A marketing team that can’t clearly define what they’re working towards is in trouble. Having generic goals or overly complicated objectives are red flag warnings. Make the finish line visible to everyone on the team. This way you stay focused on the right things. Include micro-goals, too, like mile markers in a race. Then the team can celebrate small wins en route to completing a marathon.
On the Masters of Scale podcast, host Reid Hoffman asks every guest, “What is the most creative measure of success that you’ve ever set for a team? Answers from top entrepreneurs are full of variety and inspiration.
Each team has its own measurements and style, but everyone knows the importance of goal accountability. The key is that all team members are clear on WHAT the scoreboard is, and each has access to a real-time view of how they are tracking.
Remember, not everything that is measured matters, and not everything that matters can be measured (in a traditional way).
Align Marketing and Sales
Aligned teams have a shared understanding of the organization’s overarching strategies and the needs of internal stakeholders and external audiences.
As customers self-educate deeper in the funnel before talking to a sales rep, marketing’s role increases drastically. Marketing’s impact, in theory, has the same outcome as hiring more sales reps. The best B2B marketing teams are closely aligned with sales and view their job as empowering the sales department’s success.
Our own research with Ascend2 found that collaboration becomes easier when marketing and sales goals are aligned — more than three-quarters of integrated marketing and sales teams said collaboration was extremely easy, compared to 28% of those who aren’t fully aligned.
Alignment must get off the strategy page and into the habits of teams. Encourage collaboration amongst marketing and sales every day, not only in meetings. The advantages are clear when multiple viewpoints come together to benefit the organization.
Marketers have more projects to tackle than ever. Keeping tabs on each of them can become a full-time job in and of itself. Tools can assist, but often choosing the right tool becomes its project.
Using a project management system like Teamwork Projects helps keep everyone organized and on-task, but prioritizing what projects to tackle and when is a massive driver of B2B marketing success.
So how do top marketers handle tools, priorities, and the goals they serve? For starters, they begin with their most essential apparatus: strategy.
The strategy should detail how the team works toward achieving its primary objectives. For most B2B marketing teams, the top aim is to create an engaging, exceptional customer experience.
Strategic direction should dictate the overarching responsibilities and channels of each marketing team. Staying afloat while balancing marketing responsibilities like SEO, content marketing, and social media management does not leave much room for additional work.
The best marketing teams also build flexibility and grant team members ownership to move forward with short-term focused projects and test or trial new opportunities.
Make Decisions with Data
There are many tactics, playbooks, and frameworks in B2B marketing—maybe more than ever. But ultimately, top marketing leaders look to data to lead their decision-making.
QUOTE: Many top marketing leaders mention data-driven decision-making as a key element of their success and growth.
Being a data-driven organization is not a fad — it’s a must-do for B2B marketers to demonstrate an understanding of their customer.
Any this-or-that decision can be answered with research or testing. Want to try out a new content type or reach a new audience? Create a test that compares A to B and measure its performance.
Using data goes beyond analytics and performance metrics. Encourage marketing team members to incorporate research and insights from third-party sources. Avoid analysis paralysis by seeking assistance from data scientists and analysts who can help make sense of what data is available.
Many top marketing leaders mention data-driven decision-making as a key element of their success and growth.
Encourage People to Have Ownership
No matter how good your strategy, how perfect your tools are, and how wonderful your people – disagreement and dilemmas will happen. I promise.
However, when disputes arise, great marketing teams almost invariably solve the problems themselves. They do so with outstanding communication between the affected parties. While no team member is looking to sow or create conflict, the ability to foster a culture where people can get to resolution without senior intervention is crucial to growth.
Hiring and developing self-starters will help set examples for the team as a whole. Jason Keath, CEO at Social Fresh, noted that self-starters are a key component of a strong team. Empower these marketers to lead a project or assist with a greater contribution. Give them additional ownership to research, find answers, discover roadblocks, and suggest solutions.
Provide Real-time Feedback
Successful B2B marketing leaders are constantly providing input to their teams. They may have annual review cycles, but they don’t wait for those to praise or course-correct their people.
This ingredient is closely associated with the rapid and dramatic acceleration of digital maturity and necessary skills caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The past two years have forced organizations and employees to close the gap on new workforce skills.
Successful leaders are focused on skill-building to increase their team’s aptitude. McKinsey found that redeploying talent to new roles is the second most critical way to close skill gaps.
Assuring that there is a forum for observations and reaction makes managing teams much less cumbersome and does wonders for eliminating surprises lurking in the shadows.
Advocate for Positive Corporate Culture
We are watching The Great Resignation happen in real-time. About 30% more people than average quit their jobs in 2021. Many of you reading this are participating in some way, either willingly seeking out a new job or reacting to losing or filling critical members of your team.
A top reason for resignation is that employees no longer tolerate crappy working conditions and culture. Toxicity in the workplace is real, but it wasn’t discussed out in the open — unless you consider between junior level employees over happy hour or in boardrooms during annual Leadership retreats.
Executive team advisor Liane Davey describes toxicity in the workplace not only from a policy and process standpoint, but also for culture, leaders, employees, and customers. Marketing leaders can’t afford to overlook toxicity, and the best leaders address this head-on to ensure team and company culture are the safest they can be.
Putting Into Action
The best marketing teams have a mix of hard and soft skills and empower their marketers. Which of these seven ingredients of great B2B marketing teams do you see in your own team?
Which do you need to work upon?