Marketing has always been a funny department. In the best cases, it can be a powerful engine for revenue growth. In the worst cases, it can become a catch-all repository for sales and executive tasks. In those worst cases, company leaders still hold onto the outdated notion that anyone can do marketing. They’ll even place young, tech-fluent professionals in marketing positions, despite a clear lack of formal marketing training or real-world experience. But modern marketing is a rapidly specializing and increasingly digital field. For sustainable growth, B2B companies need more than young, digital tacticians. They need strategic perspective.
When you’re focused on marketing tactics, you tend to lose sight of their overall context.I’ve been hired for marketing roles that started with specific goals in mind, only to later see those roles morph into an unrecognizable set of responsibilities within a few years. Looking back, I know each of those roles was created to tackle a particular marketing tactic. It’s perfectly fine to create a role based on a tactical need—if that need is part of an informed, long-term vision. But my past employers were thinking tactically, and using short-term successes to build long-term strategies. That’s backwards. That type of thinking sets unrealistic expectations, and it implicitly reserves the right to change direction in the absence of immediate success. Think of a marketing department like a farm. Your farm’s desired crop should dictate the equipment, seeds, livestock, and/or personnel requirements. If you build a dairy farm, only to decide afterwards that you’d rather sell corn, it doesn’t make sense to blame the cows, nor force them to pluck corn. Similarly, if you build a marketing department to fill current tactical needs, and then drastically change your strategy, you’re really just wasting time, budget, and talent.
Sustainable growth is a systemic concern.A lot of B2B companies still function as codependent, siloed departments, which takes a toll on employees. When employees spend their energy navigating issues like favoritism, history, ego, or internal politics, they don’t have energy for much else. So they tend to create low-hanging to-do lists. They focus on completing immediate tasks and managing today’s biggest stresses. In-house marketers who work in dysfunctional cultures have no clear sense of priority. They get too many requests from too many parties. Even more frustratingly, they’re junior-level professionals who are dependent on internal thought leaders for ideas and content. So they spend a lot of time failing to get help or feedback from executives who don’t see the importance of collaboration (and who perceive them as clingy). In short, everything is top priority, due right now, not progressing, and on fire. So they burn out. Compare that scenario to another, in which a marketer understands how his or her tasks fit in the overall strategy. Imagine that marketer focused on driving one or two specific marketing metrics over months. Imagine charting and celebrating their annual progress toward strategic goals. A fully staffed marketing department operating with such alignment can achieve great things. And if all the departments of a B2B company are aligned similarly, then growth is way more likely.
Revenue growth takes flexibility.The rise of digital marketing has empowered marketers to expand their roles, their capacity, and their impact on business. But the typical B2B leader’s understanding of marketing hasn’t kept up. They often don’t know about the blurring line between marketing and sales, or the rise of the revenue team. They still think of marketing as a tactical à la carte menu, and they order tactics based on what they see from their competition or what budget they have left over. When clients understand the value of strategy and ask us to build marketing plans, we take a lot of time to analyze where those clients are, and we focus on clearly defining where they want to be. We define success, and then we create a roadmap to get there. That roadmap is our best guess based on all the things we know. Our plans also dictate the in-house and outsourced skills needed. We never offer staffing recommendations before we finish a plan. We don’t want clients to recruit in-house talent without the skills to contribute to the company’s long-term goals. However, as we help clients execute on the strategy, we make adjustments based on marketing analytics, feedback, great ideas, or surprising results. We adapt our path based on real-world conditions. But we always return to the strategy. We frame every tactic in its context—namely whether it will contribute to the client’s revenue growth and ultimate definition of success. That way we can be sure we’re not chasing pet projects or letting tactics get in the way of goals. Sustainable growth requires firm, realistic footing in today and a true commitment to achieving goals. If you don’t know what you want to grow, then why start planting seeds?
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