As B2B marketers sprint into a new year, full of anticipation and excitement to help our companies grow and thrive based on the success of our customers, there are a few things, 11 actually, that CMOs wish all marketers knew. Some of these may sound familiar. You may have heard of or even given them lip service before. But truly knowing them and acting in response to that knowledge seem to be two different things.

I’ve been a marketer for a very long time. I’ve seen a ton of change—welcome, valuable change. I’ve also seen a lot of marketers clinging to misconceptions or even just stuck in “the way they’ve always done marketing” as the world changes without them.

I hope these 11 insights will help us break free and move forward to be the bold, curious, data-driven, and creative marketers that we need to be to help our companies win.

1. Target Your Audience

Content can’t speak effectively to more than one audience.

I work with a lot of B2B marketing teams that are pressured to do more with less. The problem is in how that approach is taken. One concerning trend I’m seeing is the attempt to do too much with less. What I mean by this is that brilliant, engaging, and relevant content is audience-driven. This means one audience at a time.

What’s relevant to the CIO is not going to be relevant to a director of HR, for example. At least not in the same way or from the same angle. The perspective each of them brings to a topic will vary.

If you can only apply resources to one persona effectively, then do that, and do it brilliantly. The payoff will be much higher than if you try to engage everyone and end up engaging no one.

2. It’s Not All about You

What your buyer wants likely has nothing to do with what you think is interesting.

How many times have you had an idea for content shot down by someone on the team who says, “I’d never read that so it would be a waste of time to create that content”? I’ve heard—and continue to hear—sentiments like these from marketers.

There are several contributing factors to this problem, including:

  • You know too much about your products which makes you biased about what information you think will be useful to your buyers
  • What you think doesn’t matter unless you are actually a buyer of what you’re selling—and in most B2B product scenarios, you aren’t the buyer

The best thing we can do as marketers is to learn to be able to stand back from our preferences and focus on what we know to be true about our buyers. Your buyer personas should be the guiding light, so get them out of the drawer, dust them off, and use them.

3. Tell a Story

A narrative is more compelling than a one-touch offer.

There’s research that finds that a majority of B2B content is never used. In the content audits I’ve done for many companies, much of the content that’s unused consists of one-off pieces that don’t play a role in the narrative a buyer needs to get from problem to solution. The other issue with one-off content is that it’s extremely hard to repurpose because it doesn’t roll up effectively with other content to create extensions of the story.

When content is structured as a narrative, marketers begin to capitalize on the entire customer lifecycle because the story flows—it has an arc. The arc is what allows content to shift along with the perspective of your buyers as they learn more, choose to buy, become customers, and find even more value using your product effectively.

4. Tie Back to Business Priorities

The executive team doesn’t care about marketing metrics unless they tie to business and revenue goals.

This is one we’ve all heard, yet we continue to monitor clicks and views, follows and likes, and form completions as the ROI for marketing spend. They are not. A C-level conversation about marketing must relate to how the work of marketing helps the company to reach its objectives and revenue goals.

Marketers need to refer back to those objectives and goals to find the data points that truly matter to their executive team. In some companies I work with, simplifying what’s measured can bring a better focus on what’s working and what’s not.

It can also be a matter of perspective. Marketers can add to both the top line and the bottom. Gaining efficiency by eliminating waste contributes to lower expenses which results in an increase in margins, for example.

Shortening the sales cycle brings faster turn over for revenue, so put that narrative to work to pull buyers forward.

5. Remember Who You’re Writing For

Sales is not your customer. Your customers are your customers!

I’ve often found marketing teams that are really an order desk for the content that sales teams request—often on a whim or for what a sales rep thinks will sway a specific prospect. We’re told that our job is to support the sales team. But blindly doing so doesn’t support the long-term strategy of your marketing organization. And this constant response to ad hoc sales requests creates chaos that isn’t helping to produce consistent outcomes.

Marketing must be about more than acquisition. As customer experience becomes a priority for your CMO, you will need to be able to show how your programs provide impact and influence at different stages of the customer lifecycle. Consistency across stages and channels is important, as well.

In relation to sales and marketing, this is a key partnership that needs to be developed and nurtured. ABM is helping to make this happen, but marketers and salespeople must learn to row in the same direction as if it’s second nature.

6. Real Qualification

It takes more than a form completion to generate a lead.

A form completion is a contact you’ve now identified. A lead is a contact intent on the pursuit of relevant information about how your solution can solve their problem. The key principle here is the intent.

7. Strategy vs. Tactics

An email campaign plan is not a content marketing strategy.

Content marketing strategy is the big-picture plan for what you’ll do and why you’ll do it.

Marketing tactics are how you’ll execute on that plan.

There seems to be a lot of confusion about this difference. It’s why I cringe every time I hear people insist that we need a social media strategy or a blogging strategy or some other channel-based strategy.

I hear marketers talk about an email campaign as if that’s a strategy. It’s not. This is why documenting strategy is so important to maintain it as your guiding light. Otherwise, marketers stay focused on tactics because those are the day-to-day efforts that occupy much of marketers’ minds.

8. Create to Serve

Meaning trumps urgency.

Marketers can benefit by slowing their roll. Editorial calendars, while a great tool, can drive doing stuff versus creating meaning and purpose with our content.

Focus on engaging the right audience and serving them well. Pumping out content for the sake of meeting a deadline is not going to move the needle. A well-considered piece that aligns to what a specific audience values will payoff with higher intent.

9. Experience Is More Than the Sum of Its Parts

Customer experience is not about a single interaction or transaction.

Marketers need to focus on how the sum of all interactions impacts a customer—not just one-off transactions. This means our teams need to collaborate more, and visibility must be enhanced across all activities that touch the customer.

Do you know how many times each customer is touched every month by every different team? If you look at all those interactions, what experience do they add up to?

10. The Art of Data

Marketing is still an art, even though it now uses science.

Data, technology, and tools have empowered marketers to do and know much more than they ever could before.

However, we can’t let our creative skills go just because we’ve got the science. Marketing done well is a blend of art and science. Don’t lose sight of that. And, it’s important to realize that data can show you what people do, but it has yet to be able to tell us why. This is why we need to stay close to our customers. It keeps the human in our communications.

11. Leverage Mobile

Mobile marketing means more than a mobile-responsive website.

Email is still the most effective distribution channel for B2B marketers according to a variety of research reports. Yet, email opens have fallen to an average of about 20%, and response rates are down to around 5-6%.

It’s time to start looking at non-email communication channels such as SMS and MMS messaging. SMS is the most used basic application on a smartphone. Open rates are in the 90% range, and responses range from 30-50%.

Now that advanced messaging solutions are available to power what marketing automation has done for email, it might be worth looking for opportunities to create engagement through the device that’s always within reach—but through a more responsive channel.

Key Takeaways

B2B marketers have come a long way. But we still have work to do. There are many opportunities, and our prospects and customers are counting on us to continue to keep pace.

With these 11 tips, marketing teams can help their CMOs gain respect and appreciation for marketing as an asset and revenue driver, rather than having it continue to be seen as a cost center or supporting role.

Teach Your CMO a Thing or Two

Now that you have the run down on marketing leadership insight, it’s time to give them a lesson in marketing. Specifically, why your organization could benefit from a content operation. See just how in our eBook, Building a Business Case for a Content Operation.

Ardath Albee

About Ardath Albee

Ardath Albee is a B2B Marketing Strategist and CEO of her firm, Marketing Interactions. She’s written two books, the latest is Digital Relevance: Developing Content and Strategies That Drive Results. Ardath helps B2B companies with complex sales use persona-driven content marketing strategies to turn prospects into buyers and convince customers to stay. Follow her on Twitter at @ardath421.