The real difference between half-decent to good B2B marketing companies, and great marketing companies, comes from the way they actually look at marketing and sales. Great marketing companies also treat prospects and clients with similar respect, and realize that each of these very important segments of their business needs to be continually nurtured.
Think of the phone companies, if you want a stark contrast in how not to treat clients vs. prospects. All of these companies treat their clients like a plague, or at the very least a bother to them. Case in point; try and get the same deals that new clients get, if you have been with a phone company for a while.
Too many companies spend too much of their marketing budget and time trying to nurture new business, and forget about and neglect their current client base. Although there are many things that you do in marketing that are the same for either prospects or clients, you must understand why people have bought from your company in the first place. You have established trust and some sort of a relationship with a client. So keep building upon that trust and relationship
Two of the best questions, you can ever ask a current client, are “Why did you buy from me?”, and “What results did you achieve?” When was the last time you asked one of your clients those questions? And the best person to ask these questions is the highest executive in your client’s business.
The most important factor that drives a great B2B marketing culture is the CEO of the company. If the CEO does not believe that marketing is the key to success in business, then that company will not be very successful. It may survive for a period of time, but it will never grow and more importantly, really prosper.
It’s pretty easy to see if a B2B company has an ingrained culture of great marketing. Simply look at the way a company lists their executives. If the Chief Revenue Officer (CRO), the one who is in charge of marketing, sales, and customer service is not listed in the top three, then you can bet that company doesn’t really value the fact that marketing drives the company. You can see this listing easily in all publicly listed companies. It is more difficult in privately held companies.
The way to find out of course, for privately held companies, is ask if the CRO is on the Board of Directors, or at the very least, on the management committee.
Another factor that separates great marketing companies is how they measure B2B marketing (Marketing Communications or Marcom). Sales people are always measured, usually by the amount of revenue and/or profit each one delivers to the business. But, in most companies, Marcom is not measured.
If you want to succeed in any business, you need to measure how everyone performs, based on certain goals, and how that person performs against those goals. However, there appears to be a misconception that marcom cannot be measured, because it is more “creative” and therefore more subjective.
If the marcom in your company is treated this way, then your company is in for a big surprise and very soon, if it hasn’t already happened, especially with the current world recession, and the way that the Internet has changed your ability to deliver Marcom.
It is also very disturbing that when tough economic times come, Marcom is one of the first budgets to get cut. Why? Because it is not being measured, and no one can justify what they are doing in the marketing department.
With the advent of the Internet, there are a myriad of analytic products you can get, to help measure the marketing your company is doing.
From performing the interviews, I found that what separates the so-so companies from the great companies is how they show value to their clients and prospects. As the world becomes smaller, because of the Internet, competition becomes even greater and more intense. Therefore, it becomes even more important to show the value you bring to your clients.
A lot of your competition will sell strictly on price. And whether you want to believe it or not, they are calling your clients, and your clients are listening to them. If for example, you sell based solely on features, you will probably have a tough time getting the next assignment from that client. You are not showing them any value for what you are doing.
This holds true with all B2B companies. Showing value means describing to your client the types of factors discussed in the chapter on Why Companies Buy. This is especially true for how your Account Managers interact with their clients.
Making Marketing Important To Your Company
Although everyone will purport that marketing is important to the success of their company, many B2B companies seem more apt to inhibit it then activate it. Of course, as in most things in business life, the importance of everything, in any company, starts at the top.
It is imperative that the senior executives, or senior partners, work together towards a common understanding and vision about marketing. Without this vision and understanding, from the senior executives, the business will falter, and silos will build up, blocking and inhibiting the growth of the company.
So then, how do these senior executives get onside? The first thing that has to happen is that the CEO needs to make marketing his top priority for the business to survive and grow. Then he needs to ensure that all of his senior team is onside with that vision. As mentioned in Jim Collins’ wonderful book, “Good to Great”, everyone must be on the same page to make a company great.
You need a Marketing Vision led by your CRO
Great marketing starts with a vision of where the company will be in the next few years. This vision must then be triumphed throughout the entire organization. It cannot be the flavour of the month. It needs to be enshrined within the fabric of the entire company. This vision must have a written plan to show everyone how the company expects to achieve its goal of becoming, and remaining, a great marketing company.
The plan needs to be developed by the entire senior management team. It then needs to be disseminated to everyone in the company. And to make it really stick, the company’s Value Proposition should be posted right above the receptionist, so everyone can see it and read it everytime they walk into the office.
And of course, in order to show everyone how important marketing is to the company, the right amount of money must be allocated to marketing, and the right methodologies and processes must be put into place.
Marketing Needs Training too
But more importantly, the right people must be hired to put these processes into place. And everyone, from the receptionist, to the most senior executives or partners, must be trained properly to make great marketing happen.
Another factor that makes marketing important, to a B2B company, is ensuring that marketing and sales and client service all report to one senior executive or partner. Too many companies have a disconnect between marketing and sales, and an even bigger one with customer service.
It is imperative, if you want to become a great marketing company, that the marketing department works intimately with the people that have direct client contact. Again, these can be senior partners, account executives, or relationship managers. No matter what your company calls the people with direct client contact, it is imperative that each one of them work extremely closely with the marketing group within your company, in order to become a great marketing company.
Although the above statement may seem like motherhood and apple pie, it is amazing how many companies do not integrate the marcom process, within their client relationship or account management process.
Most companies leave the marcom department to strictly go after new business. It is true that this is part of marketing’s job, but they can also serve a real purpose, in helping account managers and relationship managers keep in touch with their clients.
I cannot stress enough how the successful B2B companies integrate marketing into the fabric of the company, and because of this, they are always growing and creating value for their clients.
You can get a full description of the Cultural Habits of Great B2B Marketing Companies in my eBook THE LEADERSHIP GUIDE TO GREAT MARKETING IN B2B COMPANIES.
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