Business-to-business marketing executives must combine strong leadership skills with deep marketing experience to clearly establish their companies’ competitive advantage, which will allow them to increase their influence and play key roles in driving sales, boosting brand awareness, and increasing customer loyalty.
Those were the key conclusions of a new study conducted by the ANA (Association of National Advertisers) in conjunction with GfK, a global market research firm, which was released today at the ANA/BMA16: Masters of B2B Marketing Conference.
“Our study shows that B-to-B marketers have much to offer, but that message is not getting through to the right people within their own organizations,” said ANA President and CEO Bob Liodice. “These marketers need to implement growth leadership initiatives, put forth a clear vision of their brands, and develop strategies to remove barriers.”
The study showed that 39 percent of B-to-B marketers surveyed believe their roles are to ensure that the voice of the customer informs business strategy and to bring expert marketing competencies to the table. However, many also indicated that they are still struggling to be viewed as business drivers rather than as an extension of their companies’ sales divisions.
For example, only 42 percent said they have a seat at the top management table, and only 37 percent said they enjoy strong endorsement from senior management. In addition, 35 percent of respondents said senior management is still focused on the product and price and not on insights into the customer.
To help B-to-B marketers achieve their goals and overcome obstacles, the ANA study offered the following recommendations:
- Partner with sales to drive business growth. Business marketers’ should work as a strategic partner with sales to drive revenue growth, boost brand awareness, and increase customer loyalty and retention.
- Shift the focus of strategy from product to consumer. B-to-B companies that achieve higher revenue relative to their competition focus marketing efforts on driving a consistent brand identity across buyer touchpoints, strengthening strategic brand imagery, and boosting brand awareness.
- Inspire the entire organization to build business growth. Marketing managers in companies with higher revenue relative to their competition are more likely to agree that researchers, sales teams, and IT are receptive to their marketing efforts.
- Prove ROI to ensure marketing is perceived as a competitive advantage. Measuring campaign results elevates marketing’s contribution to business growth and enables it to be perceived as a competitive advantage.
- Acquire the tools and digital skillsets needed to compete today. When asked where B-to-B marketing will be in the next three to five years, 71 percent of respondents said that digital marketing and technological skill sets will be required of them. However, only 7 percent reported having effective processes in place for capturing data on buyer behavior, attitudes, and engagement.
The report covers the key findings from an online survey conducted by the ANA and research partner GfK in March 2016. In total, 237 B-to-B marketers were represented in the survey. Participants included BMA members (Board and Chapters), ANA members in B-to-B companies, and research partners Stein ASI, Advertising Age, and gyro. Of those who responded, 79 percent primarily work in B-to-B companies and 21 percent work in companies that are both B-to-B and B-to-C.