B2B marketing is harder than ever before.
More tools. More technology. More competition. More customer expectations.
Every B2B marketing team faces these same obstacles. Yet, some of them succeed disproportionately. Why?
I partnered with my friends at Teamwork.com to figure out the answer. We conducted a series of interviews with high-performing B2B marketing leaders to probe how they manage their people, how they use technology, and what they value and emphasize day-to-day.
We found seven commonalities that were present across essentially all of these great B2B marketing teams. They are seven ingredients for success, and several of them really surprised me.
(Note: We use Teamwork.com to manage every task and project at Convince & Convert, including this one. We’re huge advocates for the platform).
I worked with Ray Coppinger, Director of Marketing at Teamwork on a Webinar recently where we unveiled the seven ingredients. I very much encourage you to watch the replay, as it provides much more detail on these distinguishing characteristics and B2B marketing team dynamics.
I’ve summarized our findings below. The full Webinar replay is here.
Great B2B Marketing Teams: The Participants
In order to be a great B2B organization, you must now employ and manage a superb marketing team. Today’s marketers must be fast, smart, nimble, and—at all times—data-driven.
Peter Bell – Has more than 25 years of experience in marketing, with experience working with major Microsoft brands like Surface, Skype, Xbox, MSN and Windows. He is currently Senior Director of Marketing (EMEA) at Marketo.
David Cain – As Chief Marketing Officer at PlanGrid, responsible for driving market leadership, global awareness, demand generation, and strategic events. David has held B2B marketing leadership roles with leading SaaS companies, including Marketo, SuccessFactors, and OpenTable.
Robyn Itule – Until recently, Senior Manager of the Content and Creative team at Insight, leading a team that tells stories with text, multimedia, video, and visual design. Robyn sets the vision for content strategy that drives our brand journalism efforts by helping businesses run smarter.
Tim Kopp – Prior to joining Hyde Park Venture Partners, Tim was the CMO of ExactTarget and CMO at Webtrends. He’s run interactive marketing for Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble and serves as an adviser and board member to many others.
Kyle Lacy – He’s obsessed with how technology influences and ultimately changes human behavior. Kyle has previously lead content and marketing at ExactTarget and Salesforce.
Nancy Laviolette – Nancy is a forward-thinking marketing professional. She offers a unique combination of creativity and analytical skills, and uses her ability to assess both of these vantage points simultaneously to deliver an effective balance of visual nuance and sound business decisions that ultimately enables strong brands recognition.”
Jeff Rohrs – Author, recovering attorney, bacon-lover, and Clevelander-at-heart who serves as Chief Marketing Officer for Yext in New York City. Jeff was VP of Marketing Insights at ExactTarget prior to joining Yext.
Elizabeth Sosnow – Elizabeth is Managing Partner at Bliss Integrated Communication where she is a part of the management team responsible for the company’s overall operations and strategic direction. She has been named a “B2B Social Media Thinker,” “100 People to Watch in PR” and runner-up “B2B Twitterer of the Year.”
Karen Steele – Karen brings over 25 years of B2B technology marketing experience to LeanData as their CMO. Karen has held executive roles at VMware, Informatica, Xactly, and most recently Marketo.
Great B2B Marketing Teams: 7 Success Ingredients
There is not a magic pill or a one-size-fits-all solution to building a highly successful team. What I did find, however, were seven themes that surfaced repeatedly in my interviews with marketing leaders:
1. Hire for Corporate Culture
Even though marketing is becoming more data-driven and specialized, these leaders still look for cultural fit first, perhaps more so than experience and expertise.
When I asked Peter Bell from Marketo about how he hires the right employees for his organization, he’s looking for three things: skills, experience, and then cultural fit. Can you guess which he values most?
“Cultural fit is possibly the most important because I can train for the rest of it. There are some roles where I am prepared to train. There are some roles where I’m not,” he said.
2. Make Success Metrics Transparent
Each team has their own measurements and style but everyone knows the importance of goal accountability.
The key is that all members of the team are clear on WHAT the scoreboard is, and each has access to real-time view of how they are tracking.
Lessonly’s VP of Marketing Kyle Lacy knows exactly what his team is responsible for and how they’re tracking their measurables, and that’s a good thing since I’m an investor in the company!
“We have many goals that are known and public within the marketing team. We’re responsible for leads, MQL (marketing qualified leads), and ACV (average customer value). We even have a goal for demo ratings. Each time sales does a software demo, they rate it 1-5. If they score it below a 3 in quality of prospect, we meet to determine why,” explained Kyle.
3. Align With Sales
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 reps. The best B2B marketing teams are closely aligned with sales, and view their job as empowering the success of the sales department.
According to the Aberdeen Group, aligned sales and marketing teams show 400% higher annual revenue growth than do non-aligned teams.
Jeff Rohrs of Yext is certainly an advocate of this alignment.
“Our approach is to understand at a deep level what’s going on in the sales opportunities, and we want our marketers in those calls hearing what’s important, what’s moving, where they can potentially add some relationship building efforts,” he said.
The way Jeff has positioned his team as a partner to both the customer and the sales team is something I really love. Having the unfiltered access to the information and feedback only makes it easier for all parties moving forward, especially as new programs are rolled out or other marketing materials need to be tweaked.
“It’s imperative they be on those calls and hear those conversations. It’s another set of ears, and experience we can deploy based on what they learn in those calls.”
4. Prioritize Projects
Marketers have more projects to tackle than ever and keeping tabs on each of them can become a full-time job in and of itself. In short, it’s hard to determine which tools are right for your business.
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 huge driver of B2B marketing success.
So how do our group of all-stars handle tools, priorities, and the goals they serve?
For starters, they begin with their most essential apparatus: strategy.
“What kills most CMOs within a year or 18 months”, says Tim Kopp of Hyde Park Ventures, “is that they don’t know how to prioritize. You need to figure out sequentially how are you going to go and knock down the dominoes and drive massive prioritization. I think it’s part art, part science.”
5. 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 hiring for corporate culture as it directly ties in with how all facets of the company (employee, management, and human resources) are gauging their progress.
Assuring that there is a forum for observations and reaction makes managing teams much less cumbersome and does wonders for eliminating any surprises that may be lurking in the shadows.
These times for feedback are not a way to find dirt, as David Cain pointed out – on the contrary, they’re a way for team members to work through any affair, good or bad.
Nancy Laviolette always tells her team to be on their toes. As she describes it, “Sometimes it’s like, “you, me, [conference] room, right now.”
As Robyn Itule sees it, “Feedback is a gift.” Of course, this feedback may not be easy to hear in every situation, but it’s essential to growth – and the sooner the better. This was something I heard loud and clear from all of our participants.
6. Encourage People to Solve Their Own Problems
No matter how good your strategy, no matter how perfect your tools, and no matter how wonderful your people – disagreement and dilemmas will happen. Really, it’s okay to say it.
When disputes arise, however, great marketing teams almost invariably solve the problems themselves. They do so with outstanding communication between the affected parties.
No tattling, or asking Mom or Dad to intervene, as Elizabeth Sosnow, Managing Partner of Bliss Communications, puts plainly.
While no marketer is looking to sow or create conflict, the ability to create a culture where people are able to come to a resolution, without senior intervention, is crucial to growth.
“In our team, one of the things that we’ve tried to do is to help people if they don’t naturally feel comfortable become candid. Dissension, negativity, and arguments happen almost always if someone isn’t direct and honest,” Sosnow told me.
7. Focus on Storytelling
There are lots of tactics, playbooks, and metrics in B2B marketing – maybe more than ever. But ultimately, it’s about persuasion, and among today’s often-jaded customers, persuasion comes best in story format.
Many of our marketing leaders mentioned storytelling as a key element of their success, and their growth.
Without a doubt, all of the technical pieces are essential to keeping the lights on – but automation, emails, and great Facebook ads don’t keep customers engaged and coming back for more.
To drive that kind of success, B2B marketing teams must focus on amazing stories that give people motivation to take action with you.
So many of our marketing leaders mentioned the key need for storytelling to generate B2B success, but no one did it quite as eloquently as Karen Steele, CMO of LeanData.
“You still must have a singular brand level value proposition. Who the heck are you and what do you stand for? Never, ever deviate from that, because if you lose that in the heart and mind of the customer, then it doesn’t matter what story you’re telling. If I can always be true to that brand promise, I’ll always be able to tell a great story, and get people to connect with me. Everybody’s talking about ‘engagement’, but you can’t do engagement without the promise and the story,” Steele explained.
Which of these 7 ingredients of great B2B marketing teams do you have? Which do you need to work upon? Grab the no-obligation Webinar replay for MUCH more detail on this subject.