The world of marketing is a noisy place. It is - and always has been - a melting pot of innovation and perpetual reinvention. This isn’t a surprise. Marketing attracts the go-getters, the creatives and the doers. The movers and the shakers.
Add to this the intersection with digital and marketers’ intrinsic interest in bandwagons, the landscape can get messy. This is particularly true for B2B marketers, with those who play the long, strategic game without getting too distracted along the way usually getting rewarded.
There is a great Steve Jobs quote that warns against getting carried away with all the good ideas out there: “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I'm actually as proud of the things we haven't done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”
A cluttered purchase journey
But this is hard.
I've spoken to a few B2B marketers recently who highlighted elements of this issue as their biggest challenge as a B2B marketer. Richard Robinson, VP Europe for Cambridge Analytica, described the B2B marketing environment as “cluttered and fragmented”. He said this means his biggest challenge is being able to connect and engage with the right prospects throughout the buying cycle.
Meandering, long journeys to purchase in B2B, together with a proliferation of contact points and channel options make this particularly challenging.
“There is so much contradicting channel-based advice out there for [clients] without strategic underpinned thought, so it's easy to understand why businesses end up unsure how to approach their marketing,” says strategic brand and marketing consultant Jade Tambini. Indeed, being presented with so many different options could lead to marketers feeling so overwhelmed they don’t choose anything at all, or they simply choose the same thing they’ve always chosen.
Jade’s biggest challenge as a B2B marketer is to help clients decipher and understand which marketing channels will deliver the best return on investment for them. She highlights the importance of having a proper strategy in place, complete with clear goals, in order to get the most from marketing budgets.
Limited money and resources are also real struggles in a lot of cases. Adam Harper of B2B Marketing magazine points out that B2B marketers sometimes end up having to do the job of several people, while Centaur Media’s Jonathan Carter describes the biggest challenge to B2B marketers as “ever-diminishing budgets with ever-increasing targets”.
Michele Linn, head of editorial at the Content Marketing Institute, also highlights time constraints and constant distractions as a challenge. The solution at the CMI is to improve processes and become more disciplined in order to allow the creative tasks that have been prioritised to be done in a meaningful way - a bit like the focus Steve Jobs talked about.
“It takes discipline to stick with what we are working on when other new ‘shiny’ ideas arise,” says Michele. Getting control of all the editorial team’s ideas is one of her biggest challenges. “We have so. Many. Ideas. On one hand, this is a wonderful problem to have, but the flip side is that it takes time deciding what should take priority.”
The B2B future is bright
This post has probably painted quite a grim picture of the challenges B2B marketers face, but it's not all bad. There are lots of exciting things happening and B2B marketers doing innovative work. In my next blog post, I plan to write about what the future holds for B2B marketing. Do sign up for updates if you're interested in reading more, or tell us on social media what you are finding challenging as a B2B marketer at the moment.