7 Big Questions For B2B Marketing Leaders in 2014

Question mark in Esbjerg

Question mark in Esbjerg (Photo credit: alexanderdrachmann)

The New Year is underway.  The first quarter is nearing an end.  Some of the best-laid plans have already vaporized due to unexpected events.  While some plans are either tracking on-target – or – will be missed.  Each year, B2B business must meet the challenge of our time – keeping up with rapid new developments in digital technologies and changing buying behaviors.

Along with this challenge each year, comes a new set of questions:

1. Should Content Marketing Be Our Number One Priority?

According to nearly 2500 marketers surveyed by Adobe and eConsultancy, 36% believe so followed closely by social media engagement.  This report also identified content marketing as the most exciting area for B2B.  So, is this a legitimate question?  I think so.  Here’s why: in several conversations helping marketing leaders over the past few months, I’ve noticed “lead generation” and “content marketing” used interchangeably.  An indication many content marketing efforts are being solely judged by as well as seen to be the new high powered lead machine.  For example, one CMO had to increase his lead target by 75% in order to justify spending on content marketing.  Content marketing is being in it for the long haul.  Put in a box governed by high lead expectations can be a difficult challenge to overcome.

2. With Content Marketing Underway, Now What?

This question is closely related to the above.  With many believing content marketing being a number one priority, much energy and resources are devoted to implementing.  Followed by daily monitoring and tracking.  This is a new analytic-centric approach to B2B marketing and analogous to trading.  Daily highs and lows based on numbers related to views and downloads.  There is much more to the purpose of marketing.  B2B marketing leaders need to be expanding their boundaries beyond content marketing alone.

3. How Do We Build Our Brand?

A shift will begin to happen this year.  Based on recent substantial number of buyer interviews, more and more buyers are taking note of brands and their brand experiences.  These experiences will prove to be powerful influencers on buying decisions.  If content marketing efforts are not interwoven into the context of brand experience, they may not be much of an influence at all.  Overzealous application of content marketing in the context of a lead machine can turn it into a spam machine.  And we all know what this will do to brand experience.

4. In Which Direction Are Buyers Heading?

Let us face it.  There are very good B2B organizations who have embraced digital technologies and are advancing at warped speed.  Meaning if some of these companies represent target customers you would like to have – then gaining insight into which direction they are heading is essential.  If you have no idea where they are headed, you will have no idea how to fit into their plans for the future.  I cannot tell you how many times I have said “wow” in buyer interviews when learning how buyers have advanced their organizations as well as buying mechanics.

5. Who Are Our Buyers And Customers?

While it is not enough just know who your customers are in these challenging times, it is still a question which perplexes many B2B businesses.  The changing landscape of business and buyers as a result of new digital technologies is introducing new types of customer and prospects.  Resulting in many B2B marketing leaders to have this question on their minds continuously.

6. How Do We Make Better Informed Decisions On Marketing Spend?

Decisions on how to allocate marketing spend are becoming high stake.  The convergence of digital technologies with marketing means the dollar stakes for each decision has gone up considerably over the past decade.  A far cry from the days when printing costs were the most significant expense.  We are still in an era, from my point of view, where high dollar decisions are made on marketing technology platforms yet companies have not determined the answer to the question above.  In addition, staffing needs related to marketing spend are shifting as new skills and talents are needed.

7. Is This The End Of The Road For The Buyer’s Journey?

Every couple of years, there is a term, which gets adopted as part of B2B marketing lingo.  The Buyer’s Journey is one of them.  It has even taken on a mythological aura.  As if we map out this journey, we have discovered the missing link to never-ending sales.  Neat stages and boxes do not exist in the real world of customers and buyers.  Situational context and scenarios do.  A buyer’s path, whether it is an individual buyer or a buying team, to a decision will be governed by situational context.  Meaning decision paths will vary each time.  Inordinate amount of time spent on the buyer’s journey can send you down the wrong path.  In some cases, when I have been on-site helping organizations, I have asked to see their mapped buyer’s journey. They first blow the dust off before handing it to me.

Undoubtedly, there are many more questions we can pose here.  My hunch is more questions will fit into a theme this year.  Which revolves around content marketing, insight into buyers, technology, and new skills.

Challenging Times

Suffice to say these are exciting times in the world of B2B marketing.  Embracing challenges and challenging questions will be a source of growth for many organizations. The key is to keep asking questions and then finding the right answers.  And, to be sure the questions we ask are the ones buyers will care about the most.

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