The CMO’s of today are facing the challenge of surviving in a new world. This new digital age has marketing in the throes of a buyer revolution. Like any revolution, organizations, and institutions are going to topple.
I was recently asked what I believed was the next “hot thing” in marketing. I have been thinking about this for a while now. Typically, when you hear a phrase like the “hot thing”, it is easy to think some form of technology (marketing automation for example), renaming of long-standing practices to adapt to new dynamics (content marketing as an example), or some catchy phrase originating from a best-selling book. I rule these out this time.
This time, it is something bigger in my mind. It is unglamorous, it is messy, and it comes with new sets of challenges.
In recent uprisings around the world, we have seen old governments topple and the introduction of new forms of governments in several countries. By the way of analogy, I believe marketing will need to reinvent itself along the lines of organization, structure, and purpose. Old ways will need to topple. Why? Because there is a buyer uprising and they demand it. They have the power of voting with their budgets.
To survive the buyer revolution, new marketing must become purpose-driven. And a purpose must be external, not internal. What do I mean? Purpose needs to move outward towards customers and buyers. For example, a recent answer to this form of a question was answered – “the purpose of marketing is to get more leads” – really, that is it? I believe marketing needs to aspire to a much higher purpose.
I believe a higher purpose expands beyond customer-centricity. It is a purpose of helping customers and buyers to help themselves. To help them achieve their goals and own aspirations. David Newberry, CMO for Pitney Bowes Software in an interview with Bryan Kramer, articulates this:
“the true essence of marketing is a combination of clarity of purpose combined with credibility.”
This prism of purpose becomes important to make 3 important steps towards evolving the marketing organization to survive the buyer revolution.
To achieve a higher clarity of purpose requires a new perspective on how marketing operates and functions to achieve this higher purpose. I suggest these three steps be taken:
Step One: Create A Core Buyer Insights Function
I alluded in my recent article, 5 Obstacles to B2B Market Research and Actionable Customer Insights, overcoming obstacles to buyer insights means seeing insights as not helping to run the business, but be seen as the essential means to inform how the business should be run. Answering questions on what a business needs to do to achieve the higher purpose of helping customers and buyers to achieve their goals.
To accomplish this, I suggest the creation of a core buyer insights function. This function is adept at facilitating the use of third party experts as well as use of internal expertise. As with most organizational change, this will mean a look at what skill sets are needed. At present, there is a big gap in this area. An example of an organization filling this gap is Intel. They created a core insights function, which meant the addition of capabilities in ethnography, business anthropology, and behavior research.
Step 2: Align to the Critical Path to Purchase and Repurchase
One of the major outputs of buyer insights should be the critical path to purchase and repurchase. This will help B2B marketing to rethink traditional views of buying processes or what is called the buyer’s journey recently. What it takes is to get deep below the traditional metaphor of the funnel or the new metaphors we see as circular. ( You can learn more about this view in this article, where I introduce how to find your buyer’s critical path using the Buyer Decision Model™: How to Find the Critical Buying Path of Your B2B Buyers)
B2B Marketing can align along the critical paths, which are evident for their markets. Aligning expertise and capabilities best designed to help buyers and customers reach milestones in their critical path. For example, one B2B organization aligned new roles and functions to audience creation and demand. It found, as David Newberry mentions above, credibility was an important factor early on in a buyer’s critical path to purchase. Yet, they did not have skills or resources allocated to audience credibility. It made a difference.
Step 3: Organize for the Digital Age
Traditional marketing is being toppled by the buyer revolution. The revolution is being fueled by digital technologies and interactions. Likewise, CMO’s today can use digital expertise to be the transformation engine, which pulls their organization into the new digital age. They will need to go beyond acquiring a tool mentality. A new level of expertise capability means viewing digital as a source of innovation. Creating new ways to engage, interact, and help buyers and customers.
It may have dawned on you by now. I have not mentioned content marketing. I do not discount its’ importance. My belief is the three steps above are important to informing overall marketing strategy, inclusive of content strategy. In my recent article, Latest Report: Why B2B Marketing is Failing B2B Buyers, I reviewed content marketing ineffectiveness. Organizations lacking in the three steps outlined are struggling with content marketing effectiveness.
For CMO’s today, awareness of being in the midst of a buyer revolution is an imperative. It calls for rethinking organization and structure to meet a higher purpose. The three steps above are important elements for organizing for the new digital age.
To me, this is the next “hot thing” in B2B marketing.
(If you are a leader in Marketing, I welcome further conversations to help explore these three steps. Please share widely – your peers and colleagues are trying to survive the buyer revolution.)