What keeps me up at night, as a B2B technology marketer

I worry that we’re overlooking opportunities in other markets. Perhaps our products and solutions are well-suited to markets we’ve never explored.

I recently tweeted out an article I found that talks about What B2B CMOs Will Face Tomorrow. That article (based on a study/survey by Marketo) listed five emerging trends:

  1. Customer Co-Created Marketing
  2. Darwinism of Marketing Organizations
  3. The Recruiting/Retention Crisis
  4. Speaking Finance
  5. Lonesome Leaders

Some of those ring true for me, either in part or in whole (the finance one will be especially important), and examining them got me thinking: what are the things that are on my mind, as a B2B technology marketer?

Alright, full disclosure: I’m not a CMO. That said, I lead the Product Marketing organization at a B2B technology company, and I’m closely involved with many aspects of our overall marketing.

So, what’s on my mind as we head full-steam into 2016? Here are the first five things that popped into my head (and that’s gotta count for something), presented in no meaningful order.

Missing Markets

We do well in our markets; in fact, we’re the overall market leader and we have global strength (meaning, we’re not disproportionately reliant on one or two regions). That’s great, and we’ve worked hard and weathered some storms to achieve this position.

Of course, we still want to improve our performance, so we put effort into increasing our market share, growing revenue etc.

But I worry that we’re overlooking opportunities in other markets. Perhaps our products and solutions are well-suited to markets we’ve never explored.

Perhaps our products and solutions are well-suited to markets we’ve never explored.

Growth in a mature or saturated market is hard to come by (we can grow at roughly the same rate as our customers, we can replace competitors when the sales cycle rolls over, or we can introduce new solutions), and I worry that by being so keenly focused on servicing our current customers we’re missing some greenfields. So while it’s great if we grow a $20 M market into a $25 M market, it’s even better if we can just take our current wares and win a previously untapped $10 M market.

It’s largely Product Marketing’s job to make sure we don’t miss out.

Getting in Front of Things (Proactivity vs Reactivity)

No matter how it’s expressed (e.g., top-down vs bottom-up, proactive vs reactive, getting in front, etc.), I worry that too often we’re subjected to circumstance rather than we’re controlling our own destiny. And I say that while quite proud of our achievements, to date: we’ve anticipated and led many of our industry’s major trends.

Nevertheless, there’s much more we can do to ‘get in front’ of things.

What I mean is, it’s easy to busy oneself with tactical items as they pop up and to mistake activity for achievement (“Hey, we’ve all been busy, so we must be doing well!”), but it’s much more worthwhile (and efficient) to identify important objectives and define and execute on strategies by which to achieve them (this is a golden rule of leadership).

It’s easy to busy oneself with tactical items and to mistake activity for achievement, but it’s much more worthwhile to identify important objectives and define and execute on strategies by which to achieve them.

Now, I don’t want to make the folly of over-planning in a complex world, but I do prefer to execute strategically rather than tactically. Executing to your own plan (while building in accommodation for things that pop up) gives you the luxury of careful consideration to determine the best approach, lets you put ‘more wood behind fewer arrows’, lets you say no to things that don’t offer sufficient value, and so on.

Reacting keeps you busy, but you might just be treading water while floating downstream.

Reacting keeps you busy, but you might just be treading water while floating downstream.

Keeping Up

One reason why I enjoy my job is that it’s always changing. The flipside is that I have to keep up with change, or I’ll become obsolete.

Marketing technologies change, customer preferences change, our market environment changes, our own solutions change; to be effective, we as marketers need to (at the least) keep up with these changes.

  • New marketing technologies promise to automate or simplify our jobs, or to scale up our impact. Are we setting aside enough time to examine these developments (so that we can implement technologies that will make us more effective)?
  • We serve an incredibly diverse set of customers (and potentials). Are we staying on top of their collective needs (so we can craft messages that resonate)?
  • Our customers are always doing interesting and powerful things. Are we effectively tracking these successes (so that we can tell these stories and increase demand for our solutions)?
  • Our markets are shaped by many forces: regulators, consumers, businesses, competitors, technology advances, global economic trends, and more. Are we taking all of these sufficiently into account (so we can formulate optimal strategies)?
  • We satisfy dozens of use cases, and the list grows steadily with new features and products. Are we keeping up with internal developments (so we can focus our messaging on the most important things)?

Every day, my inbox fills up with newsletters touting some new marketing technology or trend, with analyst reports and industry publications that summary dozens of daily developments in the telecommunications market, and with countless update about internal projects. I could spend my entire day just reading email, let alone replying to relevant threads. Of course, I don’t. Instead, for each item I make an instantaneous decision to read, or not, and then I live with the consequences. Most of the time I think I get it right, but what if I miss a potential needle-shifter?

What if I miss a potential needle-shifter?

For every moment that we’re satisfied, we risk preserving the status quo to our own detriment. Every minute that we’re looking inside is a minute that we’re not looking outside. The status quo isn’t necessarily bad, but an over-reliance on the status quo most certainly is.

The status quo isn’t necessarily bad, but an over-reliance on the status quo most certainly is.

Team Structure

As indicated in the previous section, things change. As a team leader, I need to make sure my team is optimally suited to perform our functions.

I set aside time to look forward so that I can determine what domain knowledge and skills will be needed in the future. Then I have to develop a plan. If there are gaps, I need to figure out how to fill them. Do I have enough people? Are the skills and knowledge already there? If not, then how do we grow our skills or knowledge to hit the window of opportunity? Will we have to hire in some specialty expertise, and do I have the budget to do so?

Are the functions divided appropriately between team members? Is there too much overlap (redundancy), or not enough (dependency)?

I’ve got a great team, and I owe it to them to anticipate and prepare future needs so that we’re not caught unprepared.

I’ve got a great team, and I owe it to them to anticipate and prepare future needs so that we’re not caught unprepared.

Maximizing Return on Effort

I want to get the maximum return for every bit of effort (time, energy, money) we expend.

I need to make sure that, first, we’re working on the right things, and second, that we’re working on them the right way.

Consequently, I’m always looking for ways to improve efficiency, to increase impact, to measure the real worth of an activity, etc.

This latter point is perhaps the most difficult. In our business, we have sales cycles that can easily extend over a year, and that can involve dozens of meetings with many dozens of people within a single customer. Lead scoring, marketing automation, and other approaches are intriguing, but I’ve yet to see a convincing way to apply them to our business. How, then, can we measure the value of a tradeshow, or a webinar, or a piece of collateral, or a specific meeting, or any of a number of activities?

I need to make sure that, first, we’re working on the right things, and second, that we’re working on them the right way.

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Posted in Leadership, Management, Marketing

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