Thinking B2B: What does a B2B brand marketing team look like in 2020?
by Warren Moss (@warrenmoss) Now that it’s 2020, it’s time for the South African B2B marketing industry to start looking at what a B2B brand’s marketing team should look like in order to ensure that they position themselves to take advantage of all strategies, tactics and techniques that are available to B2B marketers in the 21st century.
Broadly speaking, B2C marketing teams in South Africa are actually of very high marketing maturity and do very progressive work at a world-class level, while most local B2B marketing teams have a much-lower marketing maturity, based on the lack of a B2B marketing ecosystem consisting of education, agencies, conferences and awards. It’s time to set this right but the first step requires one to identify what type of a B2B brand marketing team one is part of.
Having been in the industry for a while now, I’ve discovered that B2B brand marketing teams may be broadly categorised in three ways: pre-modern, modern and post-modern.
Let’s look at the part of the industry that has the lowest B2B marketing maturity — the pre-modern B2B brand marketing team. Historically-speaking, a B2B brand’s marketing department was a loose assembly of people who weren’t necessarily trained in marketing. They often came together because they progressed through their companies as PAs, secretaries and admin people who outgrew their roles — they organised events and participation at trade expos, hosted customers on behalf of the sales teams, arranged suites at sporting events and made sure there was always branded collateral (t-shirts, pens, caps etc) available. They were the events team and the design team who occasionally did a basic print ad for a trade publication. The pre-modern teams came together and operated under a supplier mentality — subservient within their own business.
The vast majority of B2B brand organisations in SA which have a marketing function still look like this. Whenever I onboard a new client who’s never worked with a specialist marketing agency before, the first part of the job is upskilling and educating that marketing team because of a combined lack of pure B2B marketing capability and maturity.
The middle ground, to an extent, is the modern marketing team. Half of the team still has that supplier mentality; they’re still doing events, trade expos and basic design. The other half is adding some measure of strategic marketing value to the organisation; they’re the ones who found themselves part of the department when someone higher up decided, a few years ago, that the company needed to ‘do something in the digital space’. So, they brought in a social media or digital person who’s inevitably a lot younger than the rest of the team and not always a good fit culture-wise with the organisation. The exact role that these shoehorned digital people play in the team is often largely mysterious and misunderstood to the other members — and. since nobody entirely understands what they do, they tend to wield a lot of power. They add an element of strategic value to the business, but the business isn’t necessarily ready to receive it.
This leaves the team caught between the old and new way of doing things in the B2B marketing space — but these are also the teams that I like to work with, because they’ve at least taken a few tentative steps towards becoming post-modern B2B marketing departments. The hybrid nature of these teams is that some of the members add strategic value to their organisations while the other members are suppliers; it causes chaos.
Post-modern teams are the ideal. They’re structured in terms of the value they add to the business: not how the business sees its customers but what the business’ customers really look like. If, for example, the company distinguishes its customers by their size — small, medium and large enterprises — the post-modern marketing team’s roles reflect this structure. It makes the organisation’s marketing effort much more customer-centric. They add value to the customers, rather than just selling products or services to them. The team that looks after large customers is skilled in the type of marketing work that’s relevant and effective to enterprise-level businesses with complex processes and long buying journeys. The team which looks after smaller customers has specialisation in marketing techniques which have more of an impact on businesses without many layers and which have quicker buying cycles.
This requires a B2B brand to have a truly customer-centric worldview and see it from an outside-in perspective, as opposed to an inside-out one. I’ve seen many B2B organisations structure their teams based on what they sell as opposed to who their customers are. If you’re a product-marketing person or a solutions-marketing person or you represent a vertical, then you’re part of a modern marketing organisation, not a post-modern one.
Underpinning post-modern B2B marketing teams is a real competence regarding marketing technology and digital capabilities; they’re all about the value-add and the benefit to the customer. When organisations stop thinking about selling products and services and focus their thinking on adding value to their customers, helping them grow their businesses and cutting down on marketing wastage, they’ve truly matured into a post-modern department — and are therefore best equipped to thrive in the 21st century B2B marketing world.
Warren Moss (@warrenmoss) is the CEO and founder of Demographica, a multi-award winning full service agency that specialises in the B2B category. He has been chair of both the Direct Marketing Association of South Africa (DMASA) and the Assegai Integrated Marketing Awards (Assegais), as well as the only African to judge the B2 Awards, which recognise the top performing B2B marketers in the world. Warren contributes the monthly “Thinking B2B” column, which looks at the latest trends in B2B communications and explains why it is fundamentally different from B2C comms.