B2B Marketing Leaders: 3 Things that Can Hurt You (And Your Company) in 2015

2015-b2b-marketingThe transition to a new year can be a perilous time for B2B marketing organizations. Sales managers, finance people and CEOs are gathered in rooms or on conference calls having tough conversations about priorities and funding for the new year. The output of these meetings can wreak havoc on the unsuspecting marketing department, especially when these types of statements are made:

“Marketing underperformed last year. Why don’t we cut the marketing budget by 20 percent?”

“The sales team thinks it can out-market the marketing team. Why don’t we let the marketing department report to the sales VP?”

“We need to cut marketing staff to afford more sales reps.”

“What’s up with all this social media? Are we really paying people to Tweet and play on Facebook?’

“The website is awful and our leads our worthless. Why don’t we just outsource our marketing?”

“What does marketing do with all that money we give them? Do we really need another $30,000 trade show? How does any of it convert to revenue?”

And the cruelest statement of all: “Do we really need marketing?”

All of these statements and outcomes are driven by three basic problems:

Problem 1: Misalignment between sales and marketing. This gap occurs if your sales leader and marketing leader don’t see eye to eye on objectives, branding, sales support needs, etc.  Because the sales department is closer to revenue, this gap will usually work against the interests of the marketing department. Marketing VPs have been fired because of the failure to achieve alignment. My recent post on how to align sales and marketing plans will help you in this area.

Problem 2: Lack of accountability. Metrics drive the modern B2B marketing organization. Ideally, you have a sales level agreement (SLA) that specifies what your department is expected to directly produce in terms of awareness, inquiries (raw leads) and qualified leads – and also how you will influence metrics like the number of qualified leads, opportunities and even revenue. A lack of accountability can produce issues like that reported by John Staples in his blog post titled Why Don’t We Just Cut the Marketing Budget?: “Lead Generation does not produce quality leads – marketing continues to take the blame for a lack of evolution in many sales forces. “It’s not me, it was a bad lead.” All of us who have been in B2B marketing for any length of time have heard such pronouncements, and regardless of whether they are true, it is often perception more than reality that can sink your marketing ship.

Problem 3: Unachievable objectives. We marketers tend to be optimistic by nature but too much optimism can get us in trouble, especially when it comes to making promises. The sales VP says, “We need 150 qualified leads a month to hit our numbers.”  Instead of a thoughtful response like “Let me run the numbers and get back to you,” you blurt out, “Of course. No problem. We’ll get your 150 qualified leads per month.” Like the coach who promises to win the Super Bowl and only wins a division title, even though you have a good year, your well-intentioned promise will come back to haunt you. For B2B marketing leaders, it is always better to slightly under-promise and over-deliver.

Address these three potential problems early in the year and you will have a more successful 2015 and beyond.

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Christopher Ryan

Christopher Ryan has 25 years of marketing, technology, and senior management experience. As both a marketing executive and services provider, Chris has created and executed numerous programs that build market awareness, drive lead generation and increase revenue.
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One comment

  • Joseph Bray December 18, 2014   Reply →

    Chris, I love the statement you make that it’s better to slightly under promise and over deliver….so true! Marketing has been my home for many years and it is always a good reminder that failure to align sales and marketing, identify areas of accountability and expectations and set realistic goals can amount to the same as signing your own death warrant.
    Excellent information to keep in mind as we start a new year!

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