Monday, April 12, 2010

The "Other" Jobs of B2B Marketers

A lively discussion is underway in the Marketing Communications group at LinkedIn.  The question that started the discussion was: "In one sentence, what is marketing?"  In less than a month, this question has produced 145 comments.  As you might expect, the comments have included a wide range of definitions, but I think it's fair to say that most have focused, in one way or another, on the "persuasion" aspect of marketing.

Because of my work, I read almost everything I can find about B2B marketing.  For example, I regularly follow over three dozen B2B marketing blogs, and the list keeps growing.  There are some wonderful B2B bloggers sharing insights and ideas - Seth Godin, Ardath Albee, Steve Woods, and Jon Miller, just to name a few.

The hot topics today in the B2B marketing blogosphere include the use of social networks, inbound marketing, content marketing, lead management (lead scoring, lead nurturing, etc.), and marketing automation.  All of these topics also relate to how we communicate with and persuade potential buyers.

It's understandable why we devote so much attention to marketing communications.  Most B2B marketers spend most of their time developing and executing marketing communications programs of various kinds.  Marketing communications are extremely important, but they are only part of the "promotion" component of marketing.  And promotion is only one of the "four P's" of marketing.

Peter Drucker once said, "Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two - and only two - basic functions:  marketing and innovation."  I might not go quite that far, but I do believe that B2B marketers can and should play a broader role that just managing marketing communications.

Let's consider just two examples.  First, marketers should have a strong voice in the development of new products and services.  Marketers (in collaboration with salespeople) are best suited to be the "eyes and ears" of the company in the marketplace.  Gathering information about the changing needs and challenges of customers and prospects should be an ongoing priority for marketers, and you should create a systematic process for collecting and evaluating this information.  This kind of market intelligence can be vital for developing new products or services that will win in the marketplace.

Marketers should also play a significant role in making decisions about pricing.  I realize that pricing is a sensitive subject in many companies and is often the source of contention among marketers, salespeople, and financial/accounting professionals.  Research has shown that pricing is the single most powerful profit lever that managers can use on a daily basis.  It's up to marketers to understand the real economics of pricing decisions so that they can bridge the gap between those who view pricing as a tool for closing a sale and those who believe that your company's costs should dictate its prices.

Managing the marketing communications effort is important, but B2B marketers also have other critical jobs to perform. 

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