Our buyers have gone digital. They’ve lost patience for gated web forms and relentless emails. They value exceptional, frictionless experiences on their timelines (not your internal company process). Also, they don’t want to spend endless cycles with salespeople. Our Boards of Directors and C-teams expect instant pipeline, predictable revenue, and everybody to know our brand, NOW!
This is the position and the vice grips in which many B2B Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) find themselves. This is because Marketing is asked to play a larger, more proactive role in today’s buyer-driven, digital-first world we live and compete in.
Welcome to the Acceleration Economy.
Speed, experiences, customer-centricity, intelligence, agility, technology, and authenticity all matter in the battle to win the minds, hearts, and wallets of B2B customers. Like other business leaders, the CMO has been thrust into new territory without a GPS or playbook.
In the coming weeks as an Acceleration Economy Network Analyst, I will be sharing, analyzing, and proposing ways CMOs and Marketing teams can move from reactive to proactive mode in this interesting moment in business and human history.
My perspective comes from slugging it out in CMO operating roles. Additionally, it stems from being part of executive leadership teams building and transforming businesses. Along the way, I would value learning the tough stuff you’re facing and what you are doing to change things up as well as your perspective on the road ahead.
Marketing’s Mission, Strategies and Levers in the Acceleration Economy
CMO’s and Marketing’s opportunity is to lead this tectonic shift from the front line immersed in markets, listening to prospects and customers, developing smarter products and making it easy to do business with. While this is not a single chess move, we can get fast traction. This can be done by capitalizing on market shifts, crafting a modern strategy, betting on smart tech and data. Furthermore, it can involve putting modern plays, processes, people, and programs in place that together will delight both our buyers and our executive stakeholders.
Here’s essential strategies and levers Marketing can lead and action to thrive in the Acceleration Economy:
Re-Imagine Your Go-to-Market (GTM) Strategy and Thinking Around the Customer
It is an ideal time to evaluate and re-think your business model and GTM strategy. This starts with digging in to gain a fresh understanding of your buyers’ priorities and initiatives. For instance, it includes how they prefer to buy and do business. They’re likely under they same pressure as you are to transform. Challenge yourself and the team, “what roles can my company and solutions play a role in our customers’ transformation initiatives?”. It’s amazing how often like missions turn into empathy, opportunity, and deeper relationships.
Bring your executive team to the table and articulate the need for change. In doing this, you can lay out the landscape, examples and, wherever possible, data. Take on tough and important questions: What business do our customers expect us to be in? What markets can we enter and disrupt? What is the category we can compete in and deliver? Don’t approach this as a “Marketing” project. Rather, involve key stakeholders in the research. So, the key stakeholders can hear first-hand from prospects, customers, partners, analysts, and influencers to get a clearer view. Buy in and ownership will accelerate. And, this intelligence will shape a foundational GTM strategy built for the Acceleration Economy.
Deepen Buyer and Market Knowledge, Every Day
The toughest challenge and biggest win is making buyer and customer-centricity part of the culture as well as the way you do business and develop solutions. The winners in the Acceleration Economy are continuously pulsing and understanding markets, buyers, and accounts to move at the speed of the customer. Buyer-centric cultures are always looking for ways to action this knowledge. They search for ways to take action on preference shifts to delight customers and expand opportunity. It’s not just to track internal performance.
As part of the culture, create and host hands-on advisory groups, customer councils, and market leadership alliances. These are all smart ways to show the market and your current and prospective customers your commitment. In return, you receive continuous built-in intelligence. And, this organically creates advocates making these pros part of the “new way” to do business.
Think Digital Experiences and Business, Not Just Digital Marketing
Yes, digital marketing to engage customers. But our mindset must shift to digital business. This kicks off with marketing rallying a review of all touchpoints where your prospects, customers and markets interact with your brand, company, and solutions (this includes in your products). It’s not on Marketing alone, so recruit and rally the right resources across your company to gather, capture and organize this intelligence.
Now, you can begin to holistically think about where and how to makeover these experiences and models. A good place to start is with what your buyers view and where to improve. This effort should also uncover and catapult Marketing from a B2B team that generates leads for sales and to an organization that impacts the full customer lifecycle.
Re-Tool Infrastructure and Marketing Processes to be Buyer-Driven and Digital First
Like the garage we are forever going to clean out, it’s the right time for Marketing to get its arms around the morass of tech, data and processes required for digital business. For instance, the shift in buyers’ expectations is the perfect opportunity (even excuse) to change it up. This makeover must focus on re-tooling your infrastructure and processes to eliminate friction and increase connection with customer and buyers. Please note that this is NOT a call to go buy a bunch of new technology and spend millions on management consulting.
While change always starts and ends with your talent, critical areas of focus include: systems and tools to monitor, understand, activate and measure customer and prospect needs and activity. In addition, it involves focusing on databases, data models and data strategies that tap into new capabilities. These capabilies may include artificial intelligence to deliver insights and actions around the customer and for the business. Finally, it’s important to focus on an organization-wide prospect and customer engagement model and processes that continuously learns and utilizes a more agile approach, such as low code/no code applications.
Empower Your People, Culture, and Your Colleagues
Strategy, tech, and data are critical enablers. However, nothing is more important than hiring, developing, and empowering talent. Although it’s addressed last in this article, we all know the difference between success and failure is change in management along with our people being motivated and resourced. Don’t expect or assume all colleagues will buy in. Find the pros who “get it” and get them on the mission as change agents. If this means blending organizations, tweaking job titles and blowing up roles to gain the focus and traction, do it. Rip down traditional walls and legacy thinking.
Lastly, make sure you are sharing your progress with key stakeholders – the awesome and the messy stuff. This also buys credibility and provides a compass for where to focus. Finally, a lesson learned the hard way, stay away from labelling these as “special projects” or developing throwaway “mission statements”. Simply make it the new standard and the way you do business.
Now is the time for Marketing to lead and capitalize on the Acceleration Economy
The most important thing is to prioritize and get started. Done is better than perfect. CMOs and Marketing organizations are in a unique role to drive value for the company looking externally to serve customers, win markets and outmaneuver current and lurking competitors in the Acceleration Economy. Let’s roll!