Browsing my LinkedIn Groups today, I came across a discussion started by Holger Schulze on the B2B Technology Marketing Community that got me thinking. Holger asked:
Can you use ONE WORD to describe the biggest challenge facing B2B Marketing today?
Holger always asks these fantastic, insightful questions. At the time I checked, the question had received 85 one-word responses. Considering them in combination, I was intrigued so of course I entered them all into a spreadsheet and started doing a bit of armchair analysis. Here's what I came up with.
The responses (from my perspective) fall into four distinct areas of challenge for B2B marketers:
Even more interesting, when counting up the number of responses after I'd divied them up, management, execution and mindset each received 22. Market received 15.
The distribution makes me wonder if marketers are still overly focused on internal stuff rather than markets? However you look at it, the answers point to some clear indications of a few things that need to be ironed out.
Here's my interpretation of each of the four areas of challenge:
[*Note some words submitted by more than one person.]
The overall standouts in what I've labeled management fall into several clusters:
- Accountability, Measurement, Revenue, Sales
- Budget, Profitability, Credit
- Goals, Effectiveness, Success
- Professionalism, People, Time, Collaboration
- Automation, Integration, Overcomplicated
- Branding, Communication
Proving ROI and the alignment of marketing spend with results have risen as imperatives for marketers and are obviously proving challenging. This can also be tied to technology challenges as well as the overall integration of marketing programs across the enterprise. Talent, time and teamwork are proving difficult to solve for marketing departments with limited resources and an ever-widening scope of responsibilities.
The words attributed to execution are evidence of difficulty in matching marketing programs to the challenges of management as well as to market receptiveness.
- Attention, Awareness, Proposition, Relevance
- Engagement, Follow-up, Relationship
- Clarity, Consistency, Disconnect
- Leads, Target
Relevance received the highest number of responses across the board. That only one person responded with content suprised me a bit, although a number of these could be reflective of the quality of content that's being produced. Importantly, what becomes obvious is that all stages across the entirety of the funnel appear to be challenging—from beginning to end.
This area shows evidence that marketing is changing so quickly and comprehensively that we need to do some work to help marketers adapt in order to equip them to resolve the other areas of challenge.
- Competence, Confidence, Creativity, Focus, Flexibility
- Dullness, Differenetiation, Saturation
- Insightfulness, Listening, Ill-defined
- Fear, Obsolescence, Uncertainty
Marketers cannot be at their most effective when they lack confidence in what they are doing or realize that their skillsets don't prepare them to address today's markets. If you look at the third bullet, it's obvious that there's still work to be done to get to know our markets so damn well that the programs we create for them [not for us] will help us to overcome many of the challenges identified by Holger's question.
It's important to remember that these challenges were voiced by marketers and apply to their perceptions of what they think their target audiences think. Or even how they perceive the marketplace.
- Clutter, Hype, Noise
- Choices, Commoditization, Fragmentation
- Skepticism, Trust, Value, Loyalty
The ease of publishing has definitely made it a world of too much information. Audiences have changed and fragmented and the ability to gain more insight into vendors without ever speaking to them allows perceptions to form that may or may not be realistic. But, it's what it is and we've got to rise above it to do our jobs effectively and answer the challenges of the other three areas.
When you evaluate management, execution, mindset and marketing, you can see how one feeds into another. The best part of this analysis is that you can also start seeing paths to resolution.
The one-word challenges play off one another so that if you solve one cluster, it's highly likely that another will diminish. This said, I also find it interesting that personas or buyer knowledge didn't make the list. If that's resolved and applied, a lot of these words might vanish from the list.
It's also important to note that 4 marketers said their answer was a definitive NO. That there was not one word to define the biggest challenge to B2B marketing today. I agree with them.
What do you think?
Would you have arranged the one-word responses differently?
If I can add my own word (beyond NO) - I think it would be Interaction - but you probably could have guessed that!