One of the biggest changes affecting b-to-b marketing is the shift to being more data-driven, Becher said. “There is a concern that we're drowning in too much data,” he said. “Companies may be focusing on what's easy to measure rather than on what's important to measure. It's more important to help people buy rather than to help companies sell.”
Becher also noted how the role of marketing has spread beyond the marketing department itself. “In the old days, companies spent a lot of time trying to unify the voice of the entire company,” he said. “In the days of digital and social, every employee is amplifying their voice to the outside world. At SAP, we are encouraging our employees to be better storytellers and at the same time have a coherent discussion of the company.”
Mark Wilson, CMO at Avaya Inc., said, “There has never been a better time to be a b-to-b marketer,” pointing to the elevated status of marketing within organizations.
“Marketing within b-to-b companies is becoming more strategic every year,” he said. “B-to-b brands realize that marketing is a differentiator in terms of building the strength of brands and the ability to drive revenue for brands.”
Wilson said technology is helping drive this change.
“The tools at the disposal of b-to-b marketers have never been better, with Big Data and the ability to understand and target customers, and engage with them in a deep way. Whether you listen to IDC, Gartner, Forrester or McKinsey, 40% to 70% of the buyer's journey happens before a buyer ever talks to a human being. And marketing is at the wheelhouse in driving engagement at the early stages of the funnel.”
B-to-b agency executives also said the elevated status of marketing has it taking on a much more strategic role within companies.
“Our most senior client marketers routinely have a seat at the table; influence HR, IT, R&D and other corporate functions like never before; play a much bigger and often guiding role with sales; and tend to have ever-closer relationships with their CEOs and company boards,” said Gary Slack, chairman-chief experience officer at b-to-b agency Slack & Co., Chicago.
“This trend has been accelerating in recent years, but looking back 30 years, b-to-b marketers have traveled light years beyond where they were in the 1980s,” said Slack, who opened his agency in 1988 as Slack Lasky Brown.
Carl Anderson, chairman of Doremus, which is celebrating its 110th anniversary this year, said, “I don't think there's ever been a more exciting time for b-to-b, as companies recognize the role business marketing plays in driving their businesses.
“B-to-b is a complex decision-making process that requires a different approach; it is more problem solving-oriented and requires a whole different mindset than the consumer side. Both the client and agency side have raised the bar for b-to-b marketing, which is being given due respect as a driving contributor to businesses and helping companies achieve their goals.”