Marketing Leadership

Marketing Leaders: These Are The Problems That Should Keep You Up At Night

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of hosting a series of B2B CMO breakfasts with PathFactory in New York City, Chicago, and Austin. Together with PathFactory’s VP of Marketing Elle Woulfe, we hosted 20-25 marketing leaders in each city for a conversation about what’s working and (more often) what’s not working in B2B marketing today.

It’s amazing to me that after having done dozens of these events around the country now, with almost 500 total marketing executives participating from a wide variety of industries and company sizes, I can almost predict the challenges that will come up during introductions.

6 biggest marketing challenges

Here they are (in approximate order):

1. Sales and marketing alignment

Not just conceptually, but defining and operationalizing what that looks like on a Tuesday. Or the last week of the quarter. There is clearly an increasing gap in performance and impact from B2B marketing organizations that have figured this out, and increasing angst and worry from those who have not.

2. Attribution

This includes understanding what’s working, what’s influencing pipeline velocity, and closed deals in a complex, multi-touch sale. Increasingly, B2B leaders are thinking about the point of diminishing returns on the extent of visibility reporting their tools and analytics can provide versus more quickly gaining directional insights to make marketing’s impact more immediate and more evident.

3. Culture and team structure

What’s the best way to set up a team, for example, to drive success given the complexity of integrated B2B marketing today? Migrating B2B marketing organizations from a volume/MQL-oriented focus to a revenue-responsible focus includes significant changes in individual roles, skill sets, cross-departmental working relationships, and more.

4. Account-based marketing

Increasingly ABM is seen as a function of higher-performing marketing teams, not necessarily replacing everything else that had “previously” been working. The focus (and sometimes fear) among B2B CMOs is around how to effectively and efficiently scale the operation and impact of ABM beyond initial or limited campaigns.

5. Strategic planning and budgeting amidst execution

Flying the airplane while you build it isn’t easy, but most B2B marketing leaders don’t have a choice. This involves managing execution cycles, board meetings, and politics, not to mention numerous multi-level conversations about marketing’s role, impact, interaction with other customer-facing departments, etc.

6. Balancing the art and science of B2B marketing

This includes the struggle to continue bringing new and big ideas to the table while focusing on metrics-driven marketing performance and ROI. How do you prioritize and rationalize brand and awareness plays when the company demands attributed results to more and more of marketing’s activity?

Buyer enablement is also a hot topic

During the breakfasts we hosted with PathFactory, the idea of how to define and execute on buyer enablement was also a hot topic. Different from sales enablement, this conversation focused on how to help create a personalized, interactive experience for buyers based on the stage they’re at currently.

Gone are the days when we could just create a weekly “drip” campaign to prospects. That’s like how we watched TV 20 years ago, waiting a week for a new episode to find out what happens next! If your prospect wants to learn more, they’re more likely to binge on content that’s interesting and relevant to them. So how do you make that possible, increasing attention, engagement and time spent with your content and brand? It’s more important now than ever considering almost 70% of buying research is done digitally.

Even marketing leaders start their buying research online. According to a recent survey by Heinz Marketing and PathFactory, Inside The Head Of A Marketing Leader: The Buyer’s Journey, marketing leaders themselves are highly unsatisfied with the quality of content provided by vendors. 92.2% rely on vendor content to make decisions yet only 37.7% say content is relevant to them in various stages of the decision-making process. Imagine how your prospects feel!

Finally, and somewhat relevant to the culture discussion above, is the idea that revenue responsibility from marketing isn’t a report or campaign—it’s a mentality. It’s something you want everyone on your marketing team—from top to bottom of the organization —using to stack-rank priorities, make triage decisions, etc.

For B2B marketing leaders and their teams reading this, I’m curious:

  • Which of these topics made you sweat a little because you’re already working through it yourself internally?
  • Which of them are not yet on your radar to work through but should be?
  • What would you add or replace on this list?

Let me know in the comments below!