The growing strategic influence of the b2b marketer 

How perceptions of the role are changing
David van Schaick
Stock image of marketing people

When I speak to senior marketers today, it seems a combination of the pandemic and economic turbulence has accelerated marketing’s already growing strategic influence within B2B. It was also a key finding in our Annual Effectiveness Barometer survey this year. 

When we remind ourselves of the influence and reach of B2B marketing teams of old, its poles apart to the clout they hold today.  

Once upon a time the sales team generated revenue, customer service acted as the voice of the client and the board set the strategy. Marketing booked exhibition stands for the sales team and made PowerPoint slides pretty.  

Ok, it may not have been quite that bad, but it’s certainly true that the performance of the marketing team today is judged on far more solid commercial measures. 

What has caused this shift? 

One of the biggest factors was how the pandemic shifted the buying journey even further online. This took it out of the hands of salespeople in meeting rooms and onto digital channels. The unsettled economic climate also forced companies to maximise every penny of investment. The response was to focus on ways to generate more revenue from existing customers.  

Marketers were integral to this shift, as our Annual Effectiveness Barometer shows this year. We surveyed 800 B2B marketers in the US, UK, Germany and Australia and uncovered widespread confidence in marketing’s power to affect change within today’s B2B organisation. 

Marketing’s place at the top table 

One of the most obvious signs of marketing’s strategic influence is through a seat at the top table. Not only does a place on the board allow marketing to set the agenda; it represents a recognition of marketing’s potential contribution by the wider B2B business. Over half (52%) of our respondents said they had a CMO on the board. This recognition should be celebrated but our research also hints that having a CMO on the board is a business differentiator. When we look at responses from leading marketers[1] only, the figure leaps to 78% of businesses having a CMO on the board. 

One factor driving this increased influence is that today’s B2B marketing team has put a stake in the ground when it comes to ownership of growth. A significant number of respondents (42%) report that marketing is perceived as a driver of growth. A further 15% said marketing is perceived as a source of competitive advantage, and 13% said that the marketing team are seen as the voice of the customer. Only 9% of respondents said that marketing is seen in their business as a necessary cost centre. 

The need to report against commercial measures 

One of the best B2B marketing leaders I know reflected that marketers have been accused of not speaking the same language as the rest of the business. For example, it’s often easy to retreat to upstream measures like marketing-qualified leads (MQLs). But tell the CFO how many marketing qualified leads (MQLs) your campaign achieved and they are – not surprisingly – likely to be underwhelmed. I know of one CEO who has even banned the term. 

With increasing accountability for growth comes intensified efforts to track and report against commercial measures. According to our survey, the majority of B2B marketers prioritise commercial impact ahead of marketing metrics. When asked what objectives marketing is directly responsible for within their organisation, 54% said revenue growth, 52% said customer retention and 51% said customer satisfaction. Only 15% viewed MQLs as a priority. 

Demonstrating its worth 

In previous years, the marketing team’s involvement with a buyer would often end once the deal was signed, but now marketing’s focus is shifting. Nearly half (46%) of respondents have put more emphasis on growing existing customers or moving them to more profitable products and services.   Owing to this, we’re predicting that customer lifecycle marketing will accelerate as a key B2B trend.   

What we’re seeing within the industry is a positive reflection of marketing’s growing strategic role. The ability for it to set the agenda and think more laterally about growth during a challenging economic climate will only prove more substantively the impact marketing has on the business. The role of a B2B marketer has never been more rewarding.    

Written by
David van Schaick
Written by
June 22, 2023