Several years ago, I read Patrick Lencioni’s “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.” If you haven’t guessed from the title, it was indeed a business book, or as the subtitle calls it, a “leadership fable.” Having never read a business book before, I dreaded reading what I assumed would be some eye-roll worthy drivel.
Of all the books I’ve read since then, the underlying message of “Five Dysfunctions” has been one of the most impactful. The gist is this: Organizations need to take a step back to examine processes and relationships that aren’t working, in order to grow. While the book’s fictional characters believed this directive would hinder their productivity, it actually set them up to achieve success down the line. With today’s reverence for extreme productivity and long working hours, any moment lost to reflection seems unthinkable. “High-performing” has become synonymous with “high volume.”
The book’s message is part of a broader theme that Merkle’s 2019 Marketing Imperatives embraces: integrating to transform. This year’s Imperatives are built around the idea that customer centricity is essential to business survival, with integration across customer strategy, technology and its enablement, and execution being crucial to achieving it.
For B2B marketers, integration is not only necessary, but can spell doom for a company when it’s absent. Arguably the most pronounced difference between B2C and B2B is the duration of a sales cycle. A B2B buyer journey involves multiple stakeholders, months of consideration, knowledge building, and the weighing of competitive solutions. A bulletproof message delivered through beautiful creative can only get a B2B marketer so far. She’ll need to get her target customers to a place where they have confidence in choosing her company’s solution over competitors.
Account-based marketing (ABM), a discipline leveraged by many B2B marketers, serves as a perfect example for why integration is a must. ABM involves selecting target “accounts,” or groups of people at a company in charge of a purchase decision, and marketing to them through online and offline tactics. From the selection of the accounts to the measurement of a campaign’s success, ABM requires integration across marketing and sales, and in its more advanced forms, between marketing and the entire organization.
An integrated customer strategy is not attainable without accounting for data. By now, B2B marketers know that data should feature prominently, if not serve as the foundation for all marketing strategy. According to a 2019 Forrester Study, 80% of B2B marketers cite data management as a top five weakness at their organizations. Identity management is a daunting task when you’re unable to reconcile multiple data sources. Customer data platforms (CDPs) are gaining adoption, and for good reason: they solve for this challenge by making sense of the data B2B marketers need to make smart decisions on how and where to market to customers.
Finally, planning for the future of B2B marketing execution requires you to consider how you will orchestrate the highest level of personalization at a customer level. B2B buyers expect personalization, but it’s incredibly difficult to prescribe a buyer journey, especially over a long period of time. There are countless factors that are out of a marketer’s control, such as online ratings, market fluctuations, and competitive solutions in market. B2B marketing executions that are most successful are agile enough to account for unforeseen changes. Fortunately, tools exist to make marketing easier, given that the people using them have an agreed-upon vision of success that extends beyond marketing and a focus on integration above all else.
Want to learn more? Check out Merkle’s 2019 Marketing Imperatives