listen b2b

The UK’s business to business (B2B) marketers are slowly managing to impress on their leadership the importance of marketing to overall company health, but there remains a great deal of work to do. That was the finding of exclusive research conducted by Marketing Week and sponsored by Omobono, a creative and marketing technology company for the B2B sector.

Nearly two-fifths of the UK’s B2B marketers (39%) feel marketing is seen as very important by their organisation and a further 33% as fairly important. Fewer than a tenth of respondents claim it is seen as unimportant.

Progress has been made over the past two years, with 63% of respondents remarking that there has been an increase in confidence in the role marketing plays in B2B success. That said, during a roundtable to discuss the findings, B2B executives unanimously agreed that getting recognition and sponsorship of marketing strategies from decision makers remained an uphill battle.

“The difference between business to consumer (B2C) and B2B marketing is that, in the former, the management gets why you’re doing it. In B2B it’s about convincing the sales guy that people don’t just buy based on a list of functionalities,” said Colin Lewis, CMO, OpenJaw Technologies.

Omobono’s chairman and founder, Francesca Brosan, agrees, noting that the drawn-out sales process also has a lot to do with the B2B marketer’s struggle: “In B2B you have a longer sales cycle and a smaller group of customers that you’re selling to. How do you keep that relationship going? Sales people tend to feel as though they’re the ones keeping that relationship going, independent of what marketing does. But they’re not acknowledging that marketing gets them in the room in the first place.”

b2b marketing

Not all B2B companies are laggards when it comes to accepting the impact of marketing. “Our main aim is to increase brand awareness and leads. We are [venture capital-]funded so marketing is the driving force of the company,” claimed Chandni Trehan, marketing manager at email security platform Tessian.

Roland van Breukelen, marketing director at SAP Hybris, meanwhile, spoke of a need “to change the dynamic in the relationship” between marketing and other functions in B2B brands, noting that marketing “is often seen as subservient, but I want us to be perceived as peers”.

Yet, as Vistaprint head of UK marketing Oliver Harcourt pointed out, in the end it tends to come down to numbers: “If marketing has a more commercial impact on the business then they have a seat at the table.”

Indeed, while the research finds that B2B marketing departments are influential as a rule, with 64% of respondents agreeing, more than a third (36%) say they are only somewhat or not very influential. Measuring business impact is their biggest challenge, with internal sell-in a close second (23% and 20% respectively). Commercial proof points are becoming increasingly important in the B2B marketer’s arsenal.

The attribution challenge

Executives at the roundtable noted that they find themselves in something of a ‘catch 22’ situation. On the one hand, measurement and attribution is absolutely vital to embedding marketing as pivotal to success, but it also suffers from ‘Cinderella’ syndrome.

Jonathon Palmer, head of global strategy at Omobono, explained: “Clients simply don’t have time to measure a project after we complete it. Pressures of time mean they look at the numbers but also haven’t taken the time to find out what defines success up front. How are they going to measure that? It’s pushed to the back.”

I do want people who are passionate about marketing but I also want them to be passionate about the business.

Zoe Jones, DCM

Again, the length of sales cycle seems to be a major roadblock: “It’s the driver. In B2C you get a hit every minute. I’d get a text every hour to say what worked and what didn’t,” said OpenJaw’s Lewis, describing his time in consumer marketing.

Meanwhile, Lauren Bigland, head of marketing at LoopMe, admitted: “Tracking and so on are a cost that marketers have to pay for and I find that quite a challenge. The money I spend on tracking I could actually spend on doing an activation.”

Hesitancy to engage with attribution is down to more than just time or allocation of funds. The ability to get meaningful and accurate representation of marketing effectiveness appears limited, according to the survey results. More than half of respondents are not very confident or only somewhat confident (57%) they have accurate figures when measuring return on investment. In the same vein, only 5% say they are very confident.

b2b challenge

“In the past we were short-term focused when we looked at attribution,” Vistaprint’s Harcourt admitted. “We were only looking at what drove the sale….