I’ve been fascinated by the purpose of B2B marketing ever since I read this quote by Peter Drucker, a man whom Businessweek once called the father of business management:

This was written a long time ago — a few years before I embarked on my lengthy career as a B2B marketer. I can attest that for most of that long career, I didn’t feel like the most important part of my company — and I know that’s the same for many of my compatriot marketers. Sales, engineering, or product was the corporate hero and power base; marketing was a support function, a cost center. It got so bad that David Packard once famously opined that “Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.” Well, I think Mr. Drucker was right about marketing’s potential, and Mr. Packard was right about marketing’s purpose, function, and role. For B2B marketers, it’s all about to change.

During the first two decades of the 21st century, vanguard B2B marketers leveraged emerging technologies, built new organizational structures, and forged new processes to rediscover marketing’s seminal purpose: to win, serve, and retain customers. Yet today, four forces — each at its own inflection point — are converging to drive B2B marketing to a higher purpose.

Prepare For Disruption — It’s The Flip Side Of Transformation

These dramatic changes in buyers’ behavior, disruptive business models, and fast-paced technology evolution have conspired to mandate an evolution for B2B marketing. B2B marketing leaders must transform from a legacy of brand stewards, lead generation machines, and sales supporters to fulfill a broader purpose. They must ultimately align leadership around customer value — and in the process, drive sustainable growth for the business.

Stepping up to the destiny that will fulfill marketing’s new purpose is a strategic initiative that will first disrupt and then transform your marketing organization. When faced with a difficult transformational challenge, it’s useful to deconstruct that challenge into a number of smaller, more tractable changes. Making these changes requires mindset shifts and some philosophical from-to pivots:

  • Your product and its awesome value proposition to your customers’ desired outcomes (pains, needs, or aspirations). Learn to develop and present your messaging by key decision-maker and outcome.
  • Your funnel to your buyers’ journey. Abandon your outdated campaign strategy (outbound, not aligned to the buyer journey) to journey-aware contextual engagement. B2B marketers must build the engagement strategy to lead buyers through a journey — not push leads through a funnel.
  • Targeted to personalized. Real buyers proceed along their journeys in unique and individual ways. B2B buyers expect experiences that are frictionless, anticipatory, and immersive.
  • Data-driven to insights-driven. It’s time we started connecting the dots.
  • Empathy to trust. As is often noted, trust is earned in drips and lost in buckets. Our research has discovered that people tend to assess a company’s trustworthiness on the basis of three things: integrity, competence, and transparency.
  • Acquisition of new accounts to lifecycle. When marketing becomes the steward of the customer relationship across the lifecycle, it improves customer value realization, optimizes customer lifetime value, and maximizes customer loyalty and advocacy.
  • Sales-aligned to customer-aligned. It’s time to quit measuring B2B marketing on the volume of MQLs and SQLs. Grab your compatriot sales leader and start talking about how sales and marketing can develop an engagement plan calibrated to the customer.

American speculative fiction author William Gibson said, “The future is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed.” And that is certainly true of the future of B2B marketing. The need to change is a near-term requirement, not an idea to be considered and evaluated. CMOs who do not step up will be eclipsed. All B2B marketers should feel a sense of urgency. Consider what the 20th-century entertainer and folk hero Will Rogers said: “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

Learn more about the six mindset shifts that top B2B marketing leaders embrace to thrive.