The demand marketing environment is changing so quickly that the rules we play by at the start of a year may no longer apply by the end of that same year. The rapid ascent of account-based marketing’s popularity over the past year or two comes to mind.
Or, think of how quickly the mushrooming MarTech stack has affected our efforts – both enabling and challenging our ability to coordinate or demand generation initiatives.
A recent Scott Vaughan blog post provided valuable tips to grow your B2B marketing career by acquiring the most in-demand skills for 2017. I agree with the importance of those skills, but want to share a different perspective: skills that you can use to survive in this dynamic, sometimes volatile, profession. Here are 7 recommendations to compliment Scott’s perspective.
1. Be strategic regarding whom you associate with
As fiscal and calendar years change, housecleaning is common. New regimes come in with broad mandates to revamp teams and practices. As these stomach-churning changes occur, focus on determining whether:
- You have any potential to fit with new leadership, and
- The new regime has long-term legs or is simply the flavor of the day.
If you answer “no” to A, it’s probably time to circulate your resume internally and externally. If your new leadership appears to have staying power and you’d like to be part of the team, listen intently for clues as to what will be different and how you must adapt. Be careful with references to the way things have always been – and allegiances to those who represent the past – lest you get tagged a change-resistant dinosaur.
2. Build up your reputation as a problem-solver
Have you noticed that the nature of questions coming marketing’s way are changing? That is, growing more complex and fuzzy, requiring a broader range of investigation?
I increasingly receive inquiries where my first reaction is: “I have no idea how to address that,” or “I’m not sure that question can be answered.” Upon deeper reflection, I can – at minimum – assemble data, examine relationships and begin diagnosing problems.
The demand marketer who helps pinpoint an unexpected decline in conversion of leads from one channel, for example, will be invaluable to sales and marketing colleagues. This requires being a savvy integrator of data (not automated integration, unfortunately).
You didn’t learn these skills in marketing or MBA school, so there’s no playbook to rely on. The demand marketer who builds a reputation for solving, or at least attacking, big problems with data can secure their future in 2017. This is a logical extension of being a data-driven marketer.
3. Look to new sources for insights
Step outside your comfort zone when it comes to training and gathering new skills to keep pace with demand marketing’s evolution. Don’t always go to the same conferences from the same key suppliers because they’ve been helpful in the past.
You’re not going to acquire new ideas by engaging with the same cast of characters year in and year out. Mix it up by attending other conferences; acquire new insights and make new contacts that’ll enable you to expand your skillset and grow your career. Casting a wider net will also be incredibly valuable when you look to solve complex problems as described in the preceding item.
4. Get proactive in evolving your relationship with sales
We’ve all received endless advice about sales-marketing alignment (the strained relationship between marketing and sales?). Take the opportunity of a new year’s arrival to put together a short, painless (for sales) list of new steps you can take to help your sales colleagues expand and fine-tune their pipeline, focusing on the practical – not pie in the sky.
Even if you can’t get sales to go along, you’ll continue to build your profile as a problem-solver and proactive thinker, rather than an order-taker.
5. Never lose sight of the customer
In some companies, especially larger ones, it’s easy for marketers to place huge focus on impressing their marketing superiors, making MQL quotas, even building slick slide decks. Those are all parts of the job, for sure. But none of those internally focused activities can take precedence over your efforts to engage with customers.
Seek out opportunities to interview customers; meet up with them if you have a customer conference. Codify your knowledge in actionable terms for sales, which will always benefit from greater customer insight (whether they’ll admit that is another story).
Before you get caught up in all the brilliant marketing tactics you’re applying across digital, mobile and social, remember the most important point: those tactics are all aimed at engaging and converting customers. Keep your eye on the real prize.
6. Be careful what you outsource
If you place all your eggs in the agency basket, it’s incredibly difficult to build and refine your skillset. After all, how valuable is a resume filled with bullets about managing the employees of other firms? While some companies rely on agencies extensively, too much outsourcing can lead to questions about whether your job is needed.
Use agencies surgically, for unique skillsets that complement those of you and your team. Think creative, copywriting or other functions that may not be naturals for a demand marketer. Don’t relinquish ownership of marketing or demand gen strategy.
7. Be ready to press the eject button
Pay close attention to whether the evolution taking place in your company is favorable or unfavorable to career and personal growth. Sometimes a company grows stale, sometimes you grow stale in your role in that company. If things are stagnating for you, or your company isn’t doing interesting demand gen work, tap into your network. The possible outcomes include
- A great new job
- An offer that buys you leverage in your current job
- Insight you didn’t have about your industry and profession
- A head start on your next role if things head south.
Any one of those options is a win. If this last point sounds mercenary, that’s not the intent – it’s the new reality of employment in 2017, and now is an optimal time to get out in front of it.