B2B has traditionally been a no-nonsense product-driven (and, thus, sales-driven) part of the business world. Instead of chasing every new trend in sales, B2B companies tend to stick to their guns and what they know works.
But, some trends stick around long enough to become the new normal because they’re more effective or a necessary reaction to changes in society (and, thus, prospects). Content marketing is one of those things and B2B, though a bit slow to adopt it at first, has widely embraced it in recent years (that’s true of 88 percent of B2B companies, according to a recent Content Marketing Institute study). But just because you’re a B2B putting out some degree of content to attract prospects, does that mean you're as organized as you should be?
It’s not uncommon for B2B to underplay the importance of a marketing team and defined strategy, but the importance of inbound marketing in today’s economy makes a lack of either severely detrimental. Prospects rely more on the power of the internet to research options and inbound content is how to get found that way. Qualified leads are harder to gather if you’re not using inbound strategy to focus on ideal prospects for conversion. Without inbound strategy and a team to formulate and refine it, your B2B company isn’t doing business efficiently.
If you’re finding yourself having to play catch-up, follow these steps to getting a full-fledged marketing department off the ground.
1. Consult with sales
You’re creating a devoted marketing department, but it’s not going to exist on an island. Marketing and sales are intertwined with shared goals and responsibilities in modern business. To take the first step in building your marketing department, look to sales.
This accomplishes several goals. If you’ve already started using content marketing, your salespeople will have seen whether it’s been effective in attracting prospects. Understand the deficiencies in your existing marketing to know what to look for in prospective members of your team. Even if you haven’t employed content marketing yet, the sales department’s feedback will inform your needs just the same. If sales has noticed they’ve been failing to convert leads in specific situations, you have the start of a strategy to build around.
Secondarily, there may be some marketing team members already on your staff in the sales department. Perhaps a younger salesperson or one with a varied professional background could adapt to shouldering some of elemental marketing work once you’ve established who will run and supervise the department. Plus, having someone from sales shift to marketing can make collaboration between the two easier.
2. Identify your fearless leader and support staff
Hiring on a head of marketing should be a careful and thorough process. You need someone who can learn your company quickly and apply their expertise to create a long-term strategy. They also have to have a vision that’s a good fit for your company, someone who can gel with the existing staff and structure and then improve upon it.
You need, as HubSpot once termed it, a player-coach. The head of marketing has to be an effective manager, of course, because they’ll have to disseminate new strategy in an accessible way and train employees on the process. But they also have to be a clear member of the team, shoulder-to-shoulder with marketing, sales and other departments when the attention is needed.
After you find that leader, you’ll have to put in more work to fill up the marketing department roster. You can fill some of the gaps internally, but make sure you cover your bases with:
- Someone familiar with data analytics to test and troubleshoot ongoing marketing strategy;
- A creative, eloquent and social-minded person to help with crafting personas and managing content;
- A tech guru who will keep up-to-date with emerging platforms and technology trends while maintaining your web presence; and
- A project manager who can ensure strategy is being enacted on time and can serve as a liaison to help other departments when necessary.
Last, figure out how your content will be produced. Many B2B companies don’t have the resources to create it in-house, so come up with a plan for how you will source your content, the engine driving inbound marketing.
3. Set goals and expectations
Investing in inbound starts with the proper staffing, but even before you fill the marketing department, you should start developing a roadmap that will dictate the workload for the future and the number of people needed to carry it out. You have to know what you want to do with inbound marketing and what you want to gain from it before you can know how to do it.
Using marketing in B2B business is about attracting prospects through thought leadership, vision and commentary, then gathering sales-qualified leads. Develop a strategy that fits with who you are as a company and what you already do well. Keep it simple at first and focus on your core audience, then work your way to bigger reach and potency.
With clear goals and expectations, marketing can quickly begin testing efforts and refining them through research. At that point, the marketing machine is up and running, ready to deliver the information your buyers want so that they can come to you when the time is right for a purchase.