This is a football.

In July 1961, legendary football coach Vince Lombardi kicked off the Green Bay Packers training camp. The previous season, the Packers had made the NFL Championship game and lost the game in the 4th quarter. With the sting of the previous season’s loss still fresh in their minds, Lombardi assembled his players, held a football in his hand, and said, “Gentleman, this is a football.”

Lombardi was well aware that all of the men before him knew what he was holding in his right hand. However, what he wanted to convey to his team was that if they were going to win and win consistently, they would need to master the fundamentals which began with the simplest of things, a football.

Over the last number of years, I have thought about Lombardi’s speech quite a bit in regard to B2B marketing. I wonder what he would say if he assembled a group of B2B marketers together to discuss their responsibilities and the fiscal year ahead. I believe it is likely he would start his speech by saying, “Marketing team, this is your customer.”

Shiny Object Syndrome

I have had the good fortune of being in B2B marketing and sales for my entire career, notwithstanding the two pit stops I made in non-profits. During this time, I have seen quite a shift in the B2B marketing landscape. While some of this change has been dictated by digital transformation and an ever-changing and sophisticated customer, there seems to be just as much that we have brought on ourselves, and not all of it is good.

B2B marketers have often been accused of shiny object syndrome and, in many cases, rightly so. This is a case of chasing the latest technology, latest marketing fad, or trend. The allure of the shiny object is often perpetuated by vendors who make bold promises, and often, the move to get the “latest and greatest” ends up in a lack of effectiveness. 

Today, we are seeing an accumulation of martech solutions (over 11,000 to choose from), going all in on the latest go-to-market motion, the perceived need to create more content, applying new labels to tried and tested approaches, and broadcasting it as the newest way to do marketing, and a rush to generative AI solutions. While some of these “new” shiny objects may prove fruitful, the investment will return void if they are not informed by a deep understanding of your customer, which is a continual process.

Unnecessary Complexity

The continual focus shifts and changes that are common in B2B marketing are not doing us any favors and are only adding complexity to an already complex role. Not only are these continual shifts a distraction for marketers, but they also serve to breed distrust with other executives as one CEO recently told me “I feel like my marketing team changes their strategic direction every 18 months. They need to pick a lane and stay in it.” If marketing does not have the trust of the CEO, it will be difficult to do the job effectively. Perhaps this is why some are speaking about doing away with the role of CMO and some top brands have already done so.

Quad recently released a study on marketing complexity that was conducted by Forrester. The report states the following:

  • p“Complexity within marketing teams is at an all-time high. Marketing teams today use more marketing tools and service providers than ever before. This creates a complex web of providers that hinders effectiveness, exhausts time and budget, creates misalignment, and impacts CX.”
  • p“Marketing teams are required to meet more sales-related goals and targets than ever before. Seventy-five percent of respondents agree that their sales team relies on their department to fill their pipeline during this economic downturn. Furthermore, two-thirds of respondents feel unparalleled pressure from the organization to bring in new customers or revenue.”
  • p“Executive teams are increasingly holding marketing teams accountable for business goals.”

Summing Things Up

Of course, we need technology, a proven methodology, relevant and contextual content, and a multi-channel approach, but they should all be built on the customer insights foundation. 

If marketing teams are going to be successful in meeting sales-related goals i.e. revenue growth and alignment to business goals, they need to stop chasing the next big thing and get back to the fundamentals which is acquiring a deep understanding of their customers and the entirety of their journey. It is then they will be more effective, reduce complexity, and meet the revenue goals that the business expects. 

The best marketing leaders that I have ever had the pleasure to work with understand one thing and that is to keep it simple which means getting back to the fundamentals of marketing. Knowing your customers, engaging them at every stage of their lifecycle, and being a good steward of marketing investment which results in revenue. 

I do believe there is no better time to be in B2B marketing and I am glad to be one of the many in this field. However, I do believe that the biggest challenge to our collective success could be us. It is time to get back to the fundamentals, to have a relentless focus on the customer, and to ensure we are making growth simple for our organizations.

Let me know what you think, has marketing over-engineered itself?

Carlos Hidalgo

Carlos Hidalgo

Carlos Hidalgo is the co-founder and CEO of Digital Exhaust, a data-driven, AI-enabled consultancy. Carlos serves his clients as an advisor, consultant, and teacher to ensure they have meaningful engagement with their customers at every stage of the journey and are able to mature and create sustainable growth.

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