Building a High Performance B2B Marketing Engine: A Look Under the Hood

February 3, 2016

Rejoice! There has never been a better time to be a B2B marketing professional.  


Even compared to a few short years ago, we marketers are in such a strong position to make a difference in the trajectory of our companies, and our own careers. But, there’s a catch.

The reason there’s so much upside opportunity for us is that there has been such massive change in the past decade, driven by the evolution of digital marketing. To help build out our marketing effort for impact, we have more technologies and evolving best practice blueprints available to us than ever before -- but with these opportunities also comes additional complexity.

The people we’re selling to now do most of their research online before feeling the need to engage with our sales teams, and they have no shortage of online destinations they can visit to find information about product, compare prices, get social recommendations. To have a chance of shaping the outcome, marketers need to get their brands and the right message and content in front of the right prospects through the right channels and at every stage of the purchase decision.

Against this backdrop, we’re collectively making huge strides --  leveraging advances in technology and best practices. And, as we’ve done so, guess what? The bar for what’s achievable and expected from marketing has gone up -- way up.

We’ve also seen the emergence of an entirely new set of disciplines within marketing that we and our teams need to master. This complexity can be paralyzing, especially to those marketers early in the journey.

But I contend that half the battle in building out a high performing B2B marketing engine is knowing what one looks like. Towards that end, in this kick-off to our “Building a B2B Marketing Engine” blog series, let’s take a look under the hood.

What are the parts of a fine-tuned B2B marketing engine?

To set the table for this series, I’ll start with a birdseye view of four key areas that you need to get right to build out a marketing effort for impact.

1. Focus & Alignment 

Have you defined the true north for your organization? Are you aiming high enough in terms of the impact you’re looking to make on the business? Your true north will inevitably determine how and where you focus your marketing investments. As you home in on your mission as a marketing organization, do sales, the exec team, and other key cross-functional partners buy into it, and are you able to track progress against that mission?

2. Building for Scale  

Before you ever invest your first program dollar, you need be thinking about establishing a solid foundation for your marketing effort -- which is all about building for scale. You’ll only be able to scale by investing in the right technologies, bringing together the right team of people to execute against the mission, and sweating the details and deep cross-functional teaming required to deploy the right supporting lead management processes.  I’d also argue that quality, relevant content is what will give your programs the ultimate scale as you ensure that every dollar you invest in them is helpful and differentiating.

3. Relevancy

Once you’ve established your true north and begin setting up your team for scale, then it’s all about relevancy. In other words, defining who your target audience is. When digging through your relevancy toolbox, you need to ask yourself the tough questions: “Have I done the heavy lifting market segmentation work to know who we’re after in terms of product-market fit?” And “Has my team really dug into persona development, so that we know what our buyers care about -- so we can be relevant and helpful once we start running programs?”  

Setting up your engine for relevancy also means bringing the right first- and third-party data to bear on your programs, so you can be targeted, relevant. And, ultimately knowing when relevant leads are making it in the door.

4. Program Execution

If you’ve invested your limited time and resources wisely, you now know where you’re aiming. You’re building for scale, and you know exactly who you’re trying to reach. Congratulations! You’ve now earned the right to start investing some program dollars.  Investing --  and testing, learning and continually optimizing -- in a diversified mix to get in front of prospects early and often throughout the buy process.  

As you begin creating demand and generating leads, your team will need to get down to the important work of ensuring only "sales-ready" leads make it to the outside sales team. To accomplish this task, your team will need to begin cracking the tough nut of intelligently attributing value to your programs, so you know which ones to fuel.   

New Frontiers

Once you’re well on your way in this journey, an even bigger opportunity will present itself. It’s a path that’s largely uncharted for most of us: Customer marketing. As marketers we must consider starting to apply the same level of pre-sales-focused demand gen and nurturing science that we do for prospects to more effectively onboard customers and set them up for success. It’s a colossal opportunity.

In the coming months, I’ll be diving deeper into each of the four components of a high performance marketing engine with more blog posts in the "Building a B2B Marketing Engine" series. To make sure you don’t miss these post, subscribe today to the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions blog.  

Photo: Tony Hisgett