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The untapped power of marketing communications

Why many B2B businesses are missing out on the untapped potential of marcomms

By Dominic Walters  

This article was produced in association with The Integrated Marketing Communications Collective (IMCC)

Many B2B CEOs don’t see their CMO and marketing communications function as key drivers for business strategy, yet naturally see value in their CIOs, COOs and CPOs in that role.

I suspect that’s because many of today’s B2B leaders still do not understand why marketing communications is so crucial to the delivery of their plans. And that is also why they don’t know how to leverage this function effectively.

I am not of course questioning the importance of CIOs, COOs and CPOs—they are self-evidently vital to any business—but rather the low-value CEOs place on their CMOs to drive strategy. The function that shapes the business’ brand and reputation, creates messaging and tools to underpin sales and energise employees, and builds credibility around its products and services ought to be seen as equally key to strategic success.

And let’s not forget its role in protecting the business in times of crisis or shaping the profiles of the leadership team, so that investors and shareholders have faith in their decisions and see them as credible stewards of the business. If that department were to fall down in any of these areas, including its role to energise and excite an entire workforce to believe in the business, the result is highly likely to be a failed business strategy.

Marketing communications really is a core organisational pillar capable of delivering powerful outcomes to drive business strategies.

Leveraging the power of marcomms

Most B2C businesses have embraced marcomms as a core pillar of their operations, but there are still far too many B2B businesses lagging behind. As a result, they regularly miss opportunities to leverage its true power.

The reasons for this vary from organisation to organisation and sector to sector, but there’s one clear cause across the board—marketing communications is fundamentally misunderstood and undervalued. Whether the team has only been engaged to “sprinkle fairy dust” on a CEO’s or leadership team’s presentations, or whether it has provided new pastures for senior employees looking for a change of role, its purpose has been underestimated.

Pushing the boundaries

The long-term inability to trust in the power of the marcomms function and its ability to guide the direction of the business, has led to a dumbing down of its voice. Whilst external agencies still encourage risk-taking with creative options that push the boundaries of messaging and approach, many marketing teams just don’t have enough faith that the business will be brave enough.

So, how do we reverse this decades-old attitude? The challenge of realising the real value of a marketing communications team is knowing where to start. First and foremost, CEOs need to understand what marketing communications can do for the business, and trust that the marcomms experts know what they are doing and have honed their skills over many years.

The next step is to reassess structure. It’s customary today, for businesses to create siloed marketing departments that result in weaker outcomes and wasted budgets.  Removing the silos between the various skills and disciplines, so that brand, digital, marketing, content, government and investor relations, PR and social teams can be joined together, creates a unified force to accelerate the business with one cause and ambition.

Marketers should be mobilised to deliver a cohesive strategy that drives and underpins corporate growth strategies, not suppressed into reactive factory tools that pump out adequate comms with minimal expectations placed upon them. Once these fundamentals are in place, it’s time to get into the nitty gritty.

Meet the needs of your customers

Take care not to fall into the trap of telling your business’s story purely from the perspective of its prowess in the fields of innovation and product or service advancements. Naturally, this message is important but there is a time and place for it, when communicated to the right audiences.

This is because most audiences—with very few exceptions—primarily care about the problem that a product or service will solve for them, how that product or service will deliver on their strategies and whether it will provide economic value for their business. Understanding technical or innovative brilliance is further down their list of priorities.  

It’s far more important to create a powerful narrative that communicates the big, bold and simple messages to quickly establish a voice and reach your key audiences at the right time, with the benefits to them and their revenues.   

B2B buyers are discerning

A popular fallacy is that B2B organisations don’t need to market themselves like B2C businesses do. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There is significant evidence and articles concluding that B2B organisations in fact need to do more marketing than B2C businesses because their audiences are more cautious and discerning when it comes to purchasing decisions. 

The pressure on B2B buyers to make informed and economically wise choices drives considerable analysis and perturbation. Add to this the fact that the buying cycle is often much longer in B2B sales, and you can see why you need to take a measured approach with a long-term strategy.

Marcomms strategies are like road trips

Like a long road trip, a good marcomms strategy should be exceptionally well-planned and have a clear destination combined with key milestones along the way. Understanding the competitor and customer landscape will provide valuable insight that will help shape your needs to reach each milestone.

It’s vital to take a fully integrated approach that combines skill, channel and timing to ensure you build credibility and awareness along the way before reaching your destination successfully.

Marketing superpowers

Don’t be tempted to appoint marketing leaders that have no experience or knowledge of marketing. The marcomms department should be led by an expert who possesses in-depth knowledge of the business, which can be combined with their experience to guide the development of a dynamite marketing package. That package needs to excite and engage customers and employees alike.

It is this customer-led approach to marketing that not only differentiates many businesses, but also enables them to fully support their long-term strategy.

Call to action

In my 25-year career, I have seen marcomms help drive forward the agenda of many successful businesses. I’ve seen its force-multiplying potential first-hand and want to free it from its underappreciated place in B2B business, so it can be used as the powerful weapon that it is.

Now is the time to harness the power of marketing communications so that it can make a real difference in the B2B world, and the first step is to recognise its importance.

That process starts with the simple re-shaping of the conversations about the importance, potential and purpose of marketing communications. Creating a powerful function with the right disciplines and skills will help you deliver on your strategy and become a pioneering voice within your industry. The time to mobilise your marketers is now.

You can read more of Dominic’s insights in his latest book, Harnessing the Power at Your Fingertips, available now

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