Think B2B marketing is less interesting than consumer projects? That's bullshit

B2B is too often an afterthought in the marketing industry.

Particularly in the media and in education, B2B still feels ‘tacked on’. Token efforts are made. We’ll give it a module at the end of the course. We’ll throw in a B2B example or two. We’ll give it a dedicated stage, tucked away nicely at the back of our event and hope that keeps the grey-suits and never-quite-made-it-in-adland-folks happy.

Occasionally, we’ll even indulge them with an op-ed to vent their spleen.

But B2B remains in the popular characterisation the poor cousin. In fact, research looking at mainstream academic papers found that out of 17,853 articles reviewed, just 6.7% deal with B2B matters.

This is an injustice. A disservice to a rich discipline, with much to offer the ambitious marketer.

It also creates a very practical problem: how do we – us ‘luddites’ scratching around in the gloom of B2B – attract, train and retain the talent we so desperately need?

I believe there’s another way to look at B2B marketing – as the area of biggest opportunity. The Wild West of the marketing world, the great frontier. Abundant with unexplored possibilities…

As an underappreciated sector, there is still a huge opportunity for creative, ambitious and talented marketers to make a big impact. Win plaudits and awards. Tackle complex problems, instead of just finding me-too ways to sell toilet roll and baked beans. Climb the greasy pole, work with some of the world’s biggest companies, learn the trade in agile, independent agencies where good ideas are still prioritised.

The clients are crying out for bold ideas – they have the money to back them and increasingly the ambition and confidence to deliver them. Look at HP’s landmark print security campaign with Christian Slater, or SAP’s video series with Clive Owen on the Internet of Things.

B2B, in other words, is a big, snorting bull just waiting for its horns to be grasped. Recently, eMarketer projected that the B2B digital advertising space would be valued at $4.6bn in 2018 – up 13% from last year.

But, to take the analogy and run with it (a little too far), we need more horn-graspers. More rodeo-riders at the top of their game. And since no-one is born a matador, we need to invest in proper training and development. Currently, most training in the market is either heavily B2C, very tactical, frustratingly basic, or all three.

Of course, before the die-hards burst a valve, many of the same marketing fundamentals apply across B2C and B2B. But the context is so radically different that B2B demands and deserves its own craftspeople. We need dedicated experts, trained in the specific nuances of, for example:

  • How people behave in buying groups
  • How they make decisions in the world of work
  • How B2B markets work and the different challenges businesses face
  • And the skills needed to influence them

Tired of waiting for training that covers these areas, so we’ve recently taken matters into our own hands and created our own training programme – the TMP Academy. We’re harnessing tech to do this – Bridge Learn from Instructure provides consistent and sustained corporate learning and importantly, helps us keep track of progress.

The solution is simple in conception but our goals are grand. We hope the Academy eventually contributes to raising the standard of B2B marketing overall. By investing in better training, we can make our contribution to B2B becoming the hottest rodeo in town.

So roll-up folks. Those B2B bulls won’t ride themselves.

David Van Schaick is chief marketing officer and chief digital officer at The Marketing Practice

Find out more about our B2B Brave awards here.

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