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Stop feeding the broken B2B machine: How to make insights matter again

By Eoin Rodgers | Chief marketing officer



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December 7, 2023 | 8 min read

B2B marketing teams are seeing diminishing returns and struggling to elevate marketing’s role inside businesses. Eoin Rodgers of Atomic argues that the fix requires a shift in how we think about insights.

The mechanical workings of a watch

Does the B2B machine need restarting? / Lucas Santos via Unsplash

It's a tough time for B2B marketers. The old tactics don’t work anymore. More and more, CMOs jostle for relevance in the boardroom and they’re hunting for a game-changer.

But sometimes going back to basics unearths a simple yet potent solution. The value of understanding buyers goes beyond reconnecting with disenchanted audiences. Taking ownership of buyer insights can enhance marketing's overall value in the business.

The B2B train is running out of track

B2B marketing is getting harder; the traditional methods are failing. Forms go unfilled, emails unanswered, and content gathers digital dust. Forrester has said that the “fundamental changes in B2B buyers’ behavior have reached an inflection point — and now pose an existential threat to all organizations”. Targets are more elusive, decisions take forever, and once-effective strategies are just not working as they once did. Marketing effectiveness is at an all-time low because buyers have their barriers up.

Here’s the harsh truth: the obsession with funnels (fueled by marketing automation, and the myopia of performance marketing) is only making things worse. After all, pouring more money into the same tactics won't fix the underlying issues. This is what leads to inflated SEM and paid social budgets – they’re the easy buttons to push.

But what’s the root cause? Currently, marketers are blindly accepting these tropes without digging into the ‘why’. B2B marketing leaders need to ask the real questions: why are buyers giving us the cold shoulder? How come our messaging isn’t landing? What is it that buyers are seeking that we’re not providing?

Bring B2B back to basics

Knowing your buyers is Marketing 101, yet in B2B it's often overlooked. The theory is simple: understand your audience, be relevant and helpful, and they’ll engage. Yes, maybe you’ve got old personas that articulate an IT decision-maker’s favorite coffee and morning routine. But that’s not going to help you create a compelling value proposition, is it?

Lots of tech companies have invested in ‘customer success’ in an effort to keep customers happy and nurture their relationships. But a focus on being customer-centric just won’t cut it anymore. It’s time to switch gears – and prioritize buyer-centricity.

Understanding your buyers properly is the key to winning the race for relevance. Analysts shout it from the rooftops: buyers crave understanding. Tinkering with last-touch attribution or adjusting your ad bids is not getting you closer to solving the problem. It’s just feeding a broken machine. In this race, there is no quick fix. Relevance calls for a more fundamental shake-up. We need to invest in buyer insights.

Insights breed understanding

Gaining buyer understanding is fraught with challenges. Time and financial investment are the biggest. Another is in getting actionable takeaways that drive strategy, messaging, and engagement. Commissioning a costly research study that outputs a million statistics about the buyer is not only a waste of time, but often it results in overwhelm instead of clarity or direction. The goal should be actionable insights, not more data points.

Thus, for marketing teams across the globe, ‘insight’ has become a dirty word. You see eyes roll at the prospect of seeking insights. But guess what? The juice is worth the squeeze. Buyer insights aren’t just for acquisition or demand marketing; they’re the keys to marketing and sales success. Product development, sales interactions, customer experience, and brand engagement can all benefit from a deeper understanding of buyers.

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Marketing needs to fight for the buyer

Scarily, only half of CMOs are in charge of customer insight. What the hell’s going on with the other half? Have they ceded ownership of buyer insights to ‘product’? Or worse, are insights scattered across the business, stuck in the heads of key customer-facing people, lost when they eventually leave?

Marketing is in a unique position to facilitate an end-to-end view of the customer. We should be willing to fight for ownership of buyer insights, and then use them to elevate marketing’s value to the business.

Building relevance in the boardroom

Armed with buyer insights, Marketing can contribute to strategic business decision-making. CMOs earn a seat at the table when the business embraces marketing’s insights as part of overall business strategy. Beyond crafting killer campaigns, imagine our insights steering innovation and shaping products based on what buyers really want. Or even boosting customer satisfaction – now that's a game-changer.

Buyer insights bridge marketing and other departments. They foster collaboration, communication, and a joint commitment to serving the needs of the customer, throughout the lifecycle. When marketing owns the buyer, we can stop feeding the broken machine. Instead, we’re seen as cranking the engine for real business growth. It’s time for marketing to step up, own the buyer, and seize the opportunity.

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Atomic is a B2B Marketing and Employer Branding agency. We help tech marketers unearth buyer truths that make them more relevant to their audiences, and relevant around the boardroom table. And we help businesses speak their truth with authentic employer brands.

B2B Marketing

We help tech marketing leaders be more relevant to their audiences, and relevant around the boardroom table. We do that by using actionable Buyer Insights to drive marketing effectiveness and help bring siloed teams together around a single view of the buyer.

Employer Branding

We help businesses speak their truth. We create authentic employer brands by helping People Leaders strike a balance between the needs of the business and the people who breathe life into it. When a business speaks its truth the right talent joins, stays and contributes.

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