B2B marketers say too much work, too few resources and too much interference forces them to choose between quality and completion
Most B2B marketers aren’t thrilled with their own content.
According to a survey by Radix Communications, “68% of B2B marketers are not proud of their own content.”
In a report, Radix breaks the numbers out like this:
- about one-third (28%) like less than half of the content they produce
- another third (37%) like just a “handful” of the many pieces they produce; and
- 3% don’t like any of their content.
Radix is a UK-based agency, but the report says they polled people around the world, including the U.S. The survey had just 105 responses, which isn’t a lot, but as I went through the report, the results matched my own views based on 20 years of experience in this line of work.
To be clear, marketers (and PR) can and do produce great content. In fact, the report surfaces some of the problems in culture and the business environment that cause it — and it’s not talent or ability.
Below are six common barriers – as identified in the survey – along with potential solutions for resolving or mitigating these problems.
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1. Conflicting priorities and weak processes
A majority (89%) of “B2B marketers struggle with conflicting and changing priorities, or unclear briefs.” Further, another 65% identify it as “the single biggest obstacle to good content.” If you can’t get the briefing or kick off right, then marketing’s efforts are derailed just as they are getting started.
It’s not just the kickoff part of the project that has problems, but the review and approval process as well. More than half (59%) of respondents believe, “If nobody else had to sign off our content, the results would be a lot better.”
Marketing can’t work in a vacuum – and I don’t think that’s the sentiment being expressed here. Instead, the survey is pointing to how different stakeholders will swoop in with odd changes, out-of-sequence edits, salesy messages, and personal preferences that have never been tested and aren’t part of a designed experiment. When things don’t perform as desired the narrative becomes “marketing sucks.”
“It’s ridiculous, the constraints that most marketers are dealing with,” said Maureen Blandford, vice president of Marketing for Community Brands, in the report. “I don’t think I can code better than the software developers or do F&I better than the CFO; that’s not a thing. But everyone thinks they can do marketing.”
Outside consultants can help. In my capacity as a consultant, I recall reviewing some data and recommending a narrative to a marketing team based on the findings. After a week of internal wrangling, the CMO was unhappy with the angle his team was suggesting and called me up for help. I walked him through the same narrative…and he was sold on it.
I didn’t present it better or different – it’s just that our relationship was different because I’m external. And I had his undivided attention. I’ve also been on the recieving end of this scenario when I worked in in-house gigs, and I found it frustrating until I learned to embrace it and leverage it.
While I do believe outside help brings broad and independent thinking to an organization, there’s also an old saying about executives spending 3x to hear a consultant say what their team has been telling them for years.
Solution. The larger problem is the lack of marketing process. How ideas are surfaced, agreed upon, produced, reviewed and measured all needs to be documented – and enforced with an organization-wide SLA. A decision matrix for reviews and approvals to avoid bottlenecks would go a long way toward allowing marketing to move at the speed business demands.“I don't think I can code better than the software developers or do F&I better than the CFO; that's not a thing. But everyone thinks they can do marketing.”Click To Tweet
2. B2B marketing faces interference
Eighty-six percent of respondents said, “interference from managers and stakeholders” is “an obstacle to making good content.” More than half (54%) say it’s a major problem.
The interference usually comes down to quality – that there’s very little agreement on what constitutes “good content.” It’s related to process issues identified above, but it also speaks to culture.
Solution. Do you know what fixes the “good content” debate? Things like analytics, subscribers, mentions, backlinks, downloads and anecdotes from the sales team, prospects and customers. Nobody can argue with data about audience and attention. The report says, “Don’t bring opinions to a data-fight.”
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3. Insufficient resources
Most B2B marketers (87%) say they have “insufficient budget and resources.” About half (49%) say it’s a “big problem” and 80% say it places them in a position where they must choose between quality and content.
Why? Senior management doesn’t understand marketing and still sees it as a cost rather than an investment, to paraphrase one respondent. Those comments are spot on. Marketing just can’t continue to do more with less.
I spoke to a CEO just a week or two ago that didn’t know what remarketing meant. Several in the last few years didn’t know the difference between paid and organic search. You can explain it, sure, but it slows budget talks when constantly have to give a tutorial on basic digital marketing tactics in order for leaders to understand how you plan to execute a strategy.
Solution. Marketing has to constantly educate the business about what’s its doing and the results being produced. The year 2020 demonstrated how important internal communications are to a business and marketing leaders need to have a role here too — and it’s every bit an on-going “influence” campaign.
4. Too much work, and not enough time
About 90% of respondents say the “workload gets in the way of great content.” Some of that workload is the constant justification of the job. On top of that, you’ve got back-to-back meetings, mandatory classes, expenses, town halls and more. There is an infinite number of distractions that siphon away time.
Solution. Shield time for your people to get their work done. We can talk all day in meetings, but someone in your organization still has to produce the marketing materials that advance your message. One of the recommendations the report offers is to “build a controlled space for creativity.” It’s a good idea that I think is intended to present an opportunity to try new things – just don’t forget to make time for the essential tasks too.
5. Lack of cooperation from other departments
Marketing doesn’t need another reviewer, but it always needs input and ideas from other departments. This survey identified “internal politics” and a general “lack of input and co-operation from other departments” as a problem for 86% of B2B marketers.
“Lack of interest or help from other departments that could really improve our content,” said one IT marketing manager in the report. “Marketing is at the bottom of the list and they don’t realize its importance for the business performing well.”
Solution. One of the recommendations Radix offers that I think is solid is this: “Invest in relationships outside content.” Marketing has to remember that everyone else in the business is busy too. They have the same meetings and mandatory classes – and marketing is asking for one more thing. But they’ll do it if it’s tied to their job description, incentive package…or if they like you.
6. Limited exposure to customers
Nearly three-quarters of B2B marketers (72%) say a customer viewpoint is “essential” but 78% say getting access to customers is a problem. We know this is a problem in B2B because of the account management model. Account managers with a quota for renewals don’t want to spend their influence on a case study, quote or survey for marketing.
Solution. You have to build mechanisms to speak directly to customers and prospects. This is one of the side benefits of running a blog like a magazine, complete with subscriptions: you can reach your subscribers directly.
Surveys are important and case studies to provide valuable interaction with customers. Events, both customer events and tradeshows, when they eventually come back, are a good opportunity for marketing listen to customers directly. Finally, ride-along meetings with sales can be invaluable for marketing. You get to hear firsthand, and in their own words, how customers describe a problem and bring up objections, and this can helps grow the relationship between sales and marketing.
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There’s a quote that gets circulated on LinkedIn that says, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”
It’s attributed to Steve Jobs. Who knows if he really said it, but the reason that quote gets passed around so much is because it resonates. People want to be proud of their work – and the organization stands to gain by getting the heck out of the way and letting the smart marketing people they hired do their best work.
>>> Looking for a consulting partner with the content chops to build a sound strategy and execute? Give our services a try.
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Image credit: Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash and respective study