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On 15th March 2012, Econsultancy held the largest ever Digital Cream event at the Emirates Stadium in London, where senior client-side digital marketers came together in order to share best practice and learn from their peers.

This year's event included separate tables for B2B marketers, who often face different challenges when compared to their B2C counterparts.

The feedback and commentary from both delegates and moderators has been used to create our B2B Digital Marketing Trends Briefing, which provides an insight into the challenges faced by digital B2B marketers.

The report, which is free to download, provides highlights from 10 different roundtables at Digital Cream. As Digital Cream is conducted according to Chatham House Rules, marketers have spoken candidly about their issues.

One issue that was highlighted on many tables was that digital techniques and practices have not been fully accepted across B2B businesses.

As one participant put it:

B2B senior business managers tend to be older and more traditionally-minded, conservative and set in their ways. They have grown up throughout their successful careers with specialist trade magazines, brochures, direct mail, exhibitions and the sales force making ‘courtesy calls’.

For some, this has led to a disconnect between the digital champions and other individuals within the business. Mike Berry, moderator of the customer experience and conversion roundtable stated:

Many of the B2B digital specialists who attended felt outnumbered in their organisations. In some cases, they felt almost like pariahs even within the marketing department.

This sentiment was echoed on the integrated search roundtable:

There was a feeling that perhaps digital marketing was viewed as something of a poor relation within the marketing mix by those in senior management.

Another challenge faced by B2B marketers was the potential for conflict arising between sales and marketing. For some organisations, these two units did not work together as well as would be hoped.

On the customer relationship management (CRM) table, there was a feeling that although marketing ‘owned’ the data here, sales ‘owned’ the leads and customers. There was also a perception that sales teams did not work proactively to update CRM data, potentially leading to decreasing data quality.

Another departmental disconnect that was mentioned was the difference in priorities between marketing and technical teams. Two quotes that explained the situation clearly were:

IT departments work on priorities. Marketing works on opportunities.

Technology is never the barrier. People are the barrier.

These two quotes came from a marketer that, having been given optimistic targets for revenue coming from online channels, found it difficult to implement the technical changes required in order to realise this goal.

This was due to the internal culture of the team which managed IT within the organisation.

However, it was not all negative comments coming from Digital Cream, with some demonstrating excellent successes in this space.

Faced with the challenge of managing dispersed digital teams across the organisation, one marketer had won buy-in from senior management to create four key performance indicators (KPIs) across all digital business units.

Such methods tie dispersed teams with different objectives, cultures, skill-sets and techniques around unified goals. The case for such unity is made clear when, in the words of one marketer: 

The customer doesn’t care about team structure. They want a unified experience.

Your thoughts?

Are you a digital B2B marketer? Have you shared some of the same challenges listed above? Or do you think these are atypical of the experiences of digital specialists within the B2B space? Add your comments below and share your experiences

For more information, check out our B2B recommended reading to look at our most relevant reports.
Andrew Warren-Payne

Published 29 March, 2012 by Andrew Warren-Payne

Andrew Warren-Payne is a Senior Research Analyst at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or Google+

55 more posts from this author

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Deepti

I quite agree with the second quote, even in technology organizations the adoption of digital is very slow or at best sparse, which is sort of befuddling. When there's so much awareness about digital and social medium why are we still reluctant to put greater budgets and resources in this domain. Most of our customers / prospects are online and there's no reason why we shouldnt be!

over 4 years ago

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Kiril Hristov

It is surprising that so many business have not gone digital. Especially in the developing world, it is hard to find information on otherwise fully functional companies. It might make you laugh, but some people haven't even figured out how to use the internet as a business card for their company. Interaction with the community cannot even be mentioned.

over 4 years ago

Andrew Warren-Payne

Andrew Warren-Payne, Senior Research Analyst at Econsultancy

Thanks for your comments Deepti and Kiril. I agree with you that many organisations have not incorporated digital into their operations as much as they should have.

It is inevitable that companies will have to shift their budgets more towards digital. Those that are not doing so already are potentially losing out to those competitors that make better use of digital technologies and practices.

over 4 years ago

Will Griffith

Will Griffith, Manager at EloquaEnterprise

I thought the quote about profile of your typical B2B marketing and sales team was very telling. The suggestion is there is a legacy cultural attitude to "how our business works" which I fully agree with. Change has to be driven from the very top down and today I think the B2B marketers biggest challenge is how to set in place a vision to make this happen otherwise they risk trying to push water up hill for a very long time.

over 4 years ago

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Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum.co.uk

My experience working with many eCommerce teams also confirms that within B2B it's often handled differently, almost arms length!

However, I have done advanced eComm projects with B2B companies, where they do really get the need to be client focused online, and therefore client experience focused.

I would suggest that it's down to the culture at each company - or more exactly it's a question of how far down the eCommerce maturity curve they are.

Have they moved on from First base: seeing OnLine as just part of IT and not central to the business?

Do they realise that more and more, no matter what the company does for it's clients, that it depends directly on good technology delivery.

A key sign that the organisation is further down the eCommerce maturity curve, is when online tech team is brought fully into the planning and decision making, and the business teams are committed to defining what they want to a greater detail.
Defining the extra detail is hard work for business teams, as it's so easy to write specs that say 'we just want feature XYZ' !

Once IT are brought in like this - then the clash of IT priorities and Marketing Opportunities is much reduced.

Another key sign of maturity - is the Business and IT's desire for an agreed metric for 'customer satisfaction' - that measures user experience on the site 24/7 - so that IT are brought in on the task of maximising that satisfaction - such as when they start monitoring dynamic user Journeys 24/7, trying to minimise slow downs and errors.

Personally, it's at that point in awareness where we get involved.

over 4 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum.co.uk

My experience working with many eCommerce teams also confirms that within B2B it's often handled differently, almost arms length!

However, I have done advanced eComm projects with B2B companies, where they do really get the need to be client focused online, and therefore client experience focused.

I would suggest that it's down to the culture at each company - or more exactly it's a question of how far down the eCommerce maturity curve they are.

Have they moved on from First base: seeing OnLine as just part of IT and not central to the business?

Do they realise that more and more, no matter what the company does for it's clients, that it depends directly on good technology delivery.

A key sign that the organisation is further down the eCommerce maturity curve, is when online tech team is brought fully into the planning and decision making, and the business teams are committed to defining what they want to a greater detail.
Defining the extra detail is hard work for business teams, as it's so easy to write specs that say 'we just want feature XYZ' !

Once IT are brought in like this - then the clash of IT priorities and Marketing Opportunities is much reduced.

Another key sign of maturity - is the Business and IT's desire for an agreed metric for 'customer satisfaction' - that measures user experience on the site 24/7 - so that IT are brought in on the task of maximising that satisfaction - such as when they start monitoring dynamic user Journeys 24/7, trying to minimise slow downs and errors.

Personally, it's at that point in awareness where we get involved.

over 4 years ago

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Harry Cruickshank, Managing Director at Cruickshank Associates Ltd

Marketing is under great pressure to prove its worth and justify budget. This is made considerably easier if marketers communicate, and work, effectively with senior management and the sales organisation.

At board level, business leaders are tied to commercial objectives and they want to know how marketing will help to deliver them. This is a discussion based around performance, metrics and ROI, where marketers need to explain how their activity translates to sales and long-term customer value. Of course, not everything marketers do can be translated easily to ROI, but some of it can and senior management need to appreciate this and know the difference. Marketing has an education job here.

On the sales side, it's critical that marketing and sales appreciate each other's contribution to the process of revenue growth. It's also imperative that they both take ownership of the revenue target and have a shared understanding of the funnel and sales pipeline processes. In my experience this is often not the case and even lead generation, scoring, handling and nurturing is not discussed, far less agreed on.

This is nothing new, but digital marketing (even now) introduces complication, as it offers additional technology, tools and channels for engaging with customers. Marketers also need to be adding technology skills to their basket, as companies seek to automate marketing/sales processes and improve data management and reporting. Marketing can take a lead here and show the way, but they need to be able to articulate the vlaue and commercial benefits of adopting these platforms. As the article said "technology is not the barrier - people are the barrier" - I'd clarify this to say "poor internal communication is the barrier".

IT and marketing also need to be talking. Most CIOs and CTOs are wrestling with the usual legacy integration issues, whilst looking to migrate to cloud-based or hybrid cloud architectures. Marketers need to engage in this dialogue too. With good project leadership from IT and marketing, SaaS-based applications can be deployed relatively quickly and painlessly, but in my experience the obstacle is often poor data quality and that's a conversation that needs marketing, sales and IT round the table.

If this all sounds like hard work, that's because it is. However, these conversations can only benefit marketing and help them position themselves in the business and build the lasting relationships with management, sales and IT. This is a good time for marketing to be leading the business, rather than (in the worst case) being treated as an on-demand service function for sales or a whipping-boy for poor performance.

over 4 years ago

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