Four critical challenges facing senior B2B marketers

BBN’s Executive Chairman talks to us about four main challenges he believes face B2B marketers today and how partners across BBN are working together to solve them.

Change is a constant. The difference is that the after-burners have been turned on and it’s a rocky ride ahead. Today, the conversation invariably drifts to speculation on what will be the ‘new normal’?

Predictions and opinions vary widely. What is certain is there will be no one new normal, any more than there was one old normal.

Actually, many of the quandaries already existed. The need to address and solve them just became dramatically more acute. In most industry sectors, companies are radically reviewing business models. Previously, that process might have been motivated by market changes envisaged in three to five years’ time. The horizon is now tomorrow.

The last year has made us all more aware. The fragility of our mortality has caused us to question our own behaviours – and that of humankind. We look at things differently now, and as both producers and consumers, we realise the necessity for a different way of doing things.

Individual organisations, and, indeed, whole industries, are struggling to reconcile seemingly conflicting drivers. They are seeking ways to operate vastly more efficiently whilst becoming significantly more responsible, often with reduced and limited resources.

Within our industry sector, BBN is investing heavily to tackle a series of apparently paradoxical challenges by developing methodologies critical to the future success of our clients.

1  Repositioning the importance of the CMO role

Despite having the tools and technology at our disposal to accurately measure, quantify and prove the return on investment in marketing activities, CMO stature and tenure, already amongst the lowest and shortest in the C-Suite, is shrinking year on year.

2  Channelling sales and marketing to work together

Against a backdrop of restricted face-to-face contact, many sales and marketing teams are not collaborating to combine their skills and knowledge to develop innovative and perhaps better means of connecting with clients and prospects.

3  Achieving the balance of art and science

We’re certain that the use of technology will increase exponentially, with marketing and sales increasingly adopting a truly digital-first, digital-centric philosophy. But empirical evidence has proven short-term sales activation is dramatically less successful without long-term brand building and emotional connection.

4  Bonding agency and client

Going forward, success will be defined by clients and agencies working together in a spirit of trust, openness and seamless communication. The last year has taught us that genuine collaboration and cooperation can achieve outstanding results. Now is the time for an honest review by both agencies and clients to establish a new set of behaviours to move the current model from transactional to transformational.

Yesterday, clients wanted it all.
Today, they need it all.

BBN has the inherent capacity to adapt to change and embrace the opportunities change brings about. In the last 18 months that mindset and ability have been tested beyond any previous reasonability.

BBN has operated in an environment of paradoxical challenges and constraints for 30 years. Over that period, we have forged the seemingly paradoxical into a unique, robust and effective business model. We learned to celebrate, not reject, opposing demands to leverage greater creativity, flexibility and productivity.

We have operated in the manner of ‘The beautiful constraint’* and we’ve ‘Eaten the big fish’**. Delivering high levels of performance on a limited budget is something we thrive on. Our collective mindset enables us to constantly reconcile apparently opposing demands. (Above all, mindset is the single most important dynamic for real change.) Yes, having leading processes to define and implement strategy, in-depth industry insight, transformative technical ability and the talent to convert emotion to action are essential play factors. But the real magic happens when that paradox-attuned mindset is distributed throughout our owner-managed, entrepreneurial agencies and galvanised by one common purpose. It happens through nurturing the highest levels of respect for our employees as individuals whatever their culture, ethnicity, faith, gender persuasion and values. Combined, this has allowed us to learn and grow together and deliver out-of-the-box solutions to new challenges. We demand high levels of trust and constantly seek ways to inspire each other whilst having fun in the process – now there’s a paradox.

BBN was built from the bottom up. Each local office shares in the ownership of BBN (not the other way around), creating a more entrepreneurial culture with a diversity of perspectives.

We continue to expand and build upon our matrix structure giving clients access to the best talent structured around their specific B2B marketing needs. From country experts and culturally sensitive creatives to world-beating production and data-driven media buying – all without the cost associated with more bureaucratic structures or mono-culture networks. The result? Better work that generates significantly improved economic value for our clients – fostering a longer-term client-agency relationship built on mutual trust, value and respect.

The winds of technological change have revolutionised marketing, whilst the tsunami of global societal challenges demands dramatically higher expectations of marketers’ social performance. Customers are setting the agenda and accept little or no compromise, and disruptive technologies have opened the door to new types of competitors who provide novel solutions and value creation. Interdependency, agility and accountability are no longer virtuous aspirations; they are now the anchors of sustainability and survival.

If you are interested in learning more about how BBN sees the B2B marketing industry right now,  download The B2B report 2021 or contact us for more information.

*A Beautiful Constraint: How To Transform Your Limitations Into Advantages, and Why It’s Everyone’s Business written by Adam Morgan & Mark Barden, published by Wiley.

**Eat the Big Fish written by Adam Morgan, published by AdweekMedia.

Clif Collier

About the author

Clif Collier is the Executive Chairman of BBN Ltd. Together with BBN’s Board, executive team and partner owners, he helps guide and develop the organisation’s vision, strategy and image. His efforts have helped BBN build its brand position as the no. 1 International B2B Agency.


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