What Does the New B2B Marketing Organization Look Like?

I recently wrote a blog post that suggests addressing the question that has been debated over the past couple years: Who Who should own Social Media – Communications or Marketing? I conclude that it is in fact, the wrong question. 

The correct question is this – How should enterprise marketing structures, strategies and processes adapt to the content demands of social media and new rules for audience engagement, enabled by ubiquitous information and all things digital – the web, social media, search engines, etc?

So what does this new approach look like?  It is an ecosystem, organized around a common mission, message set and strategic deliverables. It is holistic in approach based on top-down marketing and communications strategy, digitally focused with scale, consistency and repetition as a cornerstone objective.  It recognizes that content is marketing currency which must be invested, managed, nurtured and measured for performance (just as the business manages other assets – pipeline, ERP, operations, finance).  It also demands a renewed focus on creativity, not only in how we craft compelling messages, but creative in how and where we deliver those messages.

To support B2B social media, marketing departments must work together and across sub-groups as a team, not in silos. The traditional marketing structure fostered discrete approaches and deliverables.  It is perhaps this very approach that bred the original question of ownership.

While every effective program requires a manager and owner, marketing as a whole must own responsibility for supporting, enabling and planning the execution of targeted social media activities. Social media teams, be they cross-functional or dedicated, will be enabled by content derivatives of existing marketing message programs and projects.

Consider for a moment a writer staring at a starkly empty page, tasked with delivering a story or message but not knowing where to start. Intimidating. And, time consuming.  Yet this is the reality for many social media contributors. What if however, there was a social media toolkit, a central repository of content that marketing assembles in support of current messages and programs? What if that lonely writer could reach into the toolkit and grab a topic that has been prepared, give it a voice, perspective and then publish to one (or more) of the predefined strategic media targets?   Tweets, blogs, opinions, all can be prepared and nurtured thru the repurposing of existing content and delivered as a component of every new project.

Each content project can be viewed as an opportunity to support social media and digital channels with new source material. Every document and video can be parsed into small consumable bits and bytes that can be ‘socialized’. This unified approach will not only provide social media contributors with a rich source of topics and content that will make execution much easier, but will also provide a foundation for consistency of voice and message.

Managed properly, every enterprise contributor can have access to source content, with predefined target objectives, back-links, calls to action and strategy supporting an overall editorial program.  It can be syndicated to the business partner communities.  Regional marketing teams can translate and publish in local languages.  All of this expands the digital presence, thought leadership, the base of long-tail keywords and increases the volume of qualified, inbound traffic to your website. It is also much more efficient to execute.

So how is this dilemma resolved? By thinking differently about how business marketing operates as a team.

B2B marketing can no longer be “one and done”.  The press release, another email offer, a new whitepaper or brochure, conceived, created, managed separately and thrown at the web team to “post” without continuity to all other activities will at best, fall short of its potential.  In the real mission of marketing and communications, it will fail. It will fail to breed repetition, expand your digital footprint, nor will it scale to facilitate social media.

To impact the market today, digital content must be fluid, evolutionary, mutually reinforcing, measured for response, and refined for improvement.  And then, repeated.  It must be architected and orchestrated, search optimized, published and curated methodically, blogged, tweeted, and repurposed until the cows come home.  As a program, it must communicate with directly with your target audience personas needs through a series of compelling messages, targeted to address each phase of the buying cycle.  At all times it must communicate to your customer the strength of the company’s vision and position the business as an leader. Just like a good salesperson engages with a prospect, digital marketing must now accomplish this before a prospect will engage with sales.

Who should own Social Media – Communications or Marketing?

What is the impact of digital and social media?

How has digital communications and social media changed your approach to content and marketing?

Remember this early debate when social media first emerged as a B2B marketing channel?  Since appearing on marketing’s radar, the question of who should ‘own’ social media within the business has echoed across small and large enterprises everywhere.  Here is my take – It is the wrong question.

The correct question is this.  How should enterprise marketing structures, strategies and processes adapt to the content demands of social media and new rules for audience engagement, enabled by ubiquitous information and all things digital – the web, social media, search engines, etc?

Traditional marketing structures of most enterprises today are outdated. They evolved to meet traditional marketing media.  Now they must evolve again to address the new rules of inbound and outbound marketing, press and analyst behaviors, customer expectations and most of all, shifting buy cycle trends.  Here’s why.

Let’s explore the traditional B2B model, formed around collateral and interruption-based media of the 20th century.  The typical structure was defined as:

  • Marketing (brand, collateral, advertising, direct mail, promotions) and
  • Communications (PR, Analyst relations, media relations).

The term mar-com took root and the web didn’t exist. 

Customer awareness was delivered in the form of advertising; information was the role of collateral, trade press and particularly sales, touching customers early in the buying cycle. 

Communications handled press and analyst activities by phone, snail mail, PR newswires, and in person. Personal relationships were as important to press and media people as they were to sales. Content was important, dominated by collateral and press releases, perhaps an occasional advertorial.  Deeper content produced separately by product management came in the form of manuals and user guides, training educated sales and supported customer product knowledge, all often developed outside of marketing’s view.

Compare that to the digital world we live in today. The web provides people with access to ubiquitous information in almost any form.  Customers expect it. It’s no longer about finding customers but making sure customers find you. Customers are now controlling the conversation via the web and social media, and sales touches the customer much later in the buying cycle. Why? Because buyers don’t need to rely on a salesperson for information as they once did. In fact most buyers don’t even want to talk to sales until they’ve already researched and made numerous decisions about what solution provider is likely to meet their needs.

So what does this mean for today’s marketing teams?

It is now the customer’s expectation (and marketing’s responsibility) to produce much greater volumes of content.  Content to address a wider audience, in many additional forms and optimized for search to compete with hundreds of thousands of competing information resources. This is the evolution of what is known today as “Content Marketing”.  And, we haven’t even begun yet the discussion of social media and how that can be executed by the business, except by inference as it is directly connected.

Call it the perfect storm. On one hand we have much greater demand for content and information enabled by the web and expected by customers. On the other hand, few marketing organizations have seen a corresponding increase in resources to satisfy the insatiable demand. In fact, the recession has reduced most marketing budgets and resources.

Why is the debate about who should own Social Media the wrong question?  Because without re-evaluating what we consider to be content, how we produce it, manage it, and scale it, enterprise marketing and communications cannot meet the demands social media and other digital channels present to create a successful marketing engagement, and still fulfill the current definitions of their day jobs.

The answer to the original question?  We all must own it. So how does business organize to support it strategically and tactically?

Engaging and educating technology buyers

B2B solution providers are constantly looking for new ways to increase their market awareness,  engage prospects and to be perceived as not only credible, but valued suppliers to customers.

To achieve this, vendors should look to ‘educate’ buyers and establish a rapport with the target audience to develop thought leader credibility.  Focus on content  targeting multiple channels which align with both the buying cycle and audience personas.   Achieving this will communicate to the audience that you understand their needs.  Align this with the core messages analysts are sending as they have the ability to influence what customers are looking for, and trade media within your market – their unique positions provide a barometer for what your customers  perceive to be important.

A track record and sustainable vision of the future is important to buyers.  Repetition across multiple digital channels helps buyers discover the voice of the vendor in forums they may be leveraging. Properly managed it will lead a buyer to find and engage with a vendor.

What do you feel is important to achieve this goal?

Satisfying the Growing Appetite for Online Video Content

In November 2011, I participated in a webinar produced and hosted by KnowledgeVision CEO Michael Kolowich.  Acknowledging the rapid rise in enterprise video, the foundational topic was “how can enterprises keep up” with demand.

According to recent research of more than 1,000 enterprise communications professionals from Steve Von der Harr at Interactive Media Strategies:

  • Total spending on online business video technologies is growing at an astounding rate – 32% this year, and will surpass $1 billion next year.
  • Less than one-fifth of this spending is on video plumbing — that is, dedicated video networking.  Most of it is split between content creation and content management.  In fact, the report states that “The evolution of the business video sector will continue to be defined by the development of software solutions that transform online video into an increasingly useful business communications tool.”
  • Growth is happening in all sizes of company and organization

Budgets are increasing significantly but still the appetite for online video to outpace the resource requirements to create and manage it.  Requests are coming from all sectors — from marketing, sales, HR, training, corporate communications, investor relations and beyond.

That’s the core dilemma of today’s business content creators…how to satisfy the growing need for content, particularly video content under ever-resent cost and time constraints.  The webinar also explores related topics at the forefront of digital marketing exectutives:

  • ROI of video
  • Audience targets and content requirements
  • Video as a content source
  • Measurement and audience engagement

The webinar is available here: http://info.knowledgevision.com/WebinarRecordingDownload.html?SFDCCID=701C0000000ggZw

Hope you have a chance to watch it, and as always I look forward to your comments here.


The Content Strategist blog was created to explore ideas and stimulate dialog about marketing, web strategy, and content strategies.  The web is radically changing business marketing and customer engagement.  Tactics, tools, resource requirements, content formats – all rapidly evolving.

Content marketing is an ecosystem with many forms. It must be shaped to align with target audiences and the many channels (blogs, website, video, etc.) of consumption.  And above all, its creation and management must be strategic, aligned to a business goal that drives revenue. This is the framework of this blog and the discipline of becoming a content strategist.

Please comment and add your own thoughts and expertise throughout this blog.