Calling Bullshit on B2B

B2B marketers can no longer deflect the blame for the industry’s lifelessness, it’s time to stand up and be counted. In this article, Benedict Buckland, Chief Creative Officer at alan. argues why the profession needs to stop making excuses for why B2B's boring.

B2B marketing is boring. The saddest part of that statement is it's not controversial. It’s not even original. 

But just because it’s common knowledge doesn’t mean it shouldn’t hurt. It’s embarrassing. Especially in the context that things are getting worse. Five years ago 71% of senior business decision makers described B2B marketing as boring, expected and repetitive. This year, 82% condemned it.

‘The business is too risk averse.’ ‘Leadership don’t get brand building.’ ‘We don’t have the budget.’

The painfully familiar list of reasons goes on. The question is, at what point does a reason simply become an excuse?

Time’s up

Let me be straight, I believe that point has come. These reasons are nothing new. We’ve had years to make the case for (calculated) risks. We’ve had countless opportunities to educate the business on the power of brand. Yet, we’ve done nothing.

And, this inaction hasn’t gone unnoticed. 88% of business leaders think marketers need to step up and make themselves accountable for tackling the culture of risk aversion. 86% want them to proactively counter misunderstanding of brand.

“Yes, but” I hear the indignant cry, “you’re missing the point, people in B2B don’t want boldness, they don’t want bravery”. They do. And they want it more than ever. 88% want B2B marketing to be bold, contrarian, provocative. Up from 64% in 2017.

Nowhere to hide

The game is up. B2B marketers need to stop cowering behind excuses, stand up and be counted.  Previously, as VP of group marketing and chief of staff at Capgemini, Shallu Behar-Sheehan argues “we need to be the trailblazers! We need to migrate away from marketing simply keeping the lights on”.

However, as Behar-Sheehan continues this requires marketers to take the risk and take the argument to the business.

“Being brave often means you end up as an outlier. Marketing needs to truly and authentically be embedded in driving forward the business strategy and the CEO needs to believe it can deliver.”

This is traditionally a battle that marketers have shied away from but as 100% of CEOs surveyed told us they want to see more ambition and conviction from marketing, it’s one we should back ourselves in. As digital marketing director at consultancy firm AlixPartners, Barney O’Kelly says “we need to rediscover our swagger as a profession. Our job is to embolden the business to take some risks. Let’s back ourselves because we know it’s right and not bottle it because it can’t be exactly quantified”.

As B2B marketers, we have reached an inflection point. Our audience is asking for change. Asking for a more defiant, visceral, human way of doing things. An experience we’re failing to deliver. We have a choice: keep excusing the status quo or take up the fight for a more exciting, emotionally-charged future. But as O'Kelly points out, there is no real choice, “if data is telling us what [our audience] want to see, don’t bemoan it just [expletive] do it”.

we need to be the trailblazers! We need to migrate away from marketing simply keeping the lights on

Shallu Behar-Sheehan, previously VP of group marketing and chief of staff at Capgemini

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