Insights from New Gleanster Report: Dealing with the B2B Marketing “People Problem”

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TeamsRecruiting good candidates for your B2B marketing team is rarely easy, but it’s arguably harder today. Strong contenders need  a unique set of skills, technical know-how, and experience. As most hiring managers can tell you, many candidates just don’t have the expertise.

It’s a sentiment that’s confirmed in a new study from Gleanster Research and Act-On Software, Rethinking the Role of Marketing. The study surveyed 750 midsize B2B organizations with the goal of understanding the rapidly evolving role of marketing in supporting the customer lifecycle. Respondents were divided into two distinct categories based on self-reported data provided by the survey respondents: Average Firms and Top Performers. Only 2% of the total B2B population at companies with 50-1000 employees met the characteristics defining Top Performers:

  • They beat their 2013 revenue objectives
  • They rated themselves “very effective” at managing end-to-end marketing lifecycle
  • They estimated that over 90% of customers are happy

Clearly these Top Performers are successful, but they also deal with many people, process, and technology challenges that prevent them from achieving all their goals. And the biggest issue? People – or rather the lack thereof.

The People Problem

When asked what’s preventing Top Performing marketers from achieving their goals, a full 92% cited “hiring skilled resources” as their top challenge.


As you can see, for Top Performers, hiring and retaining people who understand the new dynamics of B2B marketing – as well as how technology supports these challenges – was the top concern. In fact, twice as many people selected it as did the second highest issue, ensuring marketing and sales collaboration. Clearly, good talent is hard to come by for these organizations. And there are several explanations for this.

B2B Marketing is Changing

A big reason for the gap is that B2B buyers – like all consumers – have changed their habits. They’re more mobile, more social, more likely to listen to peer reviews and opinions, and less likely to reach out to a company with questions. Add in the challenges of long consideration times and multiple stakeholders, and it’s clear that converting these prospects is going to be difficult.

Today’s B2B marketers must have a combination of knowledge, skill, and proficiency that’s still relatively new even to seasoned marketing pros.  They should command a broad combination of proficiencies as well as an in-depth knowledge of digital analytics and optimization tactics like A/B testing. It’s no longer enough to develop attention-getting campaigns – you have to be able to use data to prove their value. Successful B2B marketers need to truly understand their customers – and the problems those customers are trying to solve – in order to make lasting connections with them.

Talent is in High Demand

So why are there so few qualified marketers to choose from? One possibility is the sudden increase in successful IPOs. In the U.S., there was a record number of IPOs in 2014. These newly-public companies are no doubt trying to develop marketing and management teams that can help them compete, and because public companies are often scrutinized by investors, media, customers, and the competitors, these marketers need the ability to demonstrate results in a quantifiable way.

Another reason is that more and more B2B organizations are shifting from traditional advertising to online advertising channels – not only because that’s where their customers are, but also because they allow closer tracking of return on investment (ROI). And with more demand for digital marketers in general, there’s a smaller pool for B2B companies to look at when it comes to hiring.

Filling the Gaps

If you’re experiencing the challenge of people problem in your organization, what can you do find the right resources to complement your team? The Gleanster report provides recommendations, as well as a talent matrix to help companies map out currently available resources and their respective knowledge of products and services.


You’ll need resources to fill all of these areas in order to successfully address the customer lifecycle. However, it’s possible that one person could have the skills to fill in for more than one quadrant.

Of course, management of the customer lifecycle extends beyond the marketing team. Sales operations resources might bring some great perspectives from an analytical standpoint and customer service reps could shed light on common issues or up-sell opportunities that can be incorporated in future marketing campaigns. It may be a good idea to look at the marketing team gaps alongside sales, customer service, and any other area of the organization where overlap occurs. That way, you can make sure the overall skill sets of these teams are complementary, as well as the skills of individuals working in each group.

Agencies and Outsourcing Options

Another key recommendation from the Gleanster report is to use agency or consulting resources as a way to staff up on necessary talent. Agency partners can be a great option for creating ongoing customer engagement campaigns in marketing automation, for example. They can help map out the customer journey and configure campaigns that trigger based on customer behavior. Also, if you lose a marketing team member, agencies and consultants can provide temporary relief until a new resource can be found.

With the right marketing agency, you can get strategic, specialized help when and where you need it. For example, if you’ve identified a key area that you’re missing, you can find an agency or contractor to not only fill the void, but also to provide strategic guidance that can help you break into new territories. That could include:

  • Lead generation and management (including such tactics as nurturing and scoring)
  • Email and social media marketing – both creating and managing campaigns
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
  • Content marketing – creating a strategy and providing content creation for assets such as blogs, podcasts, videos, eBooks, and whitepapers

Many agencies specialize in one or more of these areas, while others offer full-service solutions. Take a look at the many marketing agencies Act-On works with to get an idea of the scope – and find out about the benefits of working with a partner that provides marketing automation as an integrated service.

People-Powered Results

You’ll notice that the results of the Gleanster survey indicated that hiring the right resources was the biggest challenge for Top Performers. What about the rest of the pack? It seems that Average organizations are having trouble too – in fact, 50% said it was an issue, second only to the fact that there was no accountability for process improvement (55%). Most likely, Average firms need to get some basics in place – like figuring out who should be responsible for making changes in the status quo – before even considering adding headcount.

However, both challenges point to an important point. Today’s organizations, whether they are extremely successful or just getting along, need to have the right people making the right choices at the right time in order to drive change and ensure success today and into the future.

260x200-rethinking-the-role-of-marketing-thumbCheck out the full results of the survey and get tips for solving the top challenges B2B marketers face in a rapidly changing marketplace. Download the report to learn how the most successful organizations are approaching customer lifecycle engagement in the new era of B2B marketing. And be sure to check out the companion eBook, Marketing: The New Stewards of the Customer Relationship to get more recommendations for improving customer engagement and re-defining marketing’s role in CRM.