In an earlier post, we talked about how CMOs plan to spend more on martech, according to Gartner’s CMO Spend Survey 2018-2019, and whether the hefty rise in technology investment will lead to greater ROI. It’s an important question because B2B marketers are incredibly busy, and scrutiny of their ability to deliver value is growing.

To the extent that technology can lighten the load for such an insanely busy group, new martech investments are a good thing. But we also discussed low utilization of the current martech stack (in the 40-50 percent range at some companies), which leads to CFO frustration when they analyze spending on licenses and conclude that marketing isn’t taking full advantage of the technical assets at their disposal.

So, what can marketing organizations do to maximize their investment in martech and consistently deliver value? Buying more technology may not be the answer — investing in training and professional development is the better strategy in most cases. What many marketing teams need is a better understanding of business processes, data management and analytics, and how to communicate results.

A more complex B2B customer journey

At a basic level, everyone can agree marketers need to understand who their customers are and where they are in the buying journey, so they can deliver compelling content and drive sales. But that’s not as easy as it used to be. Sales cycles tend to be longer today, but that doesn’t tell the whole story either — many critical purchasing decisions are made in the first 90 days.

In the B2B world, more decision-makers are involved in purchasing decisions than ever before, and they have access to more information. But that doesn’t translate into greater buyer confidence. In fact, the deluge of information can be confusing and stressful for buyers. Marketers need to understand this and provide relevant guidance if they are going to fulfill their role as the anchor of the value creation chain.

A greater understanding of data management and analytics

In addition to a better understanding of business processes, modern marketers need more training on data management and analytics. When a new CMO comes in and deploys a favored martech solution, marketers may receive basic training on that particular solution. But if the onsite champion leaves or takes a hands-off approach, the marketing team often underutilizes the martech asset.

Marketing professionals don’t get a solid grounding in data management and analytics in school. Most marketers don’t know how to create new data models to generate more precise and meaningful insights unless they acquire those skills on the job. But they need these skills to understand exactly what signals indicate buyer interest and how to respond effectively.

 

A better approach to communicating results

Marketing is all about communication, but the ability to communicate results in a language that resonates outside of marketing is another critical success factor. In a data-driven economy, that means being able to demonstrate results with numbers that are credible across the organization, not just in the marketing department. Having a single source of data truth is the key.

Better communication also means being able to explain precisely which actions resulted in which customer behaviors and how past results can guide future actions. A tactical approach to driving sales leads isn’t enough; marketers have to be strategic, serving as an adviser to sales, finance, the C-suite, the board, investors, etc. That requires an ability to tell a compelling story — on the audience’s terms.

Training as an opportunity to gain a competitive edge

So, how can marketing leaders address business processes, data and communication knowledge gaps on the marketing team? The CMO spend survey indicates that most companies plan to spend less on people and more on technology, which means many companies may be moving in the wrong direction. That signals an opportunity for the CMOs who proactively address these knowledge gaps.

It will take a commitment to professional development, and agencies and technology partners may have to step up to help close the knowledge gaps. It will be an enterprise-wide effort, with sales, marketing, and other departments working together. CMOs who invest in their people will gain a clear competitive edge. We’ll share more thoughts about a 2019 game plan to achieve that advantage in this space soon.

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