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Serious young african businesswoman working and talking on cell phone on business meeting

Don’t blame the marketeer who wasn’t invited to the party

34 - Business ExpressBy: Dominic Walter-international leading B2B marcomms strategist.

The past couple of years have pushed B2B organisations across different industries around the globe into crisis mode. While many organisations cut back on their marketing communication budgets to focus on short-term tactics, others sustained their commitment and played the long game when it came to their marcomms strategies. We’re now seeing these brands emerging stronger post-Covid because they used their marcomms function to maintain and even build their reputation with customers and suppliers, establish credibility and stability in the eyes of investors, shareholders and partners and energise workforces to focus on a positive future.

This opens an interesting discussion around the perceived value of marcomms and begs the question: Why is marcomms still the ‘awkward child’ in the world of B2B functions even though it is the one function which can add short and long-term monetary gain, ensuring all key stakeholders remain engaged?

What can marketing bring to the table

One of the biggest issues when it comes to maximising the impact of marcomms is lack of awareness. Marketeers are often questioned by boards about the value they bring to the table and most of the time, the rest of the business doesn’t really understand what the marketing function does day to day.

While it is a given that the Head of Finance or Head of HR are invited to the top table, marketing is often treated as an afterthought or, as the department that will sprinkle fairy dust on strategies that have been agreed, as opposed to being brought in early enough to contribute to them.

So why is it important to invite marcomms to the top table? Business strategy and marketing strategy are two different functions but both are essential to the success of a business. Marketing contributes to the overall business strategy by shaping the rationale and go-to market approach which in turn will impact speed and success. It also can help strengthen a business strategy and even challenge it. It plays an important role in helping the top table clarify and simplify the way it defines a strategy which in turn often helps highlight challenges or opportunities resulting in strategic adjustments. Simply put – a good marketing communications team will align the brand strategy with the business strategy creating credibility and confidence in business plans.  This is why marcomms has a valuable role to play at the planning stage.

Once you have aligned your strategies you can deploy truly integrated marcomms campaigns, which communicate your story and USPs to your stakeholders and clients, engage your employees and present you as a credible organisation that offers value.

There may not be a one size fits marcomms solution as every business has different requirements, but the bottom line is that marcomms is a function that should be an integral part of both the planning and ongoing stages of business strategy deployment.

You’re much more than your service or product

Many B2B organisations focus their language and messaging solely on the ‘brilliance’ of their product or service, believing it is so good, it will sell itself. This happens especially in the world of manufacturing, engineering and tech, where technical jargon overshadows the narrative which confuses customers by failing to address their needs or make the product stand out. Having worked in and consulted to some large and diverse engineering and manufacturing businesses over the past two decades, I have seen first-hand so many B2B businesses fall into the tech-led storytelling trap.

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It pays to remember that you are not your product or service. Technical brilliance is vital but the marcomms team is there to remind you that you need to focus on what problem your product or service solves and then shape a powerful narrative that communicates the big, bold and simple messages that can establish a voice and more importantly, help your product and business stand apart from the competition.

Excite your people

Fostering a healthy internal culture is one of the best ways a brand can help itself grow. Smart leadership teams recognise that if you take care of internal culture, then customer experience and brand success will take care of themselves. Can you imagine going to market with a product or service that your workforce isn’t feeling excited about or has lost interest in because of the time it has taken to get there? Internal communications can play a crucial role in exciting your people and sustaining their energy to ensure that they are your best ambassadors, driving the company’s credibility. Another common mistake is a disconnected workforce where the leadership is excited and focused while the middle management is confused and demoralised. I have experienced this first-hand in a previous role; The leadership team felt that they had a clear strategy, however, the middle management was not fully engaged in the process which impacted their attitude. This filtered down to their staff including those with customer facing roles. As a result, customers would pick up on this sentiment making them less likely to fully trust the company and its services.

When employees at all levels within the organisational structure are engaged, they are motivated to work hard towards a common goal that is in line with the leadership’s vision.

It’s a long game

My mindset when it comes to marcomms strategy planning is ‘planning from the future’. It’s important to understand what your destination is and what it will look like. It is only then that you will be able to put in place a strategy with the different components that act as your building blocks to the future. These blocks may not always align and you may need to adjust them along the way but they will act as a guide and map to what you’re trying to achieve. Having a long-term roadmap and giving your marcomms team a place at the top table means that you stand a better chance of achieving your organisational goals.

The author

Dominic Walters is an international leading B2B marcomms strategist and author of “Cutting Through the Bull – Harnessing the Power at Your Fingertips.

Over the past 20 years, he has advised and held senior roles in a range of international organisations including BAE Systems, Network Rail, Inmarsat PLC, BP, Shell and PizzaExpress Hong Kong.

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