The key audience B2B marketers often ignore

Marketers often fail to know what motivates their most important clients, says NAB's Suzana Ristevski – their own executives.

“Understand your audience” is a foundational concept of marketing. It’s so simple it often goes unsaid, and so critical that it’s often taken for granted. But while marketers try to establish themselves within a business, they may overlook one of their key audiences – the C-suite.

Suzana Ristevski, NAB’s General Manager, Business Bank Marketing & Customer Strategy, says B2B marketers face two main challenges: how to quantify what impact marketing has, and how to tell that story effectively to company executives. They both need to be resolved for marketing to take a truly strategic position in a business.

“The people in the C-suite aren’t interested in the number of eyeballs on a website, or the number of people who have seen a TV ad,” says Ristevski, who spent 12 years at GE in a number of positions, including CMO. “Of course, marketers need to track all of those things: awareness, consideration, eyeballs and visits to landing pages. But ultimately the business needs to know which of those has turned into leads and, more importantly, what’s converted.”

To have a more holistic view, marketers need a firm understanding of what the business is striving to achieve and what’s important for the business leaders. How can marketing be effective without context?

“Effective marketers need to be able to talk the language of the business.”

“Sometimes marketers like to overcomplicate things and show the executive team how much they know,” Ristevski says. “You’ve got to work out which information to give which people. It would be totally remiss of us to not understand what’s driving revenue growth in the business, because that does actually impact on our marketing effectiveness.”

Her views are backed up by recent research commissioned by Marketo, which shows that two out of five Australian and New Zealand marketers find it difficult to get their views across to their C-suite. Of the 200 senior marketers surveyed for Morar HPI’s Marketing Decision Makers Report, 13 per cent said “proving their impact to the CEO” was a major challenge.

Ristevski says it’s important for marketers to understand what’s important to the business and what’s working. If marketing isn’t driving revenue growth it’s not working. “What you don’t want is a scenario where marketing present a dashboard that says, ‘We are doing an extraordinary job. Our awareness is high. Our consideration is high. Our brand attributes are amazing.’ And then you’ve got the business not meeting their targets.

“Effective marketers need to be able to talk the language of the business, understand what is driving it, and work out how they can feed into those business discussions. By doing that, you can then talk in business metrics, rather than marketing metrics.”

For Ristevski at NAB, there are unique challenges when comparing B2C to B2B, particularly the journey from marketing to business impact. If it’s a consumer campaign, such as selling a credit card, it’s about tracking applications. For B2B, Ristevski is much more reliant on other people – bankers – converting leads.

“It adds complexity,” Ristevski says. “We’re less able to develop attribution models in B2B as there’s an individual, an intermediary, involved in the conversion. We need to change behaviour, for example, getting people to log everything into Salesforce, so we can see what’s happened to the leads we’ve generated. This is where the discussion is even more important when dealing with the C-suite, and why it’s vital that marketers are extremely close to the business.

“I can’t go in and create a marketing campaign and just run it on my own. I need the business to help execute it for me. So I need to be able to translate their business objectives into a marketing objective.”