B2B Marketers don’t feel ready for the future of marketing: Here’s what to do

April 8, 2022 Chuck Leddy

The new 2022 State of B2B Marketing Training Report, which surveyed 600 B2B marketers about their readiness for the future, says only 19% of them feel very prepared for their futures in marketing. And only 31% of them feel their team is very effective. Perhaps even worse, 58% of the surveyed B2B marketers describe themselves as either “ambivalent” about working in marketing or “burned out.”

With those bleak numbers as a backdrop, employee engagement and retention is an obvious concern for marketing managers, especially as most marketers (88% in the survey) work either remotely or via hybrid work. Churn can have a highly negative impact on marketing effectiveness, and it’s a growing challenge: 64% of surveyed marketers are either “actively looking” for another job or “would be open to new opportunities.” 

While training can be important for upskilling and retaining B2B marketers, 70% of surveyed marketers reported that their teams already participated in training -- so more training may NOT be the right answer. 

Key findings: Training needs to be more relevant & practical

What’s needed most, the report says, is training that has a different kind of focus. Let’s explore some of the report’s key findings around training for B2B marketers:

1. Training must be relevant and focus on existing, work-related challenges. Seven out of ten B2B marketers want their training “to focus on solving specific problems related to my current role.” Training must therefore be highly-relevant for tackling the specific, work-related issues marketers face every day. Only three out of ten marketers want training that focuses on challenges that “aren’t directly related to my current role.” 

2. More skills assessment is needed, for both individual marketers and marketing teams. Only 10% of managers have a formal process to assess what skills their team needs next. Gaps aren’t just going unclosed but also unrecognized. Only 15% of managers report that their training courses include assessments to see which skills their team needs to learn next. Overall, the current level of skills assessment can be described as “woefully inadequate.”

3. Training must include practice and exercises that connect skills to how they’re actually used in the real-world. The biggest frustration marketers have with B2B marketing training is its focus on theory. Half of marketers are frustrated because they want more B2B training focused on work-related execution, not abstract theory. Despite the desire for practical application of skills, only 20% of training courses include assignments and exercises to practice new skills, says the survey.

4. Coaching and mentoring can offer feedback on employee performance and identify gaps that need filling. But fewer than a quarter of B2B marketers surveyed say they actually have a mentor. Access to coaching is available on some marketing teams, but is highly dependent on personal relationships and team culture.

5. Lack of formal training budgets and/or related red tape can inhibit training and enablement. One of the most eye-opening findings from the survey is that three out of ten marketers have financed their own training, mostly because their organizations lacked a training budget or because the red tape involved in getting budget approval was so onerous that self-financing seemed to make more sense. So having formal structures is a good start, but making the approval process fast and convenient can be equally important for driving budget usage.

The 5 factors of “very prepared” B2B Marketers

The surveyed B2B marketers who reported feeling “very prepared” for their roles were much different from the rest, in ways that can illuminate the way forward for marketing teams and marketing managers. Those “very prepared” B2B marketers were 19% of the whole, but shared these common traits: 

1. They have documented business goals, so they know where they’re going and what specific skills they’ll need to take them there. 

2. They tend to be part of an organization in which ongoing learning is part of the culture and where the organization has a formal process to decide what training the team needs.

3. They tend to be part of an organization that takes a proactive approach to B2B training, instead of relying on individual marketers to request and justify the training they need. 

4. They tend to focus their training on practical execution instead of theory, and take training courses that tend to include things such as concrete examples, templates, and frameworks.

5. They measure the impact of training, especially related to job performance and other practical KPIs.

Marketing enablement is Marketing Operations

What’s clear from these survey results is that marketing enablement (i.e., talent enablement within the marketing function) has some current challenges and should become an explicit role under the umbrella of marketing operations. Someone needs to take responsibility for the marketing team’s development of the necessary skills to do their job effectively.

This "people enablement function" is also a key part of the technology management pillar in marketing ops, which involves people, processes, and technology all working together to prove and improve the value of marketing. People are listed first in that “value triangle” for a reason. 

Marketing operations and technology teams have become highly proficient at the “processes” and “technology” part of the value triangle. But if the survey results are any indication, there’s much “room for improvement” when it comes to enabling people.

Enabling talent takes time

Anyone can buy martech in ten seconds with a mouse click and some money in the bank. Marketing talent, on the other hand, needs to be carefully hired, nurtured, and developed over years. 

The key word here is “nurture.” You can’t buy or outsource culture. And while you can — and should — pay competitively for B2B marketing talent, you also can’t keep swapping (high-priced) new staff in and out, no more than you can constantly swap out technology. You need to enable and retain talent, rather than lose (perhaps to your closest rivals) the talent you’ve carefully (and expensively) nurtured. 

The bottom line? You should have a framework in place to enable your marketing talent, the same way you have structures in place to optimize your martech. Use the five factors of “very prepared” B2B marketers listed above to help guide your efforts in setting up those enabling structures.

If you want more help and information about customized training solutions to enable your B2B marketing team, feel free to reach out to us here for help.

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