If Marketing Is As Critical As Sales Is to the B2B Pipeline, Why Don’t We Formalize Training for Marketing Teams?


In the not-too-distant past, B2B marketers were responsible for branding and communications. They created ads, brochures, and publications, and they set up booths at events.

The skills required didn’t change too often. But it was incredibly difficult to track ROI, and marketing was seen as a function that “had to be done.” Whenever an organization’s finances got tight, Marketing was first in line for layoffs.

Then the Web was born… and everything changed.

Today’s marketers are responsible for technology, demand generation, branding, communications, PR, AR, content generation, thought leadership, sales enablement, and so much more. Company leaders expect that marketers will track the impact of their efforts on pipeline and revenue.

Marketing teams are responsible for proving they are driving enormous pipeline numbers into the business; yet, those teams are struggling more than ever.

More than half of marketers (53.8%) say they do not have a marketing-related academic or professional qualification of any kind, according to a survey shared on MarketingWeek.com. Furthermore, of those who did say they have a marketing degree, only 32.2% found it very useful.

And it’s no wonder: Marketing changes at lightning speed. Marketers must determine not only whether the new strategies and platforms springing up regularly are a strategic fit for the business (think TikTok and Clubhouse) but also whether resources and budget are available to implement them.

No other department in your organization needs regular, defined, and measurable training in the same way that Marketing does.

The Impact of Not Strategically Training Your Marketing Team

By looking at overall business challenges, organizations can see the cracks in their marketing teams and the ways those cracks affect their business as a whole.

Marketing teams have the highest turnover of any function in an organization, and the tenure of CMOs is shockingly low compared with their C-Suite peers’.

Other challenges include organizations’ inability to differentiate from the competition, poor-quality leads, extended times to close, sales deals that come down to price discounts, poor customer retention, misalignment between Sales and Marketing, and inability to measure marketing effectiveness.

Despite knowing all that, organizations seem unwilling to make the same concerted efforts and investments in training their marketing teams that they do in training their sales teams.

Both are part of an organization’s revenue-generation engine. Marketing, moreover, sets the story—the external narrative—for your entire company.

Here is a brief breakdown of the previously cited challenges:

  • Marketing team turnover costs your company a significant amount of money in the rehiring and retraining processes, not to mention the knowledge lost when someone leaves.
  • Failure to differentiate is a positioning, messaging, and branding problem; the marketing team typically spearheads differentiation strategy.
  • Poor lead quality is a direct result of your demand generation team’s efforts.
  • Extended time to close means that your prospects do not see the value in making your solution a priority. To fix that requires an effort between Marketing and Sales—but guess who supplies the stories for Sales?
  • Price wars suggest that you haven’t positioned your products correctly or you haven’t found the right market segment.
  • Poor customer retention is typically a customer experience problem; Marketing is often asked to spearhead CX.
  • Misalignment between Sales and Marketing can ruin your B2B pipeline and deals.
  • Inability to measure marketing effectiveness (or measure the right things) leads to layoffs, budget cuts, and chaos within the marketing team that can become a vicious cycle, driving profitability downward.

Clearly, each of those issues involves multiple factors and could be discussed at length, but hopefully it is apparent that marketing teams…

  • Are asked to do a lot
  • Directly affect a business’s revenue and growth
  • Are under more pressure than other teams in your business to learn new things and rapidly determine whether those things are a fit for overall strategy
  • Are the part of your business that’s most visible to the market

So why aren’t we giving marketers the tools and training they need to succeed?

Even if You Think You’re Training Your Marketing Team…

In most organizations, training your marketing team works something like this: Marketing leaders are given a small budget for employee development, and they allocate that budget among individual team members, leaving it up to each to decide how to spend it. Team members might go to an event or take a class… and that is the extent of their training.

Do you see the problems with that scenario?

  • First, that type of learning isn’t strategically aligned to the business’s objectives and goals (or perhaps even to the marketing team’s goals); it is focused more on personal growth than on team growth.
  • Second, there is no way of knowing whether the time and money spent, however small the amount, has any impact on Marketing’s efforts.
  • Third, because it’s a bottom-up approach to education, there is no way to know whether your team members are learning the same methodology. They could be returning from training with conflicting approaches.

Another common scenario is that a leader brings the team together to learn something new in a workshop. Although that is a more strategically thought-out solution, it does not solve the need for sustained learning over time. It also does nothing to help team members grow in the areas where they are weak, nor does it measure how they’re progressing in their knowledge.

Those scenarios can have numerous variations, but the overarching theme is that you are likely spending an enormous amount of time and energy formally training your sales teams and wondering why you aren’t seeing the results you want.

The answer to that “why” is that the same dedicated and rigorous training applied to your sales team must also be applied to your marketing team.

Assessments, learning paths, modern learning modalities in a variety of mediums, and careful measurement of that training and its impact on the business are critical to solving the biggest business challenges in B2B today.

I would argue that Marketing has more of an impact on your business than Sales does. Your marketing team members are the first voices your prospects hear. The customer experience that marketers provide and the stories they tell create the foundation based on which your sales team sells.

Please train your marketing team to be the rock stars we know they can be.

This article first appeared in www.marketingprofs.com

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About Author

Jennifer Smith

Jennifer Smith is VP of marketing at MarketingProfs. She is a seasoned marketing leader whose expertise covers creative strategy and execution, brand building, digital strategy, and multichannel inbound and demand generation marketing.

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