Nine Essential Skills for B2B Marketers

The marketing industry is constantly in flux, as new technologies emerge and others fade into obscurity. Twenty years ago, marketing was about a phone and a door-to-door salesperson. Now, it's about how B2B marketers can use the technologies at their disposal to save time and energy—all while maximizing ROI. It's more complex and simpler at the same time.

As the marketing landscape has evolved, marketers have had to adapt. Certain skills that were needed 20 years ago have fallen by the wayside, while others remain relevant. The past 10 years have required marketers to adapt even further to keep up with the advancements of the digital age.

Success in the B2B marketing space hinges on these skills. So what are they? The list below describes nine important rules B2B marketers need to follow to be successful:

1. Know your industry. As a B2B marketer, you should know what's going on in your industry. Identify and follow industry influencers and thought leaders, and set up a feed to stay updated on relevant industry news. There's a lot you can do to stay in touch just by sitting at your computer, such as attending Webinars offered by others within your industry. Conferences, trade shows, professional organizations, and workshops are other ways to get out of the office and network. The best way to get to know your industry is to get involved.

2. Stay on top of new tools. The key to marketing your product or service is to know the ins and outs of what you're offering and how it meets the needs of a buyer. This will help build and refine your messaging, but being business-savvy is only half the battle. It's also important to understand the technologies at your disposal. Think about some of your key challenges as a marketer and how you can make your job more efficient and easier by employing some basic software programs. These include free tools, such as Google Analytics or Twitter, or paid tools, such as a marketing automation system or CRM database. Make sure you understand the full spectrum of technologies that are available for marketing and how you can take advantage of them.

3. Learn to develop flexible roadmaps. The best way to know where you're going is to know where you've been. A smart marketer always has a plan. An even smarter marketer has a flexible plan. In marketing, tactics are changing all the time. B2B marketers need to know how to adapt when the space around them begins to shift. Develop a roadmap for your marketing efforts, but make sure it can be adjusted on the fly. Keep at least some of your budget liquid, so that you can jump on a ripe opportunity when it comes along.

4. Become a math whiz. Gone are the good old days of fuzzy goals, like branding. Today's marketers are metrics driven, and that means putting on your lab coat and diving into the world of math and science. Given the pervasiveness of online campaigns, it's far easier to track the number of qualified leads and closed deals driven by marketing efforts. The good news is that when you can show clearly how your efforts translate into dollars, you're more likely to earn a larger budget for future endeavors.

5. Focus on content marketing. Content is a key component of today's marketing mix. Start by knowing your consumers' personas. Learn about their needs, concerns, limitations, motivations, and frustrations. This will help you decide what kind of content is relevant and what medium you should use to reach your audience. Then find out how your prospects are reaching you so that you can use all of the appropriate channels for your business. A strong content marketing strategy can gain you the exposure that your company needs.

6. Use and understand search engine marketing. A robust content marketing strategy is useless if no one can find your content. Optimize your site to increase its visibility on search engine results pages by focusing on link-building, keywords, and your source code. Never underestimate the power of inbound links when it comes to search. A successful B2B marketer understands the nuances of search engine marketing and its impact on his company's site and content.

7. Use and understand social media. It may seem like old news at this point, but it's critical to know your way around the different social media platforms. Start by using them personally. Once you understand the subtleties of each platform, use them professionally. If you already have a content strategy, you should know where your consumers are engaging. Make a point to engage and participate in all the same places as your followers, clients, and influencers. Just remember not to use social media just because you feel like you should. Always have a (flexible) plan in place.

8. Fine-tune your writing skills. Marketing still relies on the power of the written word. With the growing emphasis on content marketing, it's crucial for marketers to be able to write well and persuasively. Press releases are still a widely used marketing tool (and are helpful for SEO), and blogging is quickly becoming a must-do for building your brand. With social media. writing styles may be changing, but the craft of writing is not dying. Just ask anyone who's tried to fit an important thought into 140 characters!

9. Understand the value of feedback. Soliciting feedback from customers provides specific ideas for improvement. It can also tell you what you're doing right. Find the best way to communicate with customers and conduct surveys for a more quantitative analysis of your work. Not knowing where you stand makes it tough to move ahead.

Who's to say what skills marketers will need in five or 10 years? If a marketer is looking for one skill to build today, it is this: know how to adapt and fast. If you can't adjust to the changing world around you, the rest of these skills will make scant difference.

Adam Blitzer is cofounder and COO of Pardot, where he is responsible for product management, marketing, and operations. Previously, he was a senior email marketing consultant for InterContinental Hotels Group and a consultant at Moxie Interactive. He spent four years working at an advertising agency in Japan.

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