Navigating the Changing B2B Marketing Landscape (Interview with Anand Thaker)

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anand thaker

Anand Thaker is the CEO of IntelliPhi, an R&D and advisory firm working to evolve go-to-market decision making for growth leaders. He’s also a long-time MarTech industry and digital engagement expert, who’s accelerated firms in variety of operational, leadership and advisory roles among enterprises, growth startups and investors. 

And, it’s for all the above reasons that Anand was selected as one of the six panel judges for Integrate’s annual recognition program – B2B Game Changers Spotlight – which highlights exemplary B2B marketing leaders.

(If you know any B2B marketers setting a high bar for pipeline performance, customer experience and/or creativity, you can nominate them as a 2018 B2B Game Changer here.)

We recently asked Anand for his his thoughts on a few hot-button topics in B2B marketing:

  • Expansion of data-privacy regulations
  • The changing MarTech landscape
  • The biggest opportunities for marketing ops roles
  • How to effectively scale tech infrastructure

David Crane: GDPR is still, rightly, on most marketers’ minds, but mostly as an obstacle to overcome. Do you see the expansion of data privacy regulations as a good or bad development for B2B marketers? Why?

Anand Thaker: Good marketers are marred by the bad ones. GDPR and other regulations are a wakeup call and will serve as a positive outcome for elevated marketers.

Collectively, we are losing trust in our customers. Noisy communications, poor experiences and shorter attention spans create discord in the marketplace. Customers are expecting brands to navigate meaningful relationships in this ecosystem. According to a recent Gartner study on customer experience, “… in two years’ time, 81% [of organizations] say they expect to be competing mostly or completely on the basis of CX.”

I have long advocated that intersections of customer data are a powerful resource. Couple this corporate asset with the talent that wields it forms the most powerful tailwind for a brand. These policies will largely be subtle to a customer except when the news breaks on violations. Yet, for B2B marketers, we have an ongoing opportunity to learn to harness these new digital signals in this brave new world.

In the short term, such policies will create pains for every type of organization especially in B2B. Marketers are resilient and with responsible authentic deployment, such trust-building will elevate our profession.

A couple articles Anand has written on the topic of GDPR and trust-based marketing:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/gdpr-marketings-tool-trust-anand-thaker/

https://medium.com/@anand.thaker/gdpr-marketings-tool-for-trust-8aadc75a7a57

David: What do you see as the best opportunities for marketing ops practitioners to make a difference for their companies?

Anand:

1) Harness and Democratize Customer Data

We have evolved go-to-market decision making for dozens of mid-large enterprise executives and their teams. In our R&D and advisory efforts, we’ve seen adoption of data tied to operations as a critical goal.

Recommendation: Discover and leverage how data and metrics can be meaningful to your team’s and leadership’s careers.

Also, worry less about becoming a data scientist to harness data for productivity and insight.

Recommendation: Instead, focus your attention on which algorithms solve or illuminate. Consider the application of these to your existing challenges. Don’t be afraid to gain inspiration from peers as well as other industries.

2) Become Better Storytellers

After tracking thousands of tech/ops marketers, my view is that the best ones are those who are greatly skilled at narrating challenges and selling opportunities. Too often we rely tech talk to describe issues, rather than creating a connection and meaning to our stakeholders.  

Recommendation: practice, practice and practice. Also, build relationships to rally support outside of your department. Customers span cross-functional parts of the organization and this still remains your responsibility.

3) Think Like a CEO

CMOs with marketing technology savvy are highly considered to become the next generation CEOs. We operate in a customer-driven marketplace. Companies iterate not to just keep up, but to capture opportunity on trends. Communities are complex, dynamic and interconnected.

Recommendation: Expand your experience in operations, financial attribution, brand value management and all customer engagement responsibilities.

Other awesome traits to work on…

https://anandthaker.com/11-habits-highly-effective-marketing-technologists/

David: With over 5k logos now on the MarTech landscape, how do you approach marketing technology without becoming overwhelmed with choice?

Anand: Having one of the most unique top-down perspectives and experiences in the industry, I frequently get this question.

1) Look no further than your brands customer engagement and operations. Determine your strengths and assets while articulating the weaknesses and aspirations. Technology only magnifies your execution, so begin by improving your marketing, sales, customer and product operations.

2) Catalogue tech across departments. For enterprise leaders, do so across business units. Prioritize their core use and utilization across the organization. This should give you a good inventory and priority list.

3) Navigate the list of vendors like shopping in a grocery store. There are items you buy at a premium, as a commodity and with certain uses. Start with your core and fan out as your budget and capacity allow. For enterprises, understand the procurement process to map out deployment.

4) The “MarTech 5000” slide is a remarkable industry-level indicator and perspective. And… that’s how you should use it!  

When you shop at the grocery store or on Amazon, there an incredible number of items on display. You embrace the noise by focusing on your needs and desires while appreciative of the choices. Sometimes you know what you need, other times you get help.

Consultants, agencies, product companies, analysts and professionals have significantly developed their careers and revenue streams with this visualization. I’m a believer in a modern marketer’s ability and intelligence to handle complexity. It’s not only within our industry – successfully navigating noise is critical in the modern marketplace.

The narrative with Scott Brinker’s incredible creation is to speak to the growing sophistication of the customer experience, the dynamic marketplace and the increasing demand and elevation of the marketing profession (ahem, I mean you customer whisperer).  

Overall, the best takeaway is to focus on how tech can magnify your best customer engagement efforts and surface new opportunities.

David: What advice would you give to marketing teams that are quickly growing and must expand their tech infrastructure accordingly?

Anand: Overall, being self-aware is critical. Overreaching and under investing can hamper successful and optimal execution. Err on the side of staying just a bit hungry for tech. It forces your team and organization to remain lean, insightful and innovative. For leaders, provide them the best information to enabling better decisions.

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