Six focus areas keeping B2B CMOs up at night

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Over the past two months we’ve hosted dozens of B2B chief marketing officers for breakfast (including of course bacon) to share ideas, best practices, hard lessons and priorities for the coming new fiscal and calendar year.

The discussions at each CMO breakfast range widely from strategic to tactical topics, from professional development to managing culture and marketing technology stacks.

But despite the wide variety of topics discussed, the same six focus areas come up every time.  And given the tone and tenor of the conversation, these are clearly the areas taking up the most time.

(If you want to join a future CMO breakfast this fall in Salt Lake City, Denver, Austin, Boston, NYC, Phoenix and other planned markets, please let me know and I’ll send you an invite.  Special thanks to Outreach for literally buying the bacon to make these meetings possible!)

Here they are (in approximate order):

  1. Sales and marketing alignment: Not just conceptually but defining and operationalizing what that looks like on a Tuesday.  Or the last week of the quarter.  There is clearly an increasing gap in performance and impact from B2B marketing organizations that have figured this out, and increasing angst and worry from those who have not.
  2. Attribution:  This includes understanding what’s working, what’s influencing pipeline velocity and closed deals in a complex, multi-touch sale.  Increasingly B2B leaders are thinking about the point of diminishing returns on the extent of visibility reporting their tools and analytics can provide vs more quickly gaining directional insights to make marketing’s impact more immediate and more evident.
  3. Culture and team structure:  What’s the best way to set up a team, for example, to drive success given the complexity of integrated B2B marketing today?  Migrating B2B marketing organizations from a volume/MQL-oriented focus to a revenue-responsible focus includes significant changes in individual roles, skill sets, cross-departmental working relationships and more.
  4. Account-based marketing:  Increasingly ABM is seen as a function of higher-performing marketing teams, not necessarily replacing everything else that had “previously” been working.  The focus (and sometimes fear) among B2B CMOs is around how to effectively and efficiently scale the operation and impact of ABM beyond initial or limited campaigns.
  5. 2019 planning and budgeting amidst execution:  Flying the airplane while you build it isn’t easy, but most B2B marketing leaders don’t have a choice.  This involves managing execution cycles, board meetings and politics not to mention numerous multi-level conversations about marketing’s role, impact, interaction with other customer-facing departments, etc.
  6. Balancing the art and science of B2B marketing:  This includes the struggle to continue bringing new and big ideas to the table while focusing on metrics-driven marketing performance and ROI.  How do you prioritize and rationalize brand and awareness plays when the company demands attributed results to more and more of marketing’s activity?

For the B2B marketing leaders and their teams reading this, I’m curious:

  • Which of these topics made you sweat a little because you’re already working through it yourself internally?
  • Which of them are not yet on your radar to work through but should be?
  • What would you add or replace on this list?

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