81 Things I‘ve Learned About B2B Marketing
You could say I stumbled into my marketing career.
My path looked something like this:
- I got a degree in magazine journalism and briefly worked in that field. Less than a year later, the magazine was acquired by another company and my position was eliminated.
- I landed in the editorial department of New York City tourism. Still not technically marketing, but I was creating content to “ sell” New York City to tourists.
- I moved to Boston and got a job on the content team at a public relations agency. I spent a lot of time working with founders, developers and heads of engineering departments at B2B tech companies. I didn’t interact with many marketers.
- I moved back to the New York City area and landed a job doing branded content strategy in the employer branding space. I did work with the marketing team a lot. But I was on the customer success team.
- Eventually, I made my way to an official marketing team at a B2B tech company, where I’m responsible for our global content and social media strategy.
It turns out, there’s a lot you can learn about marketing from… well… not working in marketing at first. It also turns out, having jobs in related fields is really helpful when you eventually land one on a marketing team. So, whether you’re a growth marketer, content marketer, email marketer, social media marketer or just work with the marketing team, here are 81 things I’ve learned about marketing over the years.
- Best practices can only get you so far. I prefer to think of them as nothing more than a starting point. Take the ones that work for you, adapt them as needed, and discard the rest.
- The simplest things can take the most time.
- The most complicated things are sometimes the easiest. You know, the ones you’ve been avoiding for weeks?
- The smallest tweaks can make the biggest difference — from one word in a subject line to the placement of a button on a page.
- And sometimes the biggest tweaks change nothing at all. Trust me on this one.
- Never get too comfortable. It’s great if things are working, but what if they could be working even better? Always try new things.
- Just don’t try to do all the new things at once. No matter how excited you are.
- Try not to create extra work for yourself. There’s a fine line between being proactive and overdoing it.
- Don’t copy your competitors — think differently from them. Or take what they’re doing and do it better. There’s no way to get ahead by doing the same thing.
- There’s so much to learn from companies that have nothing to do with your industry.
- It’s not only about products. Yes, it’s marketing’s job to support sales. And sales wants to sell more products. But if you aren’t selling the “why” behind those products or helping your customers get the most out of them, you’re only doing part of your job.
- A lot of people will have a lot of opinions — A lot of them don’t work in marketing. Definitely hear them out, but it’s up to you to determine what’s best for the customer.
- Put in the work to understand who you’re marketing to. There’s always more you can do to understand your target audience(s).
- Look for inspiration in unlikely (and even “boring”) places. Like customer support tickets.
- Keep a notebook handy so you’re ready when inspiration strikes.
- One type of content is rarely enough. You spent too much time on that project to let it just sit there as a blog post. Go forth and repurpose!
- But that doesn’t mean you should repurpose everything the same way. Be intentional.
- Plans and priorities change all the time. The key to staying sane is learning to be adaptable. It isn’t always easy, but it’s definitely worth it.
- Time spent talking to your customers is never wasted. Tag along when your sales team visits customers. If you can’t do that right now, ask to join a call.
- While you’re at it, ask those customers questions. What are their biggest challenges? What information do they want to see from your company?
- Do not say yes to everything. Even if it’s tempting.
- That crazy idea just might work… but only if you share it with other people.
- Better questions get better answers. Sometimes, finding the right questions is more than half the battle.
- Every single person at the company knows something that can make you better at your job.
- Technical topics don’t necessarily require technical writing. Simplifying is harder, but usually worth it.
- Just because you can measure it doesn’t mean it’s worth measuring. Metrics for the sake of metrics won’t serve anyone.
- And some things just can’t be measured the way you wish they could. Thankfully, metrics aren’t the only way to show success.
- Question the data. Is it as accurate as possible?
- Qualitative findings can be just as important as quantitative ones.
- Your internal target audience (sales) matters as much as your target customer. Tailor your communication to who you’re talking with. What do they already know about marketing? What do they care about?
- Curiosity is one of the best traits you can have. Go down those rabbit holes every once in a while.
- Always have someone review what you write — especially if it’s technical. ALWAYS if it’s technical.
- Writing skills are so important.
- Sometimes you can say it in five words. Sometimes you need to say it in 1,000 words. Know the difference.
- And sometimes you need to say it in three different formats on three different platforms.
- Email is not dead. But it is crowded. You need to take some risks and test some things to stand out.
- A small budget can go a long way. Sometimes you don’t realize how scrappy and creative you are until you have limitations.
- A big budget will get you nowhere if you don’t use it strategically.
- You’re responsible for teaching others at your company about what you do, why it’s important and how they can help. It might not be in your job description, but the fact is, the marketing department is often misunderstood.
- You can sell without selling. Hosting a webinar is selling. Sharing a helpful piece of content is selling. Helping a customer troubleshoot a problem is selling.
- Always ask yourself: “why should someone spend time interacting with this piece of content? What value does it provide?”
- Don’t assume what your audience knows. The day you start assuming what your customer already knows is the day you stop serving your customer in the best way possible.
- One touchpoint is never enough. Two, three, and four touch points usually aren’t either.
- Marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.
- Share lessons learned, useful articles, course notes, etc. with your team. Don’t just keep those learnings to yourself.
- Spend a lot of time on the subject line. It could be the difference between your next customer engaging or moving on to something more interesting.
- Embrace what you don’t know. It’s perfectly fine to tell that team member in engineering that you have no idea how the new product works.
- Don’t stop asking questions until you get all the information you need. It might feel uncomfortable, but you’ll be glad you did.
- If you think you’re communicating well, communicate better.
- Write something, let it sit for a while, and then come back to review. Especially if you’ve been writing it for a long time.
- Time spent talking with coworkers is never wasted… even if it’s not about work
- Take a step back every now and then and think about how much you’ve accomplished. Marketing has a lot of responsibilities and things can get pretty chaotic. Try not to lose sight of your successes.
- Prioritizing sounds great in theory. It’s much harder in practice and you might have to re-prioritize multiple times a week (or day, depending on the week).
- You’re a teacher as much as you’re a marketer. There’s so much other departments can learn from marketing, just as there’s so much you can learn from them.
- There’s often no place for “this isn’t in my job description”. Especially on smaller marketing teams.
- Related: time spent helping a coworker is never wasted.
- Meetings or calls just to catch up are also never wasted.
- The sooner you develop a thick skin, the better — criticisms are rarely personal.
- Keep a list of who at your company can answer which types of questions. You’ll refer to it all the time.
- Don’t post that boring stock photo. You know the one.
- Celebrate your coworkers — not just work successes but life celebrations, too.
- Go to the [virtual] networking event, attend the [virtual] industry conference.
- Be (politely) disagreeable. Challenging your coworkers doesn’t mean you’re difficult. It means you care about the outcome.
- Always provide context. If you’re asking the sales team to share recent media coverage, tell them why it’s important and worth their time.
- Being confused can be a great thing. If you’re confused, odds are one or more of your customers is confused, too.
- Connect with your customers and their companies on LinkedIn. It’s a great way to understand what they care about and what’s happening in their industries.
- The customer relationship doesn’t end after the sale is made. Ask yourself: “how can I make our customers feel like they made the right decision?”
- Find a great designer who “gets you” and your company.
- … And a great video vendor.
- And a great PR firm.
- And a great (freelance) writer or two.
- Get comfortable following up with people. You’ll be doing a lot of it — especially with your coworkers.
- Sending emails is more an art than a science. Yes, even internal emails.
- When it comes to closing a deal, it’s usually not about price. At least it’s not only about price.
- SEO is not a part-time job. People might tell you it is. Trust me, a truly thought-out SEO strategy isn’t.
- Even if you don’t work in customer service, you work in customer service.
- Don’t make people work too hard to find what they need. From sales enablement resources to information on your website, make it easy for people to find what they’re looking for.
- If you need to promote something important, one place on your website is never enough. Cross-linking is your friend.
- It’s possible to know too much about your products. Especially when those products are very technical. Those tiny details can bog down your creativity.
- … but not too much about your industry.
- It’s possible to over-edit your work (or someone else’s). There’s more than one way to write a great blog post, video script, social media post, byline, etc. Keep an open mind.
Which of these do you agree with? What would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments.
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