A Primer on Careers in B2B Marketing
Let’s talk about B2B as a whole. Once you enter the B2B world of marketing, you will be seen differently as a marketer. Companies that sell services to other businesses do act differently than a B2C firm like Proctor & Gamble, selling mass consumer products. Or even large tech firms like Google or Apple that are mostly B2C organizations. The roles and thinking at such organizations are surprisingly different than B2B firms of most sizes. For this post, I’m assuming you made a choice at are a B2B marketer.
In my experience, and in speaking with my colleagues over 17 years, most B2B marketers learn on the job. It’s rare for business school courses at any level to address real B2B issues in direct marketing, email marketing, writing brochures, organizational buying psychology, etc. I’m not saying such courses aren’t out there, but they aren’t common to entry level students. Surprisingly, much of what you need to know is out there for free!
B2B Demand Generation Roles
This is my personal summary of the many roles available in marketing. The tasks vary by company and I suspect some readers will view the roles somewhat differently depending on their experiences. Be sure to do research elsewhere and ask great questions when interviewing to really know what you will do or learn.
I’ve found many demand generation roles combine channel, content, and more into one role. I find those roles the best opportunity to learn about the company and to decide where to specialize for a couple of years. This is by no means a complete list of options. There are many differences between small and larger firms in terms of responsibilities and skills required.
[Updated May 14, 2017 with slideshare link that’s easier to view]
|Campaign or Demand Generation Marketer||Entry level, all round marketer. Size of company will determine whether this is a general role or specialized on email or cross-channel programs. Typical day may mean setup for events, email coding, simple reports, deduping, checking things with sales. May work on basic SEO, SEM, and direct response.||Individual contributor at most firms. (Associate, Manager, and Sr levels). Often a jack of all trades, but may specialize in non-event work.
Needs to know how to write copy across channels, email invitations, whitepaper writing, proposals.
May work on martech projects when marketing ops function is not present. Will run reports for managers and sales. Expected to know how to use CRM, Email tools, reports. Some vendor negotiation and selection.
|At small firms this will be “player/coach”. Will lead a small team dedicated to finding leads for Sales. Often responsible for funnel management, reporting, and lead sourcing.
Will design systems. Will work with other departments to align strategy and tactics.
May be responsible for content and events. Expected to coach junior staff in techniques and brand.
Measured on funnel, lead gen, and pipeline.
|Only large firms have a VP of Demand Gen.
Oversees field events, tradeshows, lead generation systems and tools. May oversee marketing operations.
Will be measured on funnel targets and revenue.
Database Marketer (rare at B2B)
|Analyzes email data; may need to code HTML/CSS or does. Loads emails and prepares sends.||Manages the list; analyzes data for segmented messaging and sends; often prepares email sends in the ESP.||Rare: ecommerce or B2C typically.||NA|
|Event Marketer||Often a jack of all trades to handle tasks from email invitations to list management and more.
Contact venues for pricing lists.
Do whatever is needed to make the event a success. May or may not go to the event for onsite support
May manage tradeshows or just field roadshows, often both.
Must be skilled in logistical management and project management.
Must know how to create the environment to facilitate conversation
Skilled at creating an experience.
|Will train team, conduct ROI analyses; work with leadership to ensure the right brand presence and that the onsite experience is congruent with firm and audience goals.
Likely to delegate logistical tasks to team.
May work closely with outside event management agencies to create experiences.
|Very large firms will dedicate teams to large scale tradeshows and possibly field events to aid local salespeople make personal connections. May be a part of Communications team|
|Field Marketing||Setup local events to aid sales in cities. Assist with custom proposals or brochures. Assist sales with local lead gen and reporting efforts. Smaller orgs may have this role with Campaigns and it will include email work by territory or large scale. Work will often include registration data, shipping, ordering, venue work.||Manage territory and multi-territory support for sales. Small organizations will have this role do all of the field setup; may include travel to sites. Manage schedule of events, venue selection, vendor negotiation, data collection, and reporting on success of efforts.||Usually Director of Demand Gen, but larger orgs may have an entire team to support local “field” sales efforts.
Measured on budget use, pipeline, sales happiness, and lead gen efforts.
Expected to train team on becoming more effective lead generators, aligning with sales, and efficiency.
|Rare, but does exist. Usually combined with Demand Generation in the current market.|
|Content & Inbound||Research, learn about buyer personas, use that English degree to write blog posts, etc.
May also fall under PR or Brand.
|Manage editorial calendar, train junior staff, churn out larger papers in conjunction with Product, Product Marketing, Channels, and Sales needs. What’s missing and what’s attracting attention?
Measures inbound numbers.
|Editorial calendar, align teams, ensure content messaging is aligned with company values, goals, and product; ensure audience finds content and uses it.
Measured on asset views and possibly pipeline influence if measured accurately.
|May fall under PR, Branding, or Corporate Marketing.|
|Corporate Marketer||Help analyze data and brand. May work on branding decks, designs, and PR.||Analyze marketing strategy, branding, and overall efforts.
May work a lot with higher level data.
|Often a VP at smaller firms, but depends. May work on brand strategy with product marketing and product. Establish brand personas. May develop buyer personas.
Startups often hire contractors to do this or have the CMO take on the role directly.
|Public Relations/Press/Brand||Tasked with writing press releases, some content. May handle basic press relations and contact work.
Learn about brand and how to use it.
|Work directly with trade press and mass media. May work on inbound content. May help write or manage content production||Works with industry press; analysts; prepares communication strategies around new releases. May manage content production.||Develops relationships with key Press, publications; industry analysts; strategy for new product releases and competitive info. Sets content strategy and messaging|
|Search Engine Optimizer||Analyze keyword traffic to site against goals, content, branding, audience needs.||Analyze keyword traffic to site against goals, content, branding, audience needs.
Manage technical SEO issues; build connections to collect data.
|Set priorities. Manage projects with web team and content to maintain rankings.||Rare.
Very large firms or ecommerce firms.
|Search Engine Marketing/Digital Ads||Analyzes data from ad platforms; prepares ads for distribution; assists with various aspects of Channel.||Analyzes data from ad platforms; manages ad systems and spend. Level of responsibility will vary by company size. Take content and deploy it.||Oversees budgeting; analyzes data and response information. Manages spend in relation to lead and revenue targets.|
|Direct Response Advertising||Assist in analysis of response data; list; deployment of programs; learn analysis techniques. Assist in production with vendors.||Prepare new campaigns. Manage list and segmentation. Collect and analyze response data to manage spend/revenue ratio. May work with vendors; may run creative portion of campaigns.||Manage and analyze list and response data. Work with vendors on list targeting, spend, and ratios. Manage production of pieces and vendors. Oversee creation of pieces and campaigns.||Usually seen at print publications or direct response organizations.|
|Creative/Graphic Design||Wide variety of roles from graphic designer to copywriter and more. Take messaging and brand guidelines into appropriate visuals for each distribution channel.||May manage junior designers; more latitude for creativity. May work with vendors or agencies.||Provide brand direction to team. Provide brand guidance to CMO and other teams.
Possibly set brand guidelines or re-create brand.
Work with outside agencies if needed on all audience facing materials
Wait, what about Product Management or Product Marketing?
These functions tend to exist only in technology firms or firms that have a strong platform system. Occasionally, the roles are merged. Most of the time, as a tech startup grows, the functions split off, sometimes with Product retaining the Product Marketing piece, sometimes PMMs moving to Marketing. Since I have limited experience here, I’d suggest reading more about these two areas. Interested in User Experience or Design?
What happened to “Integrated Marketing”?
Integrated Marketing means different things to different people. Generally it tries to coordinate efforts across communication channels. Definitions vary a bit depending on the context. I’ve seen advertising groups use the term “integrated marketing” more as a mirror of what clients wanted to do such that the publisher offered a multi-channel content pitch. I can’t comment much more since I haven’t personally done this.
Should I specialize? Can I be a generalist marketer?
In any career, there is always a question of being a specialist vs. generalist. I would argue you may find the most success doing both over time:
- Early: start in a generalist role for one to two years, find out where you want to learn for the next 2-5 years.
- Mid-Early: specialize in two to three areas at your firm (ideal) or at one or three firms. Try to mentor or take on a team if possible.
- Mid: specialize and or use the combination of specialized work you did to rise up in one area, but aim to lead teams and projects more in your area.
- Later: use your mix of specializations to take on a team and spend more time on people and strategy. You will become more of a generalist again, but in a new way.
Always understand where you want to go in the next 2 years. The “where you want to be in five years” is too far out to discuss intelligently. While you may want to be a VP or CMO one day, the exact path isn’t always obvious in B2B. If you are great at email marketing, perhaps it’s time to learn a new channel, or use those skills to take on SEO/SEM optimization, or to lead a team that does only email channel work.
As you rise up, you will also need to consider people management as a discipline. Technical skills will get you pretty far, however, the ability to manage people to attain goals will always make a difference to go beyond Director or Sr. Manager.
Study What Other Marketers Do
Always study and learn from those who went before you. Whether it’s a guru like Seth Godin, or your CMO. It’s likely no one took the same path. There are some CMOs who rise up through demand gen, others through product marketing. If you are early in your career, it may be ideal to work across two to four marketing disciplines, then specialize in one. For example, I’ve received advice to work in product marketing as I already have sales and demand generation experience. Other specializations to consider are SEM, SEO, and advertising. No one path is perfect for everyone.
Learning Resources for the Aspiring B2B Marketer
Learning B2B marketing and its various flavors can be challenging outside of actual work. A great marketer is always learning from others, so I recommend a few starting points. Most of us learned on the job and from helpful vendor or consulting sites.
- Learn Demand Generation – article from Integrate, who publishes a lot of helpful templates.
- HubSpot – always helpful to the newcomer.
- Marketo – their Definitive Guides taught me a lot and continue to offer solid blueprints.
- Act-On – another marketing automation vendor that has written about how to do things.
- Sirius Decisions – while most of the details are behind the paywall, they are highly influential on funnel dynamics.
- TOPO – home of the Funnelholic (Craig Rosenberg) and focused on Sales portion of the funnel.
- MECLabs – full of interesting research if you can access it.
There is plenty of content out there from vendors or practitioners. Your ability to absorb it and take the useful parts will help distinguish you from your fellow marketers.