Holger Schulze, Marketing Director at SafeNet, recently posted a great question to the 9,040 members of LinkedIn’s B2B Marketing group.

“Can you use ONE WORD to describe the biggest challenge facing B2B marketing today?”

I love this question for two reasons.  One, it forces a focussed answer.  And two, it explores the challenges we have in common – the problems we share – thus acting as a catalyst for collective improvement.

The response also revealed how active the B2B Marketing community is – at the last count, 162 people had replied.

Given the volume of opinion I thought I’d help the digestion process by creating a word cloud.  Following a quick tidy up of the data (seems not everyone got the “one word” bit) here’s what was revealed (PowerPoint download):

B2B marketing challenges word cloud

A caveat of course accompanies this.  The nature of the forum and those responding means that there is inevitably a degree of bias.  However, I think it’s an interesting snapshot and pointer none-the-less.

The first thing that strikes me is the diversity of challenges that we, as an industry, are felt to face.  100 separate phrases were used from “risk” to “pyrite” to “boardroom”.  Amongst the chatter though, there are some clear themes with ten words accounting for one third of responses.  In descending order of popularity:

  1. Data
  2. Differentiation
  3. Relevance
  4. Content
  5. Budgets
  6. Focus
  7. Trust
  8. Segmentation
  9. Insight
  10. Innovation

Notably, many of these challenges relate either to the basic principles of marketing – using customer insights and a segmented view to stand out in a profitable manner – or a key executional tool – data.  For all the column inches given to new trends like social media and marketing technology, it’s still the fundamentals which seem to keep marketers awake at night.

“Trust”, “relevance” and “content” also jumped out at me.

“Trust” as it features alongside words such as “honesty”, “genuineness”, “sincerity” and “integrity”.  This is a concern.  Bearing in mind the question relates to B2B marketing as a profession, some seem to lack faith in the decency of their peers.

The word “relevance” is also interesting.  It could potentially mean one of two things – ensuring relevance to the customer (external) or ensuring marketing is seen as relevant by the rest of the organisation (internal).  Given the context and use of other words such as “boardroom” the latter seems most likely.  It appears one of the biggest challenges then is not related to the market, but to internal politics.

And finally, “content”.  This picked me up as it ties in with the idea that we’re entering a refreshing new era defined by collaboration and the sharing of ideas.  How nice.

Find out more about how Circle Research’s B2B research services can help you overcome these challenges.

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About Andrew

Andrew has specialised in B2B research for over a decade and co-founded Circle Research in 2006. He is a columnist for B2B Marketing Magazine, a regular contributor to Research Live and frequent speaker at leading events such as the B2B Leaders Forum, Customer Experience Live and the Social Media World Forum. Andrew is a Chartered Member of the MRS, teaches the MRS B2B research course and holds an MA in Psychology from Aberdeen University alongside an MSc in Marketing from Strathclyde University.

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