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When Did Your B2B Team Stop Caring (and What To Do About It) [Rose-Colored Glasses]

When did your marketing team stop caring?

Last week, I asked that question of a CMO at a B2B technology company. I surprised myself by asking it and quickly clarified. I didn’t mean they didn’t care about their jobs. I wanted to know when they stopped caring about the topic of their employer’s business.

A bucket of digital ink has spilled about how customers don’t care about your products. The classic jobs-to-be-done framework (I love it) discusses how potential customers look to solve jobs and don’t care about products. Some of CMI’s earliest posts about content marketing discuss how customers care about their needs, not yours. Finally, the wonderful David Meerman Scott has been writing for the last decade about how no one cares about your product except you.

But it seems marketers have gotten to the point where they don’t care about their products.

Do #B2B marketers even care about their company’s products and topics, asks @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent? Share on X

I recently spoke with a senior marketing director at one of the largest cloud infrastructure companies. I recently asked a client who is a senior marketing director at one of the largest cloud infrastructure companies for a primer on the space and the company’s competition. He replied, “Oh, I don’t know much about that. My job is to make sure leads get into the funnel. I could put you in touch with one of our subject matter experts.”

He wasn’t trying to be difficult. He just didn’t care that much. Increasingly, I find these B2B marketers look at their current efforts as they would a puzzle. They work to fit together the internal and external pieces of creative, processes, data, and measurement. Each is just an intellectual challenge to solve so that they can level up (or stay) in the game. They lack any emotion or interest in the products or the business.

B2B marketing used to be a team sport

Perhaps I’m at the “OK, boomer” stage of being Gen X, but I remember passionate debates 20 years ago. B2B marketing teams were almost fanatics about their business and industry. I remember, especially at highly technical companies, everyone in marketing got excited and emotional about what their company did. Marketing leadership made sure of that.

Twenty years ago, #B2B marketing teams were almost fanatics about their business and industry, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Share on X

Product marketing would evangelize the innovative new features of the product to an excited sales-enablement team. Brand and demand-gen teams constantly learned the finer details of the industry; everyone became a subject matter expert. Marketers attended retreats where they made fun of the competition and brainstormed ways to compete against them as if they were a rival sports team.

Marketing teams cared. Deeply.

But here’s the question for the modern era: As marketing leaders, do you really care if your teams are fully engaged in the topic of your business? Does it matter?

B2B customers demand better

Caring about your company’s business topic should matter.

Last week, a remarkable article by B2B marketing expert Ardath Albee shared a stat from Alan’s Power of Persuasion survey that struck me. A measly 1% (meaning none) of C-level buyers (CMO, CFO, CIO, COO, CEO) believes the B2B marketing they consume shows a “meaningful understanding of the human experience.”

Today’s B2B marketing is as dry, beige, and tasteless as a bowl of oats. You’ve data-driven the taste (i.e., the emotion) out of the content.

B2B marketers have data-driven the emotion out of #content, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Share on X

The Power of Persuasion study found 74% of these C-suite buyers desire an emotional connection with the B2B brands they interact with. Eight-five percent respect brands that have a disruptive opinion of the industry. Ninety-one percent want B2B brands to show a “provocative, challenging and forward-thinking perspective.”

So, here’s my question and how I clarified my query to my CMO colleague: For your B2B marketing to have an opinion, consistently generate emotion, and demonstrate an understanding of the human experience, shouldn’t your marketing teams have at least a little of the same?

Fighting inadvertent indifference

This phenomenon (if you can call it that) does not equate to “quiet quitting,” which involves putting in no more time, effort, or enthusiasm than necessary. Many B2B marketers go above and beyond to solve the puzzles about topics they don’t care a lick about. They just don’t appreciate the importance of knowing the details in their business space.

I call it “inadvertent indifference.” It’s a chicken-and-egg circumstance. Does it happen when companies no longer try to get marketing teams excited about the business’ topic? Or is it just a lack of interest from the marketing employees? Is it both?

At least one mid-sized tech company still gets its marketers engaged and interested in what it does. It hosts a formal training program and sessions. It runs formal internal campaigns and provides all marketing teams with access to industry conferences.

The program resonates with me. When I was CMO of a small but highly technical software company, I knew marketing “enterprise web content management” wasn’t the most exciting career choice. But I also felt like the marketing team needed curiosity, a desire to engage, and knowledge of the space to connect with our customers. They attended regular sessions to learn about the industry, the technology, and why “beating the competition” should be challenging, fun, and emotional.

Interest, not fanaticism

Marketing leaders don’t need to build religious fanaticism around their brand. Nor do businesses have to build this into the DNA of the company. For example, Southwest Airlines builds brand alignment into the interview process. Salesforce sends all new hires through a “yearlong marketing cloud journey” to educate them about the software-as-a-service world.

When B2B marketers are curious to understand the industry, care about it, and feel emotional about adding value to it, they possess a superpower.

I can’t imagine working for a company where I didn’t care – or at least try to care – about the topic of its business. I love consulting because it allows me to learn about many industries and their players. As marketing leaders, you should feel a greater responsibility to teach and inspire your teams to be as excited as possible about your business and marketing’s place in it.

You spend an inordinate amount of time trying to make your customers care about what you do. But if you can’t first get your marketing team to care at least as much as your customers, you won’t be successful.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute