How to structure your global B2B marketing organization

7 steps to guide you through the process

by Barnabas Szantho Germany's leading B2B marketing portal

Starting at one of my former marketing leadership roles at a global B2B company, I kicked off with the usual exercise. I talked to all the regional sales and marketing leaders to see how we were doing and what the major pain points for those in charge for local delivery were. It very quickly became clear, that we had a structural problem in global marketing.

The main complaint from the markets was, that they didn’t know who the marketing go to persons were, and that they generally had no idea what global initiatives would land on their desks in the coming week. Digging deeper and mapping the various touchpoints it became clear that the problem was even bigger. The company had 4 different groups for developing and rolling out marketing campaigns. Two global marketing teams, an e-commerce team and the local marketing units. All of them trying to talk to the customer (and to local marketing) in parallel. At one point, this led to the company launching 8 different campaigns in one month, targeting the same audience. Eight in a month is a lot even in B2C, but in B2B that’s a recipe for disaster.

As with all major overhauls, I first looked for case studies or any kind of credible content on the topic of structuring a global B2B marketing organization. Surprisingly there weren’t many. We had worked with a reputable consultancy on another project at the time, but they too were struggling to point to valuable resources. This meant we had to start more or less from scratch. Below is a summary of the lessons learned from this process, a list of points that can guide someone through such a project.

1. Think about the role marketing plays in any B2B organization
The main goal of B2B marketing is supporting sales in selling more. Unlike in B2C, you can develop the best possible campaign, the most compelling artwork, but if sales is not on board and following up, you are basically throwing money out the window. The role of B2B marketing is getting more and more prominent. Digitalization enables the customer, and offers a thousand new ways to gather product information, reviews and comparisons prior to placing any call. Twenty years ago the average customer had to reach out fairly early in the buying process, due to the complexity of the offering and / or lack of information. Today, the shortlisting and a large part of the decision are already made when buyers first contact vendors directly. It has therefore become an ever-growing task of marketing to influence these “invisible” buyers.

2. Design a generic Buyer Journey
If influencing the buyer journey is the goal, it most likely is a safe bet to start by drafting it. Following a couple of sales and customer interviews, you will end up with a diagram showing the steps a typical buyer takes before purchasing your typical product.

3. Map your sales funnel to the buyer journey
Every company has a different approach to sales operations and the sales funnel itself. I have worked with funnels that included up to 7 individual steps, all with corresponding documentation and data collection points, and also fairly simple ones that were no longer than the obvious trio of “Lead”, “Opportunity”, “Order”. What’s important to keep in mind is, that adjusting the existing sales funnel is in most cases out of scope. You have to look at what’s available, how the company is currently trying to cover the Buyer Journey with sales milestones and build this into your outlined diagram. A good understanding of the sales process will be key to your success.

4. Listing the sales tasks along the Journey
Now it’s time to add more granularity to your diagram. In order to get a better idea of how marketing can best support sales, it is important to understand what is expected of sales at different milestones in the funnel. Try to capture these in various discussions with different stakeholders.

5. List all potential supporting marketing activities
You have an understanding of how the Buyer Journey looks like and what sales has to do. It is now a fairly simple exercise to think about all the resources and tools that are available to marketing in your organization and allocate them to the different steps. The final list will very much depend the underlying marketing strategy dictated by the business, whether it is outbound, inbound or as specific as ABM.

6. Design a process by which these activities can be carried out
You now have a good understanding of the funnel and what deliverables can be expected from your marketing teams. It is time to get closer to your original goal of creating an organizational structure. You first need to design a creation cycle, a description of activities that will lead to those deliverables. You can start by grouping and categorizing what is expected, and asking yourself what process steps are required.

7. Create a team structure capable of playing and repeating the process
Now it is known what marketing is required to deliver and how the process looks like that will ensures this delivery. Thanks to all preparation defining the structure and FTEs becomes a rather easy exercise. Always start with what would be ideal and only match reality and ideal as a last step. This way your thinking pattern is not influenced by the many perceived limitations, and you will also have a blueprint for future growth in the back of your mind.

What your final team structure will look like depends on what activities you have to deliver and what tools or channels you have available. This process-oriented approach will help you identify missing elements in the list of activities and make you think about new channels and untapped opportunities. As with any restructuring you need to ensure that the changes are properly communicated. Friction cannot be avoided when new roles and structures are taking shape. It won’t be a win-win for everyone, but by focusing on what is needed and how that can be delivered, you will have a credible basis to justify the changes.

(The article was published on 28th of January 2023 on Marconomy, Germany’s leading B2B marketing portal.)

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