5th August 2016


Everyone, no matter what industry they’re in, will ponder at some time what the successful do in their field that sets them apart from the competition. Many may naturally think that the best of the best were either just born gifted, showed up for the right opportunity, or are simply magicians in what they do. While true in a few cases, being gifted or a magician in what one does is usually not the reason for the vast difference between the best and the average. It is not easy to attain the status of being in the top of one’s field, but it’s definitely not impossible.

The fact is that what typically sets the best apart from others is not any particular gifted ability, but a set of routines and a sharp focus on what they want to achieve. If the answer is so easy, then why are so few successful? The reality of the situation is that setting something into motion is far more difficult than simply planning on how to achieve it. This is true for anything in life. But having clearly defined goals is definitively the first step to reaching your goal and should not be underestimated.

Within marketing, ActOn ran a study together with Gleanster Research to specifically find out what the top B2B marketing leaders do differently from others. They surveyed 750 midsize B2B firms with marketing personnel holding either Director, CMO, or Manager positions across several industries asking them what set them apart from the competition. They discovered that there are four specific differences between the top and everyone else.

1. Successful leaders emphasise the importance of customer retention and expansion

Most marketing firms focus on acquiring new customers whilst successful marketing leaders focus their attention on retaining their current customers by keeping them happy. Eventually, this happiness creates a sense of loyalty, and the customers keep coming back whenever they’re in need of the same service. Research showed that 90% of marketing firms spend 2/3 of their time and budget on acquiring new customers. At the same time, most estimate that only 68% of their customers are satisfied. Top performing B2B companies invested around 52% of their marketing budget on customer retention & expansion. Average firms spent 44% on retention & expansion.

2. Successful leaders use available data to inform marketing decisions

Throughout the marketing process, leaders devote much of their time personalising marketing to a customer base by targeting and segmenting with their available data. In fact, successful leaders’ use of personalisation tactics were 30%-75% higher than average firms. How do they accomplish this? Simple. They understand the usefulness of technology and are not afraid to use it. Because of technology, they can manage response rates and satisfaction scores to customise and tailor-fit the experience to different segments. Compared to average firms, leaders are 3 times less likely to struggle with available data and optimising the data for decision making.

3. Successful leaders do not see their marketing positions as constrained to simply marketing

They ensure they manage customer happiness by engaging with them throughout the customer lifecycle. Most firms are fragmented between departments and therefore create no sense of accountability for the firms customers. Once the “marketing” aspect is done, responsibility for the customer is thrown over to the sales team or another department. In successful firms, being there for the customers 100% of the way is what makes the difference and creates a sense of continuity. This results in a stark difference in customer happiness between the average firms and leaders.

4. Successful leaders devote an incredible amount of energy on recruiting and keeping like-minded individuals who have the right set of skills

92% of the leaders considered hiring and retaining the right people a tremendous challenge, while only 50% of average companies thought similarly. By employing the right people with the right skills, leaders can focus on understanding emerging B2B marketing trends far more successfully than the average marketing firm. The average firm seems to not place enough value on understanding emerging B2B tactics and aligning their people with those tactics. Average firms, on the contrary, seemed desperate to find people who could be accountable for process improvement and collaboration between marketing and sales departments.


Four points, simple in theory, hard in practice. Yet knowing what makes a few successful may be the key to unlocking one’s potential. For B2B marketers, being engaged throughout the entire customer lifecycle, employing the right people and technology to align with the organisation’s goals, and focusing a significant amount of time on retaining customers is what makes the leaders successful. Employing the same tactics and following through with them may help a struggling firm today turn into a market leader tomorrow.

This article was written by MPG and informed by the report “Rethinking the Role of Marketing in B2B Customer Engagement” by ActOn and Gleanster Research.

The study was focused on midsize B2B firms in the United States, employing anywhere from 100-1000 employees. The study divided the respondents between average and top performers (leaders). To qualify as a top performer, the firm had to have beat its revenue objectives, manage its end-to-end marketing lifecycle, and have over a 90% customer happiness concerning its services.

To read the full report by ActOn and Gleanster Research, click here.

What Makes a Successful B2B Marketer?

5th August 2016

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