On the one hand, the things that make a great B2B marketing department are the same things that make any department great. Smart people, a structured process, responsive management, an ability to adapt and a healthy budget go a long way toward making all departments a winner.
But the marketing department is special. In my opinion, marketing is the greatest strategic advantage a company can have. Companies with top marketing departments will consistently beat companies with average marketers, no matter what competitive advantages those latter companies may already have otherwise. That’s why more and more leading businesses are filling CEO positions with marketers; the qualities of top CMOs are practically indistinguishable from the skills needed to lead the entire organization.
These are the four traits that time and time again separate a best-in-class marketing department from an average one:
1. They understand how the company makes money: This should be a no-brainer, but there’s often a disconnect between how marketing departments allocate their time and resources and how the company actually makes their money. The classic example is the marketing department that judges success by new customer acquisition while their company makes the bulk of their revenue from existing customers. An average marketing department would end up focused on the wrong metrics while the client-facing staff struggle to retain and grow current clients by themselves. A top marketing department would instead prioritize ways to increase loyalty and upsell current customers rather than chase after new customers.
2. They connect the entire company: Being a skilled communicator and connecting and aligning multiple internal audiences toward a common goal is difficult. Most of your company is focused on one of three things — your product, your sales or your operations. A great marketing leader is someone who can bring the three together in harmony. Multiple point of views and priorities throughout your organization need to be synthesized and aligned to ensure they are serving the customer, not just their own internal goals. This means marketing needs to be a partner to every department, from product development to sales to operations and support staff, not just another department themselves.
3. They focus on the brand, not just the sale: Losing focus on continuously creating brand value to chase short-term revenue opportunities is a cardinal sin of many companies. The top marketing departments are always innovating by creating customer journey maps that articulate the brand at every single touchpoint, even those that belong to sales or support staff, to ensure the brand continues to be consistently delivered. Too many marketing departments limit their thinking about branding to things like their logo, their next ad campaign or their website. But branding is the entire customer experience. From the decor of the lobby to the way the instruction manual is written to the way staff answer the phone, every single touchpoint is a chance to make your brand more or less valuable in the eyes of your customer.
4. They have support from leadership: Rapid transformation has become the new normal. As the needs of customers quickly change, no one is better positioned than marketing to ensure your company keeps up. Top marketing departments are empowered by leadership to dictate the company’s strategy and agenda, rather than simply executing the vision of leadership.