For B2B marketers, June 30th can have a ‘last day of school’ feel about it.  It’s a chance to catch our breath after a full slate of Q1’s kick-offs and launches and Q2’s promotions, tradeshows and roadshows.  But, like today’s kids, who no longer while away the summer playing in the woods or frolicking in the pool, today’s B2B marketers need to use the summer to improve: to build new skills, expand our horizons, and prepare for the new adventures that await us in the fall.  Think of it as Marketing Summer Camp. 

If I were the Activities Director at Camp B2B, I’d build a program of reflection, assessment, and improvement with a focus on::

People:  Make learning a priority.  

Pipeline: Take a hard look at marketing’s contribution to the revenue pipeline. 

Process: Identify your conversion weak spots and remediate. 

People:  Make learning a priority.  There's no dearth of best practice advice for marketers.  The content marketing efforts of marketing automation vendors, and research from analysts and consultants, could fuel a two-year degree program in “Modern Marketing”.  But, no one has time to read it all.  So, crowd source knowledge acquisition. Develop learning objectives for disciplines you believe will improve your execution and performance –writing for SEO; creating a buyer journey map; using ad retargeting, and so on.  Challenge the most appropriate team member to augment her existing knowledge with reading and research, and then share that knowledge in a ‘lunch and learn’.  Give a reading assignment (a book, a research report) and request a ‘book report’. These simple techniques will raise your team’s marketing acumen and create a more collaborative, calibrated team as a bonus.  

Pipeline: Take a hard look at marketing’s contribution to the revenue pipeline.  According to Forrester’s research, 40% of B2B revenues can be attributed to marketing-sourced leads, on average.  For assessment purposes, assume you will not improve your end-to-end conversion ratios (and timescales) over last year.  Are you still on track to meet your 2013 goals?  If not, what programs for accelerated lead acquisition can you launch in September?  What lead development programs can you implement to shorten sales cycles or accelerate deals?  If you are on track, focus on longer-term lead development projects.  For example, use the summer to launch that multi-pronged thought leadership program that you know will help you engage higher level executives.

Process: Identify your conversion weak spots and remediate.  Immediately throw way that assumption that you won’t improve your end-to-end conversion ratios (and timescales) over last year.  Forrester’s research indicates that the average end-to-end conversion ratio (initial lead to closed deal) for B2B marketers is 0.75%.  It doesn’t take a ‘mathlete’ to see that model doesn’t scale.  Time to move beyond ‘funnel thinking’.  It’s no longer enough to move hundreds or thousands of leads through a process of sequential attrition until tens or hundreds of deals emerge.  You need to develop a customer engagement process that optimizes your development of each single lead to a customer …and then repeat that process hundreds or thousands of times. (More on this can be found in a recent blog, Introducing the Lead Escalator).

It’s never been more challenging to be a B2B marketer.  The number and scale of changes hitting us is staggering.  The social and digitally-empowered buyer has forced a philosophical shift from promotion to engagement.  The number of channels through which we engage keeps increasing.  The techniques to optimize digital marketing efforts are arcane and ephemeral.  And, in the face of all this, expectations for marketing performance are higher than ever.  Take advantage of the summer’s promotional hiatus to focus on fundamental improvements in your people, your process and your pipeline performance so you can be ‘match fit’ by September. If you'd like to jumpstart your own Marketing Summer Camp program, join me for a complimentary Forrester Webinar, when I will be hosting a panel of marketing experts who will be discussing strategies to Kick your Demand Gen Up a Notch!