Fred Wiersema on The B2B Agenda

February 14, 2013

Fred Wiersema authored The B2B Agenda: The Current State of B2B Marketing and a Look Ahead after sitting down with more than 100 business marketing executives and researchers to explore the issues and opportunities that are reshaping the field. The report, published by the Institute for the Study of Business Markets at Penn State University, finds the through-lines in our anecdotes, identifying trends and best practices.

Wiersema, a business marketing leader and a distinguished ISBM fellow who chairs the organization’s B2B Leadership Board, will present his findings at the 2013 International BMA Conference in Chicago this May.

He spoke to Buzz about evolution of business marketing.

Buzz: How is the field of b-to-b marketing changing?

Fred Wiersema: There is a major set of issues and new challenges. First, there is massive growth of international and global markets. Countries are becoming industrialized and those building activities require resources and products provided by b-to-b companies. You have double-digit growth in those markets, and then the U.S. markets are growing at 1% or 2%.

Corporations are focusing on the global growth opportunities. You are not dealing with markets that are familiar. You have new issues and challenges. You are far from these countries. You don’t know the distribution systems or how to advertise. Marketers need to figure out how to connect with these markets. It’s a huge challenge.

At the same time, a change in technology is happening. You have social networks and technology available through the cloud. That creates a massive set of issues. How do we connect with the customers who have access to these kinds of networks, who are starting to get far more informed about offerings and companies than they have in the past, because they have ready access to information?

The third aspect: Customers all over the world are far more critical and demanding and have more buying clout and more choices than they used to have. A company really must figure out the angle that will make it stand out among competitors. Senior managers recognize that maybe they need to beef up the marketing function. They have to make marketing more strategic.

Buzz: What does that mean when looking at where marketing falls within a company’s structure?

Wiersema: You have different types of companies. In one model, marketers are the people who have been enabling sales. Another position: Marketing plays a central role. It’s in a position to guide and direct. The centralized approach gives power to marketers in the CMO office, allowing them to build strong interfaces with other parts of the organization.

More and more companies are recognizing that having someone in the CMO role at the top tier of the organization really allows things to be done in a manner that is far more promising than what I’ve seen done before. We are looking at a new CMO role.

Buzz: And you are seeing crossover with other corporate roles?

Wiersema: This has been an ongoing development, and it is one of two critical areas that marketers have to start addressing. Marketers have to come out of their silo and build alliances with other departments. That is a natural development. In more and more companies, marketing is getting far more affiliated with the role of HR. HR is a critical part of what makes them strategically different.

In many companies I see the strengthening of the link between marketing and technology. If that is the critical part of the company, you don’t want your technology people to struggle by themselves. You want to see if you can really infuse their thinking with the customer view that marketers can provide.


"Fred Wiersema on The B2B Agenda." BMA Buzz. 2/14/13.