Hi, welcome to another B2B Marketing and More episode. Today I have a special guest. Stacey Danheiser is the founder and CMO of SHAKE Marketing Group and a host for Soar Marketing Society, a community on Mighty Network. So if you are interested in joining, check that out.
Stacey has worked with many companies simultaneously, being in the CMO positions. Now, she is a mentor and has also created many marketing training programs for B2B Marketers. Today we talk about top B2B marketing competencies.
In this episode:
- What are the number one soft skills that marketers should possess
- B2B marketing competencies vs skill sets – what is the difference
- What is the set of competencies
- What is the VALUE Framework
- How do B2B marketing competencies rank between themselves
- How can marketers learn B2B marketing competencies
- What is the role of strategic thinking
- Actionable suggestions for marketers to hone competencies regularly
Quotes from the episode:
“The reality is that marketing should own customer research, and marketing should have its pulse on what the customer needs or wants, values, or expects.”
“Nobody, especially working in an in-house agency or a corporate job, will come and tell you what you need to learn. It’s really up to you, and this is like your own personal growth and your development that you get to own, so make that a priority. ”
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To expand your knowledge about B2B marketing competencies and skills, check out some of my previous podcast episodes, blog posts, and video.
Pam Didner: Hi, welcome to another B2B Marketing and More episode. Yay! Today I have a special guest. Stacey Danheiser is the founder and CMO of SHAKE Marketing Group and a host for Soar Marketing Society, a community on Mighty Network. So if you are interested in joining, check that out. She has worked with many companies simultaneously, being in the CMO positions. Now, she is a mentor and has also created many marketing training programs for B2B Marketers. So Stacey, welcome.
Stacey Danheiser: Hi. I’m so happy to be here. Thanks for having me.
Pam Didner: Yay! So I have a couple of questions for you.
Stacey Danheiser: Sure.
Pam Didner: I know that in your program, you are talking about the skill sets that are needed for B2B marketers, and I work with many B2B marketers and me included, for an extended period of time, we tend to focus on hard skill sets, like search engine marketing, email marketing, event marketing, yet soft skill sets are so important.
So what are the number one soft skills, from your perspective, that marketers should possess?
Stacey Danheiser: Yes. Well, we’re gonna go into B2B marketing competencies a little bit more, but from a skill perspective, I would say marketers are expected to be amazing communicators and highly creative. Creativity happens to be, and I think, the number one in-demand skill year after year. So marketers only focusing on the hard skills aren’t necessarily taking the time to become creative, which is really what the business needs marketers to be.
Pam Didner: You know, that’s very interesting. Before you answered the question, you mentioned B2B marketing competencies, and from my perspective, competencies and skill sets are very similar. Do you have a different definition for that?
Stacey Danheiser: We like to discuss skills as what you need to do to succeed in your job.
Pam Didner: Okay.
Stacey Danheiser: So if you’re a social media manager, you need to know how to use social media. You need to know about content creation, right? You might need to know how to create ads. That’s kind of what you need to do. On the other hand, B2B marketing competencies are more about the behaviors and how you do your job. So how do you show up as a social media manager? It’s the things that aren’t often discussed, and you might not necessarily see them in a job description as to what it will take to be a successful person in that role.
Pam Didner: When you were talking about it, the only thing I can think of is like the softer skill set.
Stacey Danheiser: Exactly. It’s maybe what we would traditionally call a softer skill set, but it’s also leadership.
Pam Didner: Yeah.
Stacey Danheiser: It’s what somebody is looking for to promote. If you have two marketers who are both great at SEO, that’s the skill, which one do you promote? Do you promote… And if they have equal skill sets in that area, you promote the one showing leadership capabilities and B2B marketing competencies beyond just the skills they need to succeed in the job.
I wanna take a step back and introduce you to the framework; ’cause we did a bunch of research on well, what are these B2B marketing competencies that today’s modern marketers should have to be successful in their role. And so it all started a couple of years ago, when we did research, we started noticing a trend that… If you looked at the websites, Twitter feeds, and LinkedIn feeds of companies operating in a similar industry, they all started to sound the same. Everybody was pretty much copying and pasting each other.
And so we wanted to know why this was happening. And you could go into… This is, I think, where the creativity piece evolves from, right?
Because companies wanna stand out, they want to feel like they’re doing something different or bringing something different to the world.
But we were interested in why this is happening from a marketing perspective, and we found that it’s not because marketers didn’t know what to do. It’s because there was a skill set gap or a competency gap within the marketing function.
So people were getting into these roles, had high demands to get something out there fast. Well, what’s the fastest way to do it? You go, and you look at what your competitors are doing. You scrape their story from their website and then put it onto your own, changing some of the words and making it sound slightly different. And so what emerged from that research was a set of B2B marketing competencies that we call the VALUE framework because it’s an acronym that spells value.
Pam Didner: What are these five?
Stacey Danheiser: Yes, so the first one is visionary, which is the ability to look ahead, to use your imagination, to have your pulse connected to what’s happening in the market, and not only your industry but your customer’s industry, so that you can see ahead and build strategies. The second one is A for activator, which is the ability to get things done, which marketers traditionally rate themselves very high on, but also to collaborate and get buy-in and say no to ideas that may not work for the business.
The third one is L for a learner, which is not only just staying in touch with your career path and the upskilling and reskilling required to just be a marketer, but also what you are doing to learn about your competitors, your market, your customers, and even your business and your company products and your company priorities.
The fourth one was U for usefulness, which is the ability to connect the dots from, on one side of the bridge, what the customer cares about and values to the other side of the bridge, which is what your company sells.
How are you leading your customers over that bridge? You can’t be useful to customers if you don’t understand both sides of that equation.
And then finally, the E is for the evaluator, which is the data analytics side and the ability to objectively look at your marketing activity, look at what’s happening and to be able to analyze it and make decisions based on that. This one requires a bit of political savviness because, as we know, as marketers, many opinions are being thrown around internally, and pet projects come from the CEO or the head of the product. So this is being objective, analyzing the data, and making sense of it so you can use it to make decisions.
Pam Didner: Got it! I would say those are a lot of B2B marketing competencies or the skillset people need to possess, and it’s a journey.
It’s a multi-year type of effort. You have written a book, talk about it. For these five different competencies, is there one more important than the others? Or is there any way to learn the B2B marketing competencies at once?
Stacey Danheiser: Yes. Yeah, that’s a great question. So the book is called Stand-Out Marketing, and we are just launching a self-assessment tool so that somebody can go on and figure out where they have the biggest gaps across the five. I’ve done the polls for other audiences; typically, the one that seems to be rated the lowest is trending amongst marketers. What do you think it is?
Pam Didner: Vision?
Stacey Danheiser: Yeah, it’s visionary.
Pam Didner: Either vision or evaluating?
Stacey Danheiser: Yep. Yeah, suppose you think back to a few years. In that case, there’s been this push for data-driven marketing, so I think you’re starting to see more people sort of comfortable in that role of thinking ahead about what data I need to collect.
Pam Didner: That makes a lot of sense. I like that. Yup.
Stacey Danheiser: I think the gap is around this visionary piece.
Suppose you look at the CMO tenure, the marketing position turnover, and the CEOs’ frustration. In that case, marketers aren’t tapped into business priorities and can connect to suggesting marketing activity that aligns with the business. So this requires a lot of strategic thinking and permission to give yourself time to think strategically, versus what I think a lot of companies tend to do is, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that there’s a bunch of steps in the foundation that we have to build, but let’s just go execute, and let’s put something out there and let’s see how it does.”
And what ends up happening with that approach is that you sure get results. Still, you’re sporadic about collecting that information versus being intentful and purposeful about where you want to focus. So to answer your question, we have a self-assessment tool that we’re building to help somebody identify those. The second piece of that, like which one is the most important, really depends on the organization.
Pam Didner: I like that answer. Yeah.
Stacey Danheiser: Because there are different stages of companies, there are different sizes of marketing teams. And I would take a holistic approach to it. When I work with organizations, kind of looking at the skill sets on the team, if you have a strong team of activators and you have nobody doing the evaluation and nobody doing the visionary piece, well, then that’s the gap, and that’s what you should be focused on, is filling that gap.
Pam Didner: True. True.
Stacey Danheiser: Whether you’re upscaling somebody or potentially bringing on a new hire in that area, that’s how the prioritization would work, so these can all be learned. It can.
Pam Didner: Yeah.
Stacey Danheiser: Each chapter has an explanation of what competency is.
There are some exercises and self-assessments that you can do to figure out how you would score yourself, and then there are suggestions and ways to improve each area.
Pam Didner: So, Stacey, I love your answer and want to do a quick summary for my audience very quickly. Granted, I ask a very specific question. I say, “Hey, these are the five skill sets. Which one should we go first?” And Stacey said, determining down your gap, and there’s an assessment that you can do. And then, you can determine with your assessment where maybe you fell a little short or maybe the area you have the biggest strength.
From my perspective, there are two ways to work on this. You can improve the areas you need, or you can continue to work on your strength and make your strengths shine. But doing an assessment, I think, is very, very important. So your answer is wonderful. Take the assessment and use your assessment to determine the gap and what you want to do next.
With that being said, Stacey, is there any specific link that people can do that assessment? Is that assessment free at this time?
Stacey Danheiser: It is not ready. However, you can go sign up. There’s a… Can I share a link?
Pam Didner: I will add that into the show description and as a part of my podcast and the video.
Stacey Danheiser: Yep, great.
Pam Didner: Fantastic. So with that being said, I have a couple more questions. You mentioned strategic thinking. I’m using myself as an example. I was a CPA, and I was incredibly operations-driven. And strategic thinking was never my Forte, ever. For 10, 15 years of my career, I’m always focused on how. When I took on a strategic role in creating a global marketing plan for an enterprise, I struggled tremendously for the first two years. I have colleagues who came to me and said, “This is a bunch of tactics. It’s not strategic enough, and I asked, “What does it even mean to be strategic?” And took me a long time to understand that.
You brought a very good point in terms of for marketers to understand the business imperative and also the business goals of a company, and that’s how I started when I started thinking strategically, is understand the business goal, the revenue goal, what are the sales people trying to do, what are some of the key things we want to accomplish? And then understand it, internalize it, then take that and try to incorporate it as a part of my marketing strategy. That’s what I see as strategic thinking. What is your thought on that? Can you provide additional insight?
Stacey Danheiser: Yeah. I love that. That is strategic, knowing why you’re doing something. So I spent 14 years in corporate marketing working for five Fortune 500 companies, so…
Pam Didner: We can talk about that.
Stacey Danheiser: Yeah.
Pam Didner: We have been in the corporate world for a long time.
Stacey Danheiser: For a long time. So I have a lot of stories about the marketing planning process, but what I’ve found, and this is still happening pretty prevalently, is that depending on the marketer and how strategic they are, a lot of people start with how right? “Here’s what I need you to do. I need you to go build a website.” “Okay, how are we gonna do it?”
Pam Didner: “We need to do an event.”
Stacey Danheiser: “We need to do an event.” “Okay, great. How do we get started? And let’s go build out the tactics.” But it’s stopping yourself before you jump to that level and asking the question, why. Why are we doing this? What do we seriously want to achieve? And how do we know if we’ve achieved it? What does success look like for this program? So I think a lot of companies, especially in my day in corporate, did a lot of events because we had always done events. Of course, we will show up at this trade show because that’s what you do. But…
Pam Didner: And sales have been asking for it. And because sales want the events to happen, it’s a trade show, so they can get leads, and therefore we do it. Yeah.
Stacey Danheiser: Yes. So it’s the marketer, starting to think strategically, is stopping and saying, “Why? Why do we wanna do this? What are you trying to achieve?” And you’ll find this interesting. Many assume that these answers are understood, but when you pause and ask that question to the person making the request, they don’t even know half the time. They’ll stop and say, “Oh, that’s a really good question. What are we trying to achieve with this? How will we measure the success of this?”
And so it forces people to sort of think through the request they’re making, and maybe events are not the answer. Maybe there’s a different way to come up with the outcome that people are looking for, rather than spinning up a whole bunch of work that will take six months to come to fruition. So…
Pam Didner: Yeah.
Stacey Danheiser: That would be kind of number one to get in the mindset of asking that question, why?
The second thing that I think helps to start thinking more strategically, especially as a marketer, is what I would call the customer-focused mindset.
I think this is missing in many organizations that are very inward-driven. They sit in a group around salespeople, product people, and executives, and they all speculate about what the customer may want. The reality is that marketing should own customer research, and marketing should have its pulse on what the customer needs or wants, values, or expects.
And unless you’re in an organization that’s budgeting for customer research, which I’ve found most B2B organizations are not, then your avenue for getting input from customers is either you need to build your relationship with customers and ask these questions directly as a marketer, or travel along with the sales team, and build the respect and relationship with the sales team, so they start inviting you along to have these conversations directly with their customers.
And so this will help you be a more strategic thinker because you’ll have another data point which is, “Here’s what my company wants to do, I have their goals, and I understand what we’re trying to achieve, but what do my customers want and how do I… Like I said earlier, kind of bridge the gap between the two.” And so forcing yourself to always be thinking about the customer, and is this adding value to their world, how is this gonna help us, how does this help the customer? That’s a piece that helps you think more strategically, and then kind of along with the research piece, and I know there’s maybe an unpopular opinion about how much time to spend with competitors.
But the reality is that we have ended up in this sea of sameness because marketers have not focused on what the competition is doing.
So said, in another way, we know that customers are looking at 10 or 15 pieces of content. They’re looking at multiple vendors, and so putting yourself in the shoes of the customer would then help you as a marketer see that is what you’re creating contributing to the noise, or is it truly differentiated and helpful and educational and progressing the customer’s journey along a little bit further. So I advise marketers to spend time doing that competitor research because that helps them create something more useful.
Pam Didner: And I 100% agree with you regarding marketers like us in addition to doing our job. We have a lot of jobs we have to do and tactics and deliverables, but also understanding the competitors is very critical, which is apt to connect different thoughts, and that’s one thought that you should connect and contribute in terms of the thinking strategically.
Stacey Danheiser: Can I add one more thing that I have a very strong point of view for marketers to think strategically again. So it does not just understand how your customers buy, the buying process, and the decision-making process they go through, but it’s also about understanding the sales process and so…
Pam Didner: Exactly, the topic. I love the sales part of it. Sales Enablement!
Stacey Danheiser: Yes. So this is very interesting because, again, I spent a lot of time in corporate marketing, and when I started my career in B2C, realizing we didn’t have a sales team. We were the sales team, and the marketing engine was sales. We had big budgets to support that as well. So when I switched to B2B, I was pretty surprised at how little my budget was. Marketing didn’t have a big influence on the company. It was the sales team that owned a lot of that influence. And so I realized very early on that I needed to build a relationship with my sales team if I was going to be successful in my role as a marketer.
Pam Didner: So true.
Stacey Danheiser: Yes. So one of the first things I did was an annual sales training, so there was product training that the sales team had to go through, and then there was sales methodology or process training. And so I’m asked to attend both of those, and I remember when I showed up to the sales methodology training, the trainer said, “Why is there a marketer in here?” And I said, “What do you mean?” He’s like, “I can’t remember the last time we had a marketer in the sales training.” And it was true. All the sellers are looking at me like, “Why are you here?” And I said, “We all want the same thing. We’re both trying to get customers.”
Pam Didner: Yeah.
Stacey Danheiser: “If I understand how you guys are doing your job, I can help you figure out where I can fit in.”
Pam Didner: You can do a better job supporting them. Yes.
Stacey Danheiser: Yes. And not only just supporting them, but also the customers, and like I wanna know each of the touch points that the customers need to help them make that decision. So we started working together once they knew I understood the sales process and read sales books. Then from that point on, I attended sales methodology training at every company I went to because I was interested. I wanted the sales team to develop a good working relationship and speak the same language so that we knew it wasn’t marketing versus sales. It was marketing and sales, and how can we work together? So that’s another piece that I would add for marketers to think more strategically is understanding the sales process.
Pam Didner: Okay. So for folks who are listening, that was coming directly from Stacey. I did not even prep her to say that, which was also one of the major reasons I wrote my second book, Effective Sales Enablement.
And that whole book is about what marketers, especially B2B marketers, can do to better support sales and understand customers.
Very nice. Lovely. Lovely. This is awesome. So after they listen to this show or this podcast, assume they also did the gap analysis and understand what they need. What are one or two very easy, quick, actionable suggestions you have so they can continue to hone these five B2B marketing competencies regularly?
Stacey Danheiser: Yeah, there are so many. Let me see if I can narrow it down here. One thing in our research for the book and how we came up with the five B2B marketing competencies is that we interviewed business and marketing and sales leaders across the US and the UK. So this is not just coming from a marketing standpoint. This was coming from business leaders who are leading large global organizations. And the one thing that was very interesting to me was about going back to the learning bit, which is a lot of companies had budgeted for their marketing teams to use for learning…
Pam Didner: To attend conferences, to take classes. Yes.
Stacey Danheiser: Yes, and the one thing we heard as a barrier was that my marketing team is not using it.
Pam Didner: Really?
Stacey Danheiser: So we have a budget, nobody comes to me and asks me to use it, or I think there’s maybe one person on our team who finds something and asks to attend. So that was interesting. And I started to look into why, and it went back to this long list of things to do that marketers are notorious for having. And so learning was de-prioritized. Way, way down on the list, and so I would say prioritize yourself.
Nobody, especially working in an in-house agency or a corporate job, will come and tell you what you need to learn.
It’s really up to you, and this is like your own personal growth and your development that you get to own, so make that a priority, and if it’s 30 minutes a day, spend reading about your industry, spend reading about something that your customer is doing, learning more about your product.
There’s so much to learn. But that would be one piece of advice that I think everybody has full ownership of, which is blocking off 30 minutes a day to learn and replace it… And this was the thing, “Well, I don’t have the time.” Well, I guarantee that there are probably 30 minutes in your day that you’re spending scrolling mindlessly on social media or sitting in a meeting that you might… That you don’t need to be in. [laughter]
Pam Didner: That is so true. That is so true. Or, when you are driving, you can always turn on the podcast.
Stacey Danheiser: Yes.
Pam Didner: Any kind of marketing-related podcast, or any kind of like know-how type of podcast.
Stacey Danheiser: 100%.
Pam Didner: I do agree with you. Yes.
Stacey Danheiser: Yeah, so that would be my one thing. And then two would just be if you don’t already have a good relationship with your sales team, go sit with the seller.
Pam Didner: So true. So true.
Stacey Danheiser: You can ask them, “What’s one piece of advice that you wish marketing knew, or what’s one sales book you think every marketer should read?” So that you’re starting to build that knowledge base and a better relationship with the sales team.
Pam Didner: Sounds like a jam (laughs). So spend some time learning something new daily and build a better relationship, or start having a relationship with your sales team. Excellent. Stacey, thank you so much for coming to my show. Can you also tell us, remind us one more time where we can find your book and where people should go in terms of finding more about you?
Stacey Danheiser: Yes. So first, I’d love to connect on LinkedIn, Stacey Danheiser, and then my company website is shake, S-H-A-K-E, M as in marketing, K-T-G.com.
And there, you’ll find my books. I have a new playbook program that I’m rolling out. The assessments of all of our tools and resources are on that website.
Pam Didner: Very good. Thank you so much for coming to my show, Stacey.
Stacey Danheiser: Yes, thank you for having me. It was awesome chatting about one of my favorite topics, B2B marketing. [chuckle]
Pam Didner: Yay! Take care, everyone. Bye.