Ask any marketer what they struggle with and talent is sure to crop up in that conversation. As the wave of digital marketing takes over, the old ways of marketing and its rule book are quickly being tossed out the window.
And the problem seems to have hit the B2B industry harder. A new dawn in marketing requires new skill sets. This was at the heart of a panel discussion during the one-day B2B Asia conference held recently.
“The world is changing with digital and today we are in need of capabilities we haven’t needed or thought of before. To stay ahead, we must evolve. This means what we used to do or do right now, might be very different from what we want to do in the future. So the entire skill set is changing and that is my challenge in finding talent,” said Takashi Tokunaga, regional B2B marketing manager for Asia Pacific and Japan of Intel Technology Asia.
Agreeing with him was Alok Bharadwaj, senior vice-president of South and SEA at Canon, who added that along with attracting talent, B2B also has an issue of retaining talent.
“The issue of retention is as much an issue as attraction – given that B2B is not that glamorous as an industry. You can look at the top 100 valuations and you will not see too many B2B companies,” he said.
Today the biggest competitor to the B2B talent market are the Ubers and the AirBnbs of the world.
He added that big, established companies today compete for young talent simply because what used to gravitate talent to the industry has changed. Millennials have an entrepreneurial spirit and require flexibility and both of these requirements are met by the new-age companies.
Today’s start-ups no longer call for graveyard shifts and they know spending long hours is not a criteria to being successful, added Chris Reed, founder of the two-year-old agency Black Marketing. Reed added that people today want work-life balance and companies who can give it to them will attract the gems.
“Of course, a good status and good money is also a priority, but people today also want to feel like entrepreneurs so it is especially vital for smaller B2B players to be interesting and ensure they can teach their staff something more,” Reed said.
Check out the photos from the event here:
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Skills needed to do well in the B2B world
An oft-asked question is: if you are a B2C marketer, would it be hard for you to survive in the B2B world? The answer is no.
“It is all about transferable skills and how you network, find the right people, create your personal brand and how you communicate yourself,” Reed said.
Tokunaga gave the example of Intel’s very own CMO Steven Fund who joined the team some time ago from Staples.
“Staples and Intel are nowhere close to each other in the kind of product they offer, but he came because of what he had to offer and what he had accomplished in his industry,” Tokunaga said.
He added that at the end of the day it was about your skill set and passion along with acumen in the modern technology era.
We can impart industry knowledge, but we can’t teach marketers modern marketing because it really hasn’t been done before.
Key skill differentiators for B2B and B2C
Nonetheless, skill sets for B2B and B2C no doubt differ.
Bharadwaj said at Canon, which caters to both B2B and B2C markets, there are some main points of differentiation. B2B marketing is more product-centric, tech-centric and functional in messaging. However, in B2C it is more emotional, seasonal and rapid in messaging. Thus, the talent has to cater to these personalities of each of these functions.
For example, when Canon looks at the candidates in B2C, it looks at a candidate’s understanding on media, understanding of demographics, segmentation and so on. For B2B, the company looks for those who have a deep understanding of customer engagement, knowledge creation and dissemination, event experience, and so on.
At the end of the day, Bharadwaj said the tenure of talent in companies was shortening and the talent today would no longer be relevant in the future unless upskilled and trained constantly.
“We need to keep honing our skills,” he said adding that it would be good to remember to ask yourselves every 100 days:
Mirror mirror, on the wall. Where are my blind spots?