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The Search for Meaning in B2B Marketing

  1. The Search for Meaning in B2B Marketing.
  2. Hello.I’m Doug and I do B2B marketing for a living.
  3. I’ve done it for over 30 years. Holy cow.
  4. To be honest, I never really thought about whether it was a worthy thing for me to do.
  5. Whether it was meaningful.
  6. But the other night, I was at a party and someone complained that their work was meaningless.
  7. And that got me thinking.
  8. I’ve always known that my work wasn’t particularly glamorous.
  9. I mean, at a dinner party, you can talk about shooting a Nike commercial in Bali with Lady Gaga and Michael Jordan...
  10. But a website for a supply chain management software company? Not so much.
  11. And it’s not exactly an altruistic career, either.I’m not really making the world a better place.
  12. Like that amazing doctor doing outrageous things in Haiti.(Paul Farmer. That guy.)
  13. Or like my friend Steve Wood who runs Concrete Couch, a wonderful community arts incubator in Manitou Springs Colorado.
  14. Or his wife Laurie who’s an amazing wellness advocate for the community and schools.
  15. But B2B marketing?Nope.Not glamorous. Not altruistic.
  16. So how I could spend so many days doing this for a living?
  17. And so many weeks?
  18. And so many years?
  19. How could I have given so much of my time and energy and talent and effort and spirit to such a thing?
  20. Don’t get me wrong. I know I’ve always enjoyed doing what I do.
  21. It’s challenging and creative and yadda-yadda-yadda.
  22. But couldn’t I enjoy something more... meaningful?
  23. Over the years, I’ve written a fair amount about the what and how of B2B marketing.
  24. This is about the why.
  25. Why B2B marketing is not just an okay thing to devote your life and career to, but why it’s a good thing. A worthy thing.
  26. I’m trying to capture these thoughts because I figure you’re probably like me.
  27. You probably got into this game through a back door somewhere. When you were a kid, you never said, “I want to be a B2B marketer when I grow up.”
  28. It just sort of happened.
  29. So you may well have the same doubts that I’ve had, in varying degrees, for my whole career.
  30. I actually hate these doubts.
  31. When I give these doubts their way, they hold me back from something important.
  32. They stop me from giving my whole self to my work.
  33. And that’s not a small loss, it’s a huge one.
  34. Because if you’re not giving your whole self to the thing you spend most of your life doing, you’re wasting your life.
  35. Ouch.
  36. So when I think about the things that allow me to get meaning out of what I do, I’m really thinking about the things that make it worth investing my life in.
  37. I mean the things beyond ‘making a living’ and supporting my family and giving my kids (Hannah, 18, Zoe, 15) a comfy, fun, happy, interesting childhood.(These are big things and maybe ought to be good enough answers to the meaning question. But I’m looking for more here).
  38. I’m looking for the things that give me fulfilment and a sense that this work is worthwhile.
  39. Things that make me feel I needn’t be embarrassed about spending my days and weeks and years doing it.
  40. So here are those things for me. They may not be the same for you. But they’re the things that make me glad to do what I do.
  41. That give my work meaning (to me anyway).
  42. Here goes.
  43. Don’t laugh.
  44. 1. I like helping good companies grow.
  45. I think a business is a worthy thing for someone to create.And that it takes guts and intelligence and determination to do it. And so helping a good business to succeed is a fulfilling thing.
  46. This means it’s hugely important to choose to work with companies I admire. Companies I really want to see succeed.
  47. 2. I like helping our clients achieve success in their careers.
  48. I really love it when something I did (or we as an agency did) succeeded wildly and our client is proud of it and gets some recognition or a raise or whatever.I get a lot of pleasure out of that.
  49. This means it’s hugely important that I choose to work with clients that I like and admire.
  50. Because if I work for clients I don’t like or admire, my soul shrivels up like a raisin.
  51. 3. I love working alongside talented, engaged, positive people who also love what they do.
  52. This is massive.
  53. People who come to work and give their whole selves to what they do make me feel good about giving my whole self.
  54. And people who hold back and only give the minimum make me feel like an idiot for giving any more than that.
  55. This means it’s hugely important that I choose to work alongside people who are positive and talented and smart and fun and mature enough to go ahead and dive in instead of holding back.
  56. 4. I love learning new things.
  57. I’m happy if I’m on the steep part of just about any learning curve.And I’m miserable if I’m just doing what I already know how to do.
  58. Thankfully, B2B marketing -- in the age of content marketing, lead nurturing, search, social and analytics -- is one of the steepest learning curves in the entire history of business.
  59. But just because there’s a lot to learn, doesn’t mean it isn’t easy to coast along, doing what you’ve always done.
  60. This makes it hugely important to choose work that’s challenging and difficult and a bit scary.Instead of work that’s well within my comfort zone.
  61. 5. I love work that demands creativity.
  62. Work in which the solution to the problem is far from obvious at the outset. Where a good solution may be the first thing that pops into my head, but a great solution is one that takes a bit of sweat.
  63. This makes it really important that I choose clients who demand great work. Because mediocre work is stultifying.
  64. 6. I like honest work that asks me to build a great case for my clients.
  65. Not work that asks me to manipulate the target audience with bullshit. (“Good mothers choose this fabric softener.” “Real men wear this watch.”)
  66. This means it’s really, really important that I avoid working for any client whose business is based on anything less than delivering real value to its customers.
  67. 7. I like figuring out how the business of business actually works.
  68. Call me a geek but, to me, this gigantic economy we all operate in is actually kind of fascinating. A business is like an organism in the ecosystem of the wider economy. And some thrive and some die and I really like trying to figure out why.
  69. I love getting an inside view into different markets and ‘value chains’ and individual companies.
  70. And I’m especially interested in the alchemy of success and the mystery of great corporate cultures.
  71. To be honest, I’m even fascinated by sad, inefficient, counter-productive dysfunctional cultures. (I just don’t want to hang out in them for too long.)
  72. And all this means it’s really important to choose clients who are open about everything and who see us as partners not just suppliers. Because if they’re not open, I can’t indulge in my hobby.
  73. That’s pretty much it.
  74. Those seven things are my own personal sources of meaning in my work.
  75. I hope they aren’t too disappointing.(Hey, I never promised profound revelations).
  76. Why does all this matter?
  77. It matters because it guides critical decisions. Every day.
  78. Notice the yellow slides above that summarised the choices I need to make in order to get more from my work?
  79. These aren’t small choices. They’re critical.
  80. They’re the choices that keep any work meaningful.
  81. I hope you choose to work for people you like in companies you admire that are doing cool things in an honest, open way.
  82. I hope you choose to work alongside smart, talented, positive people who you really like.
  83. Because when we betray any of these choices...
  84. All the good mojo I just talked about becomes bad mojo. And saps away all energy and enthusiasm.
  85. But when we honour these choices, then this not-very-glamorous work called B2B marketing turns out to be actually packed with meaning.
  86. And instead of feeling vaguely embarrassed by what I do...
  87. I feel hugely proud of it.
  88. And actually quite lucky and maybe even privileged to spend my days, and weeks and years doing it.
  89. And if you do B2B marketing for a living, I hope you feel this way too.
  90. Thanks. I needed to get that off my chest. This is Velocity