Over the past 6 months, I’ve made it my mission to interview over two dozen business leaders and senior marketers from a range of industries including motor trade, office tech, manufacturing, healthcare, government, recruitment, professional services, and hi-tech. Consistently, a common set of ‘symptoms’ of poor performing lead pipelines emerge.

Sales and marketing teams are at war

Management teams introduce digital marketing expertise into their businesses, expecting miracles from the money being invested. What they end up with is a youthful digital marketing team that sees their legacy sales colleagues as being in the dark ages, while incumbent sales teams find their new marketing whiz-kids big on arrogance and weak on results.

One of the reasons why these new marketing approaches typically underperform is that ‘the business’ in question hasn’t really understood what their conversation should be with customers, and what they need to do to grow trust with the web surfer audience that trips across their online content.


Companies are distracted and over-burdened by technology, with slug-speed ‘IT’ dragging its heels

This is an odd one, and yet it’s common. Departments in need of the latest digital marketing tools will procure new apps ‘as a service’ and then attempt to glue them together. IT teams find themselves disenfranchised and isolated from the SPRINT culture and drag-and-drop tools. When IT teams are entrusted with ensuring the ‘business continuity’ of operating back-office systems of record, addressing the ‘situational needs’ of individuals and teams can understandably drop off the priority list!


Leaders and managers are suffering from a shortage of useful actionable insights

While companies are gathering more data than ever about their customers, their ability to harness data to distill actionable insights that drive decision-making remains poor. When asked, most managers and leaders say they lack ready access to the insights they need. One of the reasons for this is the discontinuity of data held in disparate back-office systems. And when this operational data is put to use for a new purpose, the quality of captured data is visibly suspect.



From the interviews I’ve held, I distilled these three business survival factors for B2B marketers. Having identified them, I sought validation from the people I’d interviewed and (encouragingly) found a widespread endorsement of my findings.

My top 3 survival factors



1. Businesses must make ’willing prospects’ that want to engage with them. 


That means customers must find value from the conversations (be they virtual or analog) they’re having with vendors. We’ve moved into an ‘I-Want-What-I-Want-When-I-Want-It’ era.

Buyers complete the majority of their buying process performing ‘personal research’ online BEFORE they reach out to companies and commit themselves to dialogue. We see this evidenced by lower attendance at trade shows, fewer prospects visiting showrooms, forecourts, and shops.

Prospects are generally less willing to speak to salespeople. Product marketers need to think less about their product life-cycle and more about the customer behaviors they seek to encourage. The question of today is, ‘What behavior do you want your customer to adopt?’



2. Businesses need a ‘purposeful brand’. 


Brands are more influential than ever before. Buyers have a choice of who they buy from and they want to spend their cash on products and services from companies that have a purpose beyond making money.

With market-places awash with different purchasing options, buyers more naturally look for the brands they know. Potential buyers are increasingly interested in a brands’ stance on factors such as social equality and diversity, data integrity, community investments, and green credentials.



3. Businesses that ‘upscale’ their position in market hierarchies will become ever more dominant. 

In a global always-on market, having the ability to reach the top of the market food chain requires significant online marketing spend, demands larger product portfolios, calls for deeper pockets for infrastructure investments, and R&D.

The bigger a company becomes, and the broader its channel reach, the better able it is to survive market changes. Consider Amazon. It’s at the top of the food chain. It has visibility over the purchasing behaviors of customers and the costs of suppliers, placing it in a privileged market position.



These factors have become critical to business success in our era. Yet, maximizing the potential of a business pre-supposes that the business knows what it ishow it creates value to customers and stakeholders, and where its competency strength lies; whether in customer intimacy, product leadership, or operational excellence. Knowing WHICH OF THESE your organization is aiming for is really important.


Can a customer-intimate company survive without the best product or service offering?

Yes, provided it can deliver more of what a customer wants to buy, more often than its rivals to become the obvious ‘go to’ partner.


Can a business with a fantastic product survive without great customer intimacy?

 Yes, provided it has customer intimate partners.


Can an operationally excellent organization thrive even when it’s not very customer intimate and doesn’t have the best product?

‘Maybe,’ if this results in the organization having some operational skills or privileged assets that are highly valued by customers.

Ian Tomlin

Ian Tomlin


Ian Tomlin is a marketer, entrepreneur, business leader and management consultant. His passion is to help make great ideas happen. Relentlessly optimistic about the potential of technology for good, Ian’s 30+ year career has focused around the intersect of strategy, technology and marketing. He writes on subjects including enterprise computing and organizational design. He also works as a consultant and advisor to the executive teams of PrinSIX Technologies, Answer Pay and INTNT.AI, helping to rethink their marketing in order to tell their brand story.

Ian has founded a series of successful businesses including NDMC Ltd (2003), Encanvas (2006), and Newton Day Ltd (2019). He has written books, articles and guides on brand, digital transformation, enterprise applications, data science, workforce management, and organizational design. He can be reached via LinkedIn or Twitter.