Study Finds B2B Growth Constrained by Sales and Marketing Partnership

February 25, 2014

A new study, A Reinvention of B2B Marketing: The Impact of Partnership on Enterprise Growth," was released today that examines the partnership between sales and marketing within enterprise business-to-business (B2B) companies.

The study was conducted by strategic marketing and creative agency, Sparks Grove, a division of global consultancy North Highland; along with its research partner Econsultancy. The study found that companies that employ a true partnership in which there is joint contribution and accountability between sales and marketing are significantly more likely to enjoy sustainable success. However, greater than half of B2B organizations that believe they have taken steps toward partnership have actually failed to provide the necessary foundation for marketing to contribute meaningful growth.

"More than half of the B2B companies we surveyed voiced a commitment to reinventing marketing to adapt to a new environment. But we were surprised to find that a majority of companies have only made superficial changes," said Stefan Tornquist, Econsultancy's Vice President of research for the U.S.

"Many B2B organizations are talking about change; few are really realigning responsibilities and accountability to harness the full potential of sales and marketing to drive meaningful growth," continued Rob Sherrell, Vice President at Sparks Grove.

Four types of B2B organizations emerged in the study - sales led, marketing led, true partnerships and false partnerships - each defined by marketing's functional responsibilities and relationship with sales. Hallmarks of the four types include:

  • Marketing Led companies are often digitally and ecommerce-centric and therefore charge marketing to drive all revenue, growth and lead generation strategies.
  • Sales Led companies require marketing to support sales with brand and lead generation but rarely give the department revenue responsibility or a role in growth strategy and product direction.
  • False Partnership companies typically have some degree of alliance between marketing and sales; however marketing generally has a minor role in lead generation strategy and limited to no control over customer experience and product development.
  • True Partnership companies enable marketing to have a significant role in lead generation, have a shared revenue responsibility with sales and possess a significant role in managing the customer experience and product or service development.

"We believe the appropriate target and aspiration for the vast majority of B2B companies is the true partnership model. For some, it's easy to get caught up in the illusion of stability and merely dabbling in change, which is often a false partnership. Those that talk the talk and walk the walk with the evolution of their marketing function will see long-term success", said Sherrell.

Research statistics that define aspects of a true partnership vs. false partnerships include:

  • 40 percent more likely to be growing quickly compared to their false partnership peers
  • Far more likely to own customer experience (60 percent vs. 25 percent)
  • More likely to own product development (70 percent vs. 31 percent)
  • Much more likely to own customer research and insights (76 percent vs. 50 percent)
  • Much more likely to actively embrace sales support rather than downplaying those responsibilities (72 percent vs. 55 percent)

"Even many top B2B companies are still in the early days of understanding how marketing needs to evolve. The research points to true sales-marketing partnerships as the answer to revenue growth and business flexibility in the face of constant market and customer changes, but the path to defining this new role and transforming the organization isn't a straight line," said Tornquist.

For a full copy of the research report and further recommendations, join Rob Sherrell and Stefan Tornquist on December 11 as they discuss specific action items for all organizational types in the webinar "A Reinvention of B2B Marketing." To register, visit www.sparksgrove.com/webinar/. Additional information and an infographic visualizing the report's findings can also be found at www.sparksgrove.com/b2b-reinvention/

About SparksGrove

Sparks Grove, the marketing strategy and creative division of North Highland, delivers clients fresh ideas that invigorate their brands and resolve pressing business challenges. Sparks Grove provides marketing, visioning and visualization, emerging interactions, and communication services to many of the world’s leading brands. For more information, visit sparksgrove.com or follow @sparksgrove and facebook.com/sparksgrove.

About North Highland

North Highland is a global management consulting firm known for helping clients solve their most complex challenges related to customer experience, transformation, performance improvement, and technology and digital. We add value and support our clients across the full spectrum of consulting, from strategy through delivery. We bring the big ideas, then we make them real. North Highland is an employee-owned firm, headquartered in Atlanta, Ga., with more than 3,000 consultants worldwide and 60+ offices around the globe, and has been named as a “Best Firm to Work For” every year since 2007 by Consulting Magazine. The firm is a member of Cordence Worldwide (www.cordenceworldwide.com), a global management consulting alliance. For more information, visit northhighland.com and connect with us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook