LONDON: As companies operating in the B2B sector get bigger there is a tendency to downgrade the role of marketing, new research suggests.

Earlier this year, research from Marketing Week and Omobono, a creative and marketing technology company for the B2B sector, found that almost two thirds of a survey of 568 B2B marketers in the UK said there had been an increase in confidence over the past two years in the role marketing plays.

At the same time, however, they indicated that acceptance was an ongoing struggle. And now the latest take from that research points to the issue being particularly problematic at larger companies.

Support for the marketing function was significantly higher at smaller companies: some 91% of those with a turnover under £1m believed marketing to be ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ important compared to 79% of those with a turnover from £1m-£9.9m and just 63% of those with a turnover from £10m-£49.9m.

Similarly, 82% of companies with a turnover under £1m thought marketing was ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ influential, a figure that dropped to 65% and 64% respectively for the next two turnover bands.

Marketing Week observed that this is in part a consequence of how B2B companies evolve and the different time-scales (from B2C) involved in acquiring customers.

“Marketing’s focus changes significantly as businesses mature,” agreed Ben Alexander, marketing director at insurance startup Digital Risks.

“During your first year you’re focusing all the immediate return on investment (ROI) on marketing activities. By year three when you’re well capitalised and willing to change how much you spend on acquiring customers, you begin to look at customer lifetime value instead.”

And, he added, “marketing can be perceived as less important as the business starts investing in new markets, sales processes, partnerships, technology and so on.”

But ultimately, “if all of this isn’t underpinned by understanding what’s important to customers, then ultimately, it will fail”.

The longer-term focus of marketing teams may also come into conflict with the shorter-term goals of sales people who are bringing in money now. And this leads to another size-related dimension to marketing influence.

In the biggest companies (those with turnover over £500m) over half (52%) of B2B marketers reported that getting internal buy-in was their greatest priority, putting it ahead of business strategy.

Sourced from Marketing Week; additional content by WARC staff