2024 B2B Marketing Mindsets

From Believing to Achieving

Why do some organizations seem to excel from the jump while others churn through ideas, tech stack products, agency relationships, and their own employees with little to show for the effort?

And why do even the most successful organizations fail to question outdated assumptions about effective strategy—even when there is clear evidence pointing toward other solutions?

At build/create, we are nothing if not curious. When we find a good question, we put in the legwork to find a well-founded answer.

Our process is grounded in research and involves deep listening, client interviews, and competitive analyses. Now, we’re taking our process to another level by gathering insights into the industry as a whole.

We partnered with independent research firm Audience Audit to conduct proprietary attitudinal segmentation research with the goal of learning more about how leaders in the manufacturing technology industry view their marketing.

We asked the questions, so we can share the answers with you.

In our search for the answers to those questions we asked 189 decision-makers at the manager level or above who work for B2B or B2G organizations how they think and feel about topics ranging from optimism about their business, hiring priorities, internal culture, and the ways they measure success.

What we found was a paradigm so compelling, it transformed how we think about B2B marketing.


Dig into the research

In this report:
  • Three unique mindsets that emerged from our survey respondents.

  • How each mindset thinks and feels about the challenges they face marketing their organization.

  • Insights into how to think about and approach those same challenges in your own marketing.

A lively conversation about our research and insights.

Ian (Founder), Eric (Founder), and Laura (Director of Marketing), are joined by Susan Baier, our research partner from Audience Audit to discuss, explore, and unpack the research premise and three deep cuts from the research report.

In this video you’ll find lively discussion around marketing challenges in the B2B sector, how some of us identify with the different mindsets our research uncovered, and a hot-takes on marketing metrics, paid ads, AI, and more.

Introducing the Mindsets

Decision-makers work for organizations that excel, aspire, or divest from marketing.

Our research revealed three unique mindsets among decision-makers. These mindsets differ in their approaches to marketing and their views on everything from staff turnover to conversion rates.

These mindsets were not pre-determined: they were revealed by our research based on correlations that emerged from within the data.

Introducing the mindsets: Achievers, Believers,and Cynics. Image showing three portraits that represent the three b2b marketing mindsets
Bar graph showing the percentage of survey respondents that make up each segment, Achievers 34%, Believers 29%, and Cynics 37%

The world is made up of Achievers, Believers, and Cynics.

Some businesses have developed a formula for success so dominant, they’ve left their competitive field in the dust.

Others are determined to find their own pathway to success, but struggle without map or compass to guide them. And the final group have lost their way so completely, they doubt there is even a path to search for—let alone follow.

I think it’s safe to say we’d all like to call ourselves Achievers, yet we know that the marketing investment required to generate a return on investment—and the struggle to prove that value—is enough to turn the most devout believer into a jaded cynic.

So how can we know when we’re achieving all that we can?

Introducing the Mindsets

Meet the decision-makers.

Achievers do more, and focus on their accomplishments.


I’m confident in my organization’s approach to marketing.

My organization is changing the status quo in our industry.

My organization does a good job of showing our prospects how we can help them.

My organization does a good job of managing its tech stack.

Respondents indicated strong agreement that they:

Circle graphs showing strong agreement with survey statements for Achievers.  97% Feel positive about the future of their organization, 91% Value customer feedback for improvement, and 100% Feel they're seen as trusted experts by their customers.

Believers will try anything, and focus on their challenges.


There’s a lot my organization could do to improve how we market our products and services.

My organization needs to differentiate itself.

Customer feedback is essential for improving my organization’s offerings.

My organization’s approach to integrating new technologies needs to be more organized.

Respondents indicated strong agreement that they:

Circle graphs showing strong agreement with survey statements for Believers.  75% Feel positive about the future of their organization, 84% Value customer feedback for improvement, and 76% Feel they're seen as trusted experts by their customers.

Cynics market less, and are setting fewer objectives for themselves.


Marketing is a waste of time and money for my organization.

My organization doesn’t need to understand how our prospects think, feel, and behave in order to sell to them.

My industry is too boring to communicate the benefits of our offerings in an engaging way.

My organization’s tech stack just makes everybody’s jobs more complicated.

Respondents indicated strong agreement that they:

Circle graphs showing strong agreement with survey statements for Cynics.  65% Feel positive about the future of their organization, 54% Value customer feedback for improvement, and 57% Feel they're seen as trusted experts by their customers.

Wherever you see yourself now, we want you to achieve more.

Are you a proud Achiever, a determined Believer, or an ambivalent Cynic?

At different points in our careers I’m sure we’ve all identified with all three mindsets, and the goal of this report is to help you steadily move towards being an Achiever in your current role, and achieve more, more consistently!

  • Does your organization chase marketing KPIs?

  • How does your organization ensure you’re converting prospects?

  • How can you make your marketing content stand out from your competitors?

  • Have you opted out of marketing, whether on purpose or because you lack the budget, time, and resources?

  • Do you think marketing is a waste of money?

Deep Cuts

Bridging the achievement gap.

Our survey covered a range of questions and the data yielded much more insights than we will summarize here. We chose to focus on three deep cuts that stood out to us as the most crucial and relevant for decision makers in the manufacturing industry.

But don’t fret, there’s a lot more to unpack in the full report, available for download. Or to hear us unpack these three deep cuts you can watch the webinar. And if you’re still hungry for more, we’ve made the survey data in its entirety publicly available so you can explore to your heart’s content.

And now, without further ado...

Deep Cut I

Invest in getting to know your audience on a deeper level.

Understanding who our prospects are on a deeper level is essential to my organization’s marketing efforts:

An overwhelming percentage of Achievers and Believers felt that understanding their customers was a key to success, while only a third of Cynics felt the same.

When it comes to recognizing the importance of understanding the customer, the gap between Cynics and the other survey groups may be the most telling of any in our survey, and—to our mind—the best explanation for why Cynics are seeing such different outcomes from their marketing efforts.

Graph showing percentage of mindsets agreement with the question 'Understanding who our prospects are on a deeper level is essential to my organization's marketing efforts.': Achievers 82%, Believers 73%, Cynics 36%.

What do you think marketing agencies need to understand about your industry?

Quotes from respondents abou what they think marketing agencies need to understand about their industry. Pertaining to understanding customer profile, needing to know customers, needing to interview staff, understanding the technology, and having specific industry knowledge.
Image showing the three mindset avatars grouped together.

Decision-makers want agencies with a proactive approach and niche expertise in their industry.

The decision-makers we surveyed have clearly had enough of working with generalist agencies, the question is: what are they going to do about it? Achievers have both the highest appreciation for understanding their prospects, as well as the highest expectations of any agency they work with (for more on that, read the full report), which points towards an inevitable focus on agencies with industry expertise. On the other end of the spectrum, Cynics seem to have lowered their expectations and adopted an apathetic view of an agency's ability to understand them.

Deep Cut I

Key takeaways

It's clear: a deep understanding of customers and prospects is key, but where's the follow through?

Even Cynics who didn't rate the importance of acquiring a deep understanding of their prospects very highly still had plenty to say about what agencies needed to know about them. What we're taking away from that apparent contradiction is that Cynics may not have a clear understanding of how to get that deeper understanding, and thus over-estimate its difficulty, leading to apathy around the whole concept.

This is an area where outside support can be an unexpected win for your organization. A good agency not only knows how to learn about their clients’ customers, they’ve also done it enough times to have developed an efficient process. As a result, Cynics might discover that learning about their customers is not only possible, but far more attainable than they’d assumed.

  • Invest in getting to know your audience (prospects and customers) on a deeper level. This applies internally AND for agency partners.

  • Talk to your sales and customer success team more to increase understanding of customer and cohesion between teams.

  • Conduct interviews and build case studies to get to know your customers and show off how well you know their story.

Deep Cut II

Eliminate friction between sales and marketing.

The relationship between sales and marketing is frictionless. These departments share tech and work together towards goals.

Achievers are significantly more likely to say this relationship is frictionless at their organizations—Believers and Cynics trail far behind.

Unsurprisingly, Achievers are better at aligning their sales and marketing departments and are significantly more likely (85% strongly agree) to say this relationship is frictionless at their organizations. Believers and Cynics trail far behind at 44% and 54% respectively. It is notable that Believers fare worse than Cynics in achieving this collaboration.

Graph showing percentage of mindsets agreement with the question 'The relationship between sales and marketing is frictionless.': Achievers 85%, Believers 44%, Cynics 54%.
Graph showing percentage of mindsets agreement with the question 'The relationship between sales and marketing is....': Adversarial, fractured, or non-existent 39%, or Frictionless 61%.

Nearly 40% of organizations do not have a functional sales/marketing relationship.

The relationship between sales and marketing is...

Most (61%) decision-makers say the relationship between sales and marketing at their organizations is frictionless.

That leaves roughly four out of every ten marketers with some level of discord between these two crucial departments—either fractured communication, open hostility, or simple apathy.

Deep Cut II

Key takeaways

End the blame game before it starts by keeping communication channels open.

All too often, when business slows, the blame game between marketing and sales begins. Sales is upset because they don't have the resources they want, the lead quality is poor, or there simply aren't enough leads. Marketing, meanwhile, feels their hands are tied because sales is withholding customer information, isn't using the new resources they've been given, or isn't reporting back key metrics.

The antidote is intentional, open communication and collaboration. When sales shares their customer insights and metrics with marketing, the marketing department can create better sales materials that reduce sales lead times by bringing in more qualified leads. It's a win/win, and that should always be the focus.

  • Look to your sales team for key metrics. They have the information that you need in order to prove the ROI of your marketing.

  • Share insights between your departments. Break down the silos that hold you back and keep the inspiration flowing.

  • Invest in a tech stack that keeps your efforts in sync. Not only will it improve communication, it keeps you both customer-focused.

Deep Cut III

Decode marketing metrics, and prove your ROI.

Does your organization track ROI with your marketing metrics?

We found Cynics less likely to track most of the marketing metrics we listed in the survey.

A lack of interest or ability to track key marketing metrics may be part of what keeps them in the cycle of cynicism! Anyone who has ever worked with metrics knows that sometimes they seem to operate with a will of their own, and it's easy to become disillusioned with our ability to collect and interpret them. And that's if you're even tracking the correct metrics to start with! Achievers have found not only the right metrics to track for their organization, but how to interpret them and make the right marketing moves accordingly.

Graph showing percentage of mindsets agreement with the question 'Does your organization track ROI with your marketing metrics?': Achievers 68%, Believers 55%, Cynics 28%.
Graph showing percentage of mindsets agreement with the question 'We have no challenges with marketing metrics.': Achievers 32%, Believers 1%, Cynics 3%.

Believers struggled significantly more than other mindsets with every aspect of their marketing metrics, while Achievers struggled the least.

Graph showing percentage of mindsets agreement with the question 'Do you face any of the following challenges with your marketing metrics?': Improving the Data: Achievers 30%, Believers 45%, and Cynics at 31%. Trusting the Data: Achievers 22%, Believers 41%, and Cynics 31%.  Interpreting the Data: Achievers 22%, Believers 32%, and Cynics 26%. This shows that Achievers report having fewer challenges and higher confidence in their marketing metrics.

Believers and Cynics faced near universal struggles with their marketing metrics, while nearly a third of Achievers said they faced no challenges at all.

Deep Cut III

Key takeaways

Marketing must effectively tie its work to tangible business outcomes to convince leadership of its value.

Tracking marketing ROI in the B2B space is a different beast than consumer e-commerce. Sales cycles are longer and more consultative, and leads have many more touch-points before making a decision. This can drive many organizations to void tracking defined marketing metrics against business outcomes like revenut because they're afraid the numbers won't show positive ROI.

We understand this concern, and the truth is that metrics frequently fail organizations because they underestimate the effort it takes to gather meaningful data and interpret it. Don't settle for the default numbers your tech stack spits out—figure out what numbers truly matter for your business and stick with them.

  • Don’t check your metrics too often. Each metric operates on its own timeline and looking too often is only going to psych you out.

  • Invest in learning how to interpret your metrics. Emphasizing the wrong metrics is worse than not tracking them at all.

  • Create buy-in around a core set of metrics. Check in regularly so everyone sees, understands, and knows how to influence the numbers.

Conclusion

We all start out as Believers. The steps you take determine whether you end up as a Cynic or Achiever.

Mindsets don’t change overnight. No amount of believing will shift the trajectory of your organization without specific actions to back it. Expecting to see results with minimal effort will inevitably lead to disillusionment.

The story is a work in progress. While hard knocks and unfortunate setbacks may have jaded some decision-makers, their path is not set in stone. Leaders who have made a dedicated investment in their marketing also see organization-wide transformation.

Achievers succeed because they have the cultural buy-in that breaks down barriers, and facilitates collaboration. That’s why our insights focus so heavily on actions that lay a long-term foundation for success: strengthening the handshake between Marketing and Sales, gaining clarity around metrics, and giving the appropriate time and attention to your clients and agencies.

To break the Believer–Cynic cycle, businesses must reject quick fixes or the mindset that a siloed team left to fend for themselves without resources, backing from leadership, or input from sales will be able to show meaningful improvement by next quarter.

Instead, businesses have to take a longer view. Implement the broad organizational changes necessary to shift your culture, and marketing success will follow.


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Explore 8 more key findings in the downloadable report.

Including:

  • How our respondents approach their content
  • Where organizations got their most qualified leads
  • Our respondents’ organizations’ top marketing objectives

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About build/create

We are a digital agency offering holistic solutions that integrate custom web functionality with multichannel marketing strategies. We take an idea from a sketch on paper all the way through getting it online and in front of people. We help our clients create comprehensive online marketing plans from inception to completion.

About Audience Audit

Audience Audit is a research firm specializing in attitudinal segmentation audience research and strategy. Founded in 2009, the firm has conducted audience research for organizations including Gap, AT&T, Jayco, and many more.