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Are Traditional Field Marketers a Dying Breed?

April 03, 2018 | By Meta Karagianni

  • The time is ripe for field marketing to redefine how it provides value to the business or risk becoming irrelevant
  • CMOs must encourage field marketing leaders to move from hiring generalists to building a function able to support four specialist areas: defined demand, channel, customer and account-based marketing
  • CMOs should leverage the SiriusDecisions Field Marketing Job Family to define a forward-looking view of the field marketing function and address dilution and pollution causes

Before I address that question, let’s make sure we all use the term “field marketing” in the same way. In my ongoing discussions with CMOs and marketing leaders, I hear the term used in different contexts, as illustrated by the quotes below:

Field desk

  • We call the teams who are in the field (outside of HQ) our field marketers”
  • “Historically, field marketers are the marketers in a country (countries) doing almost everything”

At SiriusDecisions, the term “field marketers” refers to marketers who are aligned with one country or a cohort of countries. Field marketers are uniquely responsible for creating and maintaining relevant connections with local prospects and customers to order to inform and influence their buying decisions in support of local growth objectives.

With the above definition in mind, let’s explore my original question: Are traditional field marketers a dying breed? I would argue yes, as conventional perceptions of the field marketing function are increasingly outdated in b-to-b marketing. Here are three outdated perceptions that need to be revisited and challenged:

  1. “Highly effective field marketers are jacks of all trades.” Historically, we have hired generalist field marketers who have a strong local market understanding and native language skills and can work well with both sales and corporate marketing teams. Although these remain important qualities, today’s field marketers need additional qualities to deliver against their core charter of making relevant local connections. For example, expectations for field marketers have evolved from driving market awareness and sales support to driving direct or indirect demand generation to supporting upselling and cross-selling growth opportunities within existing accounts or supporting specific account growth objectives for a chosen set of local ABM accounts. While expectations have expanded, the hiring profile has remained static.
  2. “To be seen as responsive, a field marketer must be able to support all sales strategies.” If this is true, we are asking field marketers to stretch themselves so thin that the impact they can deliver is ultimately diluted. Think of a field marketer who is asked to support initiatives to drive net-new logos, but also to support growth from existing customers and from key accounts in a local market. Now let’s translate these three areas into areas of focus. For net-new logos, we must create awareness, drive demand, foster prospect consideration and support conversion. To drive growth from existing customers, we need to focus on driving usage, mitigating risk and fostering customer retention and loyalty. Finally, to support key accounts, we need to align with key account objectives, foster account engagement and drive in-depth account expertise. This is impossible for a single role! Trying to do it means having a role with diluted impact that is forced to focus its limited time on tactical activities rather than strategic impact.
  3. “Field marketers are the single point of contact within a market.” Although, on the surface, this statement is true, it has led us to accept that field marketers should take on activities that other functions don’t for multiple reasons. There are countless examples – e.g. local PR, local market research, local sales training, monitoring local Web sites, organizing internal events, coordinating executive visits and sales kick-offs. Although these activities need to take place, the fundamental question is: How important are they to field marketing’s core charter? Asking field marketers to perform activities that should be owned elsewhere pollutes the role and reduces productivity.

So if the traditional view of the field marketing function as the function that does a “bunch of different things” is no longer relevant, then what’s next?

Fear not. I have good news for you. We believe the time is ripe to redefine the field marketing function, replacing the outdated generalist with a function that is able to support four key specialist areas: defined demand, channel, customer and account-based marketing. My colleague Isabel Montesdeocaand I will introduce the SiriusDecisions Field Marketing Job Family in our Summit session “Redefining the Field Marketing Job Family.” So join us in Las Vegas May 8-10 to learn how to adopt this forward-looking view of a best-in-class field marketing function.

Learn more about SiriusDecisions Summit!

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Meta Karagianni

Meta Karagianni is Service Director, European CMO Strategies, at SiriusDecisions. Before joining SiriusDecisions, she spent several years working closely with CMOs and commercial leaders in Europe and South Africa, providing strategic advice and implementation support across critical decision areas. As a practitioner, Meta led marketing teams in Europe. She started her career as a strategy/marketing consultant. Meta lives in London.

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