The history of civilization has seen humanity move from hunter gathering, through pastoral and agricultural societies to the industrial and information age. Today around 78 per cent of GDP derives from the service sector. We live in a knowledge economy – the age of ideas.
Nowhere is this truer than in B2B. Selling high value products and services in an increasingly commoditized world – something has to give. We can’t differentiate on the quality of our people, service, specialism or geographic footprint – from the outside we all look the same. Ideas are the only identity we can cling to, to keep from drowning in “me too” soup.
In the ideas economy, the brands that best articulate their thinking will win. But despite the critical importance of ideas-led selling, B2B marketers face an uphill struggle to generate the big ideas their organisations need. Four in five marketing leaders believe that B2B marketing is facing a crisis of creativity according to our latest research. Three-quarters of B2B CMOs even went so far as to say that if B2B marketing were a colour, it would be grey.
So why are we stuck in this rut? Marketing leaders feel they are held back by a lack of inspiration, which is unsurprising when nearly three-quarters of CMOs identify lack of thinking time as the single biggest barrier to innovation in their firm.
Perhaps the humour behind Old Street’s rising Orwellian “White Collar Factory” development is a little too close to the mark. We are tied to our desks; we fear our superiors see thinking as a “waste of time” and we put more effort into measuring outputs than on generating the strategic thinking that would determine our success. We’re stuck on the treadmill of campaign roll-outs, without considering what idea our campaigns sought to further in the first place. Somehow the medium has overtaken the message. Doing has replaced thinking.
But with ideas now the only sustainable source of differentiation, and creative content based on a compelling idea our most effective sales tool (according to 9 in 10 marketers), we need to make time for creativity and ideas.
I challenge my B2B marketing colleagues to make a resolution to find the exit to their own white collar factory, get out more and carve out time for inspiration and abstract thought. Get up and go for a walk. Just Think It.
As published in B2B Marketing, January 2015