How to Become an Innovative B2B Marketer: Integrating Innovation into Professional Development Plans

Cultural change takes time, but one of the best ways to start is to integrate new steps into employees’ professional development plans. After all, you are what you measure: Campbell’s law states that if a corresponding increase or value judgment depends only on meeting a sales quota, employees sacrifice their other job responsibilities – team management, skills development, and so on – to meet that condition.

Integrating innovation into your development plans and then into your annual employee assessments can hold you (and yourself) accountable for the changes you want to make. The criteria that make an employee successful must start with the behavior you want to see; otherwise, your teams will see cultural change as a ‘good thing’, rather than an essential goal.

That said, telling your employees to “be more innovative” or “take more risks in their work” does not help. Instead, set professional development goals that are specific, achievable, and measurable, and then provide detailed, time-bound, and achievable recommendations.

Use the pandemic as an opportunity to evaluate your professional development plans for you and your teams. Start with the following questions:

  • Do you have a development plan? Your employees? When was the last update?
  • What are your strengths/weaknesses?
  • What are your work objectives? This year? In the next 3-5 years?
  • What do you need to achieve these goals? Of yourself? Your team? Your boss? The organization?
  • When was the last time you discussed your personal career goals with team members?
  • Do you have a plan to help them achieve these goals?
  • Do you hold them accountable for achieving their goals?
  • When was the last time you went to the store to better understand the intricacies of manufacturing your product?
  • Do you keep an eye on trade associations and are you aware of the latest trends?
  • Did you accompany your sales team to really hear your customers’ voices and understand their needs and what they are looking for?

After assessing the current situation, start making plans that will serve as the basis for a more innovative and effective marketing communications department that attracts, develops, and retains innovative employees.

Professional development plans, as well as your professional development goals, must be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and current). Below are some examples of development plans for employees at all levels of the organization chart. By implementing these plans, you can lay the foundation for a more innovative marketing team that can implement the strategies and tactics you see on conference schedules, blog posts, and white papers.

For senior executives

Objective: To create a more effective marketing communication function that is internally and externally recognized for innovation, creativity, and effectiveness.

Goals.

  1. Win at least one external prize for teamwork.
  2. Receive at least five positive testimonials from business unit leaders across the organization, demonstrating the team’s added value.
  3. Identify and measure the direct impact of the team’s work to help at least one business unit achieve its sales target; create and share a case study about your work on your intranet.
  4. Incorporate innovation, creativity, and effectiveness into the team’s success statistics.

Development actions:

  1. Research, identify, write and submit an award before the end of the year highlighting one of your team’s projects for at least three marketing awards focused on innovation and/or creativity in the industry (e.g. IW Industry Excellence Awards, ANA B2 Awards, The Drum B2B Awards, Stevie Awards).
  2. In the next three months, develop a case study model to showcase your team’s work and create at least three case studies with measurable results.
  3. Over the next month, develop and implement an internal process to assess the satisfaction of your team’s employees, especially about innovation and creativity. Create a base value and increase your level by at least 50% at the end of the year.
  4. Develop a presentation next year to educate executives about the creativity, innovation, and effectiveness of the marketing team.

For the middle class

Objective: To be a model for the identification and application of new and innovative marketing techniques.

Goals.

  • Carry out at least one project that is then identified and awarded at least one external award for innovation or creativity.
  • Become known as the business expert in at least one new aspect of innovative marketing.

Development actions:

  1. Next month, work with your team leader to identify, enroll, and complete an online certification course for a new marketing or communication skill. Train at least one other team member in this skill and then apply it to at least one project.
  2. Attend at least one marketing or communication conference outside the manufacturing and B2B sector in the next six months; then develop and share a presentation on how you and your colleagues can best apply that experience internally.

In the following year, develop a presentation on the skills identified and educate executive leadership.

For junior employees

Objective: To become a full-time marketing associate, learn how to apply creativity and innovation in the department.

Goals.

  1. Receive positive reviews on your annual statement from at least three colleagues outside your immediate team.
  2. Be a member of the core team on at least one project submitted for a marketing award.
  3. Contribute to your team’s reputation for creativity and innovation by creating or identifying content that you can share with the rest of the organization every month.
  4. Gain a deeper understanding of your company’s business.

Development actions:

  1. Over the next month, work with your team leader to identify, enroll, and complete an online certification course for a new marketing or communication skill.
  2. In the next month, identify at least two other positions in other parts of the company that your colleagues can follow and better understand what they do daily. Walk and apply what you have learned in your communication.
  3. Develop a channel over the next three months (blog posts on the intranet, email newsletters, team meeting presentations, etc.) where you can create and select innovative marketing campaigns from all sectors and show the lessons you’ve learned and best practices can be applied in your company. Share content at least twice a month.

Development plans should always be adjusted for each employee, as they all have different strengths, weaknesses, goals, and interests. But the sketches above provide a great framework for creating lasting cultural change in your B2B marketing.