Specialization vs. Synchrony: Which is Better for B2B Marketing?

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In many ways, marketing reminds me of fashion. When a person comes across as stylish, it’s not because he, she or they are wearing a pair of designer shoes, or carrying a trendy handbag – it’s the combination of each piece of clothing, an air of confidence, a smile – that work together to earn the description. We experience people as whole entities, not as deconstructed pieces and parts. 

This is why I believe specialization is one of the biggest problems with B2B marketing teams today.  

Stimulated by the COVID-19 pandemic, specialization of in-house resources has become more pervasive than ever. In-house marketing resources could include skills, such as SEO or web development, and function, such as job roles specializing in webinars, email marketing, and social media.

There are several reasons companies are increasing specialization, which we’ll address, but in the battle between specialization and synchrony, specialization seems to be winning.

Still, synchrony is way more impactful.

The Appeal of Specialization

Rufus Franck, the founder of Consultants 500, took a close look at the top Fortune 1000 companies in the last 40 years. He states: “By 1983, one-third of these companies had fallen off the list. By 2013, only 30% of the original companies are still on the list. This pace of change will continue to increase as only a third of today’s major companies are expected to survive the next 25 years.”

This trend, among others, has led many companies to specialization in hopes of rising above intense competition and industry noise. Additional factors that have increased the trend in marketing specialization include:

  • Higher volume demand forces roles to churn out as much work product as possible.
  • Last-minute pivots and course corrections from higher-ups, which often leads to increased frustration and decreased productivity.
  • A never-ending culture of reactivity, which is brought on by little-to-no planning or a misappropriated need to seem “agile.”

Synchrony = Efficiency

The entire purpose of marketing specialization is to become a big fish in a small pond. You want to have the most prominent presence among your target audience and be seen/heard over your competitors. 

However, while this can help you create more targeted and impactful marketing, it can divide your teams if they’re not aligned around a shared business goal or objective. 

For example, if your social media team is working towards one goal and your content marketing team another, these teams are asynchronous. Essentially, you’ve got several medium-sized fish scattered throughout several ponds (AKA silos). They may be contributing to business growth, but they’re inadvertently creating a fragmented, inconsistent narrative that isn’t meeting the needs of your buyers.

Synchrony brings all the fish into the primary pond. Marketing is more effective and impactful when it’s grounded in a common theme and provides customers with a consistent experience. 

Think about the top B2B campaigns you’ve seen (i.e., IBM’s ‘Every Second Counts’ campaign or Cisco’s SuperSmart Security graphic novel). The reason these campaigns were so successful is not that they had great messaging or powerful graphics (though that definitely contributed), but because they were consistent—synchronized—around a larger message that customers felt both in and out of the campaign.

Here’s my point: marketing specialization is great. It allows everyone to play to their strengths and encourages excellence in each practice area. But it’s synchrony that brings everyone to the table and creates truly impactful marketing messages that B2B leaders pull off every day.