We all know that there is a global skills shortage, which intensifies the competition for talent between all manner of businesses for all manner of skills.

Marketing, especially B2B marketing, is no exception. As a profession, we need to clearly define what skills are necessary to embark on and succeed in a career in B2B marketing and make it an attractive proposition for those who are considering their career options because, these days, they have a lot of them.

Those of us already in the marketing profession enjoy it very much but sometimes wonder why it’s difficult to find the same enthusiasm in others.

The short answer is, ironically, that our profession is not as good as it should be in marketing itself!

We’re more than happy to take up that challenge, but to do that, we need to start at the source of the talent stream and divert it to where its nourishment is needed most.

We’re somewhat biased of course, but B2B marketing is not a backwater. It’s mainstream. And we set out to find out from peers in our field what they believe it takes to attract and retain talent in an increasingly explicit field.

Fortunately, Napier hosts and runs the Marketing B2B Technology podcast. As part of our podcast interviews, we asked podcast guests from a wide range of B2B marketing tech companies to share their best advice for young people contemplating a career in marketing, B2B or otherwise.

Here’s a compendium of what we learned:


The first thing that a prospective employee – or someone already in marketing or considering a career change – should do is a detailed assessment of their existing skill set. What are you good at? (Be honest!) What excites you? Are you more creative or analytical? There’s not a right answer because marketing requires each of those personality types and many more, but it’s important to truly discover yourself. You then apply those identified attributes to an agency or company that can use, and nurture, those strengths.

However, no matter how good you now think you are – and we all think we’re pretty good to some degree – you have to leave your ego at the door. You are now part of a team. What you need to bring is a fresh take with your creativity, attention to detail and any other demonstrable skill you possess.  Remember, marketing is a science, not a magic trick… although magic sometimes happens!

Anyone who wants to get into marketing should consider studying business first. You need to at the very least have a basic understanding of how business is structured.

And it’s those business basics that will serve you well in engaging with your customers throughout your marketing career. If you’re focused on that, you’re helping customers along the buying journey in ways they can relate to. Don’t focus solely on features and benefits. Focus on how your product or service will improve your customer’s personal or professional life.

If you honestly identify your marketable skills, and are a champion of them in the workplace, your stock will go up. Don’t worry too much about making a mistake. Mistakes are good. They mean you are trying to do the right thing and occasionally failing. It’s said that Thomas Edison failed in the order of 1,000 times before producing a light bulb that worked. Now, don’t think of marketing as a failure academy because the best marketing is derived from learning from occasional misfires – yours and others.  In fact, don’t think of it as marketing per se.  Think of it as educational and helpful, particularly in B2B marketing, which in many ways is exactly what it is.


There are so many directions a young person can go that could align with their passion, whether they’re more creative, mathematically or technically inclined. There is fulfilling room for all in B2B marketing. In fact, marketing is a great place to gain experience because you almost can’t do anything wrong. A huge part of marketing is making educated decisions about what is going to be of most value to a customer to help them in their buying journey. Not every cul-de-sac will lead to a sale, but that’s the beauty of it. You add it to the list of cul-de-sacs to avoid, unless a customer wants that particular cul-de-sac!

You may end up at a large megafirm (congratulations), but more often than not the best place to gain valuable experience or hone your skills is with start-ups, or small regional or specialist agencies. It’s also more likely that you’ll be “seen” and be afforded opportunities to get more quickly involved at increasingly senior levels. Use the early years to absorb as much information and practical real-world experience as possible. Volunteer for every project. If there’s something you can’t do, be honest about it, then try to learn. And that’s the main point anyway. You should never stop learning, especially from mistakes! Take control. Apply your positive attitude, activity and efforts to learning. Then use what you’ve learned to get results for your clients. It’s one of the most satisfying things you can achieve early in your B2B career, and the beauty is that that satisfaction will increase throughout your career as your experience continues to grow. Never. Stop. Learning.


Customers always have been and shall always remain supreme.

In B2B marketing, if you want to market a company effectively, especially when you’re not immersed in their products every day, you must talk with their customers. That’s where you find out what they love about the product, which will help you understand how to reflect the best of the product onto your client’s target audience.

And that’s the key. Part of the process of learning and gaining experience is working hard to gain an understanding of your client’s customers. Remember, it’s ultimately not solely about your client’s product or services, it’s about their customers’ needs and what you can do to help satisfy those needs.

If you’re early in your B2B marketing career you have an opportunity to establish yourself as an expert, and you can become that very quickly if you make it a point to always think about your client’s customers’ needs first.

Just remember that marketing is about customer empathy and insight. If you come to understand them well enough to feel their pain points and learn how to communicate about how a product or service can minimise or eliminate those pain points and, therefore, improve their lives, you’ll succeed.


Once you understand customers you need to put things in a business context, so you need business skills, not just marketing skills

It is absolutely critical to invest in your own business acumen. Earn your seat at the table of the executives and the board, to understand how every single ounce of your effort is driving business impact.

Don’t get hung up on the tactics and the things that aren’t important. Business is quite simple when you boil it down, we’re trying to get more customers, trying to reduce churn, and trying to increase profit.


Marketing is a marriage of art and science. For people who enjoy using use both sides of their brain – plus the bit in between – it’s a very satisfying way to make a living.

That said, you must understand how the use of those sensory attributes applies the fundamental marketing metrics. i.e., the analytical measurements. If you get the input metrics right, the output metrics – that’s the science bit – happen automatically.

Park your opinion and follow the data using as many marketing tools as you can. There are plenty available today that are not only very useful, but a lot of fun to use.

Put simply, measuring everything correctly will give you results that you can count on to create your vision. That’s the art bit.

So, if you’re curious, enjoy creativity and storytelling, and if you enjoy making sense of data, there is an exciting career waiting for you in marketing.

Keep developing

Markets are constantly changing, so you have to keep learning, which is never a bad thing.

Read a lot. The more you read, the more you feather your knowledge nest and the more you’re likely to be able to absorb information and develop skills that will benefit you, your client and your employer.

It’s tough out there, but you’re tougher

All of the above said, marketing is no Shangri-la (except when you score a big success!). Thick skin and patience have their respective roles to play but use them to play the long game. Marketing isn’t magic. It takes time to work, so set expectations and don’t overpromise.

Even better, develop the skill of learning. Learn how to say complicated things in simple ways. If you can’t get an idea across in two sentences or less, you’re probably overcomplicating it and your audience will switch off.

If you get stuck and can’t find a solution at that moment, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Stick with it. The truth and the solution are out there, and you’re the one who’s most likely to find it!


Not one of the professionals we spoke with for their interview said, “Don’t go into marketing”.

Quite the contrary. Almost every one of them said some form of “Go into marketing determined to use all your skills and all of the tools available to you because there is ample space to apply and make a success of all of them.”

And we hope you will.