Skilling up – Building business acumen - HANDEL
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Skilling up – Building business acumen


04 Nov Skilling up – Building business acumen

You’ve got to start with good bread


I recently posted an article on measuring the success of B2B marketing interventions – and committed to doing a follow-up piece. One of the key themes covered in the article focused on the lack of business acumen amongst B2B marketers and their tendency to stick to safety blankets made up of tried and trusted operational marketing metrics.


This, I believe, can be attributed to the simple fact that many B2B marketers lack the business insights, vocabulary and experience to engage in conversations that matter to business leaders.


The Oxford English Dictionary defines acumen as “the ability to make good judgements and quick decisions.” Add the word “business” and we’re looking at the ability to deal with a situation in way that is likely to lead to a good or desired outcome.


Do we possess this commercial acumen? Is enough emphasis placed on it in our schooling? And is it something that is ingrained in our daily working lives and professional development?


I believe not.


How do we (start to) fix it?

Ashely Moss, head chef of The Greenhouse at the Cellars-Hohenhort just outside Cape Town says: “You’ve got to start with good bread to make a good sandwich.” I love this statement, for many reasons.


Applied to a B2B marketing context, you need the right foundation (commercial acumen and understanding) before piling on the toppings (implementing marketing tactics without thinking).


A sandwich with the best fillings can be very unsatisfying if it is served on poor quality bread.


I live around the corner from a bakery and smell the intoxicating aromas of fresh bread on my early morning walk with the dogs – a reminder that anything crafted with attention to detail and passion is sure to satisfy.


So what ingredients are needed to bake this bread? There are a handful:

  • Conduct a skills gap analysis: It doesn’t matter whether you are an in-house marketer or part of an agency, skills are skills. A lack of the right skills will have dire consequences. Do not try and do this alone – enlist the services of an expert in the field to map out where your skills gaps lie and how they should be closed.
  • Formal training: I’m not suggesting that you enrol your entire team for B.Com degrees, but investigate the available options for formal training programmes delivered by business schools and other training providers.
  • Informal training and mentorship: Make it a mindset and provide ongoing informal training and mentorship to those in your team. Enlist the support of colleagues (or for agencies, your clients) in core business functions to impart their knowledge and educate marketing on what makes the wheels of commerce turn.
  • Read, read and read some more: Write this into your team’s KPIs – read up on the world of business, the forces that shape it and the role that marketing plays in driving it forward.


Like bread, the ingredients are few and simple, but when mixed correctly the result is simply delicious.

JP Hansen
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