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

The pandemic has given B2B marketing leaders a unique opportunity to rethink the culture of their marketing teams. Instead of worrying about how to recover, B2B marketers should think about how to get stronger.

Cultural change takes time, but one of the best ways is to incorporate new steps into your employees’ professional development plans. After all, you are what you measure: Campbell’s Law states that if an increase or related value judgment depends solely on meeting a sales quota, then employees sacrifice their other responsibilities – team management, skills development, etc. – to achieve the quota .

By incorporating innovation into development plans and then into annual employee reviews, you can hold them (and yourself) accountable for the changes you want to make. The metrics that make a successful employee must include behaviors that you want to see. Otherwise, your teams will treat cultural change as “nice to have” rather than a necessary focus.

However, it doesn’t help to tell your employees to “be more innovative” or “take more risks” in their work. Instead, create professional development goals that are specific, achievable, and measurable, and then provide detailed recommendations that are time-bound and actionable.

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

  • Do you have a development plan? Are your employees doing? When was it last updated?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What are your career goals? This year? In the next 3-5 years?
  • What do you need to achieve these goals? Of yourself? From your team? From your boss? From the organization?
  • When was the last time you spoke to your team members about their personal career goals?
  • Do you have a plan on how you can help them achieve these goals?
  • Do you hold them accountable for achieving their goals?
  • When was the last time you went to the factory to better understand the complexities of your product manufacturing?
  • Do you observe industry associations and do you know the latest trends?
  • Have you shadowed your sales reps to really hear your customers’ voice and understand their needs and what they are looking for?

Once you have assessed the current situation, start creating plans that will lay the foundation for a more innovative and effective marketing communications department – a department that attracts, develops and retains innovative people.

Professional development plans, like your professional development goals, should be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely). Below are some examples of employee development plans in your org chart. Executing these plans can help you lay the foundation for a more innovative marketing team that can put the strategies and tactics you see in conference agendas, blog posts, and white papers into practice.

For executives

Goal: Build a more effective marketing communications function that is recognized both internally and externally for its innovation, creativity and effectiveness.


  1. Win at least one external award for the team’s work.
  2. Get at least five positive testimonials from business unit managers across the company who speak for the team’s added value.
  3. Identify and measure the direct impact of teamwork on helping one or more business units achieve their sales goal. Then create and share a case study of working on your intranet.
  4. Integrate innovation, creativity, and effectiveness into the team’s success metrics.

Development measures:

  1. Before the end of the year, research, identify, write and submit an award entry that highlights one of your team’s projects for at least three marketing awards that focus on industry innovation and / or creativity (e.g. IW Industry Excellence Awards , ANA B2 Awards), The Drum B2B Awards, Stevie Awards).
  2. Over the next three months, develop a case study template to highlight your team’s work and produce at least three case studies that contain measurable results.
  3. Develop and implement an internal process within the next month to assess the employee satisfaction of your team, especially with regard to innovation and creativity. Create a base value and increase it by at least 50% by the end of the year.
  4. Develop a presentation within the next year to let senior management know about the creativity, innovation and effectiveness of the marketing team.

For medium-sized employees

Goal: Become the model for identifying and applying new and innovative marketing techniques.


  1. Run at least one project, which will then be identified and submitted for at least one external innovation or creativity award.
  2. Become known as the company’s expert on at least one new aspect of innovative marketing.

Development measures:

  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. Train at least one other team member on this skill, then apply it to at least one project.
  2. Attend at least one marketing or communications conference outside of manufacturing and B2B within the next six months. Then develop and share a presentation on how you and your staff can better apply this experience internally.
  3. Develop a presentation about your identified skills within the next year and inform management.

For young professionals

Goal: Become a versatile marketer by learning how creativity and innovation are applied across the department.


  1. Get positive reviews of your annual review from at least three colleagues outside of your immediate team.
  2. Be a member of the core team on at least one project that has been submitted for a marketing award.
  3. Contribute to your team’s reputation for creativity and innovation by creating or identifying content to share with the rest of the company on a monthly basis.
  4. Get a better understanding of your company’s business.

Development measures:

  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. Over the next month, identify at least two other job roles in other areas of the company where you can shadow colleagues and gain a better understanding of what they do on a daily basis. Shadow each of them and apply what you have learned in your communication.
  3. Over the next three months, develop a channel (intranet blog posts, email newsletters, staff meeting presentations, etc.) where you will create and curate innovative marketing campaigns from different industries, highlighting the lessons learned and best practices that will be used in your Companies can be applied. Share content at least twice a month.

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Development plans should always be tailored to the individual employee, as everyone has different strengths, weaknesses, goals and interests. However, the above outlines provide a good framework for creating lasting culture change in your B2B marketing.

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