Tactics to use B2B marketing to drive business growth

Lessons from Nicole Parlapiano, vice president of marketing at WeWork

B2B marketing is a constant balance between the emotional and the analytical. Running a successful marketing team means getting that balance consistently right, and it’s what keeps Nicole Parlapiano up at night. As WeWork’s head of marketing for the U.S. and Canada, she was inspired to share her insights about how to use B2B marketing to drive business growth with us after listening to Sydney Sloan’s Up At Night podcast episode.

On the one hand, Parlapiano says, B2B marketing leaders need to run teams that come up with impactful creative that differentiates their product or service in a breakthrough way. That sometimes means not taking the traditional problem-solution route. On the other hand, those leaders need to be experts in the measurable metrics they’re committed to, like opportunities and revenue. Parlapiano’s overarching advice for B2B marketing leaders—or anyone aspiring to climb the marketing ladder—is to embrace the mix of creative and analytical.

So, how does B2B marketing drive business growth? Parlapiano shared her six B2B marketing tips with us to help you get started.

1. Understand the context and complexities

“The tough part about B2B marketing is that it’s a rational and emotional sell,” Parlapiano says. “The individuals involved usually care about different things, and the sales journey is long. It’s marketing’s job to inform and influence the buyer groups along the sales cycle, and to help expedite the sales cycle to close the deal.”

Bu you can learn from the experience, she explains. “If you are a marketer at any company, philosophically understanding the challenges of B2B marketing will help with internal communications and buy-in,” she says. “The better you are at explaining your plans and making your case for budgets with different stakeholder groups, the faster you can move.” How does she make her case? She models.

The better you are at explaining your plans and making your case for budgets with different stakeholder groups, the faster you can move.

Nicole Parlapiano, head of marketing, U.S. and Canada, at WeWork

2. Model everything

With a background in private equity, Parlapiano said she’s learned to apply financial models in order to internally build a business case for B2B marketing campaigns, and for campaign optimization.

“I model everything,” she says. “I look at historical performance benchmarks, form my assumptions, and forecast what I think the campaign will yield. We usually like to look at three different scenarios: low yield, average, above average. This gives us a performance range. Midway through the campaign flight, we reevaluate and check where we are falling within that range and which areas of the funnel we can improve.”

Not everything works as planned, she admits. “You sometimes need to know when to call it, when something just isn’t working no matter how much you try to optimize, and it becomes a waste of time, money, and resources to try to make it work,” she acknowledges. “I have a hard time doing that because my ego is saying it failed, which is hard to admit. But if everything is successful, we’re not really learning anything.”

3. Manage the biggest risk: executing the creative

“Creative is always the most risky component when I’m planning campaigns or programs,” Parlapiano explains. “I can recall many times in my career where the creative idea was amazing, and it just fell apart in execution, or where we played it too safe and it didn’t move the needle. It’s a hard thing to nail.”

I can recall many times in my career where the creative idea was amazing, and it just fell apart in execution, or where we played it too safe and it didn’t move the needle. It’s a hard thing to nail.

Nicole Parlapiano

When you’re utilizing B2B marketing to drive business growth but the creative ideas fall apart, she says, it’s due to one of two reasons: Either there are too many cooks in the kitchen, or the idea is impractical to execute. “Sometimes it’s a great idea, but it can’t be executed in real life,” she says.

Another problem she’s encountered is being overly precious. “In hypergrowth, we don’t have time to be precious,” she explains. “It’s more of a get-it-done mentality.” Still, Parlapiano is a big believer in creative. “I’d say 60 percent of marketing effectiveness is message and creative articulation. Amazing creative trumps everything.”

4. Build bridges

Parlapiano and her team agree to aggressive annual goals, then reassess on at least a weekly basis. But they don’t agree to the goals in a vacuum—Parlapiano has a close relationship with all of her cross-functional stakeholders: sales, government affairs, general managers, real estate, design, and of course the regional “C-We-O.” They sit together, they’ve traveled together, and they’ve built a lot of trust. And they have a strict “no throwing under the bus” mentality.

Building trust with fellow leaders may seem like simplistic advice, but Parlapiano’s success has come by turning that trust into open conversations and clear agreement on the interdependence of marketing’s goals.  “Everything is connected,” she says, “from marketing to sales to real estate to the community teams on the ground.” And by explaining exactly what inputs and follow-through she needs to hit her marketing objectives and impact the company’s overall goals, Parlapiano is a more effective marketing leader.

5. Hold clarity meetings, especially during rapid business growth

This is a shared technique that Parlapiano heard Sydney Sloan mention in her Up At Night episode. Sloan said she uses a “clearing meeting” with her CEO to discuss any issues or tensions. As she put it, “I may agree or disagree, but I’ve learned it’s better to be aligned sometimes than to be right.” 

Parlapiano takes a similar approach. One of her biggest fears in growth mode is that the business moves so quickly that people can become confused about the company’s purpose and what it’s driving toward. Or people make false assumptions. So she sets monthly “clarity” meetings with her leadership counterparts, a deliberate venue to resolve any ambiguity and to make sure everyone’s aligned.

She takes the idea of clarity even further, practicing the inclusive management technique of balancing the opinions of extroverts with those of introverts. “If I know someone is naturally more introverted on my team, I will ask them for input after the meeting instead of calling them out in the room,” she explains. “Leadership needs to be inclusive, so I want to stay attuned to the emotions in the room.”

6. Be passionate about your product

Parlapiano’s move from private equity to marketing was driven partly by the product, she says. She spent time working for dating site behemoth eharmony, where “the mission was to find someone a soulmate.” She describes a headquarters filled with framed photos of marriages and families that eharmony helped create.

WeWork’s product can be seen in a similar way, she explains, and that helps her bring passion to her work every day. “At WeWork, we’re trying to match people and companies with a physical space where—for better or worse—they will spend more time with their coworkers than with their families at home,” she says. “We want to make that a better experience. They may not meet their soulmate, but they could meet their business partner or a funding source, or form a stronger connection with coworkers.”

Looking to find a space that’s a perfect match for your business?

Reach out to WeWork to hear more about how it can connect you to new markets and opportunities for growth with less capital outlay. And be sure to listen to WeWork member Sydney Sloan’s Up At Night podcast episode on managing a B2B marketing team during hypergrowth.

Interested in workspace? Get in touch.