How do you know that what you are doing as a B2B marketer is right, that your long-term marketing strategy is going to work, and that you're getting the right marketing ROI? In short, asks Bob Dearsley, chief executive for The B2B Marketing Laboratory, what does it take to be a 'savvy marketer'? This article is copyright 2012 The Best Customer Guide.

Today, good marketers are recognised - quite rightly - by their ability to not only generate leads but also great content, and in their ability to take full advantage of new media platforms and implement robust multi-channel measurement processes; all while simultaneously being articulate, negotiating best supplier rates and presenting at board level where required. A feat not unlike the 'circus plate-spinner' who needs to rush around tending to numerous activities so that momentum is maintained and no individual project comes crashing to the ground.

Where the activities outstrip the capabilities of one individual, the logical approach in the past has been to grow the team - add more plate-spinners - thereby increasing the overheads to try and maintain the level of return. This naturally led to the belief that good marketing managers or directors could be identified by the size of their teams and their ability to manage them - the misconception that bigger teams meant more activity and that this was inherently 'a good thing'.

However, good marketers are expensive and increasingly hard to find, so scaling a marketing team can be a costly process, and with size comes the difficulty of managing quality. And of course the accountants will always look at the total cost of marketing in determining ROI - salaries, recruitment costs, office space, pensions, NI, company cars, expenses etc.

Therefore, the accountant and the concept of the network eradicated the misconception that bigger is better some years ago, as smarter businesses appreciated that they were able to run marketing departments on the basis of a collective of agencies, freelancers and employees so that they can flex activity - and therefore cost - up and down based upon need.

The savvy marketer therefore realised that it just wasn't feasible to conduct their own research, learn and then implement new techniques in SEO, social media, content generation and outbound marketing, all while also keeping the campaign activity ticking over and within budget. They have therefore learned to take advantage of typically less expensive outsourced experts with specific relevant industry experience, and reap the benefit of their insightful niche experience, skills and expertise - which also helps them to increase their own profile within the business.

Measuring the right metric
But surely this isn't all there is to it? Surely being a savvy marketer comes from more than just outsourcing wherever possible and practical?

While the old way of proving success was through evidencing a productive, co-ordinated and well-managed large team of employees, savviness now comes from being able to show that your network of internal and external resource - no matter what its size - is "joined-up", highly creative, and most of all, is proven to be entirely beneficial to the business. In other words, the savvy marketer is fundamentally able to measure in finite detail how valuable his or her department is to the business.

A spotter's guide to Savvy Marketers...
So how can you identify and therefore emulate such marketing professionals?

First of all, savvy marketers will meet with their chosen agency or agencies on a regular basis to discuss not just current activity, but also future trends. These will include detailed discussions of what their target markets are most actively talking about, how they can capitalise on the conversations and also a review of new B2B marketing tools and trends. More specifically, which of these should be monitored closely and which should be potentially disregarded as hype.

In addition to having this healthy appetite for information, savvy marketers can also be identified by their tendency to crave and devour data. They will have implemented a schedule of robust and rigorous measurement mechanisms that extract detailed data and metrics from both the marketer's own activities and their agencies'. This data will then be consolidated to illustrate a single representation of each campaign's successes and failures.

Most importantly, savvy marketers act upon this data. Many marketers collate plenty of data, stare at it for hours on end, but then persevere with existing activities even when the data is clearly telling them that a change is required. In contrast, savvy marketers analyse their informed data to shape the next month, quarter or year's activity and individual campaigns.

But they don't just rely on data alone. Instead, they consult their external agencies and perform detailed post mortems on individual campaigns and activities, crucially in an environment of collective self-critique, rather than within a destructive blame culture. The marketer can then harness the creativity and insight from the agency to confidently execute the next phase of their marketing strategy.

It's time to be the best
Meanwhile, the savvy marketer's board directors are delighted. Not just because results are being consistently and measurably delivered and the pipeline is growing, but because it is being achieved through the effective use of a network of agencies rather than a large, and usually more expensive, in-house team.

Continuing to assert value internally by leaning on the size of the marketing department - especially if it is comprised solely of internal resource - can only project an image of expense, and even untenable cost. Especially if the data collection and analysis capabilities are not there to show unquestionable value and substantial contribution to the sales pipeline.

Instead, today's B2B marketers need to be highly savvy and use their agencies for what they were originally hired for - additional resource, creativity and knowledge - and all the while they must maintain strong relationships with them through regular discussion, analysis of meaningful data, and cooperative campaign design.