What if there was a single logical narrative that explained the key priorities in B2B marketing today?
Here’s my shot at it… (Click here to download)
I’ve started from a now commonplace view on changes to the buying process. The orthodox view is that the process is increasingly being ‘owned’ by decision-makers who are researching online and cutting back on their interactions with Sales.
People who take this to mean that buyers don’t want to interact with Sales are massively over-simplifying the issue, but there are still two general conclusions we can draw:
- There’s an opportunity for Marketing to take a broader role to engage with this new buyer behaviour and ‘own’ a clearer contribution further through the funnel
- Sales need to work harder to add value and be included earlier in the buying process
All of which leads to my view on seven priorities:
I’ll tackle the first four here and save the next three for a future post…
1. Content and inbound marketing
With mass email marketing undergoing a slow and lingering death, it’s time to take a systematic approach to getting inbound marketing up and running.
Online searches, social media networks and supplier websites are the starting point for the majority of buyers looking for information. If we’re going to fill the gap left by email marketing, we need to build joined-up technology and joined-up audience journeys that span all these channels, track metrics and allow us to optimise campaigns.
The big benefit of winning the content battle is that you get to start a relationship with the buyer much earlier than the competition. So you can shape their thinking and their preference for you. What’s more you can judge the right point to offer them more and encourage them to interact with your Sales team.
Marketing teams are getting more proficient at creating early-stage content that captures this kind of attention. But they still struggle to build the more detailed materials that could replicate the guidance that Sales and Business Development teams would have given to buyers later in the process.
Content marketers need to get better at this if they’re going to be credible at anything other than capturing early-stage interest.
2. Nurturing and marketing automation
Armed with all this great content, we also need:
- The planning skills to map out audience journeys and nurture flows
- The technical skills to bring it to life through marketing automation
The things I find most exciting about marketing automation:
- How it supports and makes the most of inbound and social media marketing (varies by marketing automation platform)
- Its ability to rescue email response rates through better timing, segmentation and personalisation
- It can be used to set up campaigns that can continue to be used well into the future (things like customer lifecycle communications, event promotion templates, cold lead re-activation…)
- The way it uncovers all the shortcomings in existing marketing activities (it’s amazing what you realise is wrong with a campaign when you try to automate it)
- How it encourages us to think in a different way about ‘campaigns’. Rather than being defined points in time (the traditional model of a quarterly focus on a specific proposition or audience), campaigns are now ready to run at the right time for an individual contact
- Its potential to forge better connections between Sales and Marketing (anything from showing salespeople what their contacts are interested in on your website through to fundamentally fixing lead handover processes)
3. Revenue accountability and demand generation
The previous two points are important parts of the opportunity that Marketing has to take far alongside accepting more accountability for revenue.
Rather than focusing on leads or even pipeline, we’ll drive the right outcomes if we focus on the end revenue goal.
Building an ‘engine’ to create demand and manage it through to the right Sales handover is one of Marketing’s biggest opportunities to prove ROI. This case study of the Atos Lead Generation Factory is a great example.
4. Sales and Marketing alignment
The new world of marketing accountability and changing buyer behaviour means a new relationship between Sales and Marketing.
We need to work harder at mapping sales targets back to marketing objectives. Some of these will directly relate to sourcing new revenue (see point 3). But others can be equally valid if we make sure they will support the right outcomes. For example increasing referencability to support bids, or strengthening relationships with some core audience groups.
And we need to get better at working together throughout the buying cycle. Most of the time there’s no single magical ‘handover’ when Marketing can forget about an opportunity and Sales will pick it up through the rest of the process.
The ideal answer is much more joint working. Marketing may reach a point where the right next action for a contact is a meeting or call with Sales. But after that, Marketing may pick the prospect back up and continue nurturing them for several months before the final handover to Sales.
Agreeing joint priorities, mapping targets and developing new working processes – these were the foundations of our programme with O2 Enterprise which won last year’s B2B Marketing Award for Best Integration of Sales and Marketing. See the case study here.
Tune in next time for the final three priorities…
And building on the foundation of aligned Sales and Marketing objectives, I’ll pick up on the final three priorities in a future post (sales enablement, social selling, and brand reputation).