In the past, many B2B marketers have focused their efforts primarily on marketing communications and short term – interruptive – lead generation. The orientation and buying journey of customers in the B2B market however has changed dramatically in recent years. Potential customers now make their decisions and compile their shortlists for solutions and vendors, based upon their online experience (websites, blogs, social media, forums….). Typically they will only have contact with sales people after they have already ‘travelled’ along 50-70% of their buying journey.
In a research study, Gartner concluded that IT providers have to rethink their ‘Go-to-Market’ and sales models. “Personal interactions with providers are still the most influential activity in B2B buying decisions“, said Tiffany Bova, Vice President and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “However, buyers do not value their interactions with salespeople as much as they did in the past. As a result, sales teams must adjust processes and skills to learn to guide buyers through their purchase cycle.” During the past few years, the sales organization has lost its control of the sales cycle.
Based upon these developments, it is Marketing that has to change and take the responsibility for helping and guiding the potential customer during his/her buying journey. It is a dramatic change for many organizations, but if performed well, will be a strong driver for leads and additional business.
Key elements to this are identifying and understanding your target market(s). Based upon this you then need to define the so called buying personas (who is/are involved in buying your solution?) and build an understanding of their needs, pain points, challenges and behaviour. The key to future selling starts with sharing your knowledge. Providing your potential customers with relevant content along each step of the buying journey will position you as an expert and thought leader in your particular field. To produce such content is not an easy step and represents a huge (marketing) challenge for many companies, but those companies who don’t start now, will face an uncertain future.
So, the field of marketing has changed. But are marketers able to adapt to this change? In the past many marketers were creative persons, investing lots of time in developing campaigns, copy for brochures, organizing events etc. The new marketer must have a “split personality”. Not only must he/she be creative and able to develop the crucial content that is needed to be found via online channels, the new marketer also needs to combine these alpha skills with beta skills. Analytical skills are necessary to discover and understand trends, knowing when to target leads with the right content and calculating the ROI of marketing activities.
The modern marketer must be creative, data driven, revenue minded and tech savvy!
Of course this discussion is not new and most business leaders are able to participate in this discussion. But how successful are you in bringing this theory into practice? Do you make the correct use of the new channels and tools? Do you have proper insight in buying personas and customer journeys? Do you know which channel delivers what result? And how do they influence each other? Are you able to select the right tools to support your marketing and sales team? Are you able to successfully implement these tools? If the answer to any of these questions is “no”, how do you see the future of your organization?
Connecting all elements of the marketing and sales process to each other is crucial. The challenge is to identify the key person(s) within the decision making process and to provide them with relevant and interesting content at the right time using the correct (online) channels. This in turn will help to move them from being a website visitor to prospect, lead, opportunity and finally to a new customer.
It is crucial that marketing and sales are closely aligned and work towards common goals. This provides an additional challenge in ensuring that all relevant information captured during the marketing phase is recorded in your CRM system, so the sales team can benefit from the insight and advantage of this rich information, which enables them in successfully converting a lead in to a customer.
This blog is an excerpt of the QBS Marketing Paper. Interested in the full paper? Download the QBS Marketing Paper here.
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