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Posts Tagged ‘B2B buyer’

A few weeks ago, I published a series of blog posts that ask the question, “Why don’t marketing leaders manage ‘demand’ as an operational process.”  I noted the core challenge for many B2B marketing leaders is we simply do not build, manage or optimize demand “… as an operational, repeatable and sustainable process.”  Sure we have marketing processes, but mostly they are periodic, ‘activity-based’ (and over-complicated) processes, focused on the planning and production of things such as content and events.

What we fail to conceptualize is the more holistic, perpetual process of continuously moving buyers from their earliest lead state to a revenue close – i.e., a true, central ‘outcome-based’ process.  Moreover, we never really take a step back and consider that all of our other marketing and sales processes should be rationalized, optimized and simplified against this central process.  In fact, when we take this point of view, it explains much of the disconnect that exists between marketing and sales.  For decades, B2B marketers have produced campaigns, and B2B sales team members have produced revenue.  The two could not be more diametrically opposed.

The perspective fortunately is changing.  With 72% of marketing automation ‘top performers’ reporting their number-one goal today is to increase revenue, according to Gleanster, the r-word increasingly is top of the agenda for B2B marketers.  And an increasing number of B2B companies large and small are measuring marketing performance via – or at least asking initial questions that drive toward – a revenue basis.  Marketing campaigns and content increasingly are being built with the buyer’s content needs during the buying process in mind.  And as I mentioned in my previous blog post, thanks to marketing automation technology, we are no longer challenged when it comes to the technology to track our buyer’s interactions with our content and programs.

So you would think we would have all the right ingredients to succeed with perpetual B2B demand generation – to build, manage and optimize literal lead-to-revenue factories.  But no.

Our drive towards a managed demand process continues to fall apart at execution.

As it turns out, getting our stream of inbound and outbound buyer education working in tandem with our lead qualification efforts, automating everything and getting everyone on the marketing and sales team partnering and operating on a continuous basis around this process … well that’s where we still struggle.

Fortunately, there is a better way.

The key to a managed demand process and to operating perpetual B2B demand generation is adopting a new approach – a new mindset, if you will.  It is one that I call “demand process stewardship.”

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This week I’m publishing a two-part blog series.  This series takes a look at the challenge marketing leaders face in managing demand as an operational process.  The first post presented an introduction to the topic and examined the issue of tracking B2B buyer behavior.  The second post, today, looks at the fundamental issue of B2B marketing leaders’ ‘lack of an operations mindset.’ ~ABN

Problem Two:  Our Lack of an Operations Mindset

Given we have a rapidly expanding set of technological capabilities – through marketing automation and similar platforms – to ‘track the buyer,’ what is remaining for us to effectively manage demand as an end-to-end, optimize-able process?  I noted in the previous post in this series, “Clearly there is something else – something bigger – that is holding us back … .”

That bigger issue is B2B marketing leaders’ lack of an operations mindset.

This is the issue that B2B marketing leaders – especially CMOs – often can’t put their finger on, but that is at the core of much of our modern challenges.  They talk about not being able to demonstrate the revenue impact of marketing; they talk about not having ‘hard numbers’; or they speak to not having a dashboard to really visualize marketing results.  Obviously none of these ‘wants’ represent an operations mindset, per se, but they do represent the result of successfully managing demand as a process.

So how do B2B marketing leaders typically remedy this situation?  They invest in technology, but when it comes to their marketing programs, they continue to do ‘more of the same.’

Therein lies the disconnect, as I note in Balancing the Demand Equation:

The disconnect:  If as B2B marketers we are applying legacy mass-marketing, top-of-funnel techniques to the effort of customer acquisition and nurturing in an era of Buyer 2.0, there is a high likelihood that we will have a single, ineffective touchpoint with our buyer and then subsequently lose his/her engagement as (s)he goes through the buying process.  Most of our demand generation programs thus remain highly inefficient, largely focused on awareness, and so we consistently lose track of warm leads that literally ‘leak’ out of our sale funnel, as Forrester has noted in its research.  This is particularly problematic because Buyer 2.0 is moving forward in the buyer education process and will make a purchase, but if our B2B demand generation program loses touch with that buyer, the chance of him/her purchasing from us is greatly decreased.

Most B2B marketing organizations thus do not have a top-of-funnel problem.  What they really have is a ‘middle-of-the-funnel’ problem.

This is why our B2B demand generation efforts cannot be haphazard or intermittent; instead, they need to be consistent and continuous processes.  …

Yet it is exactly this type of a consistent and continuous B2B demand process – one that perpetually operates to move a buyer through multiple education and qualification stages (adjusting to the pace of the buying cycle), that combines both automated and live touch points and that only turns a lead over to sales after sufficient processing – that B2B marketing leaders are challenged to build.

We want a lead factory – a construct that requires understanding and enabling the multiple processing stages required to take in raw inputs and to churn out a finished product – but instead we deliver a series of ‘stage shows.’

What is at the core of this issue?  It has nothing to do with good intentions; rather, it is the product of biases that are deep-rooted and fundamentally engrained in B2B marketers.

  • First, right-brain/creative types are often drawn to marketing, not left-brainers.
  • Second, marketing training at the vocational and academic level is focused on channels and tactics and on building consumer brands, but rarely speaks to the orchestration and coordination of multiple channels and tactics in a sequence to drive buyer dialogue.
  • Third, on the off-chance a B2B marketer has some operations-analysis experience, it was probably garnered either in an MBA class or in an industrial setting, and it was probably applied to some sort of manufacturing process – meaning it never ‘clicked’ that this could also be applied to marketing.
  • Fourth, the opportunities and challenges around such a complex, iterative and information empowered Buyer 2.0 are relatively recent; meaning, it truly is a changed world of marketing today from five years ago or ten years ago, when more ‘one-and-done’ tactics in more limited channels might have actually been a successful route.

It’s time for our training, bias and ultimate mindset as B2B marketers to catch up with our operational reality.  So where do we need to focus our time and attention to drive change?

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This week I’m publishing a two-part blog series.  This series takes a look at the challenge marketing leaders face in managing demand as an operational process.  The first post, today, presents an introduction to the topic and examines the issue of tracking B2B buyer behavior. ~ABN

I open Balancing the Demand Equation by commenting, “Modern B2B demand generation is failing.  Seriously.”  What’s going on?  Amid an information power shift from sellers to buyers, an explosion of Web 2.0 communication channels and raised expectations from sales colleagues and executive management, B2B marketers are finding it tougher than ever to credibly and efficiently add value in the “lead-to-revenue” process, as Forrester terms it.  I hear this challenge regularly from senior marketers and CMOs, who often are hard-pressed to show the real impact of their efforts on their companies’ bottom lines.

Where’s the gap?

There are many challenges, but perhaps one of the greatest is our frequent inability as B2B marketing leaders to conceptualize and manage ‘demand’ – used here in the classical economics sense of the word – as an operational, repeatable and sustainable process.  Stated in another way, we do not treat B2B buyer demand as something that is built via a series of optimize-able steps, through which we turn initial buyer interest into a lifetime of customer revenue.

What goes into such an end-to-end demand process?  The core organizing thread is the logic around the dialogue we plan to drive with the buyer, based on his/her buying process.  This aligns with a virtual ‘layer’ of content marketing efforts that should extend across channels, addressing various stages of the buying process.  This dialogue also should be aligned with a layer of lead qualification activities, which extend throughout all phases of the buying process.  These parallel layers of content marketing and lead qualification should align with various marketing and sales roles, spanning both automated nurturing and also live interaction at various stages of the buying process.  And the entire process should be supported by data and systems that enable the end-to-end orchestration of marketing and sales efforts to move the buyer forward.

Active demand process management thus is critical to successful, modern B2B marketing and demand generation, and yet B2B marketing leaders are only beginning to scratch the surface of doing so.

In fact, this gap was driven home as I was reading a recent pair of research briefs, written by Lori Wizdo and Jeff Ernst (Twitter: @jeffernst), both analysts at Forrester.  The first brief, “Automating Lead-to-revenue Management” by Wizdo, notes that B2B technology marketing organizations’ contribution to lead pipelines, on average, hovers at a surprisingly-low 27%.  The second brief, “The State Of B2B Demand Generation: Disjointed” by Ernst, further notes that only one in four B2B marketing organizations “… have defined a lead-to-revenue management process that their marketing and sales teams follow” and that less than 5% of aggregate marketing and sales interaction with B2B buyers rises to the level of what Ernst would consider truly “orchestrated.”

Clearly modern B2B demand generation is failing.  And all of the great messaging and creative, smart tradeshow sponsorships and new technology investments that we throw at the problem cannot help if we are unable make a critical leap.  We must be able to manage demand as an operational process.

So why haven’t we done this yet?

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On September 19, my first book, Balancing the Demand Equation:  The Elements of a Successful, Modern B2B Demand Generation Model, was released on Amazon.

I can honestly say it was a very cool moment in my own personal and professional life, and I am thankful for so many who have helped make this project a reality over the past two-plus years.

So nearly 30 days later, how’s it going?

As background, I wrote the book to help fellow B2B marketers understand and succeed in a challenging modern demand generation environment – a topic I’m obviously passionate about and have been speaking and writing about now for several years. It covers how and why B2B marketing has changed in a Web 2.0 environment, and it provides a framework for building and operationalizing a ‘successful, modern B2B demand generation model.’  (BTW, to download a more-detailed summary of the book and its table of contents, click here.)

Literally, I wrote the book on B2B demand generation that I believed wasn’t out there — but needed to be!

I’m thus happy to report that the book has been well-received by the very B2B marketing community it was written for, with strong early sales and some fantastic initial reviews.

But no book release is without its ups and downs.  I’ve had my fair share of supply-chain issues and I’m sure I have frustrated a few people who have tried to order the book.  (And for that I apologize.)  Yet I can’t complain; that’s what happens when your book becomes a top-five bestseller on Amazon!  (Read:  Selling out can be a good problem to have.)

So given all that’s happened in the last 30 days, I thought I’d do a quick round-up and share some highlights, as well as providing an update on availability of the book.

Initial Reviews

Initial reviews have been fantastic.  In fact, I’m humbled by what a number of colleagues in the B2B marketing / marketing technology / demand generation world have written about my book, and I wanted to share their comments with you below:

Ardath Albee (Twitter: @ardath421), Author, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale, wrote on her Marketing Interactions blog:

The simplicity of his approach is admirable. … It’s both strategic enough to help you think through the issues and tactical enough to help you actually do something meaningful to address them.

David Raab (Twitter: @draab), industry analyst and Author, The Marketing Performance Measurement Toolkit, wrote on his Customer Experience Matrix blog:

Adam Needles’ new book Balancing the Demand Equation closes the gap. … Consider this a guidebook for how to play the game and win.

Anand Thaker (Twitter: @AnandThaker), a marketing operations strategist and former colleague of mine at Silverpop, wrote on his Marketing Technology blog:

Balancing the Demand Equation is about the changing B2B environment where relevancy and efficiency matter most, but marketers are currently unable to deliver.

Scott Brinker (Twitter: @chiefmartec), President and CTO of ion interactive, wrote on his Chief Marketing Technologist blog:

I’ve been a fan of Adam’s for many years … he’s a master mechanic of modern marketing engines. … For the mere price of a book, it’s a bargain to tap into Adam’s experienced and inspiring thinking on these topics.

And these write-ups come on the heels of some already strong reviews, highlighted on the back cover of the book, which I shared a few weeks ago.

Again, I’m humbled, and my sincerest thanks to Ardath, David, Anand and Scott for taking the time to read and review my book.

Availability Update

While I’ve had great luck with such fantastic reviews, I can’t say the same about the supply chain side of things.

What can I say — and without getting into the details — is that within a very short time of my book being released, it was sold out and unavailable, and it took about two weeks to get back to a point where the book was consistently available via Amazon. The good news is that we’ve finally got things dialed with the printer, and we’ve been able to consistently keep the book available for the last week or two.

I obviously want to apologize to anyone who had a bad experience getting early copies; hopefully, that will not happen again.

So where can you get a copy of Balancing the Demand Equation at this point?

  • Hardcopy:  It is available in hardcopy format on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
  • Electronic version:  It is available in electronic format on Nook.  (And stay tuned as I hope to announce Kindle and iBook versions very soon.)

Amazon Bestseller!!!

Perhaps the most exciting development over the first thirty days is that my book hit Amazon top-five bestseller status in more than one marketing category.

Below is a snapshot of its ranking on October 11 … just a few days ago and probably the best day of sales yet:

So that’s the scoop!

All-in-all, a great first thirty days as an author.

I’m really excited by how the book has been received so far, and I look forward to sharing it with more B2B marketers over the coming weeks and months.  I also look forward to additional feedback as others read the book.  Let me know what you think!

Finally, thanks to so many people for supporting me in this endeavor.  Writing a book is not a solo activity.  I’ve acknowledged a number of people in the front of my book, but I want to once again say thanks to that group and to the broader network that has helped make this a reality.

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I’ve written a number of blog posts over the last two years referencing my B2B demand generation strategy book project, and — as a number of you have noted — I’ve been much-to-quiet over the past five months.

With good reason (as I’ve been hard at work finishing this project up), but no more.  I’m pleased to announce that …

Balancing the Demand Equation:  The Elements of a Successful Modern B2B Demand Generation Model is now set to be released via New Year Publishing in hardcover on Amazon on September 19.  (Click here to pre-order your copy.)

It also will be available on iBook, Kindle and Nook shortly thereafter.

I’m particularly excited to announce the book’s release to the community of B2B marketers I’ve worked so closely with over the years.  I think this is a book you’ll find very useful in helping to take your B2B demand generation programs to the next level.  And I look forward to your feedback on it.

As I note in the book’s description:

The goal of the book is to help B2B marketers fundamentally transform their demand generation approach – building perpetual, buyer-centric programs that contribute to predictable and sustainable revenues for their organizations.  The book also helps B2B marketers re-position their role, from tactical execution manager to that of strategic demand-chain manager – a critical shift.

B2B marketers need more than a minor course correction.  They need a massive overhaul in their approach to B2B demand generation.  Balancing the Demand Equation delivers both the rationale and approach to help B2B marketers succeed in this re-alignment and to emerge as leaders in the new B2B demand chain.

Click here to download a PDF overview of the book and its table of contents.

There’s more to come on the book and its release, and I’ll keep Propelling Brands updated with the details over the coming weeks.

Also, I’ve picked back up my blogging again.  This past week I published a new post on the Left Brain DGA blog site, titled “The Real Cost of Retaining a Legacy Approach to B2B Demand Generation … And What You Can Do About It.”  And I’ll be doing more posts in the near future around many of the topics in the book.

More to come …

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For those of you that have been following my B2B demand generation book project over time, I wanted to check in with a quick update … and a request.

The update: After working and re-working the focus and scope of the book over the last six months, I’m happy to announce I’m on what I believe is a strong path to completion.  I’m more confident than ever in the evolutionary direction and focus of the book, and I strongly expect to complete this book over the next few months.  (I’m about 2/3 done today and could see being done with major writing by May or sooner.  In fact, if you’ve noticed me blogging and Tweeting less lately, it’s because I’m spending a lot of time on the book … that is, when I’m not working with Left Brain clients, which are always my priority.)

Balancing the Demand Equation, as I’m currently titling the book, will be an in-depth look at the keys to succeeding with modern B2B demand generation.  It will help B2B marketers truly understand how to balance educating the buyer with achieving repeatable, sustainable delivery of leads and revenue.  And I believe it consequently will help B2B marketers take their game to the next level.

Moreover, as you would expect from me, it’s backed by 18-plus months of serious research and thought about the model.  So it’s comprehensive and thorough, but I also think the core model and principles are quite simple.  So it’s highly digestible, as well.

The request: I’m featuring in the book a select group of B2B marketing organizations that ‘really get it.’  More than case studies, I want these examples to really prove that it’s possible to take your B2B demand generation game (and science) to the next level.

This is where I need your help.

I am putting out an open invitation to nominate best-in-class demand generators — i.e., B2B marketing organizations that are truly proving the potential today of 2.0 demand generation techniques — through evolution in their content marketing, their lead management processes, their nurturing logic and their use of marketing automation technology.

How can you nominate a best-in-class B2B demand generator?

Three options:

  • One, drop a comment below nominating the specific organization and/or specific marketer.  When you do so, I’ll also get your contact information (which won’t be public), and then I can follow up with you directly via email.
  • Two, use the contact form on my blog to send me a note, and then I can also follow up with you directly via email.
  • Three, DM me over Twitter, and I’ll share my email address so you can send me a nomination directly.

I need nominations to be in by end of March, so that there’s time to include everyone.

As always, thanks for your support and encouragement on this project.  It’s been a long time in the making, but I think it’s a better book today than it would have been six or twelve months ago.  I’m going to be proud to share the final product with you.

And I look forward to your nominations!

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A little over a week ago I published my latest post on the DemandGen (r)Evolution blog – “Dreamforce 2010: Demand Generation Insights ‘from the Cloud’” – a round-up of my takeaways from this year’s Salesforce.com Dreamforce event in San Francisco.

For those of you who are not familiar with Dreamforce, you might be asking, ‘Why a write-up on what is (at a surface level) merely a technology user conference?  What’s the takeaway for marketers?’

Source: Salesforce.com

An obvious initial response is that Salesforce.com has emerged as one of the dominant – and one of the fastest-growing – CRM platforms in the marketplace.  That alone earns it some attention.

But beyond this, as I note in my post, “Dreamforce increasingly has grown into the annual host of two critical, interdependent and growing ecosystems – and consequently was an event filled with great demand generation insights.  …  On one hand, Salesforce.com serves as the cornerstone for a growing software ecosystem around buyer-centric, demand management software.  …  On the other hand, Salesforce.com has become the leader in cloud-based application infrastructure.  …  [And] it is this cloud-based approach that also is critical to enabling [this] demand management software ecosystem … .”

Dreamforce also is a unique annual event as there doesn’t seem to be any “… other technology-based event that draws such a large group of sales and marketing executives – and the technology vendors that serve them – in one place, at one time for nearly a full week,” as I comment in the blog post.  In fact, “Some of my best conversations each year occur at Dreamforce, and this year was no different.”

So what were my major takeaways?  The blog post focuses on two major demand generation insights:

  • “B2B buyer insight is more-pervasive, more real-time and more-accessible via ‘the cloud,’ and marketers must learn to leverage this dynamic asset.
  • “Our role as marketers must focus more than ever on delivering leadership and visibility to help our organizations tune their demand generation machines and to ensure tight coupling with revenue outcomes.”

I also have embedded in this post a link to my Dreamforce interview w/ the DreamSimplicity video crew in which I talk more about the new impetus for ‘marketing in the cloud.’

Click here to read the full LBM DemandGen (r)Evolution post.

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Just before Thanksgiving I published the second installment in a two-part series on the “Elements of a Modern Demand Generation Plan.”

I’ve done a number of posts over time on the various holistic elements that go into successful B2B demand generation here on Propelling Brands, on the Silverpop Demand Generation blog and more recently on the Left Brain Marketing (LBM) DemandGen (r)Evolution blog.

Yet I note in this new LBM post that despite all the tips and tricks out there in guides, blog posts and Tweets, for a lot of marketers there still seems to be a ‘glaring gap':

How do you build a modern demand generation program? What does that entail? Where do you start? What are the keys to success?

I think this is the real disconnect for many B2B marketers today. They do not really understand what it looks like to architect an entire, modern demand generation program, end-to-end – one that is appropriate for a marketing environment in which power has shifted from sellers to buyers and where Web 2.0 realities predominate. These B2B marketers need a way to sort out how all of these tactical systems and advice in blog posts and through consultants all come together in a real program.

I argue in the first post in the series that starting place should be a thoughtful and comprehensive demand generation plan. I then proceed to outline the initial research and analysis required to start with developing your plan — a first step in the process I refer to as establishing ‘buyer-targeting context.’

Source: Left Brain Marketing; click to enlarge

I then use the second post in the series to explain how you translate this initial research and analysis into actual demand generation programs — a second step in the process I refer to as ‘program translation.’

This is the same process we go through with clients of Left Brain Marketing to help them develop their own demand generation programs, so the content of these two posts is well-grounded in reality.  (I also provide a number of slides right out of our decks as illustrative graphics in part two.)

I end the second post by noting:

There is certainly more to say around the details and best practices of building out your sub models and of operating and refining your demand generation program. … Nonetheless, I hope this post and the previous one represents a good starting place for wrapping your head around how to approach and build a successful demand generation plan.

And I really do believe these two posts are a good starting place — and a comprehensive reference source — for your own B2B demand generation programs.

Click here to read the full part-one post on LBM DemandGen (r)Evolution; and click here to read the full part-two post.

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A little over a week ago I dug into an important topic on the Left Brain Marketing DemandGen (r)Evolution blog.  How can we improve our approach to lead nurturing as B2B marketers, and in doing so, how can we improve the effectiveness of our B2B demand generation programs?

Source: Left Brain Marketing; click to enlarge

Despite increasing adoption of marketing automation technology, “[w]e’re really bad at lead nurturing as B2B marketers,” I explain in the post.  I subsequently dig into the disconnects, and I recommend a strategic ‘layered’ approach to rationalize nurturing programs.

So where is the gap in our lead nurturing?  In the post I look at three realizations that are critical to successfully developing and positioning your lead nurturing.  Specifically, it’s critical for B2B marketers to realize:

  • Nurturing is a strategic activity, not a tactical one
  • Nurturing balances targeted buyer education with buyer qualification; it is two-way communication
  • Successful nurturing is aligned with, and supports the buying process

The resultant call-out is the need for a model to better think through how to build a successful lead nurturing program – balancing lead-flow goals with the need to engage the modern B2B buyer and giving you a foundation for building out nurturing tracks within your marketing automation system.

My ‘layered’ model – which the post explains in more detail – is one approach to rationalizing and organizing your lead nurturing tracks as part of your overall B2B demand generation program.   (And it is something we are leveraging at Left Brain Marketing in our client engagements.)

In the post I note:

Successful lead nurturing requires thinking in terms of a matrix of potential content offers and reactions on the part of the B2B buyer – all of which are designed to help support the buying process, accelerate decision-making and orchestrate content dialogue with that buyer. 

It’s impossible to envision every single choice a buyer will make in every situation, but you can understand if a  buyer is ‘on track’ or off, and have an approach to getting buyers back on the right track.

Click here to read the full LBM DemandGen (r)Evolution post.

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I examine the issue of what we as B2B marketers mean by ‘demand generation’ and explore why there is so much disconnect around the current definition and scope of demand generation in my first post on the new Left Brain Marketing DemandGen (r)Evolution blog.

Source: iStockphoto

The idea for this post came after “some interesting, recent interactions with marketing and sales professionals around the concept of demand generation.” I note in the post that “… these interactions have led me to believe this concept is nothing short of highly misunderstood.”

So I put a stake in the sand with this post – asserting my belief that demand generation is a strategic activity; that it is in fact the charter of B2B marketing; and that it spans and should be defined in terms of our holistic interaction with buyers throughout their buying lifecycles.

“It’s the art of educating buyers and nurturing these relationships from earliest awareness through to maximizing customer lifetime value.  It’s about sparking, nurturing and monetizing initial demand; it’s also about sustaining and growing that demand among current customers.  It’s the whole thing.”

The post subsequently analyzes three aspects of this issue:

  • One, it looks at exactly why there is this disconnect among B2B marketers in the definition and scope of demand generation.
  • Two, it examines ongoing evolution in our definition of demand generation.
  • Three, it identifies what I believe are the three critical components of successful, modern B2B demand generation.

Click here to read the full LBM DemandGen (r)Evolution post.

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Some of you have already read about my recent departure from marketing automation vendor Silverpop.  This past Friday was my last day as B2B Marketing Evangelist and Director of Field Marketing there.  On Monday I took on a new role.  I am now Vice President of Demand Generation Strategy at Left Brain Marketing, a demand generation agency that is based in Silicon Valley (although I am remaining in Atlanta, in case you were wondering).

Why the change?  What’s on the horizon?

Source:  Left Brain MarketingI’m very excited about working with Malcolm Friedberg, Robert Moreau, Sandra Syrett and the rest of the team at Left Brain Marketing.  I believe this move will put me in a better position than ever to help B2B marketers develop successful, buyer-centric demand generation programs and build their brands in a bottoms-up, grassroots fashion – what I believe are the keys to achieving sustainable revenues in the modern B2B marketing environment.  I also believe that Left Brain Marketing represents the right type of agency at the right time in the B2B marketplace.  Its focus is on demand generation; it blends strategy with execution, partnering with its clients to design and execute programs; it recognizes that process change does not occur over night, establishing long-term relationships with its clients; it leverages marketing automation technology but is vendor agnostic; it believes successful marketing programs emerge from focusing on buyers and working with smart people; and it blends big consultancy brains with small agency touch.

We are at a critical – and challenging – moment in the evolution both of modern demand generation practice and of the discipline of B2B marketing.  More than ever it is critical for us to close the “Technology Innovation Vs. People/Process Stagnation Gap in Modern B2B Demand Generation,” which I noted in one of my final posts on Silverpop’s blog.  There is tremendous potential to leverage modern marketing technology and pressing need to market differently to the modern B2B buyer.  Yet technology alone is not sufficient to address this gap.

Joining the team at Left Brain Marketing gives me the opportunity to better help B2B marketers succeed in this environment and to focus on areas where I believe a demand generation agency can provide key value-add:

> ‘People and process’ remain the greatest barriers today to successful B2B demand generation: There is, indeed, tremendous potential for marketing automation technology today.  A DemandGen Report article summarized Aberdeen research that found, “[N]urtured leads in Best-in-Class organizations delivered 47% higher average order values than non-nurtured leads.”  Yet adoption rates remain low and even when the technology is adopted, it has high failure rates.

Some data to consider (which I covered in a past blog post):

  • Only 7-10% of B2B marketing organizations in the US have adopted marketing automation technology, according to SiriusDecisions at their May 2010 summit.
  • Only 24% of these adopters report they are “generating enough demand (sales leads) to satisfy [their] sales team,” according to a Bulldog Solutions/Frost & Sullivan study.
  • When asked what their top reason is for not successfully leveraging marketing automation, “We don’t have the right or sufficient number of people” and “We don’t have the right processes” came in as the number one and two responses.

There are two points of synthesis from this and related data.  One, there remains only limited examples of successful sophisticated use cases of marketing automation in B2B demand generation today.  Combining some of the data above, it is possible that only about 2-3% of B2B marketers are using automation to power successful demand generation programs today.  Two, the demarcation between sophisticated and unsophisticated use cases is not about the technology adoption, it’s about how these B2B marketing organizations approached their demand generation programs.  It’s about knowledge, strategy, program design and campaign execution.

That’s why I’ve joined an agency that is focused on helping its clients build the right demand generation approach from day one – starting with people and process, and focused on the targeted buyer.

> Demand generation approach and strategy should not be driven by marketing automation vendors’ capabilities (or lack thereof): A corollary we can draw from the adoption data above is that it’s most important for B2B marketers to do what is right for their organization, in their specific business environment when it comes to their demand generation programs.  We see constant feuding between vendors around features and functions – it seems to be the lifeblood of marketing automation salespeople today, but it’s really not where B2B marketers should be spending their time.   You shouldn’t adopt a marketing automation platform because of its ability to transform your organization; rather, you should transform your organization, and then adopt the right technology that will help you amplify this transformation.

That’s why I’ve joined an agency that supports a wide range of marketing automation and CRM platforms but that is fundamentally vendor agnostic – preferring to match the right technology to the right client’s need.

> B2B marketers need the right type of partner when it comes to building their demand generation strategy and programs. The early history of B2B marketing automation is dotted with firms that focused merely on technology implementation or that merely operated B2B marketers’ demand generation programs for them.  No one wins with this type of support; you don’t get better as a marketer.  B2B marketers need the right counselor to take them through people and process change, but they also need a partner that is ready to roll up his/her sleeves and help affect change on the front line, in the trenches and over a long period of time.  This stuff doesn’t happen overnight.  This means the focus of demand generation must be on the marketing programs and the results, not merely on the successful adoption of marketing technology.

That’s why I’ve joined a firm that leads with the marketing, that partners with its clients and that looks to technology as a means to an end.

I enjoyed my time at Silverpop; in fact, I want to thank Bill Nussey and the rest of the team there for the opportunity to work with a world-class group of technologists, salespeople and marketers.  (And let me be clear that I believe Silverpop has a world-class marketing platform – one that we are leveraging as part of current engagements with Left Brain Marketing clients.)  We accomplished quite a lot during my tenure at Silverpop, especially building out the B2B Marketing University series, but I believed it was time to roll up my sleeves and get back into the demand generation trenches.

I joined Left Brain Marketing because it was the right time for me to join such an organization and because it’s the right agency for the current era of demand generation.

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This week I’m publishing a four-part blog series — based on research I’m doing as part of the updated focus for my marketing book project.  This series takes a look at B2B demand generation today.  The first post provided an introduction to the series.  Parts two through four examine the three major challenges facing B2B demand generation.  The second post identified why technology, alone, is not enough to improve B2B demand generationThe third post explored our continuing struggle as maketers to link marketing tactics to revenue outcomes.  The final post today looks at the third challenge — highlighting our consistent failure when it comes to placing the B2B buyer at the center of our demand generation planning.  ~ABN

So what does that average B2B marketing organization look like today?  And what are the challenges that organizations must overcome to get to best-in-class?

 

Challenge #3:  We too often don’t start with our targeted buyer when it comes to developing B2B demand generation programs, nor do we rationalize the content and pacing of our nurturing against the buyer’s decision-making process.

This third point is perhaps at the core of the other two problems.  Our failures with technology and our inability to link activities to revenue outcomes are also linked to the fact that too often we don’t start our marketing thinking, building or planning in the most obvious place.  We don’t start with the buyer, and we certainly don’t take into account the major changes in the nature of the buyer over the last decade.

“It’s a no-brainer: You can’t make a connection with your audience unless you know who you’re trying to reach,” comments B2B marketing consultant Stephanie Tilton on the Savvy B2B Marketing Blog.  “This gets down to marketing basics – you need to develop buyer personas. Yet my unscientific polls show that a fair number of B2B marketers haven’t undertaken the exercise of developing buyer personas.”

So we don’t tend to define and understand buyer personas.  We also don’t leverage them to improve the relevance of messaging and content, and we don’t rationalize the timing and pacing of our marketing activities against them.

(more…)

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