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Posts Tagged ‘B2B buying process’

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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My latest column on DemandGen Report, “Why Demand Generation Shouldn’t Be Focused on Marketing Qualified Leads,” appeared today.

It opens:

We’re at a crossroads in modern B2B demand generation.

Fifty-eight percent of marketing automation adopters cite “generate more leads” as a key motivator, according to Gleanster.  Similarly, 78% of B2B marketers report “generating high quality leads” as their greatest B2B marketing challenge in MarketingSherpa’s “2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report.”

Yet a 2011 joint study by Vorsight and The Bridge Group noted, “On average, Sales Reps report that only 31% of all leads generated fit their Ideal Customer Profile.  Said another way, Sales Reps believe roughly 70% of the leads they receive have a low probability to purchase.”  And data from a recent IDC Technology Marketing Barometer Study indicates that year-over-year, between 2011 and 2012, our marketing and sales alignment around demand generation has actually gotten worse.

What’s going on?

The column looks at our challenge as B2B marketers aligning with sales and maintaining a strategic focus on revenue, and it examines how this relates to our frequent over-focus on marketing qualified leads (or MQLs, a term coined by SiriusDecisions) in our demand generation programs.

Click here to read the entire column.

As always, I appreciate your feedback on the piece.

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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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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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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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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.

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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 generation.  Today’s post looks at the second challenge — exploring our continuing struggle as maketers to link marketing tactics to revenue outcomes.  ~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 #2:  We still struggle when it comes to linking our B2B marketing tactics to revenue outcomes; thus, we have a hard time proving (and better targeting) the specific impact of investments in content offers and demand generation programs.

The Web 2.0 world has substantially changed the dynamics between sellers and buyers – changing the information consumption patterns of B2B buyers and resulting in a new era of buyer power.  One dynamic is the emerging importance of content and the impetus to adopt new content marketing processes

But we need to be able see the linkages between content consumption and revenue outcomes – both elasticity and ‘critical path’ – within a given persona’s buying process if we are going to be able to develop sophisticated content-based nurturing.  Yet seeing this type of linkage is in fact the Achilles heel for many B2B marketing organizations.

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Earlier today I published a new post to the Silverpop Demand Generation blog — one that looks at the next phase of dialogue around content marketing for B2B demand generation.

The post opens by recounting the ‘first evolution’ of content marketing — i.e., the evolution of the topic up until recently:

The last year has brought growing dialogue around content marketing as an integral component of modern B2B demand generation.

First, we’ve seen increasing acknowledgement that, in a Web 2.0 world, the dynamics of the B2B buyer are shifting and that at the core of these new dynamics are fundamental shifts in buyers’ information consumption patterns.  Buyers are doing more education on their own, ahead of speaking with a salesperson.  Second, this has occurred in tandem with growing interest among B2B marketers both with inbound marketing strategies for lead generation and with marketing automation as a central platform for nurturing B2B prospects in a buyer-driven fashion.

Content marketing is the architecture behind information exchanged with the buyer before we can get them to ’sales ready’; it is the rationalization of what content that our prospective buyers need at various stages of the buying cycle and via what media and channels; and it is integral to the nurturing process.  Content thus has moved from tactical to strategic.

It then asks, ‘So what’s next for the dialogue around content marketing?’

Now we are entering a second phase of dialogue and evolution around content marketing, where we’re talking about how to take it forward.

The post then analyzes three emerging dialogue threads around content marketing, its integration with marketing automation and its role in modern, buyer-centric B2B demand generation — also citing a number of marketing experts, such as content marketing ‘guru’ Joe Pulizzi, and relaying their perspectives on this evolving topic.

These threads are:

  • Building out the new era of dynamic, buyer-driven content marketing campaigns
  • Closing the loop so that it’s clear what content has impact and how to tune your content mix
  • Developing the right skill set and building the right team to effectively manage your B2B organization’s content marketing ‘machine’

 Click here to read the full post.

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You may have noticed less-frequent posting activity here on Propelling Brands over the last few months.  It’s not that I’ve been blogging less; rather, it’s the challenge of being asked to contribute blog posts to a growing number of channels.  These include the Demand Generation blog for Silverpop (where I’m Director, Field Marketing and B2B Marketing Evangelist), the Daily Fix Blog for MarketingProfs (where I’m a semi-regular contributor on marketing automation topics) and several of Silverpop’s partner blogs, including The Annuitas Group blog, for which I have done occasional postings.

Source: iStockphoto

The truth is, I’m blogging more than ever — just in lots of different places.  I’m also very active on Twitter (you can follow me on Twitter via my handle, @abneedles), which has truly become a microblog on what I’m seeing and hearing in the B2B marketing world.  Add to this quite a few live and virtual speaking engagements over the past year on a variety of B2B marketing topics … and you can see it’s been a busy last 12 months.

Given this, I wanted to accomplish two things with this post: 

First, I wanted to let you know I’m going to be shifting the role Propelling Brands plays in my writing and speaking over the coming months.  I plan to get back into the rhythm of doing original, ‘deeper-dives’ on key strategic marketing topics at least once a month, so these will continue.  I’m also going to begin posting summaries and links to my posts elsewhere, as well, so that I can consolidate all of my writing about B2B marketing to one location.

Second, I’m kicking off this shift by posting an index of all of my B2B marketing posts I’ve done over the last 12 months — both here on Propelling Brands and on other blogs …

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Over the last 7 months I’ve been very focused in my research on the dynamics of how B2B marketing is changing — particularly the increasing importance of developing buyer-centered marketing strategies and programs.  (In fact, this week I’m speaking at a B2B Magazine event in London about new ways to drive B2B e-mail marketing programs based on behavioral/implicit factors, versus standard demographics.)

The broader evolution of B2B marketing has been accompanied by new challenges and opportunities, and in some cases these have driven the emergence of completely new marketing disciplines.

Content marketing is just such a discipline.  Whereas marketing content has always been with us, I submit that modern content marketing is something altogether new — an evolutionary approach to engaging buyers with buying-stage-relevant information and a response to several rapidly-changing B2B marketing dynamics.

What has led to this emergence?  And what are the implications for this new discipline?

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