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?