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. I’ll put up a new post each day, and then I’ll link all of the articles together once I’m done posting the series. Today’s post is part one, which serves as the introduction for the series. ~ABN
There is no question we are in the midst of a seismic change in the B2B demand generation model. This is a topic I’ve covered in my blogging over the last 12 months and some of the best and brightest in B2B marketing have detailed in their own research and writing.
In fact, it’s more than just change; it is fundamental evolution of the B2B demand generation model. But as with any theory of ‘evolution,’ there often is debate – both around origins and also the current state of being.
The über-smart folks at SiriusDecisions presented at their SiriusDecisions 2010 Summit on a view of this evolution they call ‘The Second Sea Change’ in B2B sales and marketing. “We have witnessed the charter of marketing – and thus its relationship with sales – change twice in a decade,” commented the firm.
Their assertion is that best-in-class B2B organizations shifted their focus from B2B marketing’s historic emphasis only on top-of-funnel ‘Inquiries’ in the 2000 time frame to an increasing focus on B2B marketing’s role in incubating leads from the Inquiries stage through to delivering ‘Marketing Qualified Leads’ by the 2005 time frame. They call this the first sea change. And now they assert that from that period to the current period we’ve seen a second sea change. It is one in which B2B marketing’s role has shifted further down the funnel — today focusing on marketing’s impact throughout the entire demand generation process, from Inquiries all the way to ‘Closed/Won Business.’ (See graphic below; used with permission.)
This is a useful model for the evolution of B2B demand generation – both for understanding current change and also for setting aspirations. It further helps to shift our thinking from traditional B2B marketing silos to true integration.
My synthesis from the SiriusDecisions model is that best-in-class B2B demand generation organizations increasingly seem to possess four common characteristics:
- Common definitions: Common agreement between B2B marketing and sales teams around the definitions and stages that a prospect goes through from initial engagement to final sale (from a lead management perspective), as well as common definitions around targeted buyer personas and their buying-stage information needs (from a content marketing perspective)
- New, integrated processes: Based on common definitions, an integrated set of B2B marketing and sales processes aligned to this model and focused around moving buyers from Inquiries to final Closed/Won business
- New infrastructure: Existence of closed-loop data infrastructure – particularly CRM and marketing automation – that supports the process and enables the realignment of B2B marketing and sales roles around this process
- New roles: Adjusted roles for B2B marketing and sales that align with new processes (versus legacy domains) and that ensure holistic nurturing and hand-off at all stages of the demand generation process
So the natural next question: How many B2B organizations look like this?
SiriusDecisions believes that, among adopters of marketing automation technology, “fewer than 10% of them are deploying those tools to address programs later in the buying cycle,” according to analyst Megan Heuer in an email to me. “While marketers have a newer mandate to support more task families later in the buying process, there is still work to be done to get them comfortable with the changes that marketing automation brings to top-of-the funnel demand creation. Sea changes are evolutionary, not revolutionary, but no less inevitable when change has to happen. It just takes a while.”
How are those 10% doing? A 2008 report by Aberdeen Group gives us some insights: “Illustrating the impact lead nurturing is having on leading companies, the Aberdeen report found that Best-in-Class organizations see double the bid-win-ratio on nurtured leads compared to peers who also have nurturing programs,” noted an article in DemandGen report. “Further, the Aberdeen research also found nurtured leads in Best-in-Class organizations delivered 47% higher average order values than non-nurtured leads.”
But this leaves a large group of B2B marketing organizations that are not best-in-class and that are not performing at this level – an estimate that is somewhere between zero and 90%. There also seems to be a greater chasm than ever between best-in-class organizations and the reality facing most B2B marketing organizations today.
So what does that average B2B marketing organization look like today? And what are the challenges that organization must overcome to get to best-in-class?
We’ve clearly advanced over the last decade, yet many obstacles remain. And if we are going to take our game as B2B marketers to the next level – becoming more buyer-centric and achieving more holistic nurturing of prospects – it’s important to get focused on what is holding us back.
Parts two through four of this series examine the three major challenges facing B2B demand generation today. [update] Part two looks at why technology, alone, is not enough to improve B2B demand generation. Stay tuned …