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Posts Tagged ‘B2B buyer’

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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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.  Today’s post looks at the first challenge — identifying why technology, alone, is not enough to improve B2B demand generation.  ~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 #1:  We implement technology to solve our B2B demand generation problems, but we fail to substantially update our underlying processes and roles; thus, we find technology by itself has not really solved our problems.

SiriusDecisions reported at their 2010 summit that the penetration rate for marketing automation platforms among B2B marketing organizations in the US currently is at roughly 7-10%, but they project this will rise to as much as 30% by 2015.  A recent CRM Magazine article further noted, “The percentage of firms that have implemented CRM [has] increased, according to industry research firm CSO Insights, from 53% in 2003 to 75% in 2010 … .”

Clearly the adoption of technology – particularly marketing automation and CRM – among B2B marketing organizations is on the rise.  Yet within organizations that have adopted the technology, we too often see a consistent pattern of doing what it takes to initially implement the technology – creating minimal definitions and scoring models to get going – but falling far short of a complete overhaul of our core processes and roles.  So we never fully leverage this technology.

“Today many B2B marketers are buying into [this] idea: If they acquire a marketing automation solution, then they will wind up with a lead management process,” comments Carlos Hidalgo of The Annuitas Group in a recent post on Silverpop’s Demand Generation blog.  “Nothing could be further from the truth.  Technology adoption must occur hand-in-hand with process evolution.”

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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.  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. 

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Some of you have been asking about the status of my book project, and so I wanted to provide a quick update.

I announced a little over a year ago that I had begun working on a book project – tentatively titled Connected Marketing – “… that covers the topic of marketing technology and that is meant to help marketers deploy and use technology in a substantially-different way than they do today,” per my last update.

What’s the status of this project today?

Source: iStockphoto

First, let me explain that this is a project that I’ve always been pursuing on my own time – i.e., writing early in the morning, late at night or on the weekends.  And that is something that’s been challenging to do, given my active role at Silverpop as director of field marketing and as the company’s ‘B2B Marketing Evangelist.’  Many of you know I’ve spent the greater part of the last 13+ months on the road throughout North America and Europe, speaking, meeting with customers, launching new events (such as B2B Marketing University) and educating the marketing community about how to strategically leverage marketing automation technology

Don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome work — it really is — and it’s a mission I’m passionate about, so no complaints here!  It’s just hard – as I’m sure you can appreciate – to both be a dedicated, on-the-road evangelist/marketer and also spend focused time on a personal book project at once.  As a result, the book project has had to take a back seat many weeks.

Second, this is a project that – as many projects do – has matured over time as I’ve continued to research and write about the topic.  Let me be clear that I’m absolutely continuing to work on this project, but its focus has shifted and has moved in what is at once both an adjacent and evolutionary new direction. 

How marketers can better leverage marketing technology to be a more ‘connected’ marketer remains a critical element of the book, but I increasingly recognize two fundamental realities that also are critical to cover in the book. 

  1. As many of you probably will concur, technology adoption alone will not help marketers be more connected, nor is it necessarily the right first step; strategy and process change is the first step. 
  2. Much of the need for new technology – and new strategy and process – is the result of a fundamentally-changing modern marketing environment. 

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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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I’ve been actively speaking over the past few weeks about a new strategic mindset I believe B2B marketers should adopt today — a ‘mass one-to-one’ strategy.  This is a posture where marketing manages scale, targeted, engaged and two-way dialogue with prospects, upstream from sales-team interaction and ultimately with the purpose of paving the way for a sales close.  This is much more than mere lead generation; moreover, the growing need for such a strategy really is the natural extension of my recent observations about how the nature of the B2B buyer is changing and the permanent shift this is affecting in the roles of both sales and marketing team members.

The intent of a mass one-to-one strategy is to close an emerging sales-cycle gap — where the buyer is seeking information and having dialogue about a purchase, but is doing so on his/her own terms, mostly online (including via social media) and prior to ever engaging a sales team member.  The strategy thus attempts to fill this gap by having marketing replicate and replace some of the engaged, ‘customer-centered selling’ interaction a sales team member might have pursued before the nature of the buyer began changing.  The strategy focuses more on initially responding to ‘pull’ and initial ‘inbound’ activity and on conforming to the buyer’s cycle than on driving interruptive ‘push’ tactics.  This means knowing the buyer better than ever before.  It also means marketing has a more strategic … and complex … role than ever before.

Why 'Personas' Are the Secret Sauce for Effective Marketing Automation Campaigns and the Key to Achieving a 'Mass One-to-one' Strategy

Source: iStockphoto

The good news is that the same Internet that brought this change also is fostering new tools to respond to it.  By embracing a holistic lead management strategy and by deploying a robust marketing automation platform, marketers can get start to get some control.  In fact, mass one-to-one sounds great and is more achievable once you have technology like this in place.  Yet most marketers will admit that the idea of building an endless number of dynamic, anticipatory, customer-triggered campaigns for some infinite number of customer types and scenarios is daunting.  Where do you stop?  How do you get any economies of scale?  Such a commitment of time and resources — without limits — can result in a declining return that does not match the investment. 

So how do we get our arms around this ‘brave new world’ of B2B marketing and get going with mass one-to-one without blowing a gasket?  In particular, how do we focus our marketing automation campaigns to get the most bang for our buck? 

I believe the answer — the ‘secret sauce’ — more than ever is personas. 

Yes, personas.  Let me explain …

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I’ve been actively writing and presenting over the last few months on the changing B2B marketing landscape. And I’ll be talking more about this subject throughout the Fall at the B2B Marketing University series that I’m hosting together with my colleagues at Silverpop (please join us).

A great deal of the focus of my dialogue so far has been on the evolution of marketing technology, but it’s impossible to talk about a changing environment for marketing technology without talking about how the nature of the B2B buyer also is rapidly changing. The two are inextricably intertwined in a new reality that is both a cause and effect of the digital age we live in.

Source:  iStockphoto

Source: iStockphoto

But where is the hard data that this evolution is really occurring? We’re changing how we go to market — and there is plenty of data pointing to shifting spending by marketers — but how do we know that our shifted spending will better align with B2B buyers’ shifting needs and preferences?

There are quite a few data points that support this evolution; however, they’re often difficult to unearth. Often they are buried or confused within consumer-focused studies on buying trends, and sometimes the consumer data even contradicts the B2B reality. Marketing technology analyst and author David Raab hit on this in a recent round-up of many of these ‘mixed’ consumer/B2B surveys on his Customer Experience Matrix blog. And a major call-out from his piece was just this discrepancy: “Many [data points] are contradictory …,” commented Raab.

So how do we better articulate the unique and changing nature of the B2B buyer — separate from the broader consumer perspective? How do we nail down (real) evidence that the nature of the B2B buyer has changed?

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