I have experienced many changes within the marketing function throughout the years. One of the most radical changes happened around five to six years ago, where marketing was – for the first time- measured on the value of pipeline it generates for the sales team. As a result, marketing gained respect in the organisation; it was no longer perceived as a cost centre but as a revenue contributor. Today, B2B technology marketing is undergoing another exciting change, which I would like to share in this article.
As a contributor to the sales pipeline, technology marketers including myself focus our efforts on supplying as many leads as possible to the sales team. This means creating campaigns and programs around our products & solutions and pushing them to the market. The more of these campaigns and programs we run, the better because it means we could generate more leads and, down the line, more deals. This approach, however, needs to be revisited.
Our buyers have evolved dramatically and are digitally savvy. They control the buying process much greater than in the past , and can proactively get the information they need through digital and social channels, from peers, on youTube, and events etc to progress their decision process.
These buyers, having so much easy access to information, will only engage with marketers who meet their needs – needs that continually change – during their buying journey. Our old marketing approach is risky, because product and solutions focused campaigns may turn out to be irrelevant for the buyer, and as a result, the buyer simply will not engage.
As marketers we must catch up with the digitally evolved buyer. We need to focus on the customers’ buying journey and build a customer-centric engagement model that speaks to the customer in their different stages of this journey.
We should shift the focus from products’ features and functions to solving actual business problems that meet the needs of the buyer in the stage they are in.
To build effective engagement marketing , marketers should start the messaging process from the context of the customer: What are the problems we can solve? What is the transformation they seek? What is the outcome they want?
It is no longer about getting hundreds or thousands of leads through a process until tens or hundreds of deals come out of it. Our current goal should be to design a process that will manage each lead to maximise the chance of close and revenue. Through a number of aligned marketing and sales efforts, each of the customer’s level of engagement should progress from awareness to interest, consideration, commitment and finally advocacy *. (*Customer engagement levels as defined by Forrester Research)
This does not mean that we should stop providing sales with as many leads as possible, but the focus now should be on an engagement strategy to drive the progression of individual leads through the buying process.
The first step is to build a customer journey map. Marketing automation tools can let us know which content buyers are consuming and where they are finding this content. As we uncover where the customer is in the buying cycle, we can align our content accordingly.
The objective here is to enhance buyers’ engagement and increase conversion through targeted contents and offers.With relevant and useful content, we will be able to speed up the potential buyers along their journey; and more importantly, it drives customer value, loyalty and advocacy.
In the pre-digital era, the sales executive controlled the customer engagement from the first phone call or physical meeting . Today, as customer engagement is becoming much more complex, marketing inevitably plays a key role. It is no longer acceptable for marketing to just pass leads to sales. Today, sales and marketing need to work closely to touch the customer throughout their entire buying journey.
The customer becomes the marketer’s true master – it is no longer the sales organisation. This way, we place the customer at the heart of what we do, and this sounds pretty spot on to me !