By Gabe Rogol
Today’s B2B buyer wants to avoid talking to sales until the last possible moment, and instead learns about a brand or product through website content, social media and third party research. As a result, marketers have stepped in to fill the gaps and done their best to engage these anonymous visitors. By creating the right digital experience, they hope to persuade and move them through the funnel to sales. As marketing and CRM technology has improved and advanced, it’s easier for marketers to have significant impact at stages of the buying cycle.
While technology has altered the marketer’s ability to reach prospects in new ways, it’s not necessarily going to drive sales. In other words, the right technology is necessary, but not sufficient, for creating the optimal digital experience. The sales cycle may have moved online, but that doesn’t change how we should be thinking about selling.
The core tenets of successful selling remain the same: personalized messaging, relationship building and consistent communication. Digital marketing has advanced to an impressive place, but especially when it comes to something like a B2B sale, there are some things that can’t be automated. Some of them are quite nuanced, but others are clear-cut and warrant ongoing conversations between marketing and sales during planning and throughout the customer lifecycle. In order to build those things into their marketing strategies, marketing needs sales to supply critical information about each account.
Defining the Audience
Digital marketing’s unlimited reach is a double-edged sword. But the B2B audience is finite, and while marketing is pursuing every possible lead, they’re probably wasting resources. Marketing becomes more effective when it aligns with sales to determine who the top priority accounts are. What that boils down to is building a target account list of companies on which you’ll focus your digital marketing efforts.
Although the official term for this type of strategy is “account-based marketing,” sales is critical to the process. You need the sales team to identify not only the accounts that are most important to them but also the types of accounts that are most likely to become customers.
Audience segmentation is one of the most important things digital marketers can conduct to improve results of campaigns across multiple channels. Once you have a target list, it’s a matter of breaking it up into chunks that determine strategy, tactics and messaging. Whether it’s for the purpose of email marketing, field events or website personalization, targeting your prospects based on relevant groups makes a big difference in the salience of your message. While there is plenty of analytics tools that help with this process, there’s a human component too.
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Ultimately, you want to choose a few segments to focus your energy on. To do that deeper level of segmentation, you need to consult with sales and understand their priorities. They have the ability to say, “let’s make a push for financial services and manufacturing” or “we need to focus on mid-market” based on knowledge gleaned in the field and/or their goals.
Although there are many great, automated tools for lead scoring, ultimately, whatever list you generate should be vetted by sales. The data you get from predictive analytics tools is good but not perfect. You can generate lots of insight from an algorithm, but crosscheck it with insight from real human interactions. It may be that your Midwest rep has done a bit of intel and knows for a fact that a certain company will never buy your solution. In my experience, around 20 percent of the companies on the list generated by predictive analytics aren’t viable for some reason. Only your sales team knows why.
Testing the Message
Almost every company encounters some challenges around the MQL to SAL transition. One way to deal with this is ensuring that all the messaging is aligned – or more specifically, making sure that sales can give feedback about the marketing messages their prospects receive. Furthermore, sales may also have some messages or tactics in their back pocket. Businesses that use cases and ROI conversations are often what push accounts over the finish line. Often, these stories can be woven into marketing messages for specific verticals. This makes marketing more effective, but also ensures that leads are better prepared for a conversation with sales.
Collaboration is Key
Ultimately, advances in digital technology have blurred the lines between what sales and what marketing own. While there are specific checkpoints where the two teams need to work together, what really needs to happen is ongoing, consistent, collaboration. The more efficient the feedback loop, the more likely both teams are able to hit their goals.
Gabe Rogol is vice president of sales for Demandbase.