Q&A: Aberdeen’s Gary Skidmore on Engaging B2B Prospects

Posted on by Beth Negus Viveiros
Gary Skidmore
Gary Skidmore

At LeadsCon’s recent B2B Connect to Convert summit in New York, Aberdeen CEO Gary Skidmore shared some thoughts about the challenges of finding the right prospects, why everyone has too much data and the best ways to engage your target audience.

Is it difficult for marketers to find the right target audiences for their products?

Skidmore: It is difficult to identify the right individuals in companies that are in market to buy what you are selling. That’s really hard to do. For example, there are 39,000 people in IBM who influence B2B purchase decisions. It takes a lot of science to find the right person.

Does the vast amount of data marketers have access to today make it easier to connect with prospects?

Skidmore: You would think so, but it really isn’t . In some ways it is more complex because of the overwhelming amount of information. At Aberdeen, we store over 550 fields of information for each enterprise in our database. It allows you to be more targeted and selective, but there’s a great deal of analytics involved. I often say to customers that the goal is to have less data, not more. You need to have the right data.

Once you’ve identified the companies in market, how much of a challenge is it to engage them?

Skidmore: It is really hard. Just think about your own inbox and how you respond to unrequested emails. If there’s no brand identity, or connection to the brand in some way, you’re not likely to engage—it is so easy to delete and move on to the next message. Open rates for email are low, and email engagement is even lower. Getting someone to download an asset is in low.

Are marketers approaching content with the right mindset?

Skidmore: You get a small sliver of a moment to engage your target audience in a dialogue. Marketers must be able to track who is engaging with what content, in what format. The C-level prefers a different type of content than the mid level manager who will be running a project. That seems logical, but there tends to be a “one size fits all, one topic is appropriate for all levels” way of thinking.

What are the best indicators that a B2B target is in the market for new technology or products?

Skidmore: The greatest predictor of a company’s next technology purchase is the tech they own today. That idea is true of most industries. Prior experience is the greatest predictor of future actions. So, you can segment those [variables] and then look for signals from target customers as to whether they are in [the buying cycle]. That’s one of the things about overwhelming amounts of information—you need to be able to identify which pieces of information are the most valuable to your company now. We create scores of likelihood to purchase based on a wide range of variables.

What are the best ways to confirm an intent to purchase new tech or services?

Skidmore: I’ve been doing B2B lead gen for over 40 years, and the more things change, the more they stay the same. We’ve seen a huge increase in B2B marketers requesting phone numbers, which I find highly amusing—it shows the fundamental principles that were around 40 years ago are still relevant for targeting and messaging. Before the web, we would take responses from campaigns and call them before passing those leads to a sales engineer. There’s no better way to confirm intent. If you want to be smart, call people and qualify their likelihood of to purchase. What’s great about that is there a lot of people who can confirm intent—they might not be the actual buyer, but they know activity.

How can data be used to better align sales and marketing?

Skidmore: It’s difficult to get sales engineers and resellers to follow up on leads, because their experience may be that [leads from marketing] are not good leads. How many sales people say that they don’t need your help? If they’re not selling a lot, they blame it on not enough [quality] leads.

Get a representative group of people that are in the sales organization to participate in defining the process that you use to create leads. If you do that, then it is no longer just the marketing program. They own it. They defined what is a sales qualified lead. It is no longer the marketing department’s process, it is their process.

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