Marketing Tips: The Offensive Tackle – B2B Marketing Engaged with Sales

April 22, 2009
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B2B marketing has come a long way from high cost media campaigns, goofy gifts, and stacks of collateral. With the maturation of CRM and expanded communication avenues, marketers can know more about their customers, reach them better, and track their program effectiveness. So why is this not translating to a real seat at the corporate table and CMOs lasting on average 18 months?

B2B customer engagements can typically be a long consultative processes rather than fast and transactional. This is both a blessing and a curse for marketers. On one hand B2B marketers can play off their strategic strength and story telling capabilities. On the other hand it is difficult to connect the marketing effort to a sale. According to conversations I have had with B2B sales people, marketers are disconnected from the sales engagement process. They lack the access to customers and many times the knowledge to extend conversations beyond the elevator pitch and email teaser.

Yet, these same conversations have yielded insight into what sales would love from marketers. On the surface most marketers would think they are doing what is asked of them by sales. But, when you really listen to where the


B2B marketing has come a long way from high cost media campaigns, goofy gifts, and stacks of collateral. With the maturation of CRM and expanded communication avenues, marketers can know more about their customers, reach them better, and track their program effectiveness. So why is this not translating to a real seat at the corporate table and CMOs lasting on average 18 months?

B2B customer engagements can typically be a long consultative processes rather than fast and transactional. This is both a blessing and a curse for marketers. On one hand B2B marketers can play off their strategic strength and story telling capabilities. On the other hand it is difficult to connect the marketing effort to a sale. According to conversations I have had with B2B sales people, marketers are disconnected from the sales engagement process. They lack the access to customers and many times the knowledge to extend conversations beyond the elevator pitch and email teaser.

Yet, these same conversations have yielded insight into what sales would love from marketers. On the surface most marketers would think they are doing what is asked of them by sales. But, when you really listen to where they are having success in their sales engagements or hit barriers, the picture becomes clearer as to where marketing fails them.

Here are the main requests I hear from sales and many marketers hear:
● We need a better website
● We need more white papers
● We need more seminars
● We need to attend more events

Here is the comment I hear most from sales:
● We don’t need any more leads

So, what does this really mean? Are they looking for more assets? Or, is it that what they have is not working for them? Also, aren’t leads what has shown Marketing’s value to the company?

As B2B marketing has tried to establish itself as a contributor to the bottom line in a tangible manner, lead generation has become a key component. The engine has been optimized to run smoothly and have reports that show marketing’s effectiveness and return on investment. What marketers hear most in the past was that leads passed were poor quality and a waste of time. Today, leads are qualified and passed according to sales standards like Miller Heiman. So why wouldn’t sales want leads from marketing?

Go back to the marketing funnel and you get a glimpse into the issue. Marketing needs to focus wide. By the time you get down the funnel, sales is working at a precision level. Sales has a surgical approach to targeting, having to work as close to the opportunity as possible before even picking up the phone. They are so close to the market and the customer that they’ll find an opportunity faster than marketing will. They have to, they are incentivized to do so.

Which brings us to the seemly contradictory requests and needs of sales. In truth, sales wants marketing engaged at their customer meetings. They want marketing to fill in the gaps of time when they cannot physically be there with the customer. To put it simply, sales is the quarterback and marketing is offensive tackle. Marketing has to block the competition when sales is in the room and when they are not.

Marketing as Block and Tackle

From the marketing playbook, there are three key tools: awareness generation, thought leadership, demand generation. In the traditional marketing funnel, these tools are used in a sequential fashion. First you make sure customers know who you are, then you get them to adopt your methodology, then you pull them into a sales meeting. Seems simple, and it is. It’s just not that efficient and effective.

Translate this to a customer’s decision process. The decision process begins way before a solution provider is considered.
Step 1: Companies need to determine there is a real problem and if so, is it worth fixing.
Step 2: When they need to fix it, they research and talk to trusted sources.
Step 3: During this phase they learn about solution providers and go through evaluations.
Step 4: During evaluations they weed out incompatible providers.
Step 5: Lastly they make a decision.

Matches to the marketing funnel, right? Wrong. During the second step and beyond, companies are outside the bounds of direction. Other companies, analysts, and vendors are also feeding them information, methodologies, and best practice tips. If one or more of these competitive points of view or solutions are provided that appear more aligned to the customer’s perspective and need, you lose.

Sales needs tools that are more aligned to a customer’s world. The customer is the center of the universe. What can sales pull from their tool kit that best represents a customer’s environment, pain, and need and tell them how you can help?

Marketing Aligned to the Customer Engagement

In order to be of value to the organization and sales, marketing needs to look at assets according to the customer engagement. A back to basics approach is needed.

Start with an inventory of your marketing assets. Consider each asset according to:
1) Subject spectrum – the topic level of the asset. Understand whether the topic is a piece on thought leadership, planning process, development, implementation, next steps.
2) Customer specificity – the relevancy of the asset to a specific customer need. Ensure assets address key customer constituencies like verticals, regulatory challenges, and departmental/business needs.
3) Usage – by sales and customer. Gauge the amount of use an asset has during an engagement and marketing campaign.
4) Engagement Map – how the asset fits into the steps of a customer decision process. Some assets may be broad enough in nature to leverage across multiple or all decision steps. However, you need to assess that there are also enough that are specific and effective for single points in the decision process.

Once you have an inventory of assets you and fill the gaps along the customer engagement and decision process for more effective business and relationship building. Next, you need to approach your field strategy to ensure that your assets reach customers for the block and tackle.
1) Sales and Marketing Huddle – consistent meaningful account planning and feedback. Marketing needs to engage sales about account discussions. Marketing can come to the table with information on what customers are interested in while sales is not in the room. Sales should be able to talk about their pipeline and forecasts and discuss where marketing and support them in their business development process. Lead generation can still be useful but it may be to help widen the net within an account to capture people that are on the fence or potential barriers to the sales.
2) Decision point strike – campaigns targeted to match the decision point process. Marketing can be proactive by leveraging discussions with sales and CRM/SFA data to determine if and when to send out relevant content during an engagement.
3) Engage – become knowledgeable and valuable in a customer discussion. Marketing can be invaluable in steering a customer engagement as the subject matter expert. Talking to business process and best practices to back up white papers and case studies at customer meetings puts reality to words on paper.

On the Field

Marketing will be most effective when it delivers not only air coverage and leads but can also be on the field with sales. Ultimately, marketing should be as knowledgeable about the solutions they are promoting as they are in marketing strategy and tactics. When Marketing does this, they will gain MVP status at the top.
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