And while some might counter that it is not -- due to greatly increased competition, a still-cautious spending environment, and a confusing assortment of marketing solutions being brought to market at a breakneck pace -- I agree with him. We have a plethora of new tools which are making our jobs easier, albeit at the cost of having to maintain a near-constant devotion towards educating ourselves on the latest methodologies, lest we get left behind.
To help you stay up to speed, I have put together a few tips based on conversations with a couple of forward-thinking marketing technology companies on what they think marketers should be doing right now to transform their businesses.
1. Get contextual
As I reported back in March, context is increasingly important as a marketing concept. It means delivering relevant content based on what the prospect or customer is doing right now, in real time, on whatever device they happen to be using.
In a recent conversation I had with Patrick Tripp, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Adobe, I asked "What is the single biggest shift you recommend marketers make in their approach?" His response was, "Have an engine in place to allow you to react to what consumers do, rather than push at them or just go back to look at what they did after the fact."
The basis of our conversation was a concept Adobe calls touchpoint marketing. Their Touchpoint Marketing Guide contains the following salient quote reiterating what he said: "Traditionally, marketers have used analytics retroactively to understand past campaigns and improve them for the future. The most successful marketers today also use analytics in real time to inform customer context at all points within the customer lifecycle on any device."
It is in establishing an engine that can do this where B2B marketers have lagged behind when compared with their B2C counterparts. Amazon is well known for delivering contextual ads based on consumer search and browsing history, but there has been little crossover of this sort of personalized content delivery in the B2B space until recently.
Part of the reason is that selling to businesses is a much different beast that selling to consumers, so you cannot simply take B2C tools and apply them to B2B and expect the same results.
So how do you get contextual with B2B?
2. Employ Account Based Marketing tactics
ABM is a buzzword that's been popping up recently, but its not really very mysterious. It simply means shifting away from a mass marketing shotgun approach to B2B ad delivery and lead generation over to a highly individualized and targeted model focusing on the individual business accounts most likely to convert. It's taking the Amazon model and applying it to businesses rather than consumers. So, in truth this is not really anything new, but advances in technology are making it far easier to apply to the unique needs of B2B.
One of the firms leading the charge towards the ABM model is Demandbase, the previously mentioned technology company whose solution integrates with dozens of existing marketing platforms, from Salesforce to Adobe Marketing Cloud to Optimizely, to help B2B firms adopt this contextual marketing concept.
According to a study done by SiriusDecisions, more than 90 percent of the companies surveyed recognize the importance of ABM, yet only about 20 percent are using it in a meaningful way. Demandbase aims to change that.
The company's secret sauce is proprietary IP mapping technology which identifies businesses across the web and targets them for customized content without them even having to come to your website and receive a cookie. This allows marketers and sales teams to focus only on those accounts they really want to sell to, rather than wasting time and money serving ads, delivering content, and making sales calls to firms unlikely to buy.
I got the chance to sit down with Demandbase Founder and CEO Chris Golec for a one-on-one at his firm's Marketing Innovation Summit for B2B, and he gave a concrete example to illustrate. Picture a case where a highly scored, targeted bank visits your website from a display ad or other piece of content. When they arrive they are proactively offered a chat window, and instead of routing it to India where the main customer support team is, that chat gets routed to a local specialist who specifically handles large banks. Her system alerts her to the visit in real time, and vital details such as annual revenue, number of employees, etc. are at her fingertips. She says "Hi my name is Nancy and I specialize in large financial institutions. Are you finding everything you need?" According to Chris, just by proactively engaging and personalizing the experience, businesses get three times as many viable leads.
"Demandbase aims to handle the full life cycle from trying to attract customers to your website, to personalizing the experiences on the website, to connecting the interactions with those companies to your CRM. We allow websites to be personalized based on the customer's industry versus hoping that the visitor is going to click the three clicks needed to land on the right content for them", says Chris.
"If you are not practicing account based marketing, start tomorrow. Just because the results are so dramatic. We do it ourselves at Demandbase and have watched our close rates go up 75%, just because our sales team is only selling to, and we are only marketing to the companies most likely to buy -- rather than everybody."
3. Forget about clickthroughs: marketers must measure sales activity
Another shift Chris suggests which I wholeheartedly agree with is using more meaningful metrics to measure marketing success. He says, "The measure of success is not a click-through; it is more sales activity. We are plugged in to all the ad exchanges, plugged in to our customer's website, plugged into the CRM system, and for every company we can measure what's happening from advertising to the sales pipeline...Instead of more volume, more clicks, etc. salespeople want more opportunities. Align your marketing around the best 200 accounts salespeople want and you will have an aligned sales and marketing team."
It is time marketers, especially social media marketers, grow up and start proving what their efforts bring to the bottom line. That is not to say to abandon all your carefully set up analytics: impressions, clickthroughs, open rates, number of subscribers, whitepaper downloads, number of "likes" are all important to track, but it is disturbing that these have been overvalued in recent years when compared with actual sales metrics. The point of marketing is to drive sales and revenue, and where marketers do not trace how their work translates into these, trouble follows.
So, here are some basic sales metrics marketers should be tracking to determine ROI in addition to their brand engagement and awareness ones:
- Leads: The lifeblood of sales, and what they most want from you as a marketer.
- Lead-to-Sale Conversion Rate: This helps measure whether the leads you are driving to sales are any good, and whether sales is doing their job in converting them. Simply track the percentage of leads given that result in a new customer.
- Revenue: Call it Gross Income, Sales Dollars or whatever you like...but marketers need to keep their eye on the total dollars brought in just as much as salespeople do.
- Cost per acquisition: Divide your new customers for the month by your marketing dollars spent. The less expensive it is to acquire a new customer, the more effective your marketing is. The beauty of this metric is that it encompasses everything from your display ads, to your meat space advertising, to hard-to-quantify activities such as your blogging and tweeting.
- Captured accounts: You know those accounts in your ABM system that you are targeting with contextual ads and content? How many is your company actually capturing each month?
By tracking the above and focusing marketing activities on improving these metrics, rather than just driving traffic or impressions, your B2B marketing efforts will align more with your sales activities and everybody wins.
What do you think of the above tips? Comment below!