November 3, 2015
B2B buyers are driving their buying process and brands are still trying to catch up. What does that mean for marketers? Companies that want to survive in this buyer-led digital age have to become customer obsessed or they’ll wither away.
I just read a fabulous book on this exact topic – Driving Demand: Transforming B2B Marketing to Meet the Needs of the Modern Buyer. What I loved was author Carlos Hidaldo’s point that in order for B2B companies to transform their demand generation processes, they first have to transform how they approach marketing. Hidalgo knows that of which he speaks: for the past decade, his company ANNUITAS has worked with B2B enterprise companies to do exactly that.
When I asked him a few questions about the need to transform marketing in order to drive revenue, here’s what he had to say –
What’s the most important message that you want readers to take away from your book? Why?
The one thing I want readers to understand is that we live in a different age, a buyer-driven age that is much different than marketing 15-20 years ago. Because of that we have to change, we have to transform. I see so many organizations just repeating the tactics and approaches of a bygone era and then end up scratching their heads as to why they are not having success. We cannot simply do the same thing year in and year out and expect things to all of the sudden to work effectively. We need wholesale change across people, process, content and technology to address the needs of our modern buyers.
We have three issues in addressing the B2B buying process: Our rapidly changing customers and what they want, marketing teams waking up to the need to change, and sales teams largely unaware of what’s changing or needs to change. How do you get everyone on the same page?
I’m not convinced that what the buyers want has changed, I think they just now have a way to get it without vendor assistance. However, they still want a vendor they can partner with and will provide great service. Regardless, I think the way you bring marketing and sales together is changing the culture of the organization by making the buyer and/or the customer the focal point. Too often I see marketing and sales trying to pave their own path from their internal point of view and they miss the buyer all together. A shift in culture, which moves from vendor-centric to buyer-centric, will impact how both marketing and sales think and operate. It is not easy, but is surely necessary.
How does a CMO’s lack of attention on the financial realities of the business hurt their credibility with their CEO?
It is one of the biggest issues CEOs have with their CMOs overall according to some studies that I discuss in the book. I remember once being told by a CEO I worked for that, “marketing was a necessary evil.” That isn’t exactly a motivator. CEOs are there to create wealth for their shareholders and grow their organizations. One of the ways this can be done effectively is through demand generation. If you have a CMO who is not looking at it from this perspective, what use are they to helping the CEO accomplish this objective? If this is not part of a CMO’s focus, there is no credibility with the CEO or the board.
You point out that fewer than 29% of marketers align their content to each stage of the buyer’s journey. Are marketers unaware of the need to do this, or do they lack the skills to tactically execute what they logically know?
I think this is more of a skill set issue than one of knowing they have to do this. I reference a conversation in the book that I had with a marketer who said “I know what I need to do, but need someone to tell me how.” Skill set is a big problem in many organizations today.
However, I also believe there is another factor at play here and that is one of time. Digging deep to garner the buyer insights necessary to understand the buyer’s journey and then aligning content to the journey – keeping in mind it is rarely one buyer, but buyers – is hard work and takes time. However, time is one thing B2B marketers are rarely afforded. Business leaders need to understand that transforming demand generation and content takes time, it is not an overnight endeavor and will require patience.
Understanding how marketing contributes to the business, particularly through demand generation, is becoming more critical. While marketers are collecting data like crazy, we don’t have context for what data matters and be able to report with relevancy. Why is that?
This is so true! We read all the time about big data and predictive analytics, but data with no context is indeed just data. I spoke to one prospect who said, “we do have metrics, but we spend all month arguing over if they are accurate or not.”
I believe one of the reasons for this again is a skill set issue. Marketers have never had to do any kind of optimization or deep analytics. However there are tools out there, some very good ones, but like we have seen before, many marketers are relying on the tools to just make it happen without any strategic basis. Part of demand generation is establishing standard KPIs that you can measure to determine things like content and channel effectiveness as well as demand generation program contribution to pipeline, revenue and how marketing is helping drive customer lifetime value.
Photo Credit: Flickr user fdecomite
About Carla Johnson
Recognized as one of the top 20 influencers in content marketing and one of the top 25 in B2B marketing, Carla’s latest book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing, teaches marketers how to develop, manage and lead the creation of valuable experiences in their organizations. Carla serves as the Vice President of Thought Leadership for the Business Marketing Association (a division of the ANA), and is an instructor for Rutgers University Executive MBA Program and the Content Marketing Institute, Carla also contributes to industry wide news outlets, forums and conferences on the future of marketing, leading through innovation, and the power of storytelling.