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The Evolution of B2B Marketing: Why Generating Leads Isn't Enough Anymore

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In this article, you'll learn...

  • Four steps you must take to ensure your B2B strategy evolves to maximize sales
  • The important role of customer data, content marketing, and multichannel marketing

If you're like most B2B marketers, you diligently plan and execute campaigns to drive new opportunities and, ultimately, increase revenue. But unless you're ready to rethink marketing's role, you may be throwing precious budget dollars out the window and missing opportunities to drive real customer value.

Customer buying behavior is evolving, and demand management is evolving along with it. Today's B2B marketers can't focus only on generating leads and turning them over to Sales. They need a new process for creating effective, targeted programs that hit the right people at the right time via the appropriate channel.

Here are four key steps to ensure your B2B marketing evolves to meet today's challenges.

1. Develop a lead-management process

Marketing and Sales must work together to design a more integrated—and collaborative—process that addresses goals, metrics, and activities at crucial lead stages.


That process includes...

  • Identifying key business drivers to optimize demand generation
  • Mapping out the customer lifecycle (from suspect to prospect, lead, and customer)
  • Building marketing programs for nurturing and qualification
  • Defining a Sales-ready lead
  • Determining how leads should be passed to Sales and tracked

2. Master your customer data

Organizations might have thousands, or even millions, of contacts from tradeshows, partner events, and old website leads. And data from social media monitoring and capture have added to the volume of data that organizations have to sift through. Developing marketing initiatives for an unwieldy database results in wasted budget and resources—and, more important, missed revenue opportunities.

You need a data strategy to develop a comprehensive view of your customers and their interactions. That means starting with a clear understanding of what customer data you have today—from all available sources—and where there are gaps.

The sources of information that feed the database are critical; just as critical, however, is how that information is collected, stored, and managed... because that's what will help you make decisions about to whom you should market.

Define your customer

Who in your customer's organization is the buyer of the services that your company sells? Who influences the sale? Who approves it? A multilevel view will help you target messaging and better arm your sales force with the information it needs.

Cleanse and standardize your data

In B2B marketing, obtaining prospect information, such as company, title, contact name, and email address, is paramount. Use reference libraries to standardize domestic and international mailing addresses. Implement email address formatting and domain validation to ensure higher deliverability.

Match the data

Data-matching is about creating links between records from various data sources to create a richer, more accurate customer profile. B2B matching is complex because of the variations in company naming conventions and sites that can span addresses. As a best-practice, you should continually refine and test your matching rules based on results.

Generate insight

Once you have the data, you'll need to generate insight on the following.

  • Whom to target
  • What stage of the cycle your target is in
  • What products or services your target is interested in
  • How your target likes to be contacted or receive information
  • What the cadence of communication should be

3. Become a content marketer

These days, buyers are more likely to take the initiative. Long before they talk to a sales rep, buyers go online for product information, comparison-shopping, and peer recommendations via social media. If you're going to engage with those potential customers, you must win their trust and build a relationship by providing objective, informative content.

Once you've generated content, use it across different channels and touchpoints. Consider writing a case study, opinion, or best-practices piece, and then repurposing it for your website, blog, Twitter stream, and outbound email.

Remember, this isn't the time to sell! Instead, focus on answering the questions prospects may have early in their buying process, and position your company as the helpful expert. Offer independent research or third-party thought leadership that supports your solutions. And encourage a permission-based ongoing dialogue so that you can stay in touch (and stay top-of-mind) as the buyer gets closer to a decision.

4. Embrace multiple channels and measurement

Go beyond email marketing to ensure you are reaching your targets via their preferred channels. How do you determine the right marketing mix and cadence of communications? One word: test.

The optimal mix of the best message, channel, and timing depends on your company and its customers. Start with a baseline, and work in easy A/B tests (challenger, champion). As the program matures, you can add multivariate tests—but keep it simple in the beginning.
 
Set up a measurement plan before executing any marketing program.  Nothing is worse than realizing after the first campaign has gone out that measurement was left off the table and you now have to scramble to answer that ever-important question: So how's the campaign doing?

* * *

Many marketers recognize that they face challenges in one or more areas outlined in this article. For example, you might have the vision and the organization for success, but legacy systems limit your ability to market effectively. Or, you have data, but no data strategy to determine what to keep, what you're missing, what's of value, and how to derive insight. Or maybe you want to be more customer-centric, but you organize around product lines or channels.

By ensuring that your B2B marketing evolves, you can...

  • Identify gaps in customer information.
  • Decrease marketing expenditures and waste.
  • Improve the quality and deliverability of campaigns.
  • Invest in customer segments based on value.
  • Improve the return on marketing investment.

Moreover, you will seem a more critical and vital partner—with Sales and the rest of the company—in generating top-line revenue growth while being accountable for the costs of generating that revenue. That perception will make it easier for you to justify additional investments in marketing and protect you from cutbacks in tough times.

(Image courtesy of Bigstock, Light Evolution.)


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Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek is executive director of client acquisition and marketing at Quaero, a leading marketing services provider.

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  • by Steve Lubahn Wed Nov 9, 2011 via web

    Excellent article Michelle! The marketing scene is changing rapidly and demanding different approaches and skill sets for today's marketer.

    Your note regarding keeping a strong database, house list and clean data are key to success, especially for effective email and inbound marketing campaigns.

  • by David Ewart Wed Nov 9, 2011 via web

    This is a great foundation to build from, thanks for sharing

    As you test and target content across channels, never lose sight of what your customer is seeking-- the "what and the why".

    Mapping your offers in their desired mediums will produce tremendous lift. When building content for social keep three things in mind.
    1) Make it rich and rewarding -- for retweets and shares
    2) Lighten up your registration forms -- ask only what you need to identify the user
    3) Have a plan -- build a multi-touch strategy to engage from first click to conversation.

    Leverage a full toolbox to help with data clean up (data.com) , appending for targeting (rapleaf.com) and of course automation to deliver sales-ready leads (SFDC/Marketo).

  • by vivek Mon Nov 14, 2011 via web

    good stuff..!!

  • by Pam Alvord Wed Nov 30, 2011 via web

    So true. So many marketers skip #2 and fail to really know their customer -- something that makes me (when I'm the prospect) end up feeling like a bitch, this blog shares http://bit.ly/nGF9iR

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