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Never before have business-to-business (B2B) marketers faced such enormous pressure in their jobs. With competition intensifying and prospective customers becoming increasingly elusive, companies are demanding that marketers deliver measurable results. Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) are now expected to demonstrate the impact of their actions and the return on their investments.

The failure of so many marketing executives to rigorously and successfully defend their decisions partly explains why the average tenure of top CMOs is now less than 23 months.1

Several factors have dramatically altered the landscape of B2B marketing in recent years, forcing marketing practitioners to rethink their tactics and reinvest their resources to achieve superior outcomes. Among the key drivers are accountability, measurability and automation.

This rise in accountability has placed marketing measurement as the key requirement for assessing performance. New tools are being introduced that enable marketers to track, test, and analyze with evermore precision, across multiple channels.

Marketers can now draw clear correlations between their marketing campaigns and sales results. These findings not only help them to justify their actions but also allow them to invest more effectively over time.

At the same time, marketing is being changed—and enhanced—by automation. Just as enterprise resource planning (ERP) automated the back office and sales force automation (SFA) automated the sales process, powerful new marketing automation systems delivered as a service enable marketers to quickly scale their most successful campaigns to drive a larger flow of qualified leads.

This enables organizations to engage prospective customers in a personalized, one-to-one fashion, enhancing customer acquisition, improving cross-selling and up-selling, and strengthening loyalty.

The Top Challenges B2B Marketing Organizations Now Face

These forces of change are having enormous impact on marketers' efforts to overcome some very key challenges:

  • Reaching the right prospects in a relevant and effective way. Due to the flood of messages attempting to reach today's decision-makers and influencers, it has become increasingly difficult to gain their attention. Sixty-six percent of B2B marketers agree that reaching decision-makers is their top challenge, according to Forrester Research.2 Yet many marketers cannot execute the kind of coordinated, integrated, cross-channel marketing campaign required to grab the attention of hard-to-reach buyers.

    Identifying the right channels and the right messages for a campaign requires a much deeper understanding of prospective customers. If the valuable data for behavioral, response, and preference analysis remains locked in silos, it's simply impossible to enhance marketing effectiveness, produce impressive results, and form the trusted relationships so critical in today's business sales.

  • Generating and managing qualified leads. The sales funnel depends on a progression: inquiry to lead to qualified lead to opportunity to sale. Yet, too few companies have a documented and agreed-upon demand-creation and management process between their sales and marketing organizations.

    According to research conducted by CSO Insights, these companies put themselves at a significant disadvantage. Companies with mature, defined lead-generation and management practices have a 9.3 percent higher sales-quota achievement rate than companies that do not, a 16.5 percent higher conversion rate of leads to first calls, and a 7.0 percent higher sales-win rate. The statistics strongly suggest that the impact of documented marketing processes at the top of the funnel is felt deep into the sales pipeline.

  • Demonstrating the business value of marketing. Fifty-three percent of B2B marketers report that measuring results is a key issue, according to Forrester.3 Without this baseline measurement, the process of incremental improvement—the ability to correct course when necessary and put their dollars behind the initiatives that deliver the highest payoff—remains out of reach.

    Surprisingly, this problem continues to plague marketers despite the proliferation of tools for measuring marketing performance. As companies have automated email marketing, for instance, they've gained access to useful email response data. However, it's not enough to measure particular channels in isolation. Marketers need a comprehensive, comparative, and integrated view of performance across channels if they are to measure performance in a sophisticated way.

  • Defining and automating marketing processes. To effectively guide the business decision maker through their buying process, B2B marketers must contact a prospect in a manner that is personalized, relevant, and timely. Otherwise, the sales cycle can be disrupted.

    Manually segmenting and managing the marketing database to better target communications can be an overwhelming task. Automation enables marketers to achieve more with less—a key outcome in the march toward high performance and recognized achievement.

The Solution: Integrated Demand Generation

To drive marketing performance to new levels, B2B marketers have begun to embrace and implement integrated demand-generation platforms. Unlike point solutions that enhance marketing in an individual channel, these platforms have the ability to integrate and synchronize the entire spectrum of offline and online marketing channels, including email, direct mail, advertising, the Web, call centers, tradeshows, partners, and the sales force.

An integrated demand-generation platform can be defined as a system of record for marketers who are responsible for producing qualified leads and enabling the sales force to execute in the field. It should contain the following:

  • A central repository of prospect and customer profile information

  • Tools that enable marketers to automatically pull, segment and refine lists and execute campaigns

  • Comprehensive reporting and analytics for understanding prospect behaviors, activities, and interests and for measuring campaign results and performance

  • Process management capabilities that allow marketers to define, design, orchestrate, automate, and execute key marketing processes

  • Integration with other key systems for marketing and sales enablement, including SFA and CRM

The integration of rich data and multiple channels is a particularly important element of such a platform. Research on marketing demonstrates that messages are reinforced and responses are amplified when prospects are reached through multiple media.

The broader the platform, the more channels there are to help marketers execute campaigns that achieve the "swarm" effect—touching prospects in synchrony across varying media to produce a desired behavior or outcome.

The Benefits of Integrated Demand Generation

Companies that implement and capitalize on integrated demand-generation platforms can expect to realize several key payoffs. They can...

  • Optimize marketing spend. Through comparative analysis across channels and campaigns, marketers can experiment with different approaches to determine which actions deliver the best return on investment.

  • Target and reach the right prospects in the right way. With powerful capabilities for segmenting and profiling customers based not only on demographic information but also on their interests and behaviors, marketers can identify the right prospects for their campaigns—and the right messages for their prospects.

  • Nurture and qualify leads more effectively. With visibility into the stages of a lead's development, marketers can score their leads and determine what thresholds must be crossed to consider them sales-ready.

  • Measure and report results in a credible fashion. In an era of accountability, an integrated platform enables marketers to stay on top of their progress and results. Reporting and dashboarding tools enable them to produce clear and compelling evidence of their impact.

  • Define, automate, and scale marketing processes. Having identified successful marketing approaches and campaigns, marketers can scale up their efforts—applying them to a wider base of prospects or an added number of products or both. They can leverage their core marketing strengths—actively producing more results with less effort.

  • Align marketing with sales. Now marketing can provision sales with relevant and actionable information in real time. Moreover, marketing and sales have clear visibility into the processes of demand generation and sales conversion. This enables them to put their attention where it belongs—on performance.

Endnotes:

1Spencer Stuart, "CMO Tenure: Slowing Down the Revolving Door," whitepaper, July 2004.

2Laura Ramos, Forrester Research, "B2B Marketing Needs a Makeover—Now," August 2, 2006.

3Forrester Research Inc.'s Q2 2006 Business-to-Business Marketing Effectiveness Survey.

Continue reading "B2B Demand Generation in the Age of Accountability, Measurability, and Automation" ... Read the full article

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Zavershnik is senior product manager for Eloqua (www.eloqua.com), which offers a demand-generation platform for executing, automating, and measuring effective B2B marketing programs. Mike also spent two years as a professional baseball player for the Toronto Blue Jays.