COVID-19 has opened a new era for marketers. We've always known the power of digital, and we've mastered the strategy, tactics, and technology to harness it. Now, other departments have had to embrace the digital transformation that businesses have been talking about for so long, and those colleagues are turning to us in Marketing to provide guidance.
Even if it is a brave new world for everyone else, for marketers it's another day in the proverbial office.
Now, the digital evolution is resonating across organizations. The pandemic has shifted internal structures and changed relationships with customers, and as a result marketers have become more valuable than ever.
The Shift Inside Organizations: Marketers Become Indispensable in a Digital World
Marketing has often been known as the department that makes PowerPoints and polishes websites. That wasn't ever close to the whole truth, of course, but past company structures—in which Marketing always played second fiddle to Sales—allowed that falsehood to persist.
The pandemic has transformed what the marketing team means to an organization: It's given us agency. It's upended the customer journey. It's redefined how sales and marketing teams should interact. And it's forced businesses to see the value that marketers provide in a digital world.
B2B companies say digital interactions are now 2-3 times more important than traditional sales interactions, according to McKinsey & Company. That stunning stat puts marketers at the forefront of generating revenue—because we've mastered the digital game.
Take the new sales trend "asynchronous selling," wherein digital touchpoints and interactions happen at different times—usually whenever works best for the prospect. That sounds a lot like B2B marketing. Which is why more and more sales teams are relying on their marketing departments to navigate in this new reality, giving Marketing more control over more of the sales funnel.
As it is, marketers had been gradually taking over more of the funnel in recent years; the pandemic has accelerated that trend as many more businesses have had to more quickly shift online.
In short, now that buyers are more connected digitally, marketers are more connected to revenue.
Companies are also recognizing that shift: 56% of businesses have either increased or maintained their marketing budget since the COVID outbreak began.
Rethinking Lead Qualification
Lead qualification can no longer be measured by content consumption alone. Visiting a website or downloading a piece of content says little about a prospect's intent. They may not have meant to visit the website, or they could have been turned off by your whitepaper. In a digital world, understanding who is ready to buy means finding those who have already raised their hands to be contacted.
While marketers have capably shifted their priorities to take on an expanded role, we've lagged behind in changing how we measure our performance to reflect the shift. MQLs are no longer the end all, be all. New metrics have emerged that mirror the entire sales funnel, but also areas beyond it.
Marketers should now look at retention and customer lifetime value, engaging current customers for potential upselling and ensuring customers are fully harnessing all the benefits of your product or service. At the top of the funnel, they should measure engagement from digital marketing campaigns and look at how certain actions, such as downloading a resource, connect to a prospect's buying intent.
Think beyond leads: What actions in the customer experience truly correlate with the bottom line? Those are the things you should invest in and measure.
In a more digital world, we no longer merely hand off leads to Sales, and so we need metrics that reflect our new role.
Predictive Becoming Possible
The term "predictive" has been thrown around a lot in recent years. For most companies, it's an aspirational buzzword, and particularly for Sales and Marketing it hasn't been reality. But that's changing. One of the advantages of an all-digital world is that we can measure engagement, understand intent, and predict actions.
Think about what triggers and interactions indicate a qualified lead within the context of the digital age—and for your own organization. For ON24 and those who engage with our marketing, for example, that has usually meant prospects are not truly leads until they have done something meaningful—such as ask us a question, respond to a webinar poll, or spend over 50 minutes with us.
But when every interaction provides a data point, predictive becomes possible. In a digital environment, Sales and Marketing are able to track the entire buying journey without relying on the leaky faucet of real-world interactions—when people say one thing and mean another.
Being predictive is powerful: It helps marketers understand what actions certain behaviors signal and how each one will affect your bottom line. That, in turn, can dramatically change how you invest as a marketing organization—how you forecast and how you determine which markets to enter.
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We all know that the best businesses are those with seamless collaboration between Sales and Marketing. Now, that level of alignment needs to go further: Sales and Marketing are no longer different departments; they are part of a larger revenue organization operating different digital channels. Marketing creates one-to-many interactions, such as LinkedIn ads, whereas Sales goes one-to-one—by sending direct messages, for example.
Succeeding in today's world takes much more than digital transformation—it takes revenue transformation.
Tomorrow's most successful companies will be those that recognize that their sales and marketing teams must change in the same way the world has. Home and office have merged into one, and Sales and Marketing should follow. As marketers, the opportunity is ours.
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