This week I've had the good fortune to be able to present at the Online Marketing Summit (OMS) events in Portland and Seattle. It's been a great experience - giving me the opportunity to hear first hand some of the challenges and opportunities B2B marketers face, as well as to engage with others in the online marketing automation segment.
I've also had the opportunity to present on a topic I've been thinking about quite a bit over the past few weeks - the topic of engagement marketing and what it means for the modern B2B marketer (which I touched on a bit in my last blog post). In particular, I've been testing out a new concept I'm calling Engagement 2.0 and which I'd like to get your input on here. I'll explain.
We spend a lot of time as B2B marketers talking about the importance of customer engagement. First, relationships are everything in B2B marketing, where unit volume tends to be low but deal size is typically significant. Second, with the emergence of the Internet as a tool for B2B buyer education and an almost universal drive towards greater bottom-line accountability and transparency of business expenses, we've seen a permanent power shift from B2B vendor to prospective B2B customer. This has resulted in a new marketing dynamic that favors responding to customer "pull" over a traditional marketing "push" mentality. Howard Sewell highlights some of the implications of this new reality in a post on his Direct Connections blog this week that I think is worth a quick read.
Paul Greenberg also writes about this in his book, CRM at the Speed of Light: "No longer is the corporation the fulcrum around which customer groups and suppliers revolve. … [T]he customer is now the pivot point." And data from MarketingSherpa indicates there are 5-6X more leads that are longer-term and must be patiently nurtured than those that are ready to immediately convert to a sale. We're waiting on and responding to prospects much more than they are waiting on us.
Yet engaging with prospective customers is more challenging than ever...particularly for the sales organization. Not only does the B2B buyer have more power - and more communication channels to leverage - than ever, but sales teams must contend with being brought into the buying cycle later and later in the buying process. At this point, the sales team has less opportunity to influence decision making and is at a loss for the type of intelligence that is critical for guiding a deal to closure.
Laura Ramos with Forrester touched on this in a recent blog post on sales-marketing alignment: "As any rep can tell marketing, no two deals close the same. Learning how buyers buy is a huge challenge in B2B made more complex by the myriad of digital channels that buyers now use.”
Marketing - more than ever - is the critical link. Marketing must not only nurture prospects through a longer stretch of the sales funnel, but it also must serve as the eyes and the ears for the sales team before they are able to connect with prospects. Thus, the relationship between marketing and sales is more important than ever before. In fact, I would say that it is equally critical, today, for B2B marketing organizations to be engaged with their sales organization as they are with their illusive and empowered prospective customer.
Enter my concept for Engagement 2.0.
I believe that the new era of B2B marketing we find ourselves in requires a new mindset for the B2B marketing organization - active engagement both with prospects/customers and with the sales organization. Marketing must be a newly-vital link in the demand generation value chain and must view the sales team as its customer.
This requires a new mindset - one that brings with it a new set of responsibilities…and a broader charter for marketing. While marketing must still serve as a catalyst in generating initial awareness and interest from prospects, it also must maintain a holistic perspective and must serve as a catalyst in ensuring prospects mature and eventually convert into sales. Marketing must serve as the leader in overseeing the end-to-end demand generation process at its company and it must be the steward of best practices for lead management. And marketers must focus on building internal systems that provide transparency into the efficiency of the demand generation process and support continuous, bi-lateral flow of information between marketing and sales.
Engagement 2.0 is a new collaborative model for customer conversion through alignment between prospects, marketing and sales. And it is starting to catch on.
Jep Castelein, who writes the Lead Sloth blog, noted increasing evidence of this new mindset and collaboration while attending the Sales 2.0 conference in San Francisco in March of this year. "So many people still think that 'Sales 2.0' is only about sales. Not surprising, as it says 'sales' and does not mention marketing," commented Castelein in a blog post. "The reality is different: successful implementation of Sales 2.0 requires close collaboration between sales and marketing. For example, David Solinger explained that Ariba now has precise metrics [for] how many leads they need to close a specific amount of business. That is only possible when sales and marketing work closely together."
What do you think about this concept of Engagement 2.0 and this new mindset for marketing?
I'd appreciate your feedback and thoughts here and/or via Twitter (via @abneedles). Also, in future posts, I'll talk more about best practices for Engagement 2.0 – something I'm covering in my OMS presentations this week.