The later stages of engagement are where deals are often won or lost. That’s why more B2B organizations are stepping up their investments in tools and tactics to support late-stage decision-making.
In an interview with Demand Gen Report, David Bruno, Marketing Director at Aptos, discusses the challenges marketing teams face to keep consistent brand messaging throughout the buying cycle, as well as tips and tactics to better align messaging across marketing and sales.
Demand Gen Report: How have you seen the role of marketing change as it relates to supporting different stages of engagement? Are you seeing your time and involvement in supporting later stages increase?
David Bruno: That’s almost a trick question. While I definitely see the need for marketing’s role to expand into different engagement stages, in my experience, I haven’t actually seen it happen all that often. It is getting more and more problematic. In fact, I would argue the time for marketing to get involved in later stages of engagement is long overdue. If marketers aren’t paying close attention to what their sales teams are presenting to prospects, they will likely be surprised at what they see once they do check in with them. And it won’t be a pleasant surprise. I have seen what my sales teams present, and as a result I spend much more of my time supporting the latter stages of the engagement lifecycle.
DGR: What do you see as the breakdowns in messaging and brand consistency as B2B companies move into later stage engagement with prospects?
DB: Rogue attempts to “personalize” the message are the primary cause for breakdowns. Salespeople feel compelled to incorporate discovery results, real-time market conditions, client stories and data points that are specifically relevant to each prospect. Which, in theory, should be a good thing. Unfortunately, these attempts are typically haphazard, hurried and harried. Style, brand and messaging standards fall by the wayside in the rush to personalize the message. The sad irony is that their sloppy efforts to make their content more effective almost always lead to content that is difficult to consume and therefore significantly less effective.
DGR: PowerPoint is a commonly used tool for both marketing and sales teams. The good news is it is easy enough for mostly anyone to create their own presentations, but there are potential pitfalls that come along with that. Can you share some experiences you have seen around this?
DB: PowerPoint, without question, is a double-edged sword. The primary problem, in my experience, is that is just so darn easy to be really bad at PowerPoint. Anyone can learn how to create PowerPoint slides, but very few make the effort required to learn to create effective slides. And yes, I have plenty of experiences with what I refer to as “Slides Of Shame.” So often I see slides with low-resolution photos hijacked right off of Google Images, or Clip Art that looks like it was originally created in 1997. People rarely treat logos with respect, either, which is a personal pet peeve of mine. But beyond these rather mundane formatting issues, I also see — far more often than I would like to admit — people manipulating our brand value messaging to suit their needs within a deal. They tweak, modify, rearrange and twist existing assets to suit their perceived purpose for a given prospect, and almost every time they confuse, obfuscate and blur our value proposition.
DGR: Any examples you can share on tactics or approaches that have been successful in working closely with your sales team to make sure brand consistency is maintained and that all content is high value throughout various stages of the buying cycle?
DB: The first step we took to solicit the cooperation and collaboration of our sales team was to convince them that they could differentiate through PowerPoint. As I mentioned earlier, far too few marketers are engaging inside the sales cycle (at least to this level of detail, anyway), and as a result, rogue PowerPoint presentations are everywhere, and in almost every deal. So while salespeople already knew very well that establishing clear, distinct product differentiation is often challenging, they quickly learned that PowerPoint differentiation, on the other hand, is much easier. Once the sales team embraced this truth, collaboration became easy. They were happy to work together. Together we selected a high-profile opportunity to be a test case, we invested in the production of quality and personalized presentation assets, and we made an instant impact on that deal, as well as the team at large. The entire team saw what “good” could look like (and what it could mean to their win rates) and they wanted more. So we had to scale our process. We permanently allocated time from four marketing resources to supporting deal enablement. We began sitting in on sales meetings on a regular basis. We learned from the process, and we created tools and training programs to help salespeople raise their standards and up their PowerPoint games. Eventually, our culture changed, our collective standards were raised and our win rates went up.
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