The B2B buyer’s journey is a nonlinear, lengthy process that often spans multiple channels and involves several stakeholders. For many brands, this causes a leaky funnel filled with inaccurate or incomplete account data and leads that get lost in the handoff between marketing and sales. But B2B companies such as Fiix Software, Aprimo and Okta are rising to the challenge and taking proactive steps to identify and fill funnel gaps with the help of AI-fueled technology and ongoing sales alignment.
The trend is clear. The role of marketing is changing and expanding to encompass revenue accountability. In the not-so-distant past, the sole goal of many B2B marketers was focused on building awareness, creating desire and generating leads. Once initial interest was generated, sales took over. Sales leads were handed off to sales teams, and the marketing team could scoot back to their creative dens to plot the next campaign. No longer. Marketing is not limited to brand awareness and lead generation anymore and is becoming more directly responsible for revenue generation. That job doesn’t end with dropping the leads off at the sales funnel entrance.
While it has been a successful tool for top-of-funnel demand generation, predictive marketing is becoming more widely used by B2B marketers to improve engagement at all stages of the buying cycle. Companies such as Salesforce have launched new predictive marketing capabilities within their offerings, aiming to enhance the customer experience throughout the entire customer journey by embedding predictive capabilities within the marketing cloud.
Industry experts noted that the expansion of predictive beyond lead scoring and early-stage demand generation is a growing trend.
"Leaders, especially in marketing, need to be able to extract insights and make predictions based on existing and external data," said Meagan Eisenberg, CMO of MongoDB and former VP of Customer Acquisition and Marketing at DocuSign, in Demand Gen Report's 2015 Marketing Automation Outlook Guide. "Marketers also need to create efficiencies in the follow up of leads using predictive analytics and modeling to create a better scoring methodology to focus on opportunities most likely to turn into customers."
The signs of change are everywhere. With the Salesforce acquisition of ExactTarget and Oracle’s acquisition of Eloqua, the lines between CRM and marketing automation are disappearing. At the same time the roles and expectations of sales and marketing teams are being re-written.
Rather than simply driving and managing leads in the upper funnel, progressive companies are discovering a new hourglass model aimed at both accelerating customer acquisition and strengthening customer retention.