For marketing messages to stand out in today’s digital ecosystem, B2B teams must be fearless in how they formulate their strategies, budget for unique tactics and prove the projected ROI to senior leadership on their efforts. Those who can remain fearless through these challenges position their marketing teams to build a customer-obsessed brand that offers relevant and contextual experiences.
“Last year, we introduced the Engagement Economy, this notion that we're in a hyper-connected world that is controlled, influenced and defined by our customers,” said Steve Lucas, CEO of Marketo, during his opening keynote. “The brand is now defined by the customer. We're now at the tipping point.”
Lucas added that we now live in a new world where we're curating the buyer's experience years before anyone in sales knows they exist. And speakers throughout the event agreed that marketing teams must position themselves to curate an experience for their customers so they can make their purchase decision on their terms.
“It's our responsibility as marketers to meet buyers on their journey,” said Lucas.
Investment In Analytics To Grow, Showing Need For Strong Data Foundation
Many of the conversations and presentations at the Marketing Nation Summit this year revolved around the importance for a strong data foundation to better understand customer needs, how they are engaging with the brand and what marketing programs are actually working. Lucas highlighted research conducted by Deloitte and Duke University, which said marketers plan to increase spend on analytics by roughly 200% over the next three years.
Marketo’s product announcements at the event highlighted the continued push for gaining deeper insights from customer data and overall campaign performance. At the conference, the company announced it acquired the multi-touch attribution platform Bizible. The acquisition aims to combine tools from both companies to provide marketers with enhanced, full-funnel analytics so they can better plan and execute campaigns, as well as improve budget spending.
Marketo also announced a new partnership with Google Cloud. Through it, the companies aim to build AI-powered products designed to help marketers better segment audiences and increase the scale, speed and effectiveness of personalized marketing campaigns. The companies are currently working together to launch Marketo Audience, a new tool designed to analyze a marketer’s database and use lead conversion patterns to find contacts with the potential for a high conversion rate.
This primary focus on better data management comes from an understanding that having accurate customer insights is table stakes for impactful customer experiences. Unfortunately, many B2B organizations continue to struggle with inaccurate data. During one presentation, Jon Russo, Founder of the B2B Fusion Group, noted that disparate data collection between marketing, sales and SDR teams is to blame for most data woes.
“You have sales focusing on what they think is the insight they need for an account, and you have marketing focusing on what they think is the insight they need for an account, and there isn’t any overlap,” said Russo. “In reality, both of those insights should be on top of one another for a holistic view. More likely, the problem we’re seeing is that data is missing, so marketers can’t segment, or the data is inaccurate. Companies must focus on these problems to have better experiences.”
Trust Drives Marketers From Customer-Focused To Customer-Obsession
To form more genuine customer relationships, presenters at the event explained that it’s important to build trust throughout the customer journey. Thinking customer-first, and ultimately becoming “customer-obsessed,” positions marketing teams to earn that trust easily, while providing prospective customers the experiences they’ve come to expect.
“I believe that a brand-led company has a reputation for trust,” said Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP, during his keynote discussion with Marketo’s Steve Lucas. “Trust is the ultimate human currency. It's earned in drops and lost in buckets. You’re not thinking lead to cash anymore, you're thinking lead to loyalty.”
During a presentation on the closing day of the event, Laura Ramos, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, discussed how marketing teams need to be empathetic to the new “B2B consumer” that has adopted traits from both B2B and B2C purchases to form their own buying expectations.
Source: "The Birth Of The B2B Consumer" Forrester report
“We need to be able to understand and share the feelings, issues, understanding of the problems our existing and prospective customers have,” Ramos said during the session. “You need to express that empathy across the marketing organization. Is it efficient, is it reliable and can I trust it? When they do that, empathy is at the center.”
Ramos shared five tips to becoming a more customer-obsessed organization:
- Adopt a new customer-centric mindset throughout the organization;
- Shift from an offering-driven to a customer-led strategy;
- Address data gaps and put all your data to work;
- Move from striving for perfection in your campaigns to executing nimbly; and
- Connect operational silos.
“Customers drive what happens in the purchase process,” said Ramos. “Companies that thrive are the ones that focus their efforts around the customer needs and expected experiences.”
Coming Together For An ‘All-Bound’ ABM Strategy
Taking this customer-first, insights-driven approach into ABM was another talking point throughout the event. In another session, Justin Gray, CEO of LeadMD, discussed the “Three Cs” to gaining clear account insights for better ABM planning.
- Complete: Make sure the data you’re using is a complete profile;
- Consistent: From account to account, have the same framework of data points; and
- Comprehensive: The insights must help you build an account plan all the way out to the sales offer.
“The more concise and targeted you can make it, the more likely you'll be able to get buy in and streamline the ABM pilot process,” said Gray.
However, Gray noted that B2B organizations still struggle from the “hype cycle” of ABM. To avoid losing buy-in from leadership, Gray suggested looping the sales team in early to set the stage for what will be expected of marketing and what marketing will need from sales for ABM to work.
The #ABM Hype Cycle from @steve_watt1. This sounds pretty familiar based on convos I have with abm practitioners. Awesome to see it pop up in @Jgraymatter's session at #MKTGnation pic.twitter.com/LBfkitdsME— Brian Anderson (@G3Brian) April 30, 2018
“This isn't something that marketing normally does alone; it requires partnership with sales to gain that insight,” said Gray.
When done correctly, B2B organizations can leverage ABM to streamline messaging — through inbound and outbound channels — to increase consistency and trust with target accounts. In a session presented by Uberflip and CollabNet VersionOne, Jodi Lebow, Director of Marketing Operations and Demand Generation of CollabNet VersionOne, shared her company’s journey to aligning her marketing, sales and other teams on the right messaging to surround their target accounts with information they need.
“Within your organization, if they think marketing is the only one doing ABM, it's not going to work,” said Lebow. “Sales, CX, SDRs and everyone else need to be aligned. You must have a coordinated ‘all-bound’ strategy with SDR-marketing alignment, as well as tailored and personalized messages.”
The company used Uberflip to provide a central location for marketing-approved content. VersionOne also targeted accounts with ads using the Terminus platform to drive prospects into their content hubs. This positioned the company to gain better engagement data to further personalize messaging as they move along the funnel.
“Sales can now create relevant content experiences for individual prospects,” said Lebow. “They are able to create that customized experience in an easy way.”
Lebow noted that, after aligning her interdepartmental teams on messaging throughout all channels for target accounts, the company saw:
- 124% increase in lead conversion within target accounts;
- 88% increase in engagement with top-tier accounts, roughly 4X their initial 20% goal; and
- 23% of new enterprise bookings came from target accounts.
“ABM is a journey — you’ll make mistakes, but it's important to start with aligning with sales,” said Lebow. “From agreeing what target accounts are going to be, to understanding roles for the program, you have to have tight alignment.”