B2B Technology Adapting To Growing Importance Of Marketing And Sales Alignment

Published: May 18, 2016

The goal of buyer centricity requires everyone — including marketing, sales and service — to stay aligned for consistent, relevant and resonant experiences with potential customers. At Salesforce Connections 2016 in Atlanta, the topic on speakers’ and attendees’ minds was how technology has begun to help B2B companies align across departments on messaging, company goals and definitions for success.

Roughly 70 industry thought leaders took the stage in more than 150 sessions during the three-day event. Many of the speakers touched on this trend, spotlighting a variety of tools and tactics designed to promote alignment and enhance buyer centricity with personalized messaging.

The B2B marketing playbook is being rewritten to accommodate the demand for a holistic overview of the buyer and internal interactions, according to Shannon Duffy, VP of Marketing for Salesforce Pardot.

“It used to be marketing throwing [leads] over to sales,” Duffy noted during her keynote session. “This model is flawed because a lot can happen between those interactions that can benefit sales teams.” She added that it’s crucial to “have transparency across the entire process” to maximize the performance of marketing and sales to enhance customer engagement.

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Speakers throughout the event noted that technology, especially within marketing clouds and automation systems, are adapting to provide that transparency while also enhancing B2B marketers’ ability to engage with their target audience. Salesforce, for example, updated its Marketing Cloud and Pardot offerings with the Salesforce Lightning user interface and other integrations to provide a consistent experience throughout its solutions.

“Sometimes the relationship between marketing and sales can seem like a soap opera,” Duffy noted, adding that it’s important to provide “marketing teams with tools to market better, sales teams with tools to sales better and connect it all together to drive more leads.”

Duffy went on to highlight a statistic from Forrester Research: 48% of marketers are struggling to personalize the way they engage with prospective customers. In a separate session, Salesforce’s Lead UX Engineer Cliff Seal highlighted how relevant content can be created once marketers place themselves in the buyers’ shoes.

“It’s about learning what it means to be someone else entirely,” Seal noted. “You want to learn about your target audience and understand where they are coming from to have a real-life conversation.”

Seal highlighted video hosting company Wistia as a company that is seeing the benefits of personalizing their campaign messaging to engage prospects. The company saw the number of leads generated grow from between 10-15 to 100+ per day — attributed to the company’s personalization initiatives. The company also states that more than half (60%) of new leads come from word-of-mouth referrals.

“Paying attention to what people are engaging with can help you create journeys that are meaningful to them,” Seal concluded.

Ultimately, B2B organizations wouldn’t be adapting their marketing initiatives if they were not seeing a return on their investments. However, the way that ROI is measured also has to adapt to illustrate where the company is seeing the most success and what’s having the biggest impact on the bottom line.

“ROI is a lagging indicator; it can’t tell you what will happen in the future and basically answers the question ‘how well did you spend your money?’” said Mathew Sweezey, Principal of Marketing Insights at Salesforce. “There has to be a ‘why’ to each metric that is measured.”

Sweezey noted that thanks to B2B tech advancements, marketers can identify the “why” much more easily. He highlighted three KPIs that identify this success:

  • Volume: the overall number of leads coming through;
  • Velocity: track the speed of a prospective buyer through their buying journey; and
  • Efficiency: how well buyers move from one stage to the next.

Sweezey added that these metrics can help “enhance predictability, provide a holistic view, prove objective value and highlight key business metrics.” He concluded that “if you can’t show a holistic view, everything you state as ROI is an assumption.”

Data-Driven Segmentation = Buyer Centricity

Segmentation was a tactic covered extensively during Salesforce Connections 2016, highlighted by presenters as a detailed practice for gaining the right insight on prospective customers, allowing marketers to refine their targeting capabilities and overall personalization. This insight can be leveraged not only within marketing campaigns, but also by the sales team to keep conversations consistent and relevant to potential customers.

The real driver behind segmentation is specificity, according to Jon Powell, Sr. Manager of Executive Research & Development at the MECLABS Institute. “Specificity converts; and segmentation positions marketers with [behavioral insight] that can enhance [marketing and sales’] capabilities.”

Powell highlighted three areas to focus on when segmenting prospective buyers:

  1. Segment by recent activity to gain a better understand of buyers’ paths to purchase;
  2. Segment by relationship to learn how your offerings are relevant to the buyers’ needs; and
  3. Segment by recent interest to understand what is important to buyers at that particular moment.

“The important thing is that segmentation enables marketers to create messages that quickly resonate with prospective customers,” Powell noted.

However, the objective of effectively handling, analyzing and leveraging data continues to be a struggle for even enterprise-level organizations — limiting marketers’ abilities to segment their leads effectively. In a panel discussion, executives from L’Oréal, American Express and OptumHealth noted their companies are fighting a tough battle with their databases.

“We’ve been spending the last ten years trying to figure out the right data infrastructure,” said Barbara Agoglia, VP of Business Product Management at American Express, during the keynote session. “[Organizations] need to understand how marketing is using the data to prioritize data points at the beginning.”

Having the right data infrastructure — paired with other tools such as marketing automation — enable marketers to gain relevant data in real time. Sources noted, however, that this process can take some time to get into place.

“We all have a challenge of bringing our data together across platforms,” said Jason Kirchheimer, Director of Business Analytics & CRM at L’Oréal. “If you can plan an architecture to machine learn as the data comes in, you can see results. We have been able to unlock all this data for segmentation purposes and enhance our marketing automation initiatives.”

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