The following is a guest contributed post from Sanjay Castelino of Spiceworks.
If there’s one simple truth we know about modern B2B buyers it’s they’ve rapidly evolved from a captive audience ready to hear what your brand has to say to explorers on a self-guided journey to discover products capable of solving their problems. They prefer to not be pre-qualified, pitched, or pressured, and that can be terrifying for marketing and sales leaders who need to hit a number.
Imagine telling your VP of Sales you aren’t interested in littering your website with pop-up forms and handing out address cards at trade shows, activities that over the years have netted new prospects and probably some new customers. How do you think they’d react? If you answered “poorly,” you’re probably right.
The resulting marketers’ paradox — Sales leaders expect their marketing counterparts to deliver both high quality AND a large volume of leads within a short period of time — is where most B2B marketers live today. How you manage the inherent conflicts and find balance between quality, volume and time is important as you think about driving sustained growth.
Reframing the Conversation
In many ways, managing the marketer’s paradox comes down to education and relationship building, but not externally. Internally. Yes, we as marketers have to educate our partners in Sales on the ways the B2B landscape is evolving and how buyers prefer to engage with brands today.
And, we have to make sure they understand the paradox we find ourselves in. In B2B, the fact is we’re working in more specialized arenas with well-defined buyer pools consisting of a specific number of individuals who may be best suited for our product. In most cases, it’s easy enough to deliver high quality leads if you know who those potential buyers are. But high quality and volume become nearly impossible when your audience is so well defined and you’re being asked to deliver within a relatively small time window.
So what do we know? First, unlike in the past, we know B2B buyers are moving through the buying process by first consulting their peers and resources they trust instead of Sales. This places added importance on the role of marketing professionals and the ways we ensure our company’s knowledge, expertise and resources are easy to find and add value to the prospect’s day.
Second, we know B2B purchases are heavily considered, the result of lengthy conversations, a potentially involved RFP process, more technical analysis involving multiple teams and groups, and probably a handful of reference checks.
Finally, we know our partners in Sales aren’t being engaged in the buying process until a short-list has been defined or decision nearly made. While this takes some of the “prospect education” burden off Sales, the optics of the situation are bad and leaves the impression the quantity of qualified prospects who show intent has been greatly reduced – one-third of the marketer’s paradox.
So how do we as marketers begin to address this challenge?
First, we have to reach out to Sales and force a dialogue around how success is measured. Obviously, the metric everyone cares about is revenue but it’s also important to agree that in this new world of account-based marketing, success isn’t measured in the volume of new leads created. Some organizations may look at account depth and the ways Marketing and Sales are partnering to create content that speaks to adjacent business units within an existing account. Some may determine it makes more sense to attract net new accounts so Sales and Marketing partner to reach specific individuals within prospective businesses. Success metrics will vary from business to business but it’s important to get on the same page.
Don’t Forget to be Introspective
While the partnership between Marketing and Sales is critical, it’s also important we as marketers continually challenge ourselves to ensure we’re holding up our end of the bargain. Our job is to add value, influence and ensure prospects are considering us as they move through the purchase journey. So we have to do our homework and really understand how prospects see our brand and offering. Here are the questions I ask myself on an ongoing basis:
- Is our Marketing team structured in a way that fosters a partnership with Sales and drives proactive engagement with customers and prospects?
- When we, on behalf of our brands, talk to customers or engage with prospects, what are we doing to add value to their day?
- What do our customers and prospects think of us?
- Where are we falling short today, and what can we do in the short and long term to rectify the situation?
- What statements or metrics do we want to be true 12-18 months from today and how do we get there?
The marketer’s paradox is alive and well but there are practical steps we as marketers can take to ensure close collaboration and partnership with Sales and to make sure we’re all singing the same tune. It’s hard work, requires communication, and a shared commitment to doing what’s right for the business. But in the end, managing the marketer’s paradox is important to driving the growth every B2B organization is after.
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