“The Woodstock of B2B Marketing.”
As soon as one of my colleagues coined this phrase to describe the Sirius Decisions Summit, I knew I had to go – even though it came immediately after the SAPPHIRE NOW conference. Granted, my brain was overloaded and fatigued after the two events, but the insights were absolutely worth it.
This year’s Sirius Decisions Summit was a music city with a flair for orchestration and performance. The event kicked off with a concert featuring the Bare Naked Ladies and a reception at the Country Music Hall of Fame. And the amount of content and insights presented across sessions, labs, and partner exhibits were impressive.
And drinking from a veritable firehose of knowledge throughout the week, I offer these 10 noteworthy B2B marketing insights every business should consider:
1. Build on the pillars for growth
Market leaders capitalize on change, engage teams with mobile technology, and inherently know what to do. They optimize their efforts and evolve over time through creative reimagination. They understand the required steps, resources, and best practices to enact their plan and embrace continuous improvement.
2. Innovate the great Webcast
After hosting and participating in Webcasts for more than 20 years, I agree that the Webcast formula has gotten quite “tired” – especially PowerPoint slides, audio, polling questions, and interactive Q&A. However, recent innovations prove there’s still untapped potential here. Making webcasts more interactive, embracing panel discussions, adding social marketing and video can effectively improve and expand the customer experience. Webcasts don’t have to be the end of the journey; rather, they can be a catalytic gateway into other marketing and customer activities that can further assist the buyer journey.
3. Embrace outsourcing as the new black
The B2B journey involves a variety of business models – in-house, outsourced, hybrid, and many others. My SAP and Televerde colleagues discussed a journey involving a variety of business models – in-house, outsourced, hybrid, etc. and a fascinating case study of Sales Development Rep (SDR), also called Inside Marketing Rep (IMR). Yet the outsourced business model brings several fundamental advantages:
- Bench to navigate attrition
- Dedicated team that is entirely focused on outcomes with minimal distraction
- A partner that is 100% focused on a business model to fill positions and recruit talent while providing innovation.
And as the future of work includes more contingent workers, moving forward with cloud technology and an everything-as-a-service model becomes an important part of flexible, modern marketing.
4. Take a picture – it lasts longer
Understanding a customer is part art and part science. In fact, there are three dimensions of customer needs:
- The organization and their unique business
- Functional and the operational needs of a team or department
- Individual needs and the specific requirements for a job
Customer need: A desired outcome that adds business value to a persona and answers the questions of “who,” “what,” and “why.”
At best, I am a dilettante photographer. But I can still appreciate the analogy of photography when understanding customer needs using the analogy of photography:
- Frame and clarify what comprises a need by applying a standard definition across sales, marketing, products, and services.
- Focus on the unique “needs landscape” and separate explicit needs from implicit ones.
- Find insights by becoming a marketing detective and looking beyond existing customers with comprehensive investigation and research.
- Filter the scene by deciding which needs to pursue, using a consistent approach, becoming data-driven, and applying analytics.
- Formulate a plan by understanding how needs impact a problem as a basis for innovation and go-to-market activities.
5. Let the demand waterfall live on
For years, the B2B marketing function has been touting that the traditional marketing funnel is dead and replacing it with a series of parallel processes in the buyer journey. For years, I have referred to Sirius Decisions’ demand waterfall approach to explaining modern marketing and lead generation.
After all this time, the methodology is proving to be still effective as timely insights can be applied to the lower half of the waterfall flow to close any gaps and remove blockages:
- Focus rigor and specific measurement on marketing-sourced leads.
- Understand the phases of the waterfall, build diagnostics to identify process breakdowns, and use guidance to determine where and why certain areas need attention.
- Forecast marketing-sourced revenues and devise a set of relevant key performance indicators and metrics.
- Establish structured service-level agreements and handoffs between marketing and sales
- Document and share common definitions of marketing leads and enforce lead quality.
- Leverage the methodology and the analytics to devise a strategy, which can be an excellent way to ramp up 2017 blueprints.
The recommendations for benchmarks and measurements for lead conversion and velocity clearly contribute to the predictability of revenue sourced from marketing. And when viewed holistically along with sales-generated leads, marketers can gain a full view of the waterfall paradigm.
6. Leverage influencers for marketing
According to Sirius Decisions’ research, less than 50% of marketers include influencers in their campaigns. And believe me, there’s lots of room for improvement and growth here.
Influencer: An intermediary that provides some value to the buyer, even though it is not purely defined by title and different levels of influence in the stages of the buyer journey.
What many marketers don’t realize is that there are many types of influencers to consider, namely:
- Big picture visionaries: Advocates typically associated with thought leadership such as authors, academia, and renowned practitioners.
- Trusted advisors: Analysts with an unbiased perspective that are essential for buyers to make a decision
- Communities: User groups consisting industry- or role-specific peers
- Validated subject-matter experts: People with specific expertise that engages customers
- Experience amplifiers: A channel mentality that reinforces messages and communications
- Relevant colleagues: Giving everyone the ability to be an influencer and thought leader as they share individual experiences
7. Add value throughout the customer experience
Specific marketing goals and overall efficiency optimization include an exchange of value while making it easy for customers to do business with you. Customer retention and advocacy programs that turn customers into raving fans speak to the end-to-end lifecycle mentality of the customer experience – from customer roles and needs to post-sales. More important, it creates an interesting juxtaposition of personas and triggers for specific interactions.
8. Recognize that competency is critical and invest in people
A competency program is related to the enablement and skills development of an organization. By systematically engaging skills, knowledge, and tools, the workforce can enhance success with functional training and related content to maintain expertise, develop existing skills, and acquire new capabilities. A competency map that focuses on top-down learning can serve as a road map for a business’ future growth.
9. Achieve marketing nirvana with a one-page plan
Marketers tend to over-architect things. Formalized planning processes can breed complexity. And all too often, a laundry list of marketing tactics are baked with overwhelming detail. Marketers have met their enemy, and it is themselves. Consider me guilty too!
How do we break this cycle? Stop operating in a vacuum. Align with sales and other lines of business across an extended team. Establish targets, and assess the internal and external factors of the environment. Consider all resource requirements, not just budget.
While this may seem like a tall order, a one-page marketing plan can help without having to create a PowerPoint slide that can serve as an eye chart:
- Business objectives: What do your company and organization want to achieve?
- Marketing priorities: What are the top focus areas of your leadership?
- Marketing goals: What will marketing contribute to business objectives?
- Marketing strategy: What is your approach to achieving your goals?
- Key actions: How will you activate your strategy?
- Dependencies and critical risks: What must be addressed to make the strategy work?
Best of all, the budget is applied later. And yes, it all fits on one page without making the font impossibly small!
10. Predictive analytics is the secret to success
The purely experimental model of marketing is out of date. No longer do marketers have time to learn from their mistakes and refine initiatives by gathering inputs, running campaigns, reporting results, and assessing impacts. Now, a more predictive model is needed to compile data, analyze and interpret results, and make decisions.
Although the advent of Big Data is nothing new, technology, tools, and marketing practices have certainly caught up. Recent advances in customer relationship management (CRM) solutions and marketing automation platforms (MAP), as well as third-party and external data providers, have helped marketers perform predictive capabilities such as:
- Compile data: Customers investing in CRM and MAP have a head start. Plus, the proliferation of external and third-party data delivers a more complete view of customers, prospects, and markets.
- Perform analysis: Data scientists have the hottest job around – compiling, matching, aggregating, and defining data and then leveraging analytics for ranking, prioritizing, categorizing, and modeling. A great example of a best practice is using propensity modeling help to predict future purchases for segments based on past behavior.
- Interpret results: Most models take the form of an estimated result and apply the net impact, such as comparisons of lead conversions or groupings such as customers, personas, and similar groups of prospects. Propensity modeling can break down this information into groups and segments in a very powerful way.
- Make better decisions: Everything old is new again. Like its predecessor, business intelligence, modern analytics has a built-in predictive capability. But there’s a twist: A human element of judgment is now an imperative.
Marketing professionals interested in skills development must expose themselves to external forums, such as the Sirius Decisions Summit, to flex their professional muscle and to learn from a broad variety of perspectives and expertise. Yes, it does involve the proverbial “drinking from the firehose,” but the insights are inherently rewarding. And for that reason, the 2017 Sirius Decisions Summit is already on my calendar.
Fred is the senior director and head of Thought Leadership for Digital Business Services Marketing at SAP.