Clarifying the New Priorities of Next-Generation B2B Marketing

(This article originally appeared in April on CMS Wire.)

B2B marketing is ever-changing, but I know this for sure: No one cares about sales and marketing alignment, demand waterfalls, or digital transformation anymore. Account-based marketing is just good marketing, and organizations that are winning are promoting a fail-fast culture brought on by experimentation with data and technology.  

As marketing leaders, we are living in the surrealistic aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve evolved. For more than 18 months, we were flung into an all-digital ocean and the water was colder for some than for others. As we emerge, we’re toting a tectonic shift in B2B Marketing priorities. 

Gleaning Insights Over Gathering Data

“Water, Water, Everywhere, Nor Any a Drop to Drink!” Samuel Taylor Coleridge used this line in the famous poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner to describe a sailor marooned at sea. It also describes the amount of data and information being delivered to marketing leaders by their technology and tools. 

The problem is exacerbated by the term “data-driven marketing” which has taken up residence in the minds of many, yet lacks any clear definition. If data-driven marketing is the ideal, then shouldn’t more data mean better marketing? 

No.

The availability of insights has trumped the need for data in marketing. Marketers are looking to simplify programs and leverage data to gather a few key insights:

  • Are accounts in market or out of market?
  • What channels perform best for our audience?
  • Does our message resonate with its audience?

Marketers are designing programs around simplified insights, and keeping laser-focused on remaining audience-centric and relevant. They are deprioritizing (or ignoring) data sources that don’t answer these questions. 

Managing Change 

Marketing requires an equal balance of strategic vision and agility. Just ask a field marketer in 2020. The volatility of social and market climates requires constant change, and that change needs to be managed in a qualitative and quantitative way.  First, the introduction of technology, process, tools, and people can erode morale and create uncertainty. 

“A modern marketing organization needs to do a lot of different things. (It) needs to be creative and (it) needs to be data scientists. You need technology, people, you need all these skills. In a way a marketing department is almost like a mini company within itself. And it’s really hard to go from, not having any of that infrastructure to suddenly having it.” – George Scotti, Vice President of Marketing, Lexia Learning

Marketing leaders need to be expert communicators of their vision: to colleagues, to employees, to customers. Successful marketing leaders prioritize leadership, and better demonstrate their ability to build consensus, motivate, and shepherd change throughout their teams. 

Second, a change management initiative can’t be considered successful unless new behaviors are adopted by a team. According to change management leader Sheila Cox, “Organizational change management ensures that the new processes resulting from a project are actually adopted by the people who are affected.” (“What is change management? A guide to organizational transformation.”)

Marketing leaders need to establish behavioral metrics to see whether or not adoption is happening. Additionally, if incentive programs are present, they need to be tightly aligned to the desired behavior change, and not remain linked to past processes or ideologies. 

Bridging the Gap Between Strategy and Activation

In chemistry, activation is defined as, “the process of making a substance chemically or catalytically active.” In marketing, activation is the process of bringing a strategy to market through programs and activities. However, there can be many barriers to activation that leave strategies unrealized and put marketers on the reactive.  Among them:

  • Lack of a truly cross-functional campaign planning process that incorporates the perspectives of all required stakeholders
  • Lack of accountability to the data, technology, and skills requirements of the activation and measurement
  • Under communicating the strategic vision and the short-term, medium-term, and long-term measures of success
  • Siloed marketing functions that have little-to-no visibility into each others’ roles, contributions, or success metrics
  • Skipping steps for special circumstances – 80% of marketing activities should be aligned to a campaign plan, leaving 20% capacity for unexpected needs that arise. If an organization is seeing more reactivity than proactivity, then it will continuously fall short on activating a campaign strategy. 

Marketing leaders have put a renewed focus on balancing strategy and agility, and ensuring that no planning exercise gets stuck on the “virtual shelf” by bridging the gap between strategy and activation.

Breaking Down Barriers Between Demand and Media

Tough love time.

The buying and selling process is a digital-first motion with more digital touchpoints than ever before. According to Forrester Research in 2021, the average number of buyer digital touchpoints had increased from 15 to nearly 25 for each purchase decision.  If the media budget and the demand creation budget are managed separately, by separate teams – then the marketing isn’t integrated, and the programs aren’t “omnichannel.”

The age-old separation between demand and media persists today, at the expense (literally and figuratively!) of a high-performing marketing function. The divide forces marketing to be focused on stop-start campaigns that are measured by impressions and clicks. The silos of marketing specialists result in millions of dollars spent on near-sighted metrics that ignore the overall impact that marketing could be having on its audience. 

Today’s high performing B2B marketing teams understand that the buyer is always-on, and they leverage paid, owned, and earned media as well as inbound and outbound demand creation in unison to build trust and engagement. Media is an integral tactic, woven into the marketing strategy as a component of a cross-functional planning process. In doing so, they maximize their media and marketing investments. Both are aligned to shared metrics and in service of the same result: to help and engage prospects along their unique buying journey. 

So, what now?

In future articles, I’ll be unpacking each of these four priorities and providing guidance on how you can begin (or continue) to evolve your own marketing teams in line with the next-gen priorities of top B2B marketing performers. Stay tuned!

The Four Pillars of B2B Marketing Activation

What is activation, and how does it differ from execution?

In chemistry, activation is the slight transformation of a molecule or atom into a condition capable or reacting. In other words, it’s the process of taking a substance from dormant to reactive. 

In B2B marketing, activation is the process of taking a well-defined strategy and translating into tactics that get results in market. A strategy is just words, after all. Activation is the process of taking that strategy and putting it to work. 

Let’s look at an example. Say you have a robust collection of intent data. That data is potentially valuable — but not until it’s activated. Activating your data means choosing the metrics you want to measure and implementing a system to sort and analyze data. With these components in place, your data becomes usable, ready to inform your marketing actions. 

Another example is brand activation. Brand activation is an intentional marketing campaign that produces engagement with your brand. These activations allow your audience to form a lasting connection with your brand. They enable a reaction.

Activation and execution are similar but not synonymous. In theory, execution means putting your strategy into action. But execution can be myopic, repetitive, and divorced from strategy. Activation is the magic ingredient that turns on your strategy. It’s the tools, tactics, and processes that make your strategy work.

There are four pillars to successful activation. Hint: these pillars rest on a firm base of synchrony.

  1. Campaign management. Your campaign can’t happen without someone working to, well, make it happen. How will you know who is doing what? What has to happen to meet each stage in your campaign? What tasks are most important right now? Project management systems and positions are essential to assign and track tasks, visualize projects, and stay on top of all the details. 
  2. Synchronicity between functions. Over the years, marketers have tried many different tactics to rise above a cluttered and ever-evolving field. One of these is specialization. Specialized teams work hard and fast within their narrow zone of expertise. But specialization also leads siloed teams. Synchronicity brings everyone to the table, ensuring your teams work together on unified strategies that engage customers from beginning to the end of their journey.
  3. Leadership and consensus-building. A good B2B marketing leader can be the difference between an inert marketing strategy and one that will produce results the second it’s put into action. Leaders define the results they expect and track progress toward these results. They build consensus and break down siloes between sales and marketing, getting everyone on the same page, with the same goal, and empowering employees to do what they do best.
  4. Cross-functional tactical expertise. Train your skills specialists to work across the martech stack, instead of giving them responsibility for only a narrow slice of knowledge. Talented stakeholders might have specific knowledge of one marketing component, but they should also collaborate across teams and functions, understanding how their expertise is helpful in multiple contexts. Build buy-in and synchrony by including functional leaders in planning and goal setting.

Let’s go back to chemistry for a second. Activating a substance requires activation energy: the minimum amount of energy needed for a substance to be ready for transformation.

The four pillars of marketing activation are your activation energy. They are what enable you to execute a strategy that gets results. They’re all the little details that happen behind the scenes and make your strategy work. And your activation energy rests in the basic principle of getting your teams to work together, across functions, toward a common campaign goal.

Conquering Barriers to Activation: The Strategic Marketing Technologist

The Evolution of a Strategic Marketing Technologist

Many of the marketing automation gurus who gained their reputations two decades ago have matured into strategic thinkers who understand the capabilities and limitations of technology. In a B2B marketing world that is increasingly relying on tech to reach customers efficiently, having someone on hand who understands the ins and outs of martech is essential.

Enter the strategic marketing technologist. 

While many B2B teams understand the importance of the marketing technologist’s role, one barrier to activation is that leaders of cross-functional planning teams don’t include the strategic marketing technologist in planning discussions. This puts planning teams in an ivory tower, away from the realities of what it takes to fully implement a martech stack. 

Without someone at the table to apply tech tools strategically, your organization will not fully realize the value of your technology investment, no matter how shiny the tech. The greater your marketing and sales tech investment, the more critical it is that you involve a strategic marketing technologist in all aspects of cross-functional planning.  

The Role of the Strategic Marketing Technologist

Digital marketing is marketing — and even in a post-pandemic world, that’s not going to change. Today’s B2B marketing strategies are likely to be fully executed online. To do that, your team needs a suite of tech tools: marketing automation systems, data analytics, robust CRMs, and more. In theory, these tools allow you to do more with less, reaching dozens of leads with the press of a button. 

But — and there is a but — someone needs to know how, when, and where to press the buttons that maximize results. And they need to know how to get results in the first place!

That “someone” is a marketing technologist (MT) — a role that can help you bridge the gap between IT and marketing. As online marketing manager Bailey Caldwell describes it, “A marketing technologist is a role that combines information technology (IT) with marketing skills to create a better process for ensuring marketing strategies are in line with a company’s overarching goal.” 

Your marketing technologist should actively work between teams and departments to build and implement a holistic martech strategy. Over 90% of companies have a chief marketing technologist (CMT). But we’d wager that far fewer are using their CMT effectively. When that’s not happening, you’re not getting the most out of your technologist or your martech stack.

 How to Incorporate strategic marketing technologists in planning

Take some cues from agile marketing strategies to effectively integrate your strategic marketing technologist into your planning processes. 

  1. Build operational independence into your martech stack. The fundamental issue with operations that involve both IT and marketing is time. IT works in 12-month cycles. Marketing might be working on 12-day or 12-week strategies. Your marketing team is more nimble — and your MT more empowered to drive strategy — when your team can use martech without relying on IT. 
  2. Give your marketing technologist control over strategy. The MT isn’t just an advisor. They’re the person who should be behind your strategies for how and when tech is used — the button-pusher, if you will. Give your MT full control over digital marketing strategy and build the expectation that the MT will participate in all planning and strategy sessions.
  3. Try big-room planning sessions. When working with small, cross-functional teams, you need an effective way to drive strategy across teams and across the organization. Big-room planning is a way to bring groups together, and positioning your MT as an expert facilitator means martech strategy comes first.

The Strategic Marketing Technologist is Key to Your Company Growth

Respondents to Gartner’s 2020 Marketing Technology Survey report utilizing “just 58% of their stack’s full breadth of capabilities.” Gartner provides a solution: “Sustained transformation requires breaking down marketing and operational silos to preempt future roadblocks.”

The marketing technologist is a silo breaker. They are the go-between, the strategy driver, and the person who makes sure your company’s martech is fully integrated and utilized.

The result? More sales-qualified leads, data-driven strategy, seamless cross-functional collaboration, and increased ROI visibility. All the more reason to not delay fully resourcing your strategic marketing technologist sooner rather than later.

What Is Change Management, Anyway?

To achieve the levels of growth that many marketing and sales organizations want – they’ll need to manage change. Whether it’s tweaks to an org structure, new technology, fast hiring or priority pivots – change is growth and vice versa. 

Change management involves building consensus around a process and taking into complete account the day-to-day impacts of that process on the people involved. Or, in the words of author and change management leader Sheila Cox, “Organizational change management ensures that the new processes resulting from a project are actually adopted by the people who are affected.”

Forward-thinking businesses know navigating change is a key to organizational success. Yet, as many leaders know, this is infinitely easier said than done. According to the Harvard Business Review, up to two-thirds of change initiatives fail. This happens for a variety of reasons: lack of buy-in and engagement, poor communication, cultural differences, and timing issues, among others.

There are principles you can follow to ensure your change efforts succeed. In our interview series, Change Agents, we talk to marketing leaders about the practical ways they manage change in their organizations. We found five major themes. 

Master the Art of Buy-In

You can’t make big changes happen if your team isn’t involved and invested in the process. Effective changemakers master the art of buy-in. Working with your teams to understand their needs and priorities — and generate solutions — is the groundwork for a successful change initiative

Buy-in starts by acknowledging that all change is a team effort. Margaret Herndon, CMO at WestRock Company, shares her philosophy: “This is a team sport. This is not about a hero CMO coming in and making all this change [happen within a company]. It’s about the team and listening to what’s working and not working. Then, it’s about getting the team involved in the change.” 

Investing in your team also means empowering them to be leaders.

Aleya Chattopadhyay, VP of marketing at Procore, says investing in your team “means spending time with them and talking about culture, what kind of leaders they are and want to be, and helping them develop their leadership qualities.”

In short, a fully empowered team is a successful team.

Embrace Experimentation

 Inherent in any change effort is the possibility of failure. Preempt potential failures by taking the sting out of them. Remove the individual responsibility from failures, and instead, give your teams the space to create and iterate. 

The fast-moving world of B2B marketing is often a cycle of experimentation and reiteration. Allison Breeding, CMO of Apptio, keeps her experimentation mantra close at hand: “Test drive, fail fast, and hold on to those successes when you find them.”

A culture of experimentation looks different for every leader. Yet, it starts with the philosophy that experimentation can lead to powerful results. As Lumavate President Stephanie Cox loves to tell her teams, “there are no bad ideas.” 

Maintain Transparency  

Building a culture of teamwork and experimentation is not a one-step process. Especially throughout the process of building a lasting change, consistent communication is essential. That’s where a communication schedule comes in: “You have to share the right things, with the right people, at the right time.”

Communication is a lot easier when your teams work together toward a shared goal. Leadership consultant AJ Josefewitz believes this involves two essential components: 1) making the time investment to build inter-team relationships and 2) developing shared criteria so team members across marketing, sales, and IT are invested in achieving the same outcome. 

Give Credit Where It’s Due

Failure is a powerful learning experience, but success is an even more empowering teachable moment. Changemakers can’t encourage experimentation without also highlighting the ideas that really work. 

For marketing leader Scott Vaughan, this looks like public praise. In his role as Chief Growth Officer at Integrate, Vaughan regularly spotlighted team members’ successful ideas. Small wins are worth celebrating and can often lead to a chain of successes.

Make Initiatives Measurable

There’s always a way to measure success, so find it. Setting and tracking goals make success achievable and transparent across teams. After all, how can you know whether you’ve achieved success if you don’t know what success looks like or what it takes to get there? 

Kate Slyker, CMO of General Communication Corp, says scorecards are necessary for engagement and improvement. “I think the better your scorecard, the better you’re going to be able to know where to pivot.” Slyker uses goal-setting and surveys to evaluate where the difference between where teams are, and where they want to be.

Learn from Marketing Leaders

Leaders in marketing, sales, and operations need to build processes that work — and unite teams along the way.For more tips on managing tectonic change in your organization, check out our Change Agents series. We interview marketing leaders on how they transform their organizations for the better.

Intent Data: As Easy As In Market Vs. Out of Market

Water, Water, Everywhere, Nor Any a Drop to Drink! Samuel Taylor Colleridge coined this famous phrase in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner to describe a sailor stuck on his ship in the middle of the calm ocean.

We use this phrase a lot to describe the data that should inform data-driven B2B marketing. Intent data is one of those core tools. Many intent programs are designed to deliver too many insights. Like the Ancient Mariner in the middle of a salt water ocean, too many insights can prevent you from activating in a meaningful way. 

Today, our focus is on one distinction that’s key to getting the highest ROI out of your intent data: in market vs. out of market. 

Sure, intent data is important to content strategy, lead targeting, and audience activation. But getting too in the weeds with your intent data can hamstring you before you’ve even had a chance to reach your audience. Instead, start with the most basic question: is your audience in market to buy your product right now? 

Sort Your Buyers into Two Buckets

Is your intent monitoring too niche? 

Let’s look at an example. Segmentation allows you to split your customers into groups based on an unlimited number of common factors: location, interests, demographics, industry, and so on. These marketing segments can then be used to push personalized content to your leads. 

But a program that relies on deep, manual segmentation is impossible to scale or maintain. Trying to track the needs of dozens or hundreds of highly curated groups and then push timely, individualized content to each segment is a strategy that’s bound to fail. 

It’s the same with intent data. You might be deeply invested in using the data you’re purchasing. But getting too specific with customer monitoring, or coming up with dozens of plays that align with the data that’s coming in, is unsustainable. You need a strategy that can be maintained. 

Instead, focus on in market vs. out of market. This splits your audience into two simple categories: those who are in market to buy right now, and those who aren’t. 

Researchers at the B2B Institute have concluded that marketing comes down to the 95:5 rule: only 5% of your audience will actually be in market to buy your product. The rest are out of market. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore the 95%. Instead, cater your strategies for each group. 

Strategies for In-Market Audiences

Determining whether a lead is in market is the biggest factor in converting your leads quickly. Once you determine a lead is actually ready to buy, you can identify where they are in the buyer’s journey and customize accordingly. You can then push content that’s more general to the audience’s challenges or more specific to your solutions, depending on where they are in the buying process. 

In-market prospects are simple. You know they want to buy, and you just have to figure out how to convince them to buy your product over your competitors. 

But out-of-market prospects are, counterintuitively, just as important as those who are ready to buy right now. Leads who might not be in a position to purchase may become in market in months or years. When that time comes, you want them to turn to you. 

Strategies for Out-of-Market Audiences

B2B Marketing efforts are long term. Your goals for your out-of-market audience are top of funnel: build trust, increase brand awareness, and make sure that when the time comes to buy, it’s easy for your customers to choose you. 

The 95:5 rule means taking a step back. If the vast majority of your audience isn’t in a position to buy, then buy-now ads won’t work. Instead, you’re trying to build muscle memory and make sure that your customers remember you. That means more top-of-funnel content. 

Don’t drown in a sea of intent data – simplify into in market vs. out of market.

Three Models for Marketing Attribution in a Multi-Team Environment

The movie Encanto has captured the hearts of parents and kids alike. In the film, a young girl struggles with the fact that the value she delivers to her family is not as obvious as her siblings’. In the end, she realizes that her magic is just as important in ensuring the safety and prosperity of the family. What’s my point, you ask?

Attribution is tricky. In Disney films and B2B marketing. 

When you have multiple marketing teams who work with the same audience, who gets credit for sourcing a new opportunity? There isn’t an exact science for determining which team had the most influence on a new client. 

Attribution is complicated because leads are exposed to multiple tactics and campaigns throughout their journey to becoming a buyer. The average B2B buyer engages with a brand 36 times before making a purchase. Is it the first touch that made the difference? The last? 

And while some of these tactics are easy to measure—for example, emails opened or visits made to a landing page—others are more difficult. But who gets the attribution when a lead comes your way due to referrals or positive word of mouth? 

Here’s the thing: Marketing attribution is an essential component of your data-collecting efforts, helping you understand which channels offer the greatest ROI. Determining attribution enables you to understand which tactics are working, which teams are the most effective, and which customers are the most likely to convert or make additional purchases. 

Understanding which tactics are most effective helps you coordinate your marketing efforts between sales and marketing in an account-based model, which significantly increases customer retention and sales win rates.

So, back to the question—how to handle attribution when your marketing teams are decentralized? We propose three solutions. 

3 Marketing Attribution Models for Decentralized Teams

You need to know what your teams are doing and how well that’s working. To drill down to what’s really driving sales, you might consider a few different methods. 

First touch or last touch

First touch attribution tracks customers throughout their journey and gives full credit to the buyer’s first touchpoint. Last touch attribution, similarly, measures and distributes credit based on the clincher: the touchpoint that ultimately led to a hand-off to your sales team. 

Pros:

  • It’s easy to track and attribute first and last touchpoints
  • These touchpoints give you valuable insight into how leads find your brand—and what gets them across the finish line

Cons:

  • In a customer journey that can involve dozens of checkpoints, these attribution models can be overly simplistic and fail to give you insight into mid-funnel tactics
  • First and last touches can also be arbitrary: was a customer’s white paper download really the touchpoint that led them to make a purchasing decision?

Linear attribution

Linear attribution gives equal weight to each touchpoint along a customer’s journey. It’s a form of weighted attribution that helps you understand what customers are engaging with, if not why. An alternate form of this attribution method would be giving equal attribution weight to each department that had a demonstrable influence on the customer’s journey. 

Pros:

  • Raw data on which tactics or teams are producing the most engagement
  • A holistic look at your marketing efforts that measures across-the-board success

Cons:

  • Not all touchpoints have the same weight: does a favorited Tweet have the same influence as a product demo or email exchange?
  • Likewise, not all teams have the same influence on outcomes, and this attribution method can fail to provide sufficient granular data

Weighted attribution 

Tactics at the local, regional level tend to be more personalized, and explicitly tied to customer demands and pipeline acceleration. On the other hand, many corporate marketing tactics operate from a higher-level perspective, designed to build and reinforce brand reputation. 

There are many forms of weighted attribution. For example, U-shaped attribution gives more credit to touchpoints at the beginning and end of the buyer’s journey. W-shaped attribution tends to add more weight to mid-funnel touchpoints. Finally, time-decay attribution places more value on touchpoints as they lead closer to a purchase. 

Another option when working to distribute credit among multiple players might be giving tactics executed at the local and regional level more credit toward the deal closing and weighting corporate-level tactics toward deal creation. 

Pros:

  • More complex attribution schemes provide a more holistic picture of touchpoints along your customers’ journeys
  • A weighted attribution scheme is easily customizable, allowing you to adjust weights based on your product and marketing efforts

Cons:

  • Weighted attribution schemes can be harder to measure and more complicated to calculate

The Secret to Effective B2B Product Launches

Purple ketchup. Crystal Pepsi. Cheeto chapstick. Google Glass.

95% of new products fail.

But contrary to what we learn from the biggest market flops, they don’t fail because they’re faulty products. Instead, flaws in the marketing process could mean new products aren’t reaching their ideal audience. The same concept applies to product enhancements. 

When planning your campaign calendar, you should use the 80/20 rule: 80% of your content and programs should be prepared in advance, centered around a quarterly or yearly theme. That leaves you with 20% of your budget to respond to market changes and plan programming in real-time. 

You want your customers and leads to know about new offerings and changes to products. But this requires balancing your advertising strategy with the knowledge that not every update is relevant to your customers. 

With limited time and resources outside of your planned campaign, how can you most effectively incorporate product launches and enhancements into your planning? 

4 Keys to Strategic Product Launches

There are a lot of reasons product launches fail. However, from the initial product development stage to your social media marketing playbook, unsuccessful launches come to one primary error: failing to consider buyer needs. An effective strategy should be focused on the customer—not the product. 

  1. Be selective. You can’t plan a full-out launch for every product enhancement. And, launching 10 new products and features at the same time tends to flood the market, overwhelming your customers and throwing off your cadence. Timing is everything, so be selective with which updates you choose to launch and when you launch them.
  2. Have a customer-focused strategy. Before you even think about getting your product to market, you need to define who your customers are and what value propositions they hold. You should clearly identify which customers you’re targeting, what their needs are, and how this product will meet their needs. A successful launch will be backed by data, not by a gut feeling. 
  3. Build consensus. A marketing strategy can quickly fall apart if you don’t have consensus across development, marketing, sales, and production. Start by clearly defining across teams which enhancements merit a strategized launch. This saves you the trouble of planning a marketing campaign for every operating upgrade and helps you strategically focus on the most essential updates for your core customers.
  4. Explore different tactics. Your strategy shouldn’t look the same for a brand-new product and a product enhancement. Clearly establish the core components of your strategy for each type of release. Maybe enhancements are released via email and web content targeted toward existing customers, while new products rely on a social media blitz backed by mid- and bottom-funnel content. 

Maximize Your 20% With a Focused Launch

When EVS needed to launch the mobe3 warehouse management system, they started by laying the groundwork. That meant conducting thorough user research and beta testing to identify their target audience’s decision factors and pain points.

EVS also formulated its launch as a continuum, not an event. In the context of the 80/20 rule, this could mean fitting product launches into your planned campaign content for the year and leaving upgrades and time-sensitive content for the 20% bucket. 

The EVS strategy created content for each stage of the marketing funnel: coverage in trade outlets and tech journals; web content and infographics and a launch video; a social media strategy and outreach, including speaking engagements and coverage from industry analysts.

While much of this content could be planned ahead of time, a core component of the mobe3 launch was front-page coverage of early adopters in selected trade outlets. EVS lassoed the power of selectivity by focusing on getting coverage of customer successes out into the world. 

EVS also used ongoing campaign evaluation to reallocate resources; for example, they learned that SEO was one of their least impactful tactics. Customers researching on their own were smaller than the client’s ideal customer, so EVS reinvested resources into different avenues to more effectively target their audience. 

This award-winning campaign ultimately demonstrated the core components of a successful product launch: a tightly honed, customer-focused strategy with room for reevaluation based on customer research along the way.

What Separates Good B2B Content from Great B2B Content? Empathy.

B2B marketers buy into the idea that B2B isn’t personal. 

But here’s the secret: All good marketing is personal. While buyers might have logical justifications for choosing a product, buying decisions are inherently emotional. 

Harvard Business School researcher Gerald Zaltman says that 95% of our decisions come from the subconscious mind. This means B2B marketers need to dig deeper to reach real human emotion. Your marketing solutions were developed to improve lives and address pain points, so why aren’t you appealing to buyers on a personal level?

What does an emotional connection look like? 

Grief, anger, joy—maybe it feels impossible to appeal to your buyers on a deep emotional level. But emotional appeals can take many forms. Tap into these emotions when building content for B2B buyers.

  1. Anticipation. B2B buyers are 50% more likely to purchase products when they see the personal value, whether that’s a direct benefit to their workflow, career advancement, or pride. The anticipation of expected value drives purchasing decisions. 
  2. Trust. Whether buyers trust you, your organization, or your product is necessary in their decision to buy (and keep buying) from you. About 93% of C-suite executives say working with an honest vendor is essential. Marketers can build buyer trust along the funnel by connecting with customers and cultivating those relationships.
  3. Apprehension. Buyers attempt to address pain points when they embark on a purchasing journey—their own and their organizations. B2B marketers can tap into the fear of obsoletion and failure to nudge buyers along the path.

Understanding buyer needs

90% of marketers believe that understanding the buyer’s journey is critical to success. Yet only 40% of marketers are using consumer insights to make decisions. 

Insight into the buyer’s journey should be data-backed. In order to make an emotional appeal to your buyers, you have to understand them. 

Buyer insight can start with buyer intent data. First, you need to understand how your customer base operates: what they’re searching for, which content they appreciate the most, what other products they’re looking at, and how they’re reviewing products. 

Your insight capture should also dive into buyer needs, building profiles of what matters most to your ideal customers. Finally, talk to your customers, ideally through a third-party provider, to understand their experience and unique frustrations and desires.

Empathy through storytelling

So, how do you execute the emotional appeal? With storytelling.

Creative director David McGuire writes about three ways to use storytelling in B2B marketing: illustrate, differentiate, precipitate. 

  1. Illustrate. Numbers and data can build the backbone of how you demonstrate the value of your solution. Illustrating that data builds meaning for your audience. Case studies are a key example of this kind of storytelling: a clear example of how a customer overcame a challenge and an explanation of the benefits they received by doing so. 
  2. Differentiate. Is a lot of your content starting to blend together? Storytelling takes the “meh” out of repetitive content by helping readers understand your key takeaways in different contexts.
  3.  Precipitate. In other words, “give your customers a story to tell.” Translate the benefits of your offerings into tangible, shareable insights. Word of mouth is a marketer’s best friend, so make it easy on your clients by giving them a concise, appealing story to share.

One Funnel, Multiple Cohorts: Tips for optimizing different lead management processes

“Apples, oranges, and bananas.” If you ask my Mom how she describes her three daughters (of which I’m the youngest), this is what she’ll say. While we’re all her children, we are as different as the day is long: different professions, different motivations, different dwellings, different past times. Appealing to the diverse needs of your different children is one of parenting’s super powers.

If only we could be as nimble when it comes to appealing to a diverse batch of leads. Your customers likely come from all over the spectrum: from enterprise companies with large buying teams, to SMB and mid-market companies. And in a world of highly individualized marketing and sales, we need to generate a variety of leads and nurture them as they make their way through the funnel.

So does that mean we need to parcel out your lead management for each cohort? 

The short answer is no. However, consolidating your lead management process into one funnel will make lead management more efficient and effective while also differentiating among leads to direct different motions toward small, highly targeted groups.

Keep reading: We’ll explain how. 

Unique Considerations for 3 Types of Organizations

Every type of organization has its own unique considerations. 

  • Enterprise customers often bring large, unwieldy buying teams to the table and have more drawn-out buying processes, leading to longer sales cycles. However, deal sizes are larger.
  • SMB and mid-market customers have smaller buying teams and a shorter sales cycle; the tradeoff is slightly smaller deal sizes.
  • eCommerce buyers have their unique considerations, too. Much more self-directed than traditional buyers, eCommerce owners drive their own purchases and sales and often turn to one-time transactions. 

If your organization caters to all three, you might find yourself in a tight spot. How do you sort and nurture your leads while also executing different marketing motions for each cohort? 

For example, enterprise customers might need highly individualized content and messaging over a long period of time, whereas SMB customers may just need the right top-of-funnel content to assure them you can fill their needs and a quick follow-up before making the handover to sales.

Efficient Lead Management

So, to effectively reach your leads, do you need three separate lead management processes? Not necessarily. In fact, many martech stacks won’t allow you to perform multiple lead management processes accurately. 

Instead, consolidate your lead management process into one funnel with multiple cohorts. 

Choosing one comprehensive CRM to handle your lead management has three primary benefits: 1) automated lead processing and data generation, 2) a more efficient, integrated system that keeps all your data in one place, and 3) better visibility, so you can stop lead loss before it happens. 

A martech consultant can help you choose the best CRM for your needs. 

Just because all your leads are in one system doesn’t mean their marketing motions shouldn’t be differentiated. Your process should start with developing a holistic plan for different marketing and sales scenarios. For each scenario, you should identify three things:

  1. Clear definitions for each stage in the funnel. When is a lead marketing qualified? When is a lead sales qualified? 
  2. Keys to conversion or high-probability indicators. Identify the top signals that indicate a lead is ready to buy. Lead scoring can help you visualize this—but first, you need to define the key factors that lead to a purchase. 
  3. Service-level agreements (SLAs). If you don’t have the handoff between marketing and sales down, you’re going to lose leads. Your SLAs should lay out who does what and when, for each customer type. They should also identify clear metrics for success. 

Once you’ve got that down, you can use martech to identify, group, and measure each cohort. Tracking lead data and keeping it in a single system can help you quickly (and even automatically) sort leads into cohorts, while lead scoring can help you track what your leads are doing and where they’re at in the funnel. 

Much of lead management is simply not letting leads fall through the gaps. Effective lead management avoids duplicate data and wasted time by keeping all of your leads in one place but also allows you to differentiate buyer groups and execute different marketing motions based on the unique needs of each cohort.

Full-Service Demand Gen is Essential For Fractional CMOs

It’s a gig economy. Now, even the job of CMO can be outsourced—and there are plenty of solid reasons companies might consider doing so. (More on that in a minute.)

Gig CMOs, also known as fractional CMOs, work part-time, often serving as interim marketing consultants for growing businesses or companies in transition. 

If you’re a fractional CMO, you know the importance of getting up to speed rapidly. While you could distribute the growth marketing responsibilities among your team, we’re here to advocate for a better alternative: investing in consulting and agency services. 

Instead of getting a new hire in the loop or hunting down team members to make sure demand gen is happening, you can focus on customer acquisition and leave demand gen in the hands of a firm that has a track record of delivering high quality, results-driven work.

What’s the Role of a Fractional CMO?

Gig CMOs step in to lead a company’s marketing efforts during times of transition. They can serve as a transitional role for growing companies without the resources to bring on a full-time CMO or fill in as interim CMOs for established companies. 

Choosing to work with a fractional CMO can bring significant benefits.

  1. Faster and more affordable. While the hiring process for a full-time hire can take months, a contract CMO can come on board much more quickly. Choosing a fractional CMO can also help you maximize your marketing budget if you are growing rapidly but don’t yet have the funds for a full-time hire. 
  2. Help build your strategy. Fractional CMOs bring outside eyes to the table and help narrow down your marketing focus. As a result, they’re able to put their complete focus on honing a marketing strategy.
  3. Bring their experience to the table. These C-suite execs for hire have done this before, many times. Your company might be going through the growth process for the first time, but fractional CMOs have led other company’s marketing efforts through times of transition and will know what needs to happen.

Whether you’re a gig CMO or you’re working with one, one of the best things you can do is outsource your demand creation.

Why Gig CMOs and Gig Demand Gen Go Together

Generating more leads is the No. 1 marketing priority for a plurality of surveyed leaders. If that’s the case for your business, in-house demand generation isn’t the way to go. If you don’t already have an experienced team in place, trying to go in-house can lead to siloes and inefficiencies. The better choice is to outsource your demand creation, and here’s why:

  1. Consulting firms get up to speed more quickly. Just like an outsourced CMO, full-service demand generation consultancies have done this before, and they’re uniquely positioned to do it again—fast. The average company produces well below 5,000 leads per month. Firms can help bump up those numbers almost immediately, increase the percentage of qualified leads, and work with your sales team to find conversion opportunities.
  2. More focused. If you know demand, you know it’s all about that follow-up. But if you’re distributing demand generation responsibilities among your team, follow-up opportunities can get lost in the shuffle. Look for firms that specialize in best practice lead management to ensure no lead is left behind. 
  3. Experienced. Keeping your demand generation in-house means hiring and training a team. Then, these employees would have to start from scratch, rebuilding the lead management process from the inside out. On the other hand, consulting firms come to the table with years of experience.
  4. More cost-effective. With an outsourced team, you’re paying for results, not training. Instead of investing in training new employees and buying new equipment, you can work with an firm that’s already up to speed on the latest tech and techniques.

The evidence is on the side of outsourcing. So if you’re an outsourced CMO, consider delegating demand creation to a team who can step in on short notice, put solid infrastructure in place, and hit the ground running with campaign development and execution.