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Ardath Albee

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B2B Marketers Need a Fresh Perspective

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In response to my last post, Product is Not the Hero of a B2B Company’s Story, Michael Webb asked a great question. I started to answer it and then decided the answer deserved its own post.

Michael asked:

I can't help wondering what you (and others) think about the "Why-why-why?" of the things you've written about?

For example, take the issues you addressed in your last five articles. Why is it so easy for marketers to focus on:

Do you think there might be some sort of common cause underlying these? If so, what might it be?

My gut response is short-termism and a failure for companies to get out of their own way. But that would be too easy. The real issue is that change is hard.

Factors at play include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • Marketers are evaluated on lead generation, not the stuff that I've talked about in the posts Michael mentioned. The same is true for sales. They work in short windows of time to meet "numbers" set for them. Marketing is supposed to feed this goal. Until companies can look at both short and longer-term goals based on customers, this perspective will continue to limit potential - especially in complex sales where the buying process takes longer than one quarter.
  • Culture is still very much inside-out, no matter how much lip service is paid to being "customer centric." Change is hard. And I'm not sure companies really know what to change. They still think they are in control of the process. No matter how much this shouldn’t make sense, given the changes we can plainly see, it is true. Marketers are told to go out and get leads. Sale teams are told to sell more. The pressure to perform is immense. But the tools and skills to do so in today’s environment are lacking.
  • The curse of knowledge is also a factor. We simply know too much about what we sell. We believe in it and we see the value. This causes us to not relate to buyers in parallel with what they need to learn to develop the confidence to buy. Marketers and sellers are often out of sync with the marketplace.
  • We haven't developed trust. Buyers see vendors as biased in their own favor. They don’t know whether to believe us or not. There are many buyer surveys that basically reflect buyers as saying, don’t call us, we’ll call you; stop pitching us; quit trying to go around my staff to get to me and give us more substance in the information you provide. Marketers and salespeople have got to focus on value delivery, not feeds and speeds, but features and functionality are what they know best, as I stated above.
  • Most vendors are still analog in a dynamic world. Real-time responsiveness is nice to think about, but it takes an immense amount of planning and strategy. An example everyone knows is the Oreo Dunk in the Dark Tweet during the super bowl. But if you read the articles about it, there were teams of people in the room, including the executives who had to approve the Tweet before it could be sent. This needs to change. We need to figure out how to become more agile without all the red tape.
  • Lack of process, at least for marketers. Heck, the majority (66%) of marketers report that they don’t have a strategy in place. Ad hoc campaigns based on meeting this quarter’s numbers are a symptom of short-term, tactical thinking. The same thing happens to sales when they have a few weeks left to close deals to make the “number” and everything except the most promising deals are pushed aside.
  • My favorite: “But we’ve always done it this way.” This is a big one - not only for us, but for our buyers. Why should we expect them to change if we can't change?It’s perceived as safe to stick with status quo. Many decisions put people’s careers on the line. Sometimes it’s easier not to make them or not to stick with them if it looks like the outcome won’t be there in time. But in all fairness, there are a lot of dependencies. One decision can have a ripple effect that affects other departments and outcomes. Consensus for change is sometimes even harder to get than consensus for a purchase decision.

The factors I’ve stated above are not news. We know this. CMOs admit it. They worry about it. Their biggest fear is becoming irrelevant to the markets they serve rendering them unable to reach customers. They know things have changed. Change has become the elephant in the room that appears too big to tackle.

But we must. We don’t have a choice. Those who take on change will win and those who don’t will flounder. We’ve also seen this. We saw it in NetFlix vs. Blockbuster. We saw it with book stores and Amazon. We’re seeing it now in Telecom and Communications with Over The Top (OTT) providers like Google and Amazon stepping in to take chunks of their business away.

We see it in hardware becoming virtualized and running in the cloud, rather than on premise which is challenging managed services providers to reinvent themselves to stay in the game. IT can spin up a server in minutes instead of spending weeks to order the hardware, install and provision it. We’re even seeing it in space exploration with private corporations replacing NASA programs.

It won’t happen overnight, but change needs to happen. We need to take the time and make the effort to start making the shift. Our teams need new skillsets and processes for continuous improvement. If marketing has changed more in the last two years than in the last 50 years, what do you think the next two will be like?

This is only my opinion. I’d love to know yours. Please chime in!

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More Stories By Ardath Albee

Ardath Albee, CEO & B2B Marketing Strategist of her firm Marketing Interactions, helps companies with complex sales increase and quantify marketing effectiveness by developing and executing interactive eMarketing strategies driven by compelling content.

Her book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale, was published by McGraw-Hill.

Her articles and blog posts have been used for university ezines, published in CRM Today, Selling Power, Rain Today and Enterprise CRM News. Marketing Profs has incorporated her blog posts into a number of their "Get to The Point" newsletters.