New challenges for industrial manufacturing
Across industries, business buyers have become more self-reliant in researching to support purchasing decisions. They have enhanced their skills in leveraging digital technology, and they have increased their expectations for timely and useful content. According to IDC, 75% of B2B buyers use social media to research before making a purchase. Gone is the Age of the Seller, where the “pounce and pitch” approach garnered the deals. Sales is no longer in complete control of the sales process.
Industrial manufacturing is no exception to this trend. Advances in manufacturing and support technologies have reduced the time a company can enjoy a competitive advantage before their products and services become commoditized, which simplifies a sales strategy to a straightforward pricing war.
Customer focus: a mindset shift for sales and marketing
To be successful under these conditions, marketing and sales need to develop a customer focus. They must reach and teach their prospects, educate and engage them in meaningful ways in support of their buying journey. They need to shift from a mindset of selling to one focused on helping; they must nurture relationships and share knowledge to serve the needs of their audience.
To properly implement a customer-focused strategy, marketing and sales need to work together. They cannot be siloed teams that operate independently from each other. Marketing and sales need to collaborate on content that addresses the needs of their audience at each stage of the buyer journey. To manage the progression of leads through this journey, a unified lead management process must be developed jointly so that they have a common definition of a marketing qualified lead as well as service level agreements for lead generation and follow-ups. A whitepaper on establishing an effective lead management practice is available here.
Without coordination, marketing and sales may diverge in their efforts and tarnish the buyer experience with mixed and improperly-timed messages, redundant content and other distractions. These can impact reputations at both company and individual levels that can limit revenue potential. According to LinkedIn, 81% of B2B buyers are more likely to engage with a strong, professional brand.
Building relationships and sharing knowledge
In building B2B relationships, not only must marketing and sales determine what knowledge prospects and customers desire for their purchasing research or for personal enrichment; they must also know how and where to engage with them. They can accomplish this through the adoption of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) and Social Selling.
ABM focuses marketing efforts on a set of strategic and named accounts (defined together with sales). Marketing finds and targets individuals at those accounts and leverages personalized campaigns crafted to resonate with each of them. Social Selling utilizes social networks to create and nurture individual relationships to facilitate the sales process. By working together in using these techniques, marketing and sales can become more effective at building relationships at the individual level.
Companies often look to effectively curate and market their own digital content. Relying only on sharing their own materials is inadequate, however, since many buyers don’t look solely to a company for the merits of their products and services. They prefer unbiased information and opinions in community forums and social media in making a buying decision.
In addition, buyers, as professionals, want to be informed about trends in their industry. Thus, a company should supplement their materials with relevant third-party content. In doing so, a company will impress upon their prospects and customers that they are in touch with industry trends and have well-informed opinions.
MarTech to support the shift in mindset
To support marketing and sales teams and their customer focus mindset, a company must have a sound MarTech infrastructure that consists of a well-integrated suite of tools for enhancing the customer experience. At a minimum, Marketing Automation Platform (MAP) and CRM, the cornerstones of a MarTech stack, must be implemented and integrated to support the lead management process to which marketing and sales have agreed and adopted.
The MAP must be optimized to capture and communicate the digital body language, the attributes and behaviors that indicate a buyer’s readiness to purchase as they interact with digital content on channels such as emails, landing pages, online publications, community forums and social media. The CRM must be effectively utilized by the sales team to capture interactions and details of the accounts and contacts that they engage.
A strong MarTech stack with people, processes and technologies working together is necessary for other marketing and sales functions, such as content engagement, to be effectively implemented and managed.
Content engagement: enhance ABM and Social Selling capabilities
Sharing useful knowledge is a key aspect of building B2B relationships through ABM and Social Selling. Meaningful content enables sales to frame relevant and stimulating conversations with prospects and customers, leading to long-term, lucrative interactions. Developing content can be challenging, but gathering meaningful, relevant third-party content can be more difficult. Curating external knowledge isn’t a trivial task that can be manually performed on a part-time basis.
To automate and scale this capability, a content engagement platform should be deployed and integrated with MAP and CRM. This tool gathers and categorizes company and third-party content, and it uses the MAP and CRM attribute and behavioral data to identify those that are relevant to each account and contact. It enables sales to present the applicable content on a one-on-one basis with individuals and organizations. In addition, a content engagement platform allows marketing and sales to share content in social networks in support of their professional brands. This tool also enables marketing to deliver relevant content in nurturing and subscriber campaigns as well as send out topical alerts.
A content engagement platform tracks the effectiveness of social sharing. This allows for further refinement to the content that gets identified as relevant. As a result, iterative improvements can be made in educating and engaging prospects and customers, which would continue to enhance relationships.
Indirect sales model need additional considerations
Note that customer focus is not just for the marketing and sales teams. For companies that utilize the indirect sales model, their distributors or representatives need to also have a customer focus mindset and adopt ABM and Social Selling. In addition, companies need to either implement and integrate a partner relationship management (PRM) platform or integrate the distributor or representative’s CRM system with their CRM.
Engagement Platform Reference Architecture
The Pedowitz Group (TPG) has defined an example of an Engagement Platform Reference Architecture, with Grapevine6 as the content engagement platform and Marketo and Salesforce.com (SFDC) as the baseline MAP and CRM, respectively. In this MarTech stack, Marketo and SFDC are natively integrated and optimized to support the lead management process.
Grapevine6 is integrated with SFDC to gather attribute data and present links to relevant content to sales users to share with leads and contacts directly or through social networks. Grapevine6 is integrated with Marketo to retrieve attribute and behavioral data and provide links to relevant content for nurturing campaigns, subscriber communications and informational notifications.
Behavior data is captured by Marketo as prospects and customers interact with the shared content. This information can be used to gain insights to refine content as well as to trigger follow-ups and sales alerts to further support the customer focus. In addition, Marketo can be configured to generate periodic reports on the effectiveness of the content engagements.
Optimizing Marketing Operations to support customer focus
To help manage MarTech in its support of the customer-focus mindset, the Marketing Operations function needs to be established and optimized. Whether the roles and responsibilities are dispersed across marketing or assigned to a dedicated team, a company must determine what those are and who are best-suited to manage them. A whitepaper on the rise of the marketing operations function and its role in evolving and transforming B2B marketing organizations is available below.
Rise of the Marketing Operations Function
The Marketing Operations role is evolving and transforming B2B marketing organizations. Have you wondered, what exactly is Marketing Operations? Why is it exploding within marketing? What do you need to know to stay ahead of this trend? How can you take advantage of these functions to create Marketing Operations as a hub of your department and continue on the path of Revenue Marketing?
Steve Nakata is chief architect at The Pedowitz Group, where he manages complex technical implementations and integrations of marketing automation and CRM platforms. Steve oversees the development of technical capabilities into new areas that enhance the customer experience. He also leads the data management services practice providing data hygiene, data audit and enrichment, data remediation, and data governance services and best practices to TPG clients. Steve has more than 25 years of marketing and engineering experience in industries including identity management, systems management, semiconductor, telecommunications and aerospace/defense. Previously, Steve was the director of technical marketing at Ping Identity and was instrumental in the launch of their flagship product, PingFederate. As their first marketing hire, he established and executed the various marketing processes from the ground up. Prior to this, Steve held leadership roles at Motive and IBM/Tivoli Systems. Early in his career, Steve was literally a ‘rocket scientist’, working at NASA on a variety of projects including robotics research for the International Space Station and a return-to-earth unmanned spacecraft.
- Posted by Steve Nakata
- On 03/01/2017
- 0 Comments