Nov 22 2017
Sales and Marketing are One Team
In Part 1 of our B2B Buyer’s Journey blog, we covered the traditional, and outdated, journey that looks like Awareness->Consideration->Decision. We proposed that today’s informed buyers don’t always go through the sales funnel in order.
In Part 2 we presented a new B2B Buyer’s Journey with stages fitting of a buyer who has done online research and will respond to engagement and education in a journey that resembles Discover, Explore, Buy, Ask, Use and Engage.
In this blog we ask, how should sales and marketing teams respond to the new, fluid, B2B Buyer’s Journey? The answer is to join forces.
Why Bring Them Together?
Sure, it’s great when team members work together, but why should they? Marketing and sales teams frequently act as independent silos (see our blog on this), with the marketing team working to produce leads for sales and ending the relationship there, and sales standing by waiting for qualified leads without giving marketing any guidance or feedback.
Combining these two groups might seem pointless. Why fix it if it ain’t broke?
Today’s sales teams need content and tools to guide their conversations with prospects. This material turns sales reps into subject matter experts and gives them an edge over the inaccurate and outdated information that turns up in a prospect’s independent search results. As such, the reliance on marketing has never been greater.
For the marketing team, their efforts culminate in conversions. But in the world of intangibles and professional services, that conversion is hard to measure.
A lead may fall into the funnel and land in the lap of a salesperson who is neither prepared nor informed enough to manage the inquiries of the prospect. All of the best marketing campaigns are meaningless if the person guiding the sales process can’t close the deal.
Additionally, if marketing isn’t getting real feedback from the sales team, their perspectives on the market will be skewed. Buyer personas, customer pain points, trends in the market; all of this rich information comes directly from the sales team in the trenches.
Without a cohesive team, the cycle of sales and marketing is busted. It will be evident in the company’s performance and, more importantly, in sagging customer loyalty.
“There is no question that, when Sales and Marketing work well together, companies see substantial improvement on important performance metrics: Sales cycles are shorter, market-entry costs go down, and the cost of sales is lower.” July-August 2006 Harvard Business Review
How to Combine Sales and Marketing?
For marketing and sales to align, both parties have to agree on goals.
This seems fairly obvious. Beyond just focusing on revenue, marketing targets and sales quotas must meld together. The new joint team should ask themselves these questions (in order) to gain a greater collaborative vision:
- What is our company’s revenue goal?
- What is our average deal size? Aka, how much are we currently earning per customer?
- How many customers must we reach in order to achieve our revenue goals? Divide revenue goal by average deal size.
- How many of our leads convert to customers?
- How many leads do we need to reach revenue goals?
Ideal Leads, Defined by Both Teams
The sales and marketing team must also work together to define an ideal lead. The sales team’s experience will be the most valuable resource in defining the ideal lead, because they typically have the highest level of interaction with prospects. They engage leads directly and thus understand the buyer’s pain-points, concerns, and questions.
Marketing’s role in defining the ideal lead can be as a data resource. Using information collected during the sales cycle, marketing can identify certain traits in leads that have historically led to conversion. For example, marketing’s data insight might reveal that a high percentage of conversions start from a prospect seeing a Facebook ad targeted at women, aged 30-40, living in Florida and married with children. Sharing this type of lead information can help the sales team decide which days/times would be best to send an email and what kind of content they need to convert the lead.
With both teams focused on shared goals, the next step is to analyze and score the leads. Evaluating a lead based on fit and interest can help determine their stage in the buying journey. If the lead needs an offering (fit), but isn’t interested, marketing can ramp up nurturing efforts. If the lead both needs (fit) and wants (interest) the offering, sales can quickly deliver a conversion. Each step in the buyer’s journey can trigger specific actions by sales and marketing that continue to bring the buyer closer to the final conversion.
The communication within the joint team can produce better coordination and a far more sophisticated understanding about the ideal lead. Ultimately, ideal leads, or at least better-qualified leads, will reduce the amount of time the sales team spends courting prospects who aren’t ready to buy or have no interest whatsoever.
“B2B sales and marketing teams need to prepare their reps to have high-value conversations with prospects. This includes tailoring collateral and content to meet the needs of new buyers, so that sales reps are providing answers to the questions buyers are asking at each stage of the buying cycle. ”
– Kurt Andersen (@SAVO_Group)
What To Do To Unify
Hopefully by now you’re a believer, and you’re ready to break down the silos of sales and marketing. Embrace the “we are one,” mentality. However, before you send a company-wide email announcing the new “Salarketing Team,” consider some facts.
A survey by Demand Gen found that the three biggest obstacles to sales and marketing alignment were: Communication (49%), broken and/or flawed processes (42%) and working towards different metrics (40%).
Here are some tips for improving communication and operations:
- Embrace Closed Loop Reporting
Marketing shares data/info (such as lead background information) with sales, and sales reports back on the effectiveness of marketing content. “Closing the loop,” means that sales shares with marketing which leads converted, thus helping marketing determine their best (or possibly worst) lead sources. Sales managers must develop accountability processes that keep their sales team engaged in the process.
- Develop a Sales and Marketing Service Level Agreement
Sales and Marketing can create a document that defines what each team will do to help each other. Much like the service level agreement you sign with your clients, the Sales and Marketing SLA is a series of activities and obligations the new joint team carries out in order to respond quickly to daily sales and marketing actions.
- Establish a Communication Space
Move the sales and marketing teams next to each other in the office. Make it easy for them to bounce ideas off each other and quickly share info. In general, the cultures of sales and marketing are not that dissimilar. Both are known for free-spirited demeanors and “work hard, play hard” attitudes.
To better facilitate insight, launch an online dashboard or other tracking system that provides data on leads, results of marketing campaign, sales analytics, etc…anything to keep the communication transparent and flowing.
- Share Success
When sales teams hit their goals, they usually enjoy rewards and accolades. Does marketing? In the new joint team, victory should be celebrated both individually (because salespeople love their trophies!) and together as a team who fought the war together. Marketing may not be as individually competitive as salespeople, but they still experience the “high” of crushing company goals.
In summary, combining your sales and marketing teams won’t be an effortless challenge, but you’ll reap the rewards through better lead engagement and, in turn, higher revenue. In our next blog, B2B Buyer’s Journey: Part 4, we’ll bust the “One And Done” attitude and study the value of nurturing an ongoing buyer-seller relationship. The Art Of Service is in the long lasting relationship, not quick and dirty transactions.
Want to move forward with your business? Let’s talk.
Nov 15 2017
The New B2B Buyer’s Journey
In our last blog, we explored the traditional B2B Buyer’s Journey – Awareness, Consideration, Decision – and argued that it was time for an update. We propose a new B2B Buyer’s Journey that is more fluid with the buyer having the majority control of the journey. Buyers can now decide if – and how – they move through the process, and when and where they get their information.
Gartner’s Hank Barnes had this to say about the new B2B Buyer’s Journey:
“The traditional model is we build awareness, and then, we drive interest, and then that creates desire, and finally, that leads to action. That’s been the traditional model of marketing and sales approaches in technology for a long, long time.
That’s really not what’s going on on the buyer’s side – and it’s particularly not what’s going on given how the availability of information via the web and social networks has changed. What we see is a buying process that’s much more fluid, and there’s a lot of complexity…
We don’t compartmentalize. While I’m exploring, I’m also evaluating. In many cases in technology, earlier in the buying process, I may be engaging with providers to learn about new ways to do things. We see these as streams that ebb and flow throughout the buying process.”
This shift in power means that the seller’s marketing team is now much more involved in the lead-to-revenue cycle. Instead of just focusing on getting leads in the door, they now have to produce content that drives awareness, answers questions, provides support, and delights and retains.
Instead of assigning a stage to the buyer, the new B2B journey should focus on answering: Who? Why? When? What? Where?
Who? As we mentioned above, B2B purchase decisions are made by teams. The new B2B Buyer’s Journey should consider the customer not as an individual, but as a group of individuals with different needs and desired outcomes from the transaction. A CEO might want the product/service for a reason completely different than a Project Manager, but both people could be involved in the final decision.
Why? When thinking about the buyer, it’s best to determine why they’re interested in your company. What pain-point does your company offer to resolve? How do you compare to competitors in your field? What unique value do you offer to the buyer’s company?
When? Meet the buyer at their stage in the buying process. What questions does the buyer currently have? Are they just doing some comparison research? Or, have they decided to hire you, but are just evaluating which services they need? Have they already purchased your software, but aren’t sure if they want to subscribe for another year? By understanding their motivations you can then provide answers to help move them along in the buying process.
What? What can you do to support the buyer’s decision? Do they want regular how-to emails? A downloadable ebook with case studies about your service or product? The buyer’s role should also be considered when deciding what content to deliver. A CEO may want a printed proposal with examples of previous projects, whereas a marketer may want a photo-heavy case study.
Where? And, finally, think about where your buyer discovers information about your company. Did they meet your Business Development team at professional events? Are they following your social media profiles? Tailor your content offering to match the buyer’s stage, location and role.
Asking the 5 W’s above results in a B2B Buyer’s Journey that’s more fitting for today’s environment. Forrester Research suggests that an updated version of the journey would include 6 stages: Discover, Explore, Buy, Ask, Use, Engage, where the journey is always in flux and the buyer is getting information from different sources during all stages.
The chart below shows how the different stages of the new B2B Buyer’s Journey interact. Each of the 6 rings (Discover, Explore, etc.) represents a stage, but the buyer does not necessarily pass through them in order or in a vacuum. For example:
During the Discover stage, the buyer may be doing research on a mobile device and the web, while also browsing print material and social media.
Listening to peers and sales people – they’re also processing input from many sources and discovering information on their own terms.
From the Discover stage, the buyer may jump to the Explore stage and start doing in-depth research on the seller’s company website or at events, among other channels.
It’s even possible that the buyer may altogether bypass any further research/evaluation and move straight from the Discover stage to making a buying decision and becoming an advocate.
There’s no one predetermined journey for today’s B2B buyer; each will have a unique timeline, budget and desired outcome. The best thing for a seller to do is to keep their marketing content up-to-date and to support the new journey in a nimble fashion.
As a seller, it’s crucial to accept that the B2B Buyer’s Journey has changed and resulted in the buyer having more power in the buying process. This is a good thing. Sellers may feel powerless in this new era of B2B sales, however, a cohesive marketing strategy that understands the new buying process can help you determine how to successfully engage buyers. Stay tuned for B2B Buyer’s Journey, Part 3, where we’ll discuss how your marketing and sales team can work together.
Want to move forward with your business? Let’s talk.
Nov 02 2017
The Traditional B2B Buyer’s Journey
Modern-day Business-to-Business (B2B) buyers are better-informed and more-capable than ever before. Thanks to the internet and online research, B2B buyers are no longer dependent on sellers to provide information or to help them evaluate products. In fact, 70% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a buyer even reaches out to a sales person [Forrester].
What does this mean for the seller? It means that the traditional B2B Buyer’s Journey – Awareness, Consideration, Decision – is no longer relevant and that a new B2B Buyer’s Journey needs to be embraced. The traditional B2B Buyer’s Journey had the right goal, which was engagement, but the approach was wrong. It was too simplistic and suggested that B2B buyers operated in a vacuum and were only going through one buying process at a time.
A leading apartment developer might see a Facebook ad for a local civil engineering firm and be prompted to contact the firm to ask some questions about an upcoming project.
Assuming the apartment developer had already been through the awareness stage (Facebook ad) and the consideration stage (phone call to get answers), the civil engineering firm would start trying to push the decision stage by having their sales team send emails to the apartment developers with project quotes and deadlines for taking advantage of their proposal.
However, what the civil firm doesn’t know is that the developer is still in the budget planning phases of the project and working with an internal team to consider their engineering needs, while also managing the buying process of professional services for other development projects. The buyer doesn’t want quotes, they want an informational resource to help them evaluate options.
Phone calls from an engineering sales team and aggressive emails to close a deal would be invasive and not considerate of the buyer’s stage, which may be fluctuating between awareness and consideration, as the buyer does more online research and asks the engineering firm more questions.
Like the apartment developer example above, most B2B buyers don’t act independently when it comes to making a purchasing decision. The traditional B2B Buyer’s Journey implied that a salesperson could work solely with one B2B buyer to complete the transaction. In reality, a buying team is usually involved in the process, and it’s not an easy one. A “decision” typically requires multiple stakeholders to have all of their questions answered and for purchases to be approved on different levels.
Even if the seller has a great product that matches the buyer’s needs, patience may be required as no amount of sales content can speed up a buying team’s process. In the meantime, the seller’s marketing team can champion initiatives to support the buyer: create valuable/informative content (FAQs library, how-to guides, etc.) and make it easily accessible, host a free Intro webinar, develop a detailed post-sale customer support policy, etc…anything to help the buying team feel confident in their choice of working with you or purchasing your product.
How can sellers better plan for the B2B buying transaction? The new, updated, B2B journey takes into account the buyer’s knowledge and the fact that they’re more in control of the process. Stay tuned for our next blog – B2B Buyer’s Journey, Part 2 – where we’ll talk about a journey more fitting for today’s digital environment.
Want to move your business forward? Let’s talk.
Jun 19 2017
In our last blog we explored the 6 steps to establishing an effective brand. The subject of branding is far too large to capture in one blog, so we reserved our last submission primarily for the process of designing a brand identity and developing a style guide.
This time we dig deeper into the topic of brand development – specifically brand messaging. It’s our goal to further unpack the concept of brand messaging so you can formulate your own positioning statements and tagline.
As stated in our previous blog, brand messaging starts with a deep understanding of your Why, How, What and Who.
Why does your company do what it does?
How does it do it?
What specifically is it you do, and What products or services do you provide?
Who buys your product and services?
If you patiently research the market and objectively analyze your company, your messaging framework should naturally emerge. There are three perspectives to explore as you attempt to answer those questions:
1. The Customer Perspective
2. Your Company’s Perspective
3.The Marketplace Perspective
To understand the Customer Perspective you should spend an extended amount of time getting to know your buyers. Research as much data about your customers as you can find. If data isn’t available, survey them yourself.
Your goal is to learn as much as you can about their pain points, their defining characteristics as a group, and how your product or service solves their problems. Once you have information about your ideal customer, develop persona guides that allow you to quickly make marketing decisions in the future.
The Company’s Perspective is often overlooked. If you’ve started with the Why, How, What, and Who, you’ve already developed the foundation for a Company Perspective. Go even further in this step. Ask your employees, your sales team, and your operations team how they view the company and what resonates with the customers they encounter. This is vital information. Your client-facing employees frequently have the greatest amount of real world intelligence about your company’s place in the market.
Lastly, what does the competitive landscape look like? In our last blog we described the process of surveying the terrain before embarking too far on a branding journey. In this case, what is your company’s unique value proposition compared to the other businesses with whom you will be competing? This Marketplace Perspective gives you the insight to make your company fit in OR stand out in the overall business ecosystem.
Create Your Messaging Building Blocks
By now you should have discovered the important features, benefits, values, and strengths that define your business. These are the foundations of your messaging upon which you build your strategy.
With this foundation in mind, how would you describe your company using 5 or 6 words (or short phrases)? If you are working with a team, everyone should write these key terms onto sticky notes. Compare all the descriptions and see what patterns emerge. Place them into columns or groups and then distill them into focused messages. These are your building blocks.
For example: a company might describe themselves as…
From these specific key terms you could surmise their values. They are reliable, researchers, advisors, and performers. They are problem solvers.
Constructing a Messaging Strategy
In November we wrote about the lessons you could learn from political campaigns. Given that politics is a giant exercise in brand strategy and messaging, campaigns and political parties are the wizards of spin. They know their buyers (voters and contributors), they speak their language, and they touch a small handful of critical pain points for each type of voter.
Campaigns (brands) create messaging statements for advertising, printed collateral, promotional products, and talking points in interviews. Once they’ve discovered a winning formula, they repeat, repeat, and repeat the messaging until it’s time to start over.
Let’s look at this from your perspective and apply it to the messaging you need.
You know your buyers. You’ve explored your competitors. You have a great understanding of your vision, mission, and the company culture you hope to create. You have the building blocks, or key terms, that define your company. From this knowledge you should develop the following:
Tagline – The commitment or challenge you make to your customers, maybe even yourself. It’s an old rule in billboard advertising that your message must be no longer than 10 words or less. The same goes for your tagline.
“Think Different” (Apple)
“Problems Solved” (Divining Point)
Positioning Statement – In a crowded or competitive marketplace, a positioning statement defines how your company is unique compared to other companies. It may look like a tagline, but consider it more of a statement about the niche or space in the market served by your company.
“The Document Company” (Xerox)
“The Uncola” (7-Up)
Tone – Tone is a conscious decision about how your company communicates with the world. If your company had a personality, this would be the biggest way it’s conveyed. Is your company confident, bold, provocative, and innovative? Or is it defined by a humble service, calm, and sincere? Does your company use humor or passion?
“We drink all we can. The rest we sell.” (Utica Club)
“Eat Mor Chikin” (Chick-fil-A)
There are other messaging materials you can create, like an Elevator Pitch, Company Pillars, and the explanation of your company’s values and history – known online as your About page.
Once you’ve undertaken the hard work of messaging, all of your copywriting, ad copy, and written collateral should naturally flow. The tools above will allow you to infuse all written content and messaging with the key words and qualities that properly represent your company and speak to your customers. Given that content is still king in today’s crowded media landscape, you will have a leg up on your competition by having quality content that exudes your core values. Every ad, commercial, social media post, white paper, or blog will continue to positively drive your brand.
Want to move your business forward? Let’s talk.
Jun 15 2016
All too often, companies don’t know who their buyers are.
Sounds hard to believe, right? How can you sell something if you don’t know who is buying? Yet, it’s not uncommon to run across business owners who are so busy selling they don’t have a deep understanding about who is buying or why.
The cash register keeps ringing and orders are moving, so everything appears just fine. But ask them to describe, in detail, the characteristics and motivations of their best buyers and watch their faces turn blank.
As we’ve explained before, owners find themselves in deep trouble when they fail to solicit feedback from their clients. Buyer feedback is critical for learning how to improve every facet of your company. By understanding buyers, a company can quickly fine-tune their marketing strategy, bring greater value to the client, and efficiently increase sales.
It all starts with personas.
Let’s dissect this further:
“Research-based”. That means getting to know your buyers.
Through the use of surveys, interviews, sales and demographic data, you can determine broad facts about your clients. What do they buy? How long does it take them to make a decision? How many people are involved in the decision-making process. What need is being met with your product or service? How old, what gender, and to what socioeconomic group they belong?
“Representation”. Not a perfect snapshot, but a detailed caricature of your ideal buyer. You must examine the facts around your client base and create a broad stroke description of the buyer. This representation becomes the blueprint, or profile, to which you can refer when planning your approach.
“Ideal client”. Fairly obvious, but this is certainly unique to your business. Sometimes half the battle is defining what, exactly, qualifies a buyer as your ideal client. Is it a buyer of a certain product? Or is it someone who makes a large investment? Perhaps it’s a combination of total spend and potential for referrals.
Similarly, a persona can be developed for your least ideal client. Who are the vocal opponents most likely to trash you on Yelp? Why? How can that be avoided? What is your plan for damage control?
Going even further, a persona can be developed for influencers. This is someone who may not directly buy from you, but who affects the decision-making process of your ideal client.
How is all this important to you?
A well-planned sales and marketing strategy should improve your abilities to attract, capture, and convert your ideal buyers. But first, you need to know who it is you hope to bring into the pipeline. As the old saying goes, you fish where the fish are. How do you know what bait to use if you don’t know which fish you’re seeking? Seems easy enough. Or is it?
Ask yourself these questions:
What need does my product or service fulfill? What needs aren’t being met?
What kinds of clients do business with us? From what industry do they come?
What is their position or role in their companies?
What age? What gender? What other important demographic information is relevant?
Dig deeper into their interests or preferences if it makes sense to do so. In some cases, you could even give them a name. Satisfied Sam. Buyer Brenda.
Expound upon this profile until you feel you’ve listed all the characteristics that, in your mind, define your ideal buyer. Then prepare yourself for the hard part.
Test this hypothetical persona.
Ask your real clients the same questions you answered on your own. How does the reality match up against your previous understanding? Isolate those areas where your preconceived ideas don’t comport with reality. How has that affected your business or brand? How will it affect your future decisions?
Ultimately, with this knowledge, you can categorize your clients, identify them in the context of a sale, and develop unique offers for each category of buyer. Personas are a powerful tool that can be used to set company objectives, focus your efforts, and ultimately help grow your business.
Maybe you need help or prefer the guidance of a professional who can steer you through the process, probe further, and formulate the personas that will guide your future efforts. Contact us, we’re here to help.