As a B2B marketer in the technology industry, my career has largely focused around serving my internal customer – sales.
Traditionally, that would involve generating demand at the top of the funnel and feeding it through to sales to convert into opportunities.
But if there’s one thing I’ve noticed over the last 20 years, it’s that marketing has gradually spread itself across the entire funnel.
B2B marketers are broadening their scope beyond demand generation into pipeline acceleration and deal closure activities.
This enables them to build their expert brand online, scale their referral network and add value to every stage of the buyer’s journey.
Sales and marketing shouldn’t align with each other – they need to align around the customer!
In this #TribalSketch I’ve described how insights from one can support the activities of the other.
Marketer Turned SMarketer
As a corporate marketer turned start-up owner, I needed to learn sales skills fast. I had rarely spoken to customers, had never written a proposal and certainly never closed a ‘deal’. In all honesty, I was worried.
But worry wasn’t going to run my business. So, I figured that if I focus on the fun, the numbers will come. A rather hocus pocus philosophy to sales one might think, but it took the pressure off and allowed me to channel my energy into listening rather than selling.
Listening, I have since realised, is the best business strategy for everything – innovation, sales, marketing, content, product development – everything!
I go into new conversations with customers in the same way I go into every conversation. Expect nothing and be delighted and grateful for everything.
Sales Insights Feed Marketing Content
It wasn’t until I had my first conversation with a customer that I realised the value of sales conversations. Their questions and problem statements are gold dust for content marketers.
In a digitally inbound world where we’re influencing buyers via online channels, it’s important to take note of the phrases they use, the issues they’re mentioning and the questions they’re asking.
Here were my takeaways:
- Customers aren’t that scary – they’re very nice people and easy to talk to
- Customers ask questions – if they’re asking you, they’re asking Google!
- Customers drive innovation – their ideas inspire our product/service strategy
- Customers are motivated – their issues provide insight into their motivations
These insights are priceless to a marketer that is looking to create content that can be found and consumed online.
Aligning Sales & Marketing Around The Customer
Now I talk to customers more often than I used to, I realise the error of my marketing ways.
All this time Marketing has been trying to align with sales – metrics, KPIs, activities, content – when in fact we should both be aligning to our mutual audience, the customer!
This may sound a very simple concept but in reality, traditional sales led businesses still often steer the activities of marketing. Often to the point that marketing may even re-organised it’s team structure to align to sales. I’ve been there!
But if we take a different perspective on this and focus on aligning around the customer, we can’t go wrong.
When we look at the model above, we would assume it’s the role of Marketing to Attract, Sales to Engage and Service to Delight.
I’d argue differently. Everyone across your entire business has the influence to attract, engage and delight your customer. Social media enables to do this at scale.
I saw a quote from a Hootsuite research paper and it jumped off the page at me:
“The opportunity isn’t to just use social to achieve a few business objectives. It’s to use social to transform how we do business.”
The Insights That Will Drive Alignment
When you put your customer at the epicentre of everything, your outlook on the funnel changes.
For a start, the goals and KPI’s for both functions will be focused on customer related metrics like retention and satisfaction.
Second, rather than Marketing filling the funnel at the top and Sales finishing deals at the bottom, you’ll take a more integrated approach throughout the buyer’s journey.
Finally, both functions will focus on building and nurturing a pipeline of relationships rather than just a pipeline of revenue.
This integrated approach is insight drive. First, sales feeds into content creation. They share questions, insights, phrases and situations with marketing. Marketing can then go off and research topics and build a content strategy that will support keyword optimisation and digital equity. That’s when the steps begin:
- Marketing product thought leadership blogs
- Sales then share them (via and advocacy tool so Marketing can measure the impact on their website)
- Marketing captures the web traffic insight (IP addresses, time on page, bounce rate)
- That website intelligence provides prospect behaviour insight to sales
- Marketing will produce hero content to aid conversion of prospects visiting the website
- Sales are informed every time their named accounts download content for interest alignment
- If a prospect has visited the blog several times, downloaded hero content and visited a product page (you’ll set your own parameters!) they’ll bump up their lead score
- Once sales has been notified they can kick in the Social Selling process – Save them as a lead in LinkedIn Sales Navigator, research them online and discover at least 10 others likely to be influencing this person
- A consideration offer is being a produced by marketing – an Event! Marketing will highlight those prospects that might be ready for this event
- Sales utilises their InMail quota to draft highly customised outreaches to invite people to the event
- The event feedback is logged and tracked – we know what resonated with the prospect most
- Sales then distribute a Smart Link of resources to attendees and non-attendees – the behaviour is monitored to refine the interest alignment
- Decision content (such as case studies) from marketing are available for sales to use and then nurture to meeting stage.
It may look like a highly complex approach but in fact it’s quite a blended and seamless process if you have the right technology and processes in place.
As someone who has a foot firmly in both sales and marketing camps, I get quite excited at how well this methodology works for our own business.
Maybe it’s because I come from a place where relationships mean everything to me. I have been sold to, chased and hassled (in some cases) as a buyer and it’s not a great customer experience. If anything, it drives me away.
I’ve always maintained that as we grow Tribal, we won’t hire salespeople. Bit of a bold claim and I wonder if I’ll be eating my words in a few years to come.
I believe this blended model – this inbound digital model – isn’t focused so much on driving customers through it but more enabling customers to travel through their journey providing value at the right time and with the right content.
The only way you can do that is with insights and alignment around the customer.