The digital disruption caused by the ubiquity of 24×7 Internet can often be a challenge for relationship managers focused on one-to-one, face-to-face interactions. The question is often, how can marketing automation techniques and technology enable B2B marketing when prospect groups are relatively few in number? The fact is that armed with mobile devices and go-anywhere connectivity, all ‘people of interest’, from anonymous suspects to long standing clients are less reliant on face-to-face interactions in order to receive the information they are looking for. Savvy buyers, empowered by technology are able to conduct much more detailed research from the comfort of their desks, their homes, their flight or commute. As a result, a “digital by default” or Mobile First approach to marketing within the omni-channel paradigm, is a necessity to provide potential clients the opportunity to research and receive marketing content on the go.
The relationship managers on the other hand are often suspicious of allowing marketing to engage in any automated way with their potential clients, let alone their actual ones. Marketing enablement is about providing personalization at scale – the ability to mass-market on a personal level, for companies that need that capability, or to tailor messaging to an individual or a small group – as is the case in a focused B2B segment such as wealth management, capital markets, commercial banking, or reinsurance.
Easier said than done. The marketing automation field is still very fragmented – especially with the explosion in devices and channels which our potential clients can interact with us. We see fragmentation in data, especially in established multi-national companies where databases resemble the pile of boxes in the attic, never opened since the last house move – we’re no longer sure what’s in there but we think we still need it. Knowing what data is important to drive meaningful customer insights is key, as is ensuring that data is timely and accurate. That data may come from internal sources or from external sources. The best data about your potential client may be out in the ether, and rather than being personalized to the individual, it may be anonymous research data that informs your next best offer or interaction. We need to stop thinking of a 360-degree view of the customer and start thinking about targeting analytics to the view of the customer or prospect that drives meaningful engagement and helps build a superior customer experience.
We see fragmentation in the technology area too – with many companies entering the marketing automation space, developing cloud based solutions both in B2C and B2B. There will continue to be consolidation – we’ve seen Teradata acquire Aprimo, IBM Unica and Silverpop, Oracle Eloqua, and Salesforce.com, ExactTarget and by extension Pardot. This last one is particularly interesting as we begin to see a blurring of the lines between marketing, sales and service in the customer management continuum. We expect Pardot to grow in maturity and become a de facto B2B platform – especially for companies that already use Salesforce.com as a CRM tool. At the end of the day, marketing doesn’t stop when an opportunity is closed, it extends through the entire life cycle of the customer / client relationship – so tightly integrating marketing enablement into the customer relationship, service and claims areas makes perfect sense.
Start to ‘defrag’ the marketing enablement arena by applying proven customer experience techniques to understand the unique needs of your prospect and customer base. For example, content marketing is becoming more and more important. The ability to develop and distribute relevant, provocative and where possible, targeted thought leadership will pull new prospects to your brand whether that content is delivered through email, mobile, web or from direct mailings. Providing interaction and the ability for your prospects to engage in a dialogue with you around the IP is doubly compelling.
Persona development linked to customer journeys are as relevant in a B2B setting as in a consumer setting. Understanding your buyers and their likely journey through a relationship with you enables you to focus on next best message based on previous and current interactions. Paid amplifications in targeted touch points will provide the entry point for potential buyers to engage with your brand.
Working together, all these elements provide a sophisticated way for you to extend your sales cycle into the realm of the anonymous prospect. Today’s marketing automation tools allow for the tracking of visitors to your site and align the initial behavior with established customer journeys and personas, the marketing enablers will be able to ascertain the next best message or touch point – be it a piece on trends in the industry or an invite to a webinar or event.
We understand the frustration around the defragmentation process and can get you on the path to a ‘mobile first’, any-channel marketing platform. For information on our Marketing Readiness Assessment which analyzes your current marketing capabilities, aligns future growth plans with marketing and enterprise goals, and makes recommendations on channel strategy, data and technology in order to build a roadmap for marketing transformation, please reach out to me at email@example.com.