Just a few short years ago, the average B2B buyer still responded well to the classic marketing and sales tag-team approach, with marketing providing high-quantity product exposure and sales moving in to close the deal. This had been the model for decades, and everyone (buyers and sellers alike) was trained to it.
And then the buyer broke the mold.
The evolution of the Internet drastically changed the way prospective buyers fulfill their needs and wants. Where once a scarcity of available information drove all buyers to the same mass-media outlets, such as trade magazines and industry conferences, buyers now have a world of information literally at their fingertips: over 1 billion smartphone subscriptions are reported globally. Today’s population is the most connected and self-educated to date.
In the modern world of data overstimulation, buyers seek relevance over all else. They actively seek out products that relate to their own individual interests, valuing the quality of information presented specific to their needs over the quantity of marketing touches.
And they’re taking control of their own buying experience: 78% start the buying process with a web search, and 50% research through peer reviews, blogs, and news sites before engaging directly with companies themselves. In effect, they proactively construct an educational curriculum for themselves that meets their unique needs, rather than passively absorbing marketing messages pushed through mass media.
Buyers have unprecedented, unlimited access to information and choice, giving them full control of their buying process. In fact, according to SiriusDecisions, 70% of the buying process is already complete by the time a prospective buyer is ready to talk to a sales rep.
How do marketing and sales teams respond to the challenges these new buyers present?
To reach these modern buyers, marketing teams need specific, targeted digital programs designed to adapt to the unique needs of every prospective buyer depending on where they are in the buyer’s journey. But sending marketing messages that are directly relevant to each individual in a diverse group is a tall order.
Enter marketing automation. Originally built to extend marketing and email capabilities for the large enterprise, the technology has evolved to enable meaningful connections to modern buyers that work as well for the small and mid-sized business as for the big ones.
The marketing automation platform has become a hub of marketing intelligence, tracking each individual buyer’s journey from their first touch point to their final sale, providing an in-depth view of the 70% of the buying process that traditionally occurs in the dark, beyond the firewall of traditional marketing and sales programs. Marketing automation overcomes this firewall – it’s the science and technology that enables marketing and sales to streamline, automate, illuminate, and measure the modern buyer’s journey through the purchase process.
Data is marketing’s new power.
Data that was previously unavailable to marketing and sales teams can now be tracked and analyzed, from the age-old staple of traditional demographics, to behavioral data like email clicks, website visits, and content downloads. Marketers are now empowered to measure this digital body language and discern where buyers are on their purchasing journey and what types of content they want to consume.
Marketing automation centralizes this intelligence. It identifies every meaningful interaction that a buyer has with your brand, following the individual’s journey toward making a purchase decision. It tracks, measures, and analyzes the data of every interaction so that marketing and sales teams can sell smarter to a more engaged audience.
So what do you do with this trove of data? It’s already clear that the number of prospects you reach – or “quantity of eyeballs” – is no longer a meaningful goal to pursue. The world of marketing and sales has changed, but not for the worse. What emerges is the ability to wait for likely buyers who will identify themselves as they become sales-ready, and follow up with a proactive, targeted outreach, making the marketing process more efficient.
The availability of behavioral data makes it possible for marketing teams to push content that is directly relevant to the buyer’s interests and stage in the purchasing journey. Instead of taking the control from the buyer, it is now the marketer’s job to help buyers make the purchase decisions they are currently contemplating, giving them the right information to come to a conclusion on their own.
Where do you start with marketing automation tech?
Getting started with marketing automation can be a daunting task – with so much information available, where do you start? Start with your buyer. Create your programs around what you know about your buyers, and build out from there:
- Map out typical buying stages.
Take a close look at how your best customers make buying decisions. Are there common trigger events that cause prospects to start investigating new solutions? Common questions or challenges that must be overcome? Tip: talk to your sales team. They’ll have a pretty good idea of common decision stages.
- Map out programs and activities that will help you get in front of buyers at each stage.
What do you need to do to get in front of buyers at each stage of the journey? Here you map out tactics, required content, and initiatives necessary to start getting in front of buyers as they begin to make their decision. For example, if most of your buyers start with a web search, creating great web content that’s optimized for search engines should be on the top of your list.
- Map out the systems and technologies needed to support the initiatives outlined in step 2.
What technical systems do you need to support your activities? Ensure that your marketing automation platform meets your key requirements and has the flexibility to integrate with other technologies as your business needs expand. For instance: if SEO is one of your key tactics, you’ll need an SEO auditing tool, a feature that’s baked into top marketing automation platforms.
These three steps are the foundation for building a marketing and sales engine that is centered on your customers – not your teams or products. You’ll be well positioned to dive head first into the digital age and attract modern buyers with this customer-centered approach.
Dismantle, destroy, destruct the “sales vs. marketing” approach.
The traditional “versus” setup has been pitting marketing and sales teams against each other for years. Without a clear central focus on the modern buyer’s journey, sales and marketing teams often become adversaries.
The marketing team thinks the sales team is throwing away good leads out of laziness, and the sales team thinks the marketing team isn’t doing enough brand building or providing the quality leads the sales team needs to do its job. However, it’s likely that neither of these assumptions are true. Quite simply, the way buyers operate has changed. Marketing and sales teams need to change, too.
Nearly 80% of leads deemed “bad” by sales go on to make a purchase within 24 months. That’s a lot of missed opportunities. You know that sales rep who keeps complaining that the marketing team is sending him horrible leads? He might be missing out on some great deals. But on the other hand, he might be at least partially right! The leads he is getting probably aren’t ready to talk to a sales rep yet, leading to frustration from sales, marketing, and prospective customers alike.
With a focus on the buyer’s journey, and the new ability to track and measure that journey, marketing teams can prioritize prospects that are most likely to make a purchase now. And prospects that are earlier in the decision-making process can be held back and warmed up in an automated lead nurturing program.
Companies that use marketing automation see big returns.
So what does the adoption of marketing automation mean for the bottom-line? The figures are astounding:
- Marketing automation helps you more efficiently engage prospects with information that’s directly relevant to them – this builds trust and understanding with your prospective buyers. For marketers who deploy lead nurturing, the return is a 2x win rate and a 47% increase in average order value.
- Targeting the right content to the right prospects at the right time accelerates a buyer’s decision-making process. In fact, companies that use marketing automation also see 70% faster sales cycle times.
- 67% of B2B marketers say lead nurturing increases sales opportunities throughout the funnel by at least 10%, with 15% seeing opportunities increase by 30% or more.
Want more information on how to use marketing automation to connect with the new breed of buyer? Check out how Act-On is paving the way with Adaptive Journeys.