When Your Buying Stages Don’t Match Your Customers’ Needs

As we discussed in part 2 of this series, even the largest and oldest companies are facing a new B2B selling environment where “old school” marketing and sales just isn’t as effective. Companies that talk TO their prospects instead of listening and working WITH them are starting to lose out.

Large B2B corporations are often filled with silos. Corporate marketing, product marketing, sales development, field sales and other groups may all be talking TO prospects and customers without regard for the overall conversation. A lot of disjointed noise doesn’t make for a great customer experience, and prospects are screening it out.

One of the outcomes can be loss of pipeline. Companies that still think in terms of sales funnels are surprised when the expected opportunities don’t fall out the bottom. Often their response is to push Marketing to pour more leads into the top.

What happens when the funnel starts failing? Let’s take a look:

Company X – let’s call them Acme – has always focused its marketing and sales efforts around “the funnel.” They see the world in terms of Marketing Leads, Sales Leads, Opportunities and Customers. Of course, Sales doesn’t always value Marketing Leads, and Marketing efforts aren’t always in tune with what Sales is trying to sell. But the execs look at the funnel metrics religiously to see how many leads are making it through. Recently the velocity has slowed, and more leads are falling to the floor. Naturally, Marketing is pressured to make it rain and big campaigns are planned. But like many companies, Acme doesn’t have a way to measure effectiveness. Funnel results are their metric. How can they match their efforts and metrics to customer needs instead?

If Acme’s story sounds familiar, it’s because we all regularly engage with companies that have outmoded customer engagement models. Instead of considering prospect needs, they toss leads into an artificial funnel or buying stage path and see what comes out the other side. These companies don’t realize that more isn’t always better. As customers, we’d all like to see fewer but more relevant emails and no obvious break in the conversation when Marketing hands off to Sales.

Funnel to Loop

This scenario often occurs in mature companies struggling to evolve as their market changes. Tactics that used to work for them are showing signs of age. Newer technologies and tools are giving their competitors better ways to nurture and sell clients. They know they must integrate systems, data, and processes in order to enable a Revenue Marketing model based on continuous communication (an infinite loop). But their funnel approach is familiar and change is hard.

Companies like Acme must refocus their efforts on the long-term versus the immediate sales need. Instead of spraying emails, Marketing learns to nurture prospects with stage-appropriate offers based on their interactions – the right message at the right time in the right format and channel. Likewise, Sales learns to engage at the right time, tailoring their approach based on activity history. Campaigns feature cross-functional plays and all customer touchpoints become orchestrated.

If your prospects are not fitting into your funnel, consider changing your model. As you move away from one-sized-fits-all marketing towards personalized messages, your customers will experience fewer disjointed communications, more relevant and timely information, and offers that enable their own growth and revenue. They will purchase, buy more, renew, and even advocate. You’ll see more opportunities, greater profitability and maximum life-time value.

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Does Your Company Understand That It’s Not All About You?

As we discussed in part 1 of this series, much of today’s B2B selling cycle happens online without human interaction. When done right, the brand delivers a clearly-defined experience driven in large part by the customer’s previous digital behavior. The customer experience may feel self-driven but is actually tailored based on data insights that the brand has gathered.

But this tailored experience doesn’t always start smoothly or proceed logically. Sometime the brand has not reached that level of marketing sophistication and sometimes the digital relationship is just too new for the brand to have much data to go on. But more often, the brand just doesn’t realize it’s not all about them anymore. It’s about the customer, dummy!

At the beginning of the journey, brands and their potential customers must get to know each other and learn how to design a win-win relationship. If the brand is talking about themselves rather than listening to customer requirements, the relationship is likely going nowhere.

What happens when a customer relationship develops poorly? Let’s take a look:

Company X – let’s call them Acme – has been marketing and selling the same way for a long time, and it’s been working well. They are the 800-pound gorilla in their space. Half of their customers are legacy, and net-new business comes from referrals and brand-building activities like events. Life was good until competitors built disruptive platforms and started delivering highly-touch service. Now Acme’s Sales team are losing deals and they are pressing Marketing for more and better leads. Marketing feels that Sales is too old-school and mishandles the leads. Finger pointing and blame-throwing ensue and customer requirements get lost in the mix.

If Acme’s story sounds familiar, it’s because we all regularly engage with companies that have gotten too comfortable as leaders in their industries. Think Telecom and Transportation. The Baby Bells were dominant until disruptors like mobile networks, Skype, and chat came along. Transportation modes from airlines to taxis had it good until WebEx, Uber and the like. We could list many examples, but the lesson is clear – no industry leader is safe from disruption. This is tough news for brands that have never had to build win-win customer relationships or design customer experiences that anticipate prospects’ next needs.

Even the biggest brands would be well served to take a fresh look around. They’ll find that prospects and customers no longer want to be talked AT – they want to be worked WITH. Consider the downsides when the buying journey doesn’t align with the prospect’s requirements. The prospect may be leaving a trail of digital breadcrumbs but still not being seen. Why would they stick around?

Getting customer-focused can be enormously difficult. It means integrating systems, data, and processes in order to enable customer-focused campaigns. Instead of spraying emails, Marketing must learn to nurture prospects with stage-appropriate offers based on their interactions – the right message at the right time in the right format and channel. Sales must learn to pick up the conversation and engage at the right time, tailoring their approach based on activity history. All customer touchpoints become orchestrated. TPG calls this evolution The Revenue Marketing Journey.

Focusing on the customer’s experience versus “the way we’ve always done it” will evolve your customer relationships to a new level. As your company moves from tactical to modern marketing, your customers will experience fewer disjointed communications, more relevant and timely information, and offers that enable their own growth and revenue. They will purchase, buy more, renew, and even advocate… a win-win relationship. If your prospects are saying that “it’s not all about you” anymore, consider adapting to their needs. Evolution is not just an advantage, it’s a requirement.

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When Prospects Won’t Play It Your Way

Company X has just built a new eCommerce site and is consider adding an extra layer of cyber security. VP Bob volunteers to research the product category. Google points him towards Acme, a mature leader in the space, and he downloads a comparison guide, but it finds it difficult to determine if Acme is comparing apples-to-apples with other vendors. And once he signs up, Acme bombards him with emails. Bob gets an irrelevant email almost every day and Acme ads show up on his favorite sites. But instead of making his due diligence easier, all these random touches are making it more confusing. Then the sales calls start…and he can tell Acme know nothing about him or Company X. It seems clear that Acme wants to do business on their terms, not his. How is Bob to proceed?

If Bob’s story sounds familiar, it’s because we all regularly engage with companies that market poorly. Despite many advances in B2B Marketing tools, techniques and tactics, most companies have yet to tie all that together for the benefit of the prospective client. The result can be huge gaps between a prospect’s desired shopping experience and reality.


This often occurs because Marketing and Sales processes evolved in silos independent of the Customer Experience. Fixing that requires a concerted top-down, bottom-up effort to refocus outside-in, versus inside-out. Instead of spraying emails, Marketing learns to nurture prospects with relevant offers based on their digital body-language – the right message at the right time in the right format and channel. Sales learns to engage at the right time, tailoring their approach based on prospect actions. All customer touchpoints become orchestrated. The Pedowitz Group calls this evolution The Revenue Marketing Journey.

Focusing on the customer’s purchase experience versus your company’s requirements will take your customer relationships to a new level. When Bob gets the right sales, service and support, he will be happy to engage. Acme will purchase, buy more, renew, and even advocate. You’ll see breakeven, profitability and maximum life-time value.

If your prospects don’t want what to play it your way, consider adapting to their needs. The easier you make their lives, the more they will support you – a win-win outcome.

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The One Thing Keeping Enterprise Marketing Organizations from Real Impact (and How to Address It)

In the last decade, Marketing Technology (MarTech) has proved to be a powerful integrating force within B2B enterprise marketing groups. But counteracting that strength is a powerful and persistent weakness.

Since joining The Pedowitz Group, and in my own B2B marketing strategy consulting practice beforehand, I have rarely encountered a large organization that doesn’t have a SILO problem. As companies grow through M&A, each acquired company brings its own MarTech, data, staff and processes. Few enterprises are good at assimilation, so the silos persist, and gaps often deepen–especially if the leadership in the acquired company is strong.

Business units are generally organized around product lines, and business unit leaders are incented to defend that territory, staff and budget. To ensure that revenue increases year-over-year, they allow rogue marketing groups within the units to bombard customers with emails. These groups are often called Field Support or Sales Enablement, each has access to a detached email program, and their messages are all about product announcements and promotions. The end result is the same for the customer – dozens if not hundreds of irrelevant emails from the same company each year. Many opt out. Few buy more.

Most leaders conceptually understand that silos and rogue marketing are counterproductive for the long-term, but from a practical standpoint each is OK with doing whatever meets their unit’s immediate need for leads. It’s all about keeping their funnel filled. Customer experience then suffers, as does cross-sell, retention and life-time value. I could write for days about the opportunity cost of silos. But how can an enterprise address this problem? Follow these three steps…

Change the Model

As TPG’s Debbie QaQish points out in her blog, TPG ONE™: A New Approach to the Customer Journey, “It’s time for B2B marketers to reimagine the funnel. Rather than a funnel that ends with delivering an MQL to sales, the customer engagement economy now requires a holistic view of the customer journey or customer lifecycle. Rather than marketing and the rest of the company working in silos across the customer’s journey, there needs to be a highly coordinated effort.”

Put another way, sales funnels are vertical like silos. What these companies need is a horizontal model, bridging the silos. Business units must stop propping up their own growth at the expense of the overall customer relationship. The longer leadership waits to introduce that new horizontal model, the more opportunity is lost.

Relentlessly Enforce

Silos will persist if leadership continues to give a wink-and-nod to rogue behavior in the name of short-term revenue gains. C-level leaders must relentlessly enforce a new cross-silo business model until it become a way of life. Consistent and persistent communication about integration must be part of every leader’s job.

Executives often choose to jump-start such a change by bringing in a marketing consultancy like mine. Such groups have the outside perspective to see the silos and recommend ways to bridge them. Changes can be technical, process-driven, or organizational. Then best-practices can be overlayed. Here again, leadership must enforce and reinforce to make sure the beauty isn’t only skin-deep.

Don’t Look Back

Leaders, as new managers join your company, there will be a tendency to back-slide into territory-defending postures. Don’t let this happen. Silos are the one thing keeping your marketing organization from real impact. And poor customer experience is the one thing keeping your enterprise from maximizing each client’s life-time value.

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Feast or Famine in the Marketing Automation Space?

Feast or Famine in the Marketing Automation Space?

The power of Marketing Automation can be mighty, which is why I was sorry to see the announcement that Adobe is purchasing Marketo. There are many advantages to the acquisition, as described by Trevor Parsell on LinkedIn. But it will require Enterprise customers to eat a full-course meal when they might be better served with a la carte ordering.

This merger does what most do – it will stifle continued innovation from the industry leader and it take away customer choice. Marketo has been setting the pace since 2006, and now all that energy will go towards integration with Adobe’s Marketing Cloud. Or at least the appearance on it. Then, as that integration proceeds, consumers will no longer have the same choice to “build or buy” in the Marketing Automation Space (MAS).

As a Marketing Strategist, I have helped a number of large enterprises spec and purchase a new MarTech stack. At the outset I advise that there are really two choices: Build your own best-in-class SaaS stack with Marketo at the center or purchase a Marketing Cloud from SalesForce (Pardot), Oracle (Eloqua), IBM (Silverpop), or Adobe.

As you might expect, MAS providers are good at Marketing. Up until now, Adobe’s Marketing Cloud was composed to more than nine programs presented with a slick integration story that makes it hard to tell which program does what. Their MAS portion required a purchase of Adobe Audience Manager, Target, Experience Manager, Campaigns, Analytics, and Core Services. More modules if you want social and media integration. Think all that is cheaper than one Marketo purchase? Nope. I did the apples-to-apples due diligence two years ago for Fiserv, and the Cloud license is always more expensive. And more convoluted.

Because the Cloud-provider wants you to buy their whole suite, they make it expensive and difficult to integrate with the SaaS you already have. And very difficult to establish API connections and map data. Suddenly the purchaser finds out that they are facing a long, complicated implementation that requires expensive Professional Services help for a year or more. (Longer if the provider can arrange to get bogged down). But it’s easier to go through your company’s Procurement and Security labyrinth just one time, so you choke down the check.

Rather than buying a full-course meal, I have always recommended a la carte MAS. Marketo has established robust API’s with many other best-in-class MarTech SaaS (and there are many). So you can keep what you have and then add what you want when you are ready to digest it. Just what you can chew.

Sadly, now enterprises will only have a choice of Clouds. Adobe will likely chop up Marketo’s functionality into modules to sell separately (which makes apples-to-apples pricing comparisons almost impossible) and build-your-own MarTech stacks will become too difficult for large enterprises. I’m sure all those best-in-class SaaS vendors who get referral business by being part of the Marketo Premier Partner Program are seeing their futures fade.

I’m not saying Adobe’s Cloud isn’t good, or that change is bad – just saying that choice is better.

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Marketing Insanity

A quote widely attributed to Albert Einstein reads, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” This is increasingly true in B2B Marketing, where the pace of change has accelerated exponentially in the last decade. Instead of thinking in terms of start-and-stop projects, we now recognize that data is always flowing, and our work is never done – or shouldn’t be.

CMO Priorities 2018This graph from The CMO Survey 2018 shows that CMOs (at least the ones who answer surveys) are aware of their moving targets. They are focused on continuously improving at least five major marketing categories: talent, process integration, organizational alignment, technology, and data. Let’s look into their thinking.

  • Talent: Increasingly, companies are hiring for specific technology expertise. A social media manager might be hired for Hootsuite skills, then need to master Buffer, Oktopost or whatever’s next. These workers need time to learn new programs – and to cross-train on systems already in use. Otherwise organizations can fall behind or be left in a lurch when employees depart.
  • Integration: Every enterprise has silos, either divisionally or departmentally. Progressive companies are increasingly taking steps to build connectors – because systems need to share data, processes need to deliver the right information, and workers need to connect in relevant ways. Integration is never as easy as it sounds, and never complete.
  • Organizational Alignment: Business units often go to market in silos, sometimes on different platforms. Units A & B might both be targeting the same market using different email tools. Outcomes might include SPAM violations, poor customer experience, and the opportunity cost of not sharing data. Organizational coordination is critical to the successful use of all resources. Plus, over time it delivers a full view of customer experience, the extended pipeline, and cross-unit revenue.
  • Technology: The MarTech ecosystem is doubling every year, with over 7000 active SaaS solutions in 47 categories. Last year’s best-practice leaders may not be this year’s, and each of the marketing clouds have strong and weak points. Selecting and purchasing modern tools requires ongoing due diligence and the acumen to achieve internal buy-in.
  • Data & Content: Databases and content libraries also need constant attention. We all know data must be shared, augmented, tested, and analyzed for critical insights. Likewise, content can quickly become out-of-date, portions may be off-brand or off-message, and most needs alignment to a persona journey or selling stage. Your organization should be constantly auditing, culling and analyzing to make sure that relevant, personalized content is part of the customer experience.

You may be thinking that relentless forward movement takes an insane amount of work. Perhaps, but it would be more insane to keep marketing the old way. Plus we’ve got a lot at stake. Proving to the organization that Marketing is progressive and contributing is critical. Executives may still have the impression that Marketing is project-based arts&crafts. They need to understand that we’ve got insanity down to a science!

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FinTech Leaders Share Vision

This week leaders from the payments industry gathered in Atlanta for the Electronic Transactions Association’s TRANSACT Tech ATL. To start the day, panel discussions explored topics such as using technology and partnerships to expand market reach. If you’re a payments enthusiast and missed the event, here are some key takeaways:

  • Payments has traditionally been about scale, reliability and exception management. Now it’s also about wrapping value around the transactions. –David Mangum, President / COO, Global Payments
  • Merchant acquiring is no longer just about transaction processing. To get that business, providers must deliver SaaS solutions that include gateway, settlement, and vertical integrations. –Afshin Yazdian, President, Priority Payment Systems
  • ISVs are developing SaaS for countless niche markets and PayFacs are offering merchant-aggregating platforms. But to be effective, these platforms must also include frictionless boarding, fast activation and ease of use. –Adam Bloomston, CEO/CFO, Payscape
  • Few providers have the scale to bring it all together for the mass market. To do so with the required speed, partners will need to co-create smarter, faster, and easier-to-use SECURE solutions. –Joe Mach, President North Americas, Verifone
  • Solutions can also be “service stacks” co-created via partnerships, but those stacks must be seamless. And the partners must share/analyze data across all parts of the customer experience in order to constantly improve the journey. –Drago Dzerve, VP Product Management, Verifone
  • ISV’s developing new solutions may want to include predictable fixed-rate payment plans. Payments is now less about the interchange and more about securing a place in the active ecosystem. –David McDonald, SVP, Global Products, Elavon
  • Whether you build, buy or partner, don’t be afraid to be disruptive! –Chris Bucolo, ControlScan

Another point of discussion was near-and-dear to my interests. MarTech and CRM systems now collect massive amounts of data about customer touchpoints – from email opens to ad clicks to social media engagement. Clearly payments data includes much more information about transactions. Could we marry those data streams to see the customer journey from consideration to transaction? “It’s a discussion we’ve been having for years,” says Drago Dzerve of Verifone, “The sticking point has always been about a unique customer identifier to connect the data. Now phone numbers are becoming an increasingly viable connector.” Seem worthy of more discussion.

TRANSACT Tech ATL was buzzing with energy. The key message from these FinTech leaders…there’s much more to come. Stay tuned!

Author’s note: This blog is based on my notes and observations. Apologies for any mis-interpretations or attributions. Feel free to respond with amendments. –Lorena Harris


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What’s a CMO to Do?

marketing_technology_landscape_2018_slideAccording to Scott Brinker at ChiefMarTec.com, the average enterprise today now uses over 1000 cloud services. MarTech presents the largest menu of vendor options. As of April 2018, over 7000 active MarTech solutions are available in 47 categories. That’s 700% growth in the last four years!

Funding is stronger than ever, predicted consolidation has failed to materialize, and only about 5% have dropped out. So the mad proliferation looks to continue. It’s a daunting landscape for any company wanting to construct a MarTech stack. Within the six major categores, every sub-specialty contains dozens of choices, all of which require due diligence to understand if and how they would fit together.

What’s a CMO to do? Get help!

As I wrote in a previous blog, for there to be optimal outcomes, MarTech stacks must share data and capabilities across business units. Management must sponsor, support and invest in cross-silo governance. And someone must be responsible for integrated content, messaging and corporate point of view. The CMO is ultimately responsible, but bandwidth is often an issue. Many companies are hiring “conductors” to make sure all the parts come together.

With so many choices and so little time for due diligence, hiring a silo-bridging integration expert is smart. The opportunity is too big to leave to chance.

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B2B Marketing’s Fault Lines

Ten years ago a seismic shift rocked the B2B Marketing community. Marketing Automation Systems (MAS) began cracking our foundations. Suddenly they were “on the radar” of every marketing executive, becoming required learning. Within a few years investments in MarTech were happening across corporate America.

I would argue that another smaller shock wave has followed the initial quake. As companies embraced MarTech, their expectations and requirements for Marketing staff also changed.

  • Before MAS – Companies expected arts and crafts and impressions
  • After MAS – Companies expect science – measurable tactics generating trackable leads
  • Before MAS – Marketing leaders were generalists with broad B2B experience
  • After MAS – Marketing leaders are specializing by technology and building teams with specific expertise (content experts, digital technicians, data analysts, etc.)

Consider these “Head of” titles I found on the job boards this weekend: Head of Brand Marketing… Digital Marketing… Acquisition Marketing… Content Marketing… Event… Performance… Growth… Customer Experience…Sales Enablement… Industry… Category… Product… Head of etc.  When I talk to some of these hiring managers, they tell me they want “someone who knows ____ like the back of their hand.”

Clearly, technology-enabled silos are forming inside B2B Marketing. Soon we will all need to be a perfect fit for our next job – the right industry, the right product knowledge, the right technology expertise, the right location/price/profile. We’ll have careers in silos.

The problem we are facing, I fear, is that silos lead to canyons. Integration will become more difficult as leaders build out specific skill areas. As I wrote in a previous blog, companies are now seeing the need to hire integration consultants to build bridges across all their silos. Ironically, the silos are forming around the MarTech that was supposed to integrate us.

To quote myself, “How does an organization get its orchestra to make beautiful music? A conductor.” The Chief Marketing Officer, when there is one, should lead the effort to integrate and bridge silos, but cannot be the only person who sees the big picture. Marketing leaders must resist the pressures to become so tightly focused that they can’t adapt to daily shock waves or prepare for the next seismic shift.

I’m huge fan of MAS and would never want to roll it back. But before we all get so specialized we can’t diversify, let’s mix a bit of that art back in with the science.

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Content Contentment

What to Do If You’re Not Content With Your Content

Growing companies accumulate a lot of content – good, bad and ugly. Marketing generates everything from short-form materials such as blogs, posts, and web copy to long-format content such as white papers and eBooks. And don’t forget all the collateral and presentations generated out of Sales.

Content libraries need regular attention. Content can quickly become out-of-date, portions may be off-brand or off-message, and most needs alignment to a persona journey or selling stage. But your staff is busy with new projects and doesn’t have the bandwidth to audit, cull and refresh your content library. That means good content is going to waste, bad content is still in circulation, and your customers are not getting what they need when they need it. If that sounds familiar, you clearly need a content strategy.Whether you hire someone full-time or select a contractor, these are the important tasks your content specialist should tackle.

  • Undertake an audit of existing assets in all formats
  • Group assets based on products, messages and targets
  • Evaluate and sort into “keep/discard/refresh” categories
  • Improve descriptions, gating and tagging of content to be kept
  • Work with digital teams to remove/replace content to be discarded
  • Prepare a roadmap for processing of content to be refreshed or created
  • Align existing and planned content to persona journeys and/or selling stages
  • Interview internal SMEs for context on rewrites and new assets
  • Rewrite content as needed, using key words to support optimization
  • Work with internal teams to develop new content as required
  • Work with digital teams to deploy content in accordance with plans
  • Improve tracking to map content consumption, score for qualification and hand off to Sales
  • Coordinate with Marketing & Sales stakeholders to maximize content usage
  • Equip your internal resources to continue best practices.

If you’re not content with your content, make it a priority. You could have the best MarTech stack in the world, but without relevant content and messaging, the leads won’t flow.  An effective demand-generation engine needs constant care and content feeding.

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