The real purpose of marketing is quality lead generation not, as many wrongly assume, branding and advertising. A robust B2B marketing process will ensure leads are delivered consistently but on its own it is not enough. A level of automation is also required to ensure the process may be delivered at an appropriate cost and is both measurable and repeatable.
Disadvantages of the Ad Hoc Marketing Approach
Too often B2B marketing is disjointed with no real plan or purpose. In increasingly competitive markets sales are the top priority and marketing is the poor relation. Company politics and the long established disruptive relationship between sales and marketing often means sales calls the tune.
Sales (rightly so) tend to be focussed on short term objectives (I need ‘X’ to progress this prospect) which leads to requests for marketing support that are random with no relation to any plan or process. In many B2B businesses there is a Sales and Marketing Manager or Director who comes from a sales background and that just exacerbates the problem.
Jumping from one B2B marketing tactic to the next is unlikely to deliver the required result. Even if there is sporadic success it is impossible to identify what generated the positive result so it may be repeated in future. An Ad Hoc approach means marketing is reactive rather than proactive and that is not the best way to run any business department
Following the latest marketing fad, only to abandon it a few months later when it does not generate immediate results, is a hugh waste of cash and resources. Reactive support of sales requests with customised material that could be produced once then delivered simply as required wastes time and effort.
B2B Marketing Strategy Is Key
To move towards a more proactive and planned approach the first step is to define the marketing strategy. A full strategic marketing process is the ideal but as a minimum there should be some consideration of the business objectives, the market, target market segments, competition, the sales plan and how marketing can deliver the quality leads sales need to deliver on that plan.
In practice, there is one major issue to consider before committing the time and effort to preparing a marketing strategy and that is buy in from senior management and sales management. Marketing cannot operate in a silo so if there is no commitment to developing and (crucially) following through on a strategy there is little point putting one in place.
Building A B2B Marketing Process
With a strategy in place, it is possible to consider all the marketing tactics available to the business and how they may be utilised to support various stages in the sales cycle. Working closely with sales the marketing input required to deliver the required outcomes may be quantified in some detail.
Instead of the Ad hoc approach the best marketing activities can be identified, interrelated, quantified and scheduled to deliver the required results. Inputs including both in house and external resources can be planned in and therefore progressed to ensure they are available when required.
Measurement And ROI
When building the marketing process measurement points and the tools used to collect data should be specifically identified. Most digital marketing techniques can be measured in detail but data from the field via the sales force may also be required.
With a process and measurement data in place it is relatively easy to identify what is working well and where there are problems to be addressed. If something works well it can be increased and marketing techniques that fail to deliver may be dropped to be replaced with others with a better chance of success
Marketing Process – The Disadvantages
With the short term demands placed on the marketing department by sales one of the major problems with any B2B marketing process is the time and resource required to put that process is place. It needs real higher management commitment to allow the marketing department the time and space to deliver.
Any B2B marketing process by definition will require a range of interrelated marketing tools and techniques to deliver the required result. This, of course assumes the in house marketing department has experience of a wide range of marketing skills and (most important) have real experience and data on the results they should expect from each technique. If these skills are not available in house a level of outsourcing will need to be considered.
Although the Ad Hoc approach is actually high cost (and low ROI) it is often not perceived that way. When marketing is sales driven it often does not have its own budget and the low ROI can be buried. A process, by contrast, needs a budget and that budget is identified up front. Higher management therefore have a decision to make on approval (or not) and this can stop the marketing process before it even starts.
The Need For Automation
To both minimise the required budget and maximise the ROI of the B2B marketing process it is important to keep costs to a minimum. It is therefore important to think through how the involvement of expensive in house staff can be minimised once the process is in place and running smoothly. Any duplication of effort should be identified and removed and systems and processes made as slick and efficient as practical.
The only way for B2B marketers to show their value is to deliver an ongoing stream of quality leads to sales. They need to move away from reacting to the demands of sales and build a proactive, efficient and repeatable process.
There are undoubted challenges in gaining higher management buy in and support for building the process so, once in place there is an obligation to deliver the maximum ROI. A level of automation is the best way forward (often utilizing external agencies to take on repetitive tasks efficiently) once the process has been built and tested. The best way to deliver consistent results is both B2B marketing process and automation.