In just the past few weeks, I’ve talked to 5-6 marketing professionals who got out of the game years ago (to have kids, to travel, to try something different) and are now ready to get back into it. Most of them don’t recognize the marketing roles they’re now facing.
B2B marketing today has changed significantly. And whether you’ve been out of it for awhile, or want to make sure your skill set keeps up with what’s required for success now and in the future, here are four skills I recommend you learn quickly.
1. Funnel math and revenue performance management
The mindset you want, even as a marketer, is that your job depends on finding and closing business. It’s not enough to manage the trade show, send the direct mail, or even flood more leads to the sales team. You need to understand the economics of the full sales funnel – how many opportunities are required to generate a closed sale, and how many leads are required to find a qualified, short-term opportunity (for starters).
Next, knowing that today’s sales process is completely non-linear, you need to understand the fundamentals of lead nurturing and two-way lead and opportunity movement, including the metrics behind these dynamics for your unique market and industry.
Here’s a relatively simple mathematical model for understanding the lead-opportunity-sale math for your company. And for revenue performance management, I recommend reading up on best practices from Marketo and others whose business focuses on revenue-centric marketing.
2. Social lead generation and buying signal mining
If you’re worried about followers and likes, you’re doing it wrong. Focus instead on engagement, conversations, and driving an active, two-way discussion about the issues, needs and pain points your target customers care about most. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Your prospects are sharing their needs and buying signals on the social web every day. Your responsibility is to listen, look proactively for mentions of those keywords and buying signals, and become an information concierge to drive top-of-pipeline lead generation for your organization.
Technology and process drive value here, not media buying and budget. The social web is the greatest source of ongoing free leads ever seen. Are you taking advantage?
Here’s a best practice guide on social sales best practices, as well as a full (and free) resource on successful social selling.
3. SEO and inbound marketing fundamentals
The rules change (literally) daily, but it’s important to understand the fundamentals of what drives natural traffic, and how to create content that drives perpetual inbound interest for your products and services. If you understand (and read) nothing else, understand that the most important drivers of successful SEO and inbound marketing are 1) great content, and 2) inbound links that demonstrate others are validating your great content.
It’s worth reading content from SEOMoz, Content Marketing Institute and others who keep up on the daily changes of the technical aspects of SEO, but educate and enable “the rest of us” on how to cut through the clutter and drive value, traffic and conversions.
4. Lead management/nurture workflow development
Even if you aren’t using a marketing automation solution, your marketing strategy should reflect the reality that the majority of your prospects don’t convert (or move forward) right away, and that most of them need “nurturing” in advance of being ready to buy.
This isn’t about buying a marketing automation system. It’s about having a strategy that addresses how your customers buy, and enabling processes and tactics throughout your organization that address and empower your prospects where they are.
No matter how tightly you manage your sales process, your prospects will decide (independent of you) when they’re ready to buy. So your lead management and nurture strategy had better reflect that.
This isn’t to say that the “old” marketing focus areas and strategies aren’t relevant or don’t work. Because many are and do. But if you don’t have a working knowledge of the above four disciplines, it’ll be difficult to be a working marketer moving forward.
Have you gotten back into the game recently? What as your experience been like?