Self-Educating B2B Buyer Journey - Marketing Outfield

Invest in Sales Enablement or Marketing Content? It shouldn’t be an either/or situation.

If Marketing and Sales were both aligned to the new buyer journey, the content that marketing created to feed their lead development engine would be exactly the same content that would enable Sales to close more business. After all, it’s the same buyer, on the same journey, right? Apparently, not.

Imagine the smiles on everyone’s faces if the company was growing 10%+ faster than its peers, Marketing generated-leads represented an irrefutable 40%+ of the Sales forecasted pipeline, and 75%+ of the sales reps were achieving quota. Companies that are better aligned to their buyer are smiling a lot according to published research studies.

Also imagine the positive impact to customer experience if both Marketing and Sales communicated to buyers in the same voice, with the same message, at the same time, using the same content!

I know it all sounds like the impossible dream, but it isn’t. Let’s first ground our discussion with a quick look at the self-educating buyer.

The New Self-Educating Buyer Journey

The B2B buyer has been empowered by high speed internet access, social media and mobile platforms to become self-educating and in control of their purchasing journey. They are on a continual purchasing journey, consuming information about industry challenges, potential problems and opportunities that could impact their company, and solutions that best fit their particular situation.

Up to 70% of their purchasing journey can be done online without engaging any sales organization.

The B2B buyer is really a buying team consisting of various personas who are consuming information which is tailored for them: the decision maker plus their recommenders and influencers, or, the business person plus their technical, financial and operations person.

The more the B2B Buyers learn, the more they realize how little they know. Each document they consume allows them to increase their knowledge, but also triggers new questions and concerns. The buyer will probably need to consume multiple pieces of content before they are ready to go from one stage of their purchasing process to the next stage of their purchasing process.

The Content Marketing Challenge

Content Marketing has become the fuel that drives Marketing’s lead generation machine and Marketing Automation. The current goal of Content Marketing is to engage the buyer with content of value and develop buyer loyalty through branding.

If the buyer consumes a newsletter, they might be in the “Top of Funnel” in Marketing’s lead generation process. Viewing a whitepaper might suggest they are in “Middle of Funnel” while downloading a technical guide might suggest they are in the “Bottom of Funnel”.

When the buyer engages a particular piece of content or multiple pieces of content, they become a lead. Sometimes they immediately become a lead just by downloading a “Bottom of funnel” piece of content. In any event, in most cases we don’t know whether the buyer actually read the content piece completely, partially or not at all!

As a reward for engaging our content, the buyer will now immediately receive multiple unwanted calls and emails from our sales organization, assuming Sales follows up on the “lead” of course. There’s got to be a better way.

Even with increased content marketing budgets, the highest quality content, and the best marketing automation technology that money can buy, only 25% of the Marketing generated leads are “Sales-ready”, and over 80% of the Marketing generated leads never convert to sales at all, according to MarketingSherpa.

Therein lies the reason why Sales reps are reluctant to follow-up on Marketing leads. It takes a Sales rep multiple hours/days to contact, meet and qualify each Marketing-generated lead. If only one in five leads are potential customers, then that means we are asking a sales rep to waste 80% of their time chasing poor leads in return for having 20% of the leads turn into customers sometime in the future. A Sales representative’s job and their mortgage payments require them to make quota this quarter, not some time in the future! Right now, they probably feel that they have a better chance achieving their quota, with a better personal ROI, through their own lead generation efforts.

One or two downloads of a whitepaper or case study doesn’t tell us enough about the buyer’s journey. More specifically, it doesn’t tell Sales enough about where the buyer is within their purchase journey and whether they are a real prospect for them. And, it’s not a great experience for the buyer!

The Sales Enablement Challenge

Sales Enablement Content is the grease that Sales uses to shorten their sales cycle.

The goal of Sales Enablement is to deliver the right content, to the right seller, at the right time, to move the sales process forward. The right content addresses the buyers concerns and enables the buyer to progress more quickly through their purchasing process. For additional insight into the existing sales process see Best New Business Leads for Sales.

Even with the increased new volume of content from Marketing, 55% of Sales representatives have difficulty finding tailored selling content when they need it, according to a study by Qvidian. There’s just not enough content that meets the needs of the existing Sales process.

Marketing and Sales Alignment with the Buyer Journey

Marketing and Sales must better align with their target buyer and offer content that engages, educates, and helps them move through their purchasing journey at their own pace and in their own way.

Here are 3 key steps that Marketing can take today to better align with the buyer’s purchasing journey. while providing more insightful lead qualification data to Sales:

  1. Influence the Journey: The more breadcrumbs the buyer leaves behind as they consume our content, the better we can understand and support where they really are in their journey, and where they need to go next. Therefore, design content for each persona of the buyer team that specifically answers the typical concerns/ questions they would have at a particular stage of their journey.
  2. Track Buyer Behavior: They downloaded it, but did they actually read it? Design the content and the campaign to track real consumption (e.g. did they click on the hyperlink at the end of the content offering the next piece of content for the journey? How long did they view the video? )
  3. Motivate the Self-educating buyer to become Self-qualifying: Use progressive profiling techniques to help qualify them as a potential lead for the company. Offer them opportunities throughout their content journey to speak with a product/sales specialist. See Best Marketing-generated Leads for additional insight.

The advantages to both Marketing and Sales of aligning with the new self-educating buyer is compelling: increased company revenue growth, fantastic Marketing ROI, more Sales reps making quota, increased sales forecast reliability, and a superior customer experience.

So how do we make it happen?

Bridging the Gap between Marketing and Sales

Marketing and Sales need to get on the same page; it’s good for your company, good for your function, and in your best self-interest to participate.

The starting point is to collaborate and pool our knowledge about the buyer.

  • Who are our ideal target buyers? The buyer team personas?
  • What is their purchasing process? What content are they interested, when will they did it and why do they need it?
  • How do they make and implement decisions?

The goal is not to boil the ocean or redesign the company. It’s to make a few meaningful, impactful tweaks to the existing Marketing and Sales processes; to deliver measureable positive impact within a short period of time..

However, getting everyone on the same page won’t be easy.

The reality is that Marketing may be great in one-to-many communications, and Sales may be great at one-to-one communications, but Marketing and Sales have a very difficult time communicating with each other. Simply having the two functions agree on the definition of a “lead” has been challenging, to say the least! We need a better future for Marketing and Sales: Alignment, Integration or Collaboration?

Marketing and Sales have different vocabularies, different metrics, and a legacy of misunderstanding and mistrust. You will need a senior person or an independent consultant who speaks both “Sales” and “Marketing” fluently, to facilitate and lead the discussions. To gain and maintain the trust of the participants, and the functional sponsors, the person will also need to have experience within the Sales function plus experience within the Marketing function to allay any fears of functional bias during the collaboration.

What will be your next step? Please keep the discussion going by commenting and sharing this post with your colleagues.

Read more: Reaching Out Through Inbound Marketing – Q&A with GuavaBox’s Gray Mackenzie