Don’t Blame Me!

I just got done reading a Net-Results blog post that quoted John Common, CEO of Intelligent Demand who stated the following about marketing automation: “It is a disruptive technology in that it forces a company to think differently about its most important process: revenue creation. This is a good thing! At most companies today, marketing and sales are working from an outdated playbook that was written back when interruptive, batch-and-blast, product-focused, hunch-based marketing actually worked, and sales was in control of the buying process. Those days are gone, but the thinking behind that playbook still exists.”

While I have never met John nor had an opportunity to speak with him, I think he misses the mark in labeling marketing automation as a disruptive technology.  In all fairness, within the context of the piece he wrote, this quote was used to emphasize the readiness organizations need to have in order to get the most of automation.  However, I don’t believe that automation in and of itself is what’s disruptive to today’s B2B marketing and sales organizations.  The real disruption is the customer.

We need to drop the “changing customer” terminology and accept the fact that the customer has changed – past tense, already done.  Customers today have changed – buying process, how they gather information, who is involved in purchasing decisions, when they engage vendors – it’s all different now.  And they’ve left the vendors far behind in a game of catch-up.  Here are just a few recent data points to support this:

  • More than 50% of customers are engaged socially – this allows them to gather information on products and services they are looking to buy without connecting with any vendor or sales rep
  • 60% of buyers are self-managing their buying process
  • 41% of buyers first define their need, research their options, then define budgets
  • More than 70% of first time inquirers are not in a buying mode and do not want to be sold to

Yet while the customer has rapidly evolved in how they buy, few organizations have managed or adjusted well to the change.  As Common correctly states, “At most companies today, marketing and sales are working from an outdated playbook that was written back when interruptive, batch-and-blast, product-focused, hunch-based marketing actually worked, and sales was in control of the buying process.”

One response to the changed buyer for many organizations has been the implementation of marketing automation technology.  Unfortunately, what too many of these companies have soon realized is that technology alone does not magically make the buying process challenges go away.  As a result, marketing automation has received a bad reputation in some circles.   If you are one of the many who have been disappointed that marketing automation was not the catalyst for change, don’t blame the technology.  Instead, seek to understand the true problem.

To do that, let’s reiterate what is causing the disruptive change in the B2B industry – your customers.  Your customer’s process is different, and yours must be as well. Today’s disruptive customer requires you to developing the proper process which involves sales and marketing working together. Per Common’s quote – your sales and marketing organizations can no longer operate in autonomous silos.  In order to be successful and engage with the today’s buyers at their level, marketing and sales need to come together and agree on the responding internal process that will support the changed buyer.  This includes, among other things:

  • Updating and maintaining marketing and sales data
  • Defining how leads are qualified
  • Effectively routing leads through your organization
  • Communicating the right messages and content at the appropriate times
  • Agreeing to the definition of the target buyer
  • Measuring all of the above and more

So, if things are disruptive, you can thank the buyer.  Then seek to implement a new process, using marketing automation technology to effectively manage it. If you do so, disruptions will be better managed and revenue will rise.

 

*Statistics courtesy of DemandGen Report, Genius and Gartner
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