Marketers May Just Be Their Own Roadblock to Reinvention

A March 2014 Study by Adobe titled Digital Roadblock: Marketers Struggle to Reinvent Themselves shows that 64% of marketers expect their role to change in the next year and 81% expect their role to change in the next three years.  Continuing along this theme, only 14% of those surveyed said they knew how they could reinvent themselves.

roadblock image 4.8The fundamental issue with this is that B2B buyers haves already reinvented themselves and the longer marketers take to figure things out, the more disconnected they become from the buyer.  The same study looked at the drivers that were forcing marketers to change – the top three answers were as follows:

–          73% Expanded number of channels and platforms to reach audiences

–          71% New ways of thinking about audience engagement

–          71% New technologies for analyzing marketing effectiveness

While these are certainly things that marketing has to grapple with, these are fundamentally not the core reasons for the role of marketing to change.  The core reason that marketing’s role needs to change is the way the buyer has fundamentally changed. However, according to this study, marketers seem to miss this fact and instead are focused on tactical issues like technology and marketing channels.

There continues to be a wide disparity between today’s marketers and that of the modern buyer.  Compare these buyer responses from the B2B Buyers Survey by DemandGen Report to those above:

–          40% of B2B Buyers said they waited longer to engage vendors

–          34% said the number of team members involved in the buying process has increased in the last year

–          68% of buyers have increased the number of sources they use in evaluating a purchase

So while buyers are increasing in complexity and sophistication and involving more roles and personas, marketers are looking at tactical channels and technology as an answer to engagement.  Quite the disconnect!

Given the disparity between buyers and marketers, it may very well seem that the greatest obstacle to marketing reinvention is marketers themselves.  If the 86% of marketers who say they do not know how to transform, want to begin the process, they need to stop the tactical focus and begin with a focus on the buyer.

A focus on the buyer does not mean simply generating more content, buying marketing automation, pushing out more email campaigns or developing a seven-step drip campaign.  It means truly understanding all there is to know about your buyer including:

Their Path to Purchase

As I have stated before, no buyer ever said “I am in the sales-accepted stage of my buying process.”  However, when I speak to marketers and ask about their efforts to chart the buying process, inevitably a funnel graphic appears.  The buyers purchase path is not a linear 1,2,3, step process –  it is more like 1-4,2,7,3,5,9,etc.  Add in the growing number of people involved in a typical B2B buying cycle and it gets even more complex.  Marketers need to understand this and take every effort (hint:  ask multiple buyers their approach to buying) to truly understand the path to purchase as it is key to the development of your content architecture.

Their Content Consumption Patterns

As committees make the majority of B2B buying decisions, it is important to understand that not all of those involved in the buying decision will consume the same content in the same way.  I am in the midst of working with one client where, after the research and developing the buyers insights, we discovered that the key executives for this purchase are involved in the early stage of the process and then again in the late stage.  They are, in reality, consuming very little content.  However, the mid-level managers are consuming vast amounts of content at each and every stage of the purchase path meaning we need to create more relevant content for the mid-level manager than for the executives.  Each role has its place in the buying cycle and we cannot treat them all the same.

Their Market Conditions

It is amazing to me how often marketers cannot speak to the market conditions of their buyers.  Often times a shift in the market or a regulation in that market will act as a catalyst or trigger event for the organization to begin their buying process.  Think about what Sarbanes-Oxley did to financial buyers or the impact the Affordable Healthcare Act has had on IT buyers in healthcare.  As marketers we need to understand our buyers’ market conditions so we can message to that and help educate them on how to respond.  If we do not know the details of where buyers live on a day-to-day basis, we fail to build the much-needed credibility.

What Their Titles Really Mean

Too many times, when seeking to get a picture of buyers and creating personas, marketers list a set of titles they want to go after.  While this will help in segmenting a database with such titles, it does not provide the true insight into the day in the life of a B2B Buyer.

I was once having lunch with one of our clients who was a VP of Demand Generation.  As we were discussing content and buyer insight she said “I do not wake up every morning thinking about my title.  What I think about is how to make my team more effective, how to drive pipeline contribution, how to manage up to the CMO and how to better enable sales.  If just one company would provide messaging to my responsibilities versus my title, I would be very likely to buy from them.”  And there you have it, she was not interested in her title, she was interested in her daily responsibilities and issues and that is the kind of content she craved.

With all due respect to the respondents to the Adobe study, the drivers that necessitate marketing reinvention are not new technologies, multiple channels or various ways to engage our audience . . . . . it is the audience itself that is driving this change. And as it is now 86%  – we have a lot of catching up to do.

Author: Carlos Hidlago @cahidalgo is CEO and Principal, ANNUITAS

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