Conversation Track Architecture:  The Bedrock of a “Converged Growth” B2B Go-to-Market Organizational Model

There is no other way to say it.  B2B go-to-market organizational design is in a state of crisis.

Consider these data points:

  • Gallup: “Gallup found that 72% of employees were working on matrixed teams before the pandemic — ranging from ‘slightly matrixed’ employees who occasionally work on multiple teams to ‘highly matrixed’ employees who work on multiple teams every day and have teammates who report to different managers.”
  • Accenture: “It’s common to see deeper silos from well-established companies that have existed for a long time … more defined boundaries of where marketing activities end, and sales activities begin.”
  • Copper / Outfunnel: “Fifty-eight percent of respondents [in the ‘Revenue Marketing Report 2022’] report their sales and marketing alignment as only ‘poor,’ ‘fair’ or ‘good,’ a significant increase compared to the previous year (46%, up 12%).

B2B go-to-market organizations – spanning marketing, sales and service teams – are overly-matrixed, overly-siloed and/or overly-stuck in legacy ‘functional’ organizational models.  These models largely focus on management and reporting structure and represent an ‘inside-out’ view of engaging with customers – organizations designed to optimize functional operations, not to maximize customer engagement.

The reality is that the majority of modern B2B go-to-market organizations are everything except focused on the customer.

I noted in a recent blog post that B2B go-to-market teams must re-think their org design.  The disconnects in organizational structures highlighted above have a significant, negative impact on companies’ performance that manifest in three ways:

  1. Poor customer engagement
  2. Inefficient, negative-ROI deployment of marketing, sales and service resources
  3. Inability to predictably and scalably support corporate growth objectives

The core objectives of B2B go-to-market teams and programs are to generate, convert, sustain and grow customer demand.  These teams achieve this – on both a digital and live basis – by matching the right information, via the right channel, with the right audience – with sufficient feedback loops – to tune and deliver subsequent information interactions.  This is the process through which B2B pain points are understood and matched to solutions.

The core organizing principle required for success in B2B organizational design is ensuring end-to-end stewardship of customer lifecycle – i.e., at no point in the customer lifecycle should a company’s go-to-market team be ‘out of touch’ with the customer.  Unfortunately, this is the element that is fundamentally missing from the matrixed, siloed and functional org design that predominates today’s B2B organizations.

To right the ship, we must completely restructure traditional B2B sales, marketing and customer service roles into blended teams, operationalized around customer lifecycle – with clear stewardship at every stage of this lifecycle.

It’s an approach we refer to at ANNUITAS as a Converged Growth organizational model.

The starting place for this approach? Developing something we refer to as a Conversation Track Architecture.

Conversation Track Architecture- Overview 

A Conversation Track Architecture is the foundational framework for operationalizing go-to-market around customer journey — providing a central organizing structure for orchestrating people, process, content, technology and data interactions with customers throughout their entire lifecycle.

Conversation Track Architectures can be complex and multi-dimensional, but they can also quite simple and straightforward (see actual ANNUITAS client examples below).  In either case, the goal is for them to be driven by the needs of the customer segments being served.

 

 

 

 

 

Regardless of their scale or simplicity, what they have in common is how they are organized:

  • The ‘x-axis’ of the architecture defines the end-to-end journey, subdivided into the individual steps taken by a customer unit (which can range from an individual to a large buying cohort). This axis can just cover the pre-sale arc, or it can also extend into the post-sale arc.
  • The ‘y-axis’ of the architecture defines the segmentation by stage required to optimize information personalization, to meet the differential information needs of different customers at different stages.

An effective Conversation Track Architecture serves as both the starting point to ensure all customer journey stages and customer segments are ‘covered’ and the basis for defining programmatic alignment of marketing, sales and service teams to customer journey.  This is why Conversation Track Architecture is the bedrock of a Converged Growth B2B go-to-market organizational model. 

Conversation Track Architecture- Benefits

Why is a Conversation Track Architecture the ‘right’ model for go-to-market process and organizational design?  This approach has several benefits:

  • Rational, scalable basis for segmentation: Too often, marketing and strategy stakeholders become overwhelmed in trying to ensure that ‘every persona’ – and by ‘persona’ they mean individual title – is defined and addressed in marketing and sales programs.  This is impossible, and in fact, trying to build marketing and sales programs around role or title is impossible to scale. That’s why effective Conversation Track Architectures engage what is known as ‘ethnographic’ type segmentation — i.e., segmenting around common needs and behaviors.  This means segments defined by pain points, needs and motivators, more than defined by customer identity.  Similarly, segmentation should not be linear, end-to-end; rather, segmentation should adjust by customer journey stage so that at points where segmentation is relevant it is addressed, but when segmentation is not necessary there can be common Conversation Tracks, shared across multiple customer personas.

We find that successful approaches to Conversation Track Architecture segmentation can range from situational – i.e., defined by a use case (see first ANNUITAS client example – from bio/pharma – below) – to mindset/frame-of-reference – i.e., defined by how core business pain points are framed (see second ANNUITAS client example – from enterprise software – below).

 

 

 

 

  • Common reference point for customer journey stewardship: A key element of operationalizing around customer journey is ensuring there is end-to-end stewardship of the customer – i.e., ensuring there are no points in his/her journey where there are engagement gaps.  At an org design level, a Conversation Track Architecture serves as a critical, common reference point for marketing, sales and service to use in re-organizing rationalizing and aligning their roles along this customer journey.  It also serves as a basis for rationalizing content needs by customer journey stage and for developing sales enablement content and a marketing content model also without any gaps.
  • Matrix for perpetual demand automation: By defining clear, segmented tracks, and mapping roles and content along the framework, Conversation Track Architecture becomes an enabler for demand automation – underpinning a perpetual growth engine.  Many organizations attempt to automate marketing and sales programs, but what they automate is the process of sending out drip emails and sales cadences to customers.  Rather than build an adaptive, customer-journey aware apparatus, they simply automate the ‘bombarding’ of customers with content that may or may not have relevance.  The turning point is when an organization can leverage automation to ‘sense’ where a customer is in their journey and then marry the right content/experience — inbound, outbound and via chat — to the right customer at the right moment.  This is a very different type of automation – demand intelligence automation – which is impossible without a Conversation Track Architecture underpinning it.
  • Basis for defining sales and service playbooks: Successfully executing Conversation Tracks with sales and service teams means defining your ideal customer profile (ICP) and segmentation that aligns to Conversation Tracks, training team members on segmented customer journeys and supporting team members with content and enablement – often delivered as “playbooks” for different sales/service scenarios.  Conversation Track Architecture thus helps ensure alignment between demand marketing and sales/service playbooks, and it provides clear moments for sales/service stewardship – which clearly maps to opportunities to define playbooks.

Driving B2B Go-to-Market Organizational Design Via Conversation Track Architecture

A Conversation Track Architecture basis enables us to rationalize the needs and segmentation to support customer journey.  This translates into clear gaps or opportunities for converged points of marketing, sales and service engagement to provide stewardship to this journey – which paves the way for a Converged Growth B2B go-to-market organizational model.

The steps involved in translating Conversation Track Architecture into org design are:

  • Define process-rationalized GTM groups: The first step – looking at customer journey stages and segmentation – is to map ‘process-rationalized’ groups to the journey.  What are the combinations of activities and personnel at a content, program, process and systems level that support the journeys and segmentation?  This should be completed both for pre-sale arc and for post-sale arc (see ANNUITAS client examples below).  This process will not immediately yield reporting structure or even yet specific roles – and may initially seem confusing from this perspective, given we are all so used to seeing functional org models – but it is a critical step and will help define the ‘buckets’ needed to support your end-to-end go-to-market process.

 

 

 

 

  • Map GTM groups to specific roles: The next step is to take each GTM group and expand on specific roles within that group (see ANNUITAS client examples below) – aligning to the mission of the group and blurring the lines so that in key areas there is a combination of what would have been traditionally separated into marketing, sales and service team members. A great example is the “Succeed” team below – a true cross-functional, post-sale tiger team to ensure customer retention out of the gate.

 

 

 

 

 

  • Re-imagine reporting that supports customer lifecycle: The final step is to map reporting to a structure that institutionalizes a focus on maximizing customer lifecycle value.  This requires thinking in new ways about the go-to-market org design.  Organizations will achieve the objective they are designed around.  If the entire org is working towards defined pre-sale and post-sale objectives, then there is more likely to be engagement across marketing, sales and service roles in support of key customer stages.  Thus, moving away from the idea of a ‘head of sales’ or a ‘head of marketing’ eliminates the inherent friction of these functional designations.

 

 

 

Transforming Your Go-to-Market Organization

How can you take the next step in your transformation towards a Converged Growth B2B go-to-market organization?

Here are several, key content pieces that address different elements of growth strategy and go-to-market transformation that will help you think through your approach:

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