Rod: My head-to-head partner this month is Chris Fell, founder and Managing Director of G2M Solutions, which helps organizations build sustainable marketing and sales platforms to meet today’s requirements.
Chris, it seems to me that the massive changes that are underway in how buyers find, assess and purchase goods and services has really become apparent since the financial downturn of a few years ago.
Chris: The financial crisis certainly helped focus changes that were happening anyway. We have described the changes by saying that we are in the "era of the buyer."
As we trend towards "the internet of everything" (a Cisco term), information has become more and more democratized and much easier to find. As a result buyers are continually grazing on information of interest to them and when the business pain from a problem they are facing reaches a tipping point they are able to self-serve increasingly effectively, changing and diminishing a supplier’s ability to influence the sale process via traditional means.
Rod: So the way we might purchase consumer goods is spreading to the business-to-business (B2B) world? We don’t go to a restaurant or buy a PC without reading a review. When someone rings us at work we google them while on the call. Now we don’t acquire business services without undertaking these processes?
Chris: Exactly. So B2B marketers have to respond and we think the way they must do that is via intelligent and genuinely helpful content delivered to the buyer in a format, on a device and at a time of their choosing. That content must span the buying journey and adapt to serve the buyer's information needs from initial awareness, to consideration to final decision.
Rod: The buyer’s journey is not something that is thought about too often. I suppose that is reflected in the old sales mistake of “asking for the order too soon”.
Chris: The next action you take must be appropriate for the stage of the buyer’s journey. Therefore we absolutely endorse marketing covering the whole buying cycle. In many B2B markets the time from the very first engagement to being a loyal customer can be 12 to 18 months.
Therefore, it is ludicrous to run a marketing campaign for three months! This short-term marketing can only influence initial engagement (top of the funnel) awareness OR can influence short term decisions such as end-of-period product specials.
What is needed is consistent messaging through regularly delivered content across the full buying cycle. The job of marketing is to get the buyer to take action and move on to the next stage of the buying journey. Having a content distribution strategy is key to making your content effective. Social media, blogging, email and SEO are some examples of this.
Rod: We have spoken to some business owners that get very excited by marketing. Marketing for marketing’s sake would be a valid criticism – they seem to forget that marketing’s sole purpose is to deliver leads to the sale process and you need a targeted and measured process for that activity.
Chris: That is true, no company should invest in these processes without having a way of measuring its effectiveness. If your marketing isn’t delivering the right volume of sales leads, change your marketing. Businesses need to determine the velocity at which they need to run the combined sales and marketing funnel to meet their business’ growth goals and use this as the yardstick to measure their marketing.
One additional expectation today is that an organization must have a “presence” – an organization needs to be visible online and they need to show proven influence in their area of expertise.
Rod: Most organizations are a long way from having to strategy or the skills or the tools to put this in place. I’m guessing it is more than publishing heaps of content.
Chris: Much more. As we gather more and more data about a buyer who interacts with us; marketers are able to respond in an increasingly personalised way increasing our ability to sway the buyer to favour our offer. We are heading towards a nirvana of customer segments of one! Although, I think that is an aspirational goal rather than a near term objective.
With online/inbound marketing we can garner heaps of data. But that’s not enough. Marketers must have the skills to analyse what the data means and develop a culture of continual improvement. Test - analyse - retest.
Rod: Are organisations moving to a total online/inbound marketing strategy?
Chris: Not necessarily, most organizations have some combination of inbound and outbound strategies. For example, firms use email – an outbound tactic- to nurture leads, but only once they have got to know you and you have earned the right to market to them. What we are finding is that expensive outbound tactics are getting dropped for their cheaper inbound cousins.
Reduce the cost of client acquisition
There is no doubt the benefits of online/inbound lead generation is compelling. The cliché of "I know 50% of my marketing works I just don't know which 50%" is dead and buried. Inbound marketing drives down cost per lead significantly. Inbound/online marketing has a 62% lower cost per lead than outbound marketing on average. That alone is a huge reason for the switch to inbound – it’s just cheaper.
The website is critical
Rod: All of this must have significant implications for an organization's website. Many recruitment agencies that I view have some static information and a job board – and I don’t think the job board is “content” in the way you have been describing it.
Chris: These organizations need to think about a refresh. Websites should become interactive destinations for your target buyers. They should have you bookmarked and want to come back to your site.
They should be subscribing to your content (eg blogs) downloading your useful content, watching short videos and so on. Your website should talk about the world of your buyer and your own products or services should not be the first think people see ... this probably requires a change to your messaging.
The good news is that websites are becoming so much easier to build and use. Having a website that either has marketing automation built in or can interact with marketing automation tools is CRITICAL for business to business sales in the future.
Rod: How should business owners move from what they do now to where they need to be in the future? It seems that the strategy is hard enough, but the technology is complex and all of that is easy compared to the content development requirement that needs to be regular and ongoing.
Chris: We recommend professional service firms take the following steps:
1) Think about your buyers. What’s their behavior, what are they struggling with, what are their goals? More importantly, what’s holding them back? Figure out which of these challenges you solve better than anyone else. This is your sweet spot.
2) Use your sweet spot to develop content across the entire funnel. This is THE critical step. Content is the fuel for your lead engine.
3) Apply a consistent inbound marketing methodology across your entire marketing and sales cycle to “get found” by buyers, convert them to leads and nurture then until they are sales ready. Measure everything you do.
Originally Published in Recruitment Extra July 2013
He is an experienced senior marketing and business executive, with over 20 years experience across Europe, the US, Asia and Australia. In late 2007 Chris launched g2m solutions, offering services with a single purpose: to assist B2B firms generate the right quantity and quality of leads to meet their business goals, via the principles of inbound marketing, underpinned by a strong planning methodology, IP and technology tools. Chris spent his earlier career working in the IT vendor community before moving to Gartner and IDC, latterly running the local IDC South Pacific operations.