2014 is nearly here, and before we make our resolutions and goals for next year, we wanted to take one last look at our best and most popular blogs of 2013. While we believe that many strategies, processes and tactics in B2B sales and marketing will change and evolve in the coming year (you can find our predictions for 2014 B2B sales and marketing trends here), many of things we worked so hard to develop last year will continue to be relevant.
Here are 5 of our most popular blog articles from 2013:
The Shift to Bought, then Sold
“…in today’s digital landscape, your buyers are becoming more self-directed. They want to buy on their own time and expect to be educated digitally. Only once they feel educated are they ready to be engaged by a sales rep.” Continue reading.
Marketing Automation is Not What You Think
“Nearly every business today is looking for ways to generate more leads and close more deals. Many companies are now looking to marketing automation as a means to achieve this and end up dissatisfied with the results. The reasons for dissatisfaction vary; some are challenged by the complexity of the software itself, others are frustrated by the software’s lack of integration with sales. Whatever the reason, we believe dissatisfaction with marketing automation stems from the same misunderstanding.” Continue reading.
B2B Buyer Personas: The 6 Types of B2B Buyers on the Internet
“As the buying process changed with the introduction of web-based technologies, buyers changed too. Buyers adapted new traits and behaviors conducive to the new digital space they occupy. By understanding these new traits or characteristics and incorporating these insights into your sales strategies, you can make better connections, earn more trust and ultimately, close more deals.” Continue reading.
3 Reasons Your B2B Sales is Failing
“Many B2B companies have started to catch on to the fact that marketing in the digital space is dramatically different than marketing of the past. Selling in this space means playing by different rules (i.e. the buyer runs the show), however, many companies have not taken the time to understand the complexities and intricacies these new rules contain.” Continue reading.
B2B Sales Pipeline Management
“B2B companies need to think of sales as a process to be managed that is backed by logic and data. Management of your sales process should be focused on your pipeline. A sales pipeline ‘is the amount of business you attempt to close in a given month, quarter or year’ (inc.com). You can manage the data of your sales pipeline using spreadsheets or sales and marketing technologies and then use that data to give you insights as to how to forecast better, improve your conversion rate and refine your marketing messages.” Continue reading.
If you would like to learn more, you can download our 2013 white paper called, New Rules for B2B Sales & Marketing in 2013. To learn about the B2B sales and marketing outsourcing services we offer, feel free to visit our services page.
Contact us with any questions.
This is part-two of a two part blog on B2B sales and marketing trends in 2014. Click here for part one.
The second B2B trend I predict for 2014 is a focus on increased transparency—both internally and externally.
For the past several years, many B2B companies have started experimenting in the new world of digital content marketing, marketing automation, customer relationship management, etc. While most companies that have engaged in these strategies have seen increases in marketing effectiveness and sales revenue, executives often want to see transparent, concrete numbers before increasing budget allocation. Because of this, analytical tools for measurement of all sales and marketing tactics will become increasingly important in order to prove ROI and justify increased digital spend.
In 2014, transparency is also going to be increasingly important for prospects. One reason for this is the increased use of the Internet and web-based technologies, which have made consumers significantly more well-informed. These smarter consumers know a scam when they see one and have been bombarded with enough advertising throughout their lives to know when a company is blowing smoke. When searching for products and services, buyers today want to feel like they are having authentic experiences with truthful companies. To satisfy this desire, you need to be authentically transparent.
One example of the immense power of transparency in business is the recent success of Dominos pizza. Instead of continuing with the same marketing message they had for years, Dominos chose to listen to their customers’ feedback on the poor quality of their product. They admitted publically (through a mass media campaign) that their pizza did not meet their customers’ standards for taste and that they were completely recreating their recipe to make up for it. The result? Doubled profits.
While these will not likely be the only B2B marketing trends in 2014, I believe they are two of the most important. By incorporating co-creation and transparency into your marketing strategy and content, you can foster deeper and more authentic relationships with your prospects while simultaneously increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of everything you do.
If you have any questions about creating your sales and marketing strategy for 2014, feel free to contact us.
B2B Sales Marketing Trends
In one of our blogs last week, we made the argument that regardless of whatever 2014 turns out to be the year of, content is going to be the fuel that will take us where we want to go. Whether we want to improve our social media presence or invest more in lead nurturing, content is the driving force that will lead us to either success or failure.
In addition to improving content development skills and learning to act like a publisher, B2B companies also need to be aware to two broad trends that I believe will be important in B2B sales marketing trends in 2014:
The first trend is co-creation. ‘Co-creation’ is a relatively big philosophical idea that has recently been applied to many business contexts and situations.
In the B2B world, the concept of ‘co-creation’ can be applied in a few ways; the first is in regards to sales and marketing integration. If your sales and marketing teams are still working separately, it is not likely that you are doing everything you can to create a smooth and easy buying process for your prospects. The current B2B sales marketing trends can be summarized as: marketing creates content that they think is cool, and sales thinks it is worthless, so it doesn’t get used.
By analyzing these marketing trends to listen to implicit and explicit feedback from your audience, they can work together to co-create content that will be more effective on both sides of the table. For example, have your marketers listen to the objections that your sales reps hear on the phone everyday. Then, have your marketers create content with your sales team that is focused on answering those objections in digital format. With everyone listening to feedback and working together toward a shared goal, efficiency and effectiveness of all of your tactics increase dramatically.
Another way the concept of co-creation can be applied to B2B is in the creation of social proof.
In B2B sales marketing trends, social proof is essentially digital evidence of your customers’ satisfaction with your company, product or service. This could be in the form of a customer testimonial, a Facebook ‘share’, a LinkedIn ‘recommendation’, etc. Each time your prospects/customers share one of your blog posts on Facebook or gives you a written testimonial to be featured on your website, they are co-creating your marketing content with you.
The power of this type of co-created content should not be underestimated. In a recent survey of B2B marketing professionals on the value of different types of content in convincing prospects of a company’s value proposition, it was found that content sourced from existing customers was not only more effective than internally sourced content, but also more effective than content from 3rd-party analysts. This shows that as we go into 2014, co-creating content with your customers (case studies, testimonials, video testimonials) is going to be an increasingly high-value activity.
To continue reading the second half of this blog, click here.
As we take a look at the end of the year industry reports coming out that discuss the main B2B sales and marketing challenges going into 2014, we see the consensus of B2B marketers is that “getting more leads” is their number one challenge.
If your goal is to increase sales revenue, it is rational to want more leads; more leads equals more prospects, which equals more conversions and therefore more deals. However, as a B2B integrated sales and marketing outsourcing company who has run hundreds of sales and marketing campaigns for dozens of clients, we have seen a different approach to be much more effective.
From our perspective, the reason many B2B companies are constantly crying for more leads is that they are not effectively working the ones they already have. Consider these statistics:
- 5% of your market is ready to buy at any given time (Selling Power Magazine)
- 80% of leads are passed to sales before they are ready to engage (Marketing Sherpa)
- 70% of mishandled leads buy from a competitor (Forrester)
So, here is what is happening: A company gets a lead, and marketing sees a general level of interest. The marketing team then passes the lead on to sales before anyone takes the time to fully understand where the prospect is at in his or her buying cycle. Sales then determines that the lead is not interested or not ready to buy, and the lead is essentially thrown in the trash (or given to your competitor).
This is another example of the traditional sales model lingering in the digital space. The old way of selling said to ‘sell hard and fast upfront’ and keep pushing to the close. The problem is that this sales model does not work anymore. Not only that, but if you try to use this technique on buyers today, they will run. Fast.
Buyers are now in control of the sales cycle—they get to choose what marketing content to view and when to view it, when to engage with sales and when to buy. If you get in your buyer’s way while they are doing this with pushy sales messages or phone calls, you will come off as annoying or worse, threatening.
Rather than a traditional sales approach to lead generation, B2B companies need to engage in lead nurturing and sales pipeline management in 2014.
Lead nurturing addresses the problem of only 5% of your market being ready to buy at any given time. B2B lead nurturing generally consists of sending out early-stage educational content that is non-threatening and helps your prospects move through their own discovery and education around your product/service. When your prospect is finally ready to buy, he will be so grateful to for genuinely educating him that he will call up your sales rep and make a purchase.
Sales pipeline management is a way of managing lead generation, conversion and nurturing. By tracking your prospects activity across all marketing and sales tactics (content marketing, email campaigns, website activity, social media, etc.), you get a better understanding of where each prospect is in his or her buying cycle.
For example, if a prospect is only clicking in early-stage, educational blogs, you know they are not ready to buy. If a prospect is instead clicking on customer testimonials and pricing pages, you know it is time for a sales rep to pick up the phone.
By using digital strategies like lead nurturing and sales pipeline management, you ensure that you are not throwing away leads to early. To implement these strategies, you simply need to map out your sales process and create marketing content to fit each stage of your buyers’ buying cycle, then push the content at the appropriate time (using your marketing automation solution), track engagement and finally, bring in the closer when buying signals have been shown.
If this seems complicated or overwhelming, here are several resources to help you get started:
If you are interested in learning about the leads nurturing and sales pipeline management services we offer, you can visit our services page. Feel free to contact us with any questions.