Lead or demand generation is ultimately what the marketing department will be judged by, yet too often marketers fall short on deeply understanding the parts to targeting B2B buyers.
They don’t have a deep knowledge of their buyer personas. They don’t have a firm grasp on the sales cycle. The list goes on.
Recently on the Rethink Marketing Podcast, Act-On CMO Michelle Huff interviewed Kari Seas, owner of Seas Marketing, about the six things marketers underestimate when targeting B2B buyers.
This transcript has been edited for length. To get the full measure, listen to the podcast.
Michelle Huff: Can you tell us and the audience more about yourself and Seas Marketing?
Kari Seas: Sure. I started Seas Marketing about a year and a half ago. And we focus on developing content marketing for technology companies, primarily B2B technology companies.
And I’ve spent the bulk of my career in B2B technology marketing, and the bulk of that in the enterprise software space.
Truly understand the B2B buyer
Michelle: From your work helping companies, you’ve found six different ways marketers struggle or really fall short when they’re targeting B2B buyers. The first one is understanding the buyer, right?
Kari: Yes. Everybody talks about buyer personas. But not a lot of people take the time to really understand this buyer. What that means is demographics and psychographics. So, you really have to get into their head. What are their motivations? What pain or pride do they feel on a daily basis? How do they define success in their job? How do their leaders define success in their job? You have to get inside their heads and hearts and really understand what makes them tick.
It’s a way to really differentiate yourself and set yourself apart. There are a lot of vendors going after these buyers in the B2B space. And the more that you really get inside their head and understand where they’re coming from, you can have that conversation with them that gets their attention, and that resonates with them, and compels them to reach out to you or to respond to you when they may not be doing that with other people.
Understand how long it actually takes to close a deal
Michelle: And the second thing we talked about is a little bit about better understanding how long it takes to close the deal. What have you seen that’s kind of different in this area?
Kari: How long it actually takes to close a deal, and I define that not just from when an opportunity is created to when closed revenue is recognized. I really define that if you’re talking about the entire marketing and sales funnel, it’s from the point that an individual enters your database to the time it takes to close a deal. And especially when you’re talking about B2B, that can be a really long sales cycle. Just getting that person who is in your database to engage with you at some point, that’s like the first kind of obstacle to overcome. And then you have to nurture them through all the way to close.
Even within the B2B space, there can be huge differences between one company’s sales cycle length and another company’s sales cycle length. It all depends on the product that they’re selling, the dollar value of that purchase, how large the [buying] committees are.
Know what an efficient, high-performing funnel looks like
Michelle: The third thing is better what the funnel looks like. Can you talk a little bit about that and how it’s different?
Kari: If you think of your funnel from at the top where it’s anonymous website visitors to the bottom when they become a customer; it can be a pretty lengthy cycle. You can go from thousands and thousands of records down to 10s or 20s or 100s or whatever.
It needs to be efficient and high performing. One of the key things I see being an Achilles’ heel in having an efficient high performing funnel go back to the basics. This funnel really needs to be clearly defined, each of those funnel stages. And all of those definitions and those triggers, what it takes to move from one funnel stage to the next, those need to be clearly defined and they need to be agreed upon by key marketing and sales, and even finance leadership. All of that are the foundational blocks of how to get that high performing funnel.
And then you also have to do things like day-to-day maintenance. Let’s say you have these great definitions in place, you have these well-defined triggers, everybody’s on board, it’s rocking and rolling, then you have to keep your data clean.
Michelle: No, not that.
Kari: Such a boring thing. And nobody likes to do it. And it’s a hassle. But it’s just so absolutely critical. You don’t want duplicate records. You have to have a proper, compliant opt out mechanism in place. You have to have rules about which records are uploaded and synced between your CRM and your marketing automation system. There are all these things that really need to be looked at. Because it all impacts how your funnel performs.
Recognize that content relevance is everything
Michelle: We’ve covered understanding the buyer, understanding what the sales cycle looks like, and the need for a high-performing funnel. The message and content are another big thing as well, right?
Kari: Absolutely. One of the other ways B2B marketers can fall down or really struggle is they don’t necessarily recognize that content relevance is everything. Or maybe they recognize it, but they just feel like they gotta keep making the donuts. It’s about the quality of the conversions, not how many people visit your website.
You absolutely need people to visit your website. You need SEO. You need all those great things. But you really need to optimize those strategies for conversions, not volume.
What that means is you need to reestablish and reinforce your credibility with every touch. Because if this person and if this account is going to eventually trust you and your company with whatever critical business application they’re looking to launch, they have to really know you understand what they need and that you’re the best solution for it. So, you need to make sure all of your content topics, whether it’s for a blog or an eBook or an infographic, that every single content topic ties back to a core theme or message connected to your product.
No matter how hot a topic is, if it doesn’t do that, it’s kind of wasted space and wasted effort, and kind of wasted clicks. And then you end up, quite frankly, diluting your own conversions. Because you’re getting a lot of website visitors, those anonymous people, you’re getting website visitors who probably never actually engage with you. Because they might have liked your article you had about this hot topic, but because it wasn’t tied back to anything you do or offer, they’re never going to progress further in the funnel.
Defining success as a joint effort with sales and the executive team
Michelle: That makes a lot of sense. Tell me about how do you define success.
Kari: This is another way I think B2B marketers struggle; making sure they define success as a joint effort with sales and the executive team. This can be challenging. We all recognize that. But you do need to work with your sales counterparts to determine the success metrics that support the entire business, instead of just telling how well marketing operates internally.
That doesn’t mean it’s not important to monitor and measure marketing’s operational effectiveness. It absolutely is. We all want a high performing marketing machine. But you do need to connect marketing’s efforts to the business outcomes to maximize the penetration of your target market and make sure you’re well-aligned with all of the existing sales efforts.
Operational efficiency is the only way to get great results
Michelle: What’s the sixth area B2B marketers need to focus?
Kari: This is more of an umbrella category, but acknowledging the operational efficiency is the only way to get great results for marketing investment.
You need to have the right tools to make all the things I’ve mentioned possible. And it won’t break the bank if you prioritize and tackle things incrementally.
When you’re talking about B2B and you start getting into those multiple individuals, buying committees, longer sales cycles, and higher price tags, that’s where you really have to stay involved with all of these different individuals across a long timeframe, who probably prefer to consume content in different ways and are interested in different types of topics. And that’s really where marketing automation comes in.
I would say the sixth way marketers struggle or really fall short when they’re targeting B2B buyers is not using a marketing automation platform. I’m still shocked when I hear those statistics. The last one I heard was that only 57 percent of companies use marketing automation. I just don’t understand how you operate.
In today’s world, if you’re talking about B2B, for the most part it can really only come from having marketing automation in place, and then adding on to that an ecosystem as you need to meet your business goals.
Michelle: What do you think marketing automation’s role is with lead generation?
Kari: That’s pretty easy. Marketing automation’s role is putting individuals and target accounts into the sales funnel who are most likely to result in closed revenue in the shortest time frame possible.