Most B2B marketers have a very clear understanding of their goals. Whether it’s to generate a certain number of leads, keep customers happy, or to contribute to overall revenue objectives, we all know what we should be trying to do. But sometimes there are a lot of things getting in our way, and in many cases, they’re the very tools we use to try to make our jobs easier.
According to a new report from Gleanster and Act-On, Rethinking the Role of Marketing, technology troubles are causing significant challenges to B2B marketers. The study surveyed 750 midsize B2B organizations with the goal of understanding the rapidly evolving role of marketing in supporting the customer lifecycle. Respondents were divided into two categories based on self-reported data provided by the respondents: Average Firms and Top Performers. Only 2% of the total B2B population at companies with 50-1000 employees met the characteristics defining Top Performers:
- They beat their 2013 revenue objectives
- They rated themselves “very effective” at managing end-to-end marketing lifecycle
- They estimated that over 90% of their customers are happy
Top Performers are successful, but they also deal with a variety of issues that prevent them from achieving all their goals – and technology appears to be one of the core challenges facing even the most successful B2B marketers today.
When asked about the overall top challenges that cause them to struggle with current marketing objectives, 95% said that “access to existing customer data,” was the biggest issue. A likely cause is identified in the second two issues: “marketing alignment with sales,” which is a problem for 90% of teams, and “fragmented marketing systems,” a problem for 83% of marketers.
These three problems represent organizational issues as well as the technology tools in play, since getting sales and marketing in synch isn’t any easier when each team is using fragmented marketing systems. It’s also harder when neither team can gain access into the data that’s being stored in the other teams’ siloed system.
Technology has changed the way B2B marketers get work done work, and when limitations with the tools make it more difficult for them to achieve their objectives – and 80% of survey respondents say that it does – that means big trouble for B2B organizations.
The survey took a deeper dive into technology troubles by posing a follow-up question asking why technology was identified as an issue. Looking at Top Performing organizations, the most significant concern was configuring campaigns (84%) followed closely by the fact that these marketers are using multiple systems to manage separate channels. This disconnect is no doubt leading to inefficiency, redundant systems, and inaccurate (or incomplete) reporting, as well as many other difficulties.
Interestingly, Average marketers said the fact that they have to use multiple systems to manage separate channels was their top challenge by far. In fact, 92% cited it as an issue, while only 56% indicated that they have a problem with marketing and sales technology that doesn’t integrate well.
Average performers juggle multiple systems, while a general lack of integration between marketing and sales technologies perpetuate the high level of disconnect in the customer lifecycle. Some of the most common standalone technologies, such as sales automation tools, social media, web analytics, and email marketing, just don’t integrate very well, and clearly, it’s a situation that’s holding a lot of B2B marketers back.
The Role of Marketing Technology throughout the Lifecycle
When the survey asked Top Performers which technologies supported their engagement efforts, 69% said they use marketing automation for customer acquisition and 50% use it for customer retention.
Top Performers use segmentation and behavior-based communications to refine customer engagement and increase relevance. Top Performers were also 19% more likely than the Average organization to use marketing automation technology.
During the awareness and acquisition phase of the customer lifecycle, the right technology tools play a vital role. Marketing automation tools can centralize social marketing, web analytics, landing page hosting, and email so marketers can apply the same business rules to prospect engagement across any channel. Top Performers also increasingly apply it to retention and expansion, using the same process as for acquisition but different messaging, timing, and offers. While 90% of respondents in the survey said that they automate upselling campaigns, the vast majority are generic communications, which is also why only 30% of revenue comes from existing customers for Average companies. But when marketing and sales teams apply scoring mechanisms, automated processes, and customized campaigns – enabled by marketing automation – they can deepen existing customer relationships and maximize the lifetime value of every customer.
Clearly, marketing technology is vital when it comes to monitoring, measuring, and engaging with customers across the entire lifecycle. When integrated with the sales and service infrastructure, marketing tools can not only gather customer data at all stages, they can also allow organizations to manage and trigger communications based on lifecycle stage or customer behavior.
So what do you need to do to get better use out of the technology tools you’re using across your sales and marketing teams today? Integration is the key – but it’s only the beginning. Technology integration and customer data management can help. But if nobody is responsible for customer engagement throughout the entire lifecycle, technology tools alone won’t fix the disconnect.
Here are just a few of the technology-focused recommendations from the report:
- Move from static campaigns to behavior-based and segmented engagement. About 6 out of 10 B2B organizations we surveyed were using marketing automation, so it’s no surprise that most marketers are confident they have the right tools. The research underscores the fact that the tools are not being used effectively today.
- Don’t over-complicate lead nurturing efforts. It’s actually easier to configure automated campaigns for current customers because in most cases data can be pulled from CRM to inform business ules and segmentation.
- Don’t worry about 1:1 marketing. Think in terms of micro-segmentation (manageable personalization) and refine the focus on one to three target customers.
Read the full Rethinking the Role of Marketing report from Gleanster and Act-On to learn how Top Performing marketing teams are using technology more effectively than Average organizations, and find out how they’re taking full control of the customer lifecycle, managing everything from customer awareness and acquisition to retention and expansion.