The More and Less of B2B Marketing

Author: 
Stephanie Kidder, Chief Marketing Officer, Azalead

You Could Do With Less Leads, But You Do Need to Reach More People

When it comes to effective B2B marketing, sometimes less is more, and sometimes more is more, but it may not always be so obvious.

Let’s start with why less is more. The simple truth for most B2B companies is you really don’t need more leads. In fact, less leads means fewer targets to optimize for, which means you can be both more precise, personalized and consistent with marketing programs. Your sales team knows this, and they spend the majority of their time nurturing the best accounts, following the classic 80/20 rule. Why shouldn’t marketing do the same? Traditional marketing instinct tells us that more leads are better so we pour good money after bad on “wide and thin” lead gen programs whose only objective is to increase volume, not quality. Cast a wide net and see what we catch.

In reality, you need to focus on fewer – and better - targets, rather than chasing the maximum number of leads. This sounds counter intuitive in an industry obsessed with measuring the number of replies, clicks, downloads, likes and follows.  But it’s much more efficient to identify and prioritize the accounts most likely to generate the most revenue. And it’s even more effective to concentrate not just on the potential revenues across the board, but which accounts have entered an active exploration or buying process.

So what about more being more? While a larger number of suboptimal account targets is not necessarily better, more individual targets within those best accounts is increasingly important. In this case, a wide net is effective. Here’s why. For any given type of product, there are typically many people who have a voice in the purchase decision, maybe even more than your account reps realize. There are people you may not even think about targeting with your marketing but they are communicating with each other, without you, through emails, group meetings or internal memos. Or even in the corridors and around the coffee machine. Even if they are not ultimately signing off on the PO, they are important. Of course, some are more influential or knowledgeable than others. Some have operational and budget responsibilities; others would be personally affected by the investment that you are proposing. Others may represent special interests like safety or environmental considerations.

It’s called buying by committee

According to recent research, an average B2B decision involves more than a dozen individuals over many months, or even years.

Now, imagine if you could influence that complex internal buying journey much earlier - reaching everyone who could influence your project.

But how do you do that if you don’t even know who they all are? It’s a good question and raises the point of the bane of every sales and marketing person’s existence: the anonymous buyers. These are the people who troll through your web site – and your competitors’ – and suck up valuable information, leaving barely a trace that they were there. No downloads or email sign-ups for these slippery characters.

In fact, because they want to stay anonymous, you could easily miss them altogether. By the time they do appear on your radar, they may already have formed all sorts of misconceptions, or vendor preferences that may be very difficult to change. Such lack of early insight can easily result in lost business opportunities, or at least a huge waste of time and money for your sales and marketing organizations.

Anonymous research has become a significant part of the buying cycle today, covering at least 60 percent of the journey. What if you could monitor all influential individuals in your prioritized accounts in real-time, throughout the buying journey? Find out what they need, give it to them in a very personalized way, and monitor their reactions. And most importantly, do it before it’s too late.

With such an approach – and the right tools, of course - you could ensure that your marketing programs instantly adapt to each visitor’s account-specific or industry topics, geographical area and other vital parameters. You could monitor the products or topics that attract their interest the most, where they go from there, whether or not they come back, and so forth. You could educate and influence them with relevant ads and customized, content. And keep track of their every move, provide educational messages and continually feed their response directly to sales – throughout the buying cycle.

It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. In fact, many B2B companies are doing it now and seeing significant improvements in efficiency and real, tangible results in sales. Account Based Marketing (ABM) holds the key to unlocking more opportunities within your best accounts, building better and longer term relationships with the key influencers in those accounts, and aligning sales and marketing in a way never thought possible in traditional models.

Two keys to success with this approach: 1) Internally, you’ll need complete alignment of both sales and marketing with the objectives of the identified needs of the target accounts. 2) You will also need a technology platform to sense all potential buyer activity, including the anonymous buyers, and drive and direct your customer interaction every step of the way.

A robust ABM solution is a great foundation to start with for achieving those two keys, and has the potential to redefine the entire sales and marketing dynamic.

Stephanie Kidder is chief marketing officer at Azalead, providers of account-based marketing software. She is an experienced technology marketing professional who oversees Azalead’s global corporate and product marketing programs from the company’s headquarters in Paris.