It’s been over a decade since I cofounded Marketo, now an Adobe company. In that decade, we, along with a growing cohort of marketing technology firms, have changed the way business-to-business marketing operates, from “the people who make brochures” to a revenue-driving function. That was a fundamental shift that brought new respect to marketing organizations and new levels of performance for the firms they served.
However, I admit that there were some major mistakes B2B teams made in this past decade of B2B marketing that, if not addressed, threaten these gains in this new decade. Here’s how you can fix them:
1. Fragmented Data
The first mistake many B2B firms make is to allow sales and marketing to work within different systems and, therefore, look at different sets of data. Because of this, sales can’t see what marketing is doing with their accounts, and marketing doesn’t know what sales is up to. (Be honest: Do your representatives log all of their activities?) Marketing also likely has difficulty measuring account progression because lead-based metrics don’t directly correlate to pipeline.
End this disconnect by connecting the dots between data from marketing and sales systems to use. As a result, you’ll have a cohesive view of people, accounts and all related activity data. You might start with lead-to-account matching or working with sales to prioritize the target accounts that match your ideal customer profile. (Bonus points if you can track all account activity and share it across both teams.) When you’re able to unify these two teams to work from the same set of information, you pave the way for better alignment and collaboration. In fact, when sales and marketing are aligned, their companies see an average of 19% faster revenue growth and 15% higher profitability.
2. A Lead-Only Approach
Marketing technology launched during the past decade was built around engaging an individual person — one email address, representing one lead — rather than the full account. However, Gartner’s research has found that on average, 12 to 14 individuals participate in larger technology purchases. If you sell larger deals that involve multiple decision-makers, your marketing and sales teams need to know where the full account is in a buying journey in order to engage with them the way these organizations are buying (i.e., by committee, not through a single individual).
Shift from a lead-only approach to focus instead on engaging full accounts across marketing and sales. Rather than a “handoff” passing individual leads to sales, marketing should work hand-in-hand with sales to engage with and grow a smaller set of well-defined target accounts. These broader accounts will drive larger and better deals, which tend to stick around longer and become more valuable over time.
You’ll also see better economics by focusing on more valuable accounts, leading to a better return on your marketing investment.
3. Measuring The Wrong Things
Speaking of return, how you measure B2B efforts has to shift along with the changes mentioned above. One of the biggest mistakes made in measurement over the past decade was to focus on evaluating marketing by quantity: the number of leads, responses or opportunities. The tools we built allowed us to do so quickly and easily. While these are valuable metrics, they can distract us from what matters, especially in B2B.
Be careful not to only measure marketing touches, either. As you engage with an account through a long sales cycle, you’ll need indicators of account progression, not just pipeline and revenue.
Your new account-based measurement should give insight into questions like:
• Are we creating and deepening relationships with the right people at target accounts?
• Do we have appropriate coverage for individuals within those accounts in our database?
• What recent and meaningful interactions with target accounts have we had?
• How much time are individuals within target accounts spending with us? (This indicates their level of commitment and their likelihood to purchase, renew or advocate.)
If leaders in marketing within B2B firms want to continue to build on the gains made in respect and performance over the past decade, we must address the issues of fragmented data between marketing and sales, as well as our past focus on leads (not accounts) and our tendency to measure the wrong things. This will require new processes, but it also means you’ll need new martech functionality.
Rather than simply support traditional lead management, where marketing creates leads, nurtures them and passes them to sales, your technology stack should help you address what’s truly needed today. It should help you navigate across accounts, people, and buying centers and expand customer relationships by cross-selling additional products, and it should allow marketing and sales to work together in a dynamic, synchronized way.
Change is never easy, and it wasn’t back in 2008 when companies were adopting marketing automation for the first time. But, over time, it became a standard way organizations grow. Making these three changes today will be essential for this next decade of B2B.