Kay Kienast, True Influence CMO
Having the right technology in place is essential to winning at integrated, data-driven B2B marketing and sales. The “martech stack,” as it’s come to be known, has to seamlessly share critical data across all your channels; automate large-scale processes; and offer easy-to-use operational and decision-support tools for your human team members.
It’s a lot to ask, and it’s a real pain point for many B2B sellers.
As I discussed in my last post, advanced B2B marketing and sales methodologies, such as Account-based Marketing (ABM), rely on deep integration of marketing and sales systems. And yet a deep lack of confidence in the martech stack is a key reason most sellers doubt their ability to actually execute on ABM at scale, although more than half of senior-level pros believe ABM is the right revenue strategy.
And it goes beyond day-to-day operations. The martech stack has become so complex and fragmented that marketers now face critical challenges in simply conceptualizing how all this stuff is supposed to work together – much less actually make it happen.
In this post, I’ll look at some key gaps in how B2B marketing and sales envision their processes and the technology they need to realize that vision. I’ll also discuss how the emergence of integrated martech suites, such as our own True Influence Marketing Cloud, help solve many of these issues, both on the technology and methodology fronts.
So many options, so few answers
Part of the problem is that there are so many marketing technology solution providers and products – more than 8,000, according to most technology analysts. These range from simple email workflows to contact database augmentation, all of which have made some claim to be “best of breed” over the last decade or so.
Integrating these disparate technologies has proven to be a massive (often insurmountable) challenge for marketing and sales. A recent report trumpeted that for the first time ever, a slim majority of respondents (52 percent) described the martech stack as being integrated. That should just be a given.
As technologies matured, and many core features became table stakes, many marketers have found that the relatively minor differentiators that “best of breed” solutions can offer are outweighed by the complexity that comes with trying to use and manage a fleet of disparate solutions. Sure, you may still need to incorporate a specialized system to work with a partner – demand generation is a prime example – but for the most part, shopping for the neatest bells and whistles is more trouble than it’s worth.
This has led to the rising demand for cloud-based martech solutions that encompass several components from a single vendor. Some of these clouds are cobbled together by large vendors, such as Adobe and Oracle, from smaller best-of-breed vendors they’ve acquired. (I’ll note that we here at True Influence built ours from the ground up.)
At any rate, there’s a clear movement away from integrating a multitude of point systems and toward relying on integrated marketing clouds to support daily operations. Clouds promise stability, real-time data flow, and a consistent UX that helps teams learn and embrace the toolset in their daily work.
And, if properly designed, marketing clouds also bake in strategic and methodological wisdom into the features and workflows they offer. A marketing cloud is more than just a collection of database calls and reports – it’s a framework that guides your marketing and sales efforts toward the ultimate goal of winning business.
A picture is worth … well, you know
I found a clear illustration of how confusing life can be for marketers who rely on multiple point systems as I was reading about the nominations for this year’s Stackies, a fun competition held at the Martech Conference that challenges companies to visualize how the components of their stacks fit together. The exercise encompasses every aspect of revenue ops, from brand awareness and high-level engagement via social platforms to deeply personalized upsell to your best customers.
The general conclusion: even martech companies can’t agree on what the perfect martech stack looks like. They all include core messaging, lead gen and CRM, but past that, things get pretty murky. Some companies even failed to include strategy as a key component of their stack – how is that supposed to work?
This set me to thinking about how a demand-gen marketing cloud, like ours here at True Influence, should address the various phases of B2B marketing and sales. Overall, I am pleased with how our cloud adds real value and insight at each critical point.
Here’s a quick look at just some best practices and how a marketing cloud should embrace them.
Successful B2B marketing and sales: Begin with strategy, not acquisition
As a demand generation company, we understand this. You need data and insights that inform your plan of attack before you just start cranking out loosely defined MQLs. That gets you nowhere.
A core strategic tool we offer in our True Influence Marketing Cloud is, of course, our category-defining purchase intent monitoring and intelligence. Intent lets you locate accounts and prospects who are in-market for your products; it also lets you know when your named ABM targets are primed for outreach or escalation toward a sales call. And it also helps you accurately size your market to set budgets and revenue goals. (Our COO Craig Weiss recently posted about how intent, when coupled with cost-effective programmatic display, is a great device for sizing and discovering your active market.)
Without intent, the data-driven marketer is shooting blind. Many marketing clouds rely on third parties to add this strategic asset; our intent data is proprietary, and we are constantly honing our Big Data analytics to find meaningful patterns. Coupled with real-time, multi-channel performance reporting, we can give you a clear picture of who your audience is, what they want to know, and how to reach them.
“Personalization” means you have to know the person
Most email and content marketing toolsets offer the ability to personalize messaging. But in ABM, you need to know more than just the engagement level of a given prospect – you also need to know the role they play in their organization’s buying process. Personalizing content in this fashion, to scale, is a key roadblock for ABM adoption. (More than half of marketers said they struggle with this task in a recent survey.)
Fortunately, we’ve built buying group modeling into all phases of our marketing cloud. From programmatic display to outbound to database augmentation, we target business contacts based on the role they play in the buy, at each step of the account’s purchase journey.
Coupled with intent, this gives you a powerful framework for building highly personalized ABM campaigns. And buying group modeling is best accomplished in a fully integrated cloud, without the delays and missteps that comes from wiring together databases and dashboards.
Every touch counts
Some Stackies entrants decided to bucket advertising platforms like AdSense and social media into their own strata of the martech stack, with outbound operating separately.
In B2B, every contact point with a prospect is critical, and successful ABM demands you know exactly how each individual on your target list is responding to outreach. This is particularly critical in programmatic display, which is highly effective as a reinforcement to lift the performance of your other channels. If a prospect clicks an ad or reads a blog post, you need to know immediately, so you can trigger a new workflow or send out a new offer.
Of course, you may need to employ and integrate a dedicated system for organic social marketing. But managing all your paid touchpoints – email, syndication, display and voice – through a single cloud platform is a huge operating advantage, both in terms of near-term campaign performance and overall marketing spend return.
Which brings me to my last lesson.
Insights are meaningless if you can’t act on them in real time
Perhaps the most compelling benefit of marketing clouds is the ability to shift resources and budgets to the campaigns and channels that are getting results. One glance at those Stackie visualizations will tell you that if all those processes and channels are running on niche platforms, that’s going to be a nightmare to manage.
Of course, performance changes constantly, and to win at ABM, you need dashboards at the channel, tactic and account level to let you know how you are doing today. Once armed with that knowledge, you also need tools that let you escalate or throttle back spend. This should not require your team to log in and out of five different systems.
Ultimately, your success depends on your people. And a marketing cloud gives them clear, actionable access to the decision-making information and tools they need to succeed.
One clear picture, all in one place
In this post, I’ve covered just a few of the benefits of employing a B2B marketing cloud as the core of your revenue operations. I didn’t even get the enormous value of sales and marketing sharing a common picture of the opportunities for your business. The upside is truly incredible, and I’m glass to say that our True Influence Marketing Cloud can bring this level of clarity and agility to your ABM strategy.
To continue your marketing cloud journey, you may want to have a look at this post: “Marketing Cloud Puts Integration in Integrated Marketing.”