Technology has changed the way we do B2B marketing.
It has changed how we communicate and operate within our organizations. It has empowered B2B buyers during the purchase process, and made marketers accountable for pursuing and serving the buyer at every step of their journey. Technology has also produced a myriad of digital channels, managed with a portfolio of new tools to engage the buyer across these channels.
But for all of the progress made in this digital transformation, chaos still reigns in most of our marketing efforts. As the technology prowess of B2B marketers has increased, the consistency of the experience we deliver to our customers has proportionately decreased. Siloed teams centered around different tools each deliver their own message to the buyer, resulting in a disjointed, jarring customer experience.
This is happening across industries. As Lori Wizdo of Forrester points out:
Only 23% of B2B marketers claim to have a customer-centric—versus a channel- or product-centric—organizational structure. B2B companies create jarring customer experiences when responsibility for engagement with a buyer flips from team to team: from digital marketing to demand generation to inside sales to field sales to service.
To fully understand the problem and understand why we need an integrated B2B marketing strategy, we must understand what a bad customer experience is like from the perspective of your buyer.
And so, our story begins…
The Tale of Securita
Securita is a fictitious company that provides modern security software-as-a-service. It has high-performing teams across sales, services, and the various marketing functions. Marketing in particular has developed new prowess across digital channels and tools, adopting many of the best practices around demand generation and content marketing. But disparate technologies and channels have left Securita’s customer journey disjointed.
To earn the attention of its empowered buyers at the top of the funnel, Securita has turned its focus on buyer-centric “content marketing.” The Securita CMO has deputized its corporate communications team to produce thought leadership content. Securita corporate communications responded with a set of content assets—eBooks, blog posts, and videos—all around the theme of “system security for modern platforms,” focused on best practices for security management in the cloud, in big data, and in mobile. The Securita team delivered authoritative content that avoided talking about Securita’s specific solutions and instead simply addressed the knowledge needs of its target personas. Web traffic spiked and new leads poured into the database.
The demand generation team at Securita is in charge of moving these leads into purchase-ready opportunities. Demand gen does not have the content-production resources that corporate communications has, so they stuck with the same theme they’ve used for a long time: a focus on security threats to develop urgency in its leads. Relying on nurture campaigns consisting of emails and webinars, the demand gen team told powerful stories of companies that endured disastrous, career-ending security attacks and case studies of Securita clients who were able to avoid such intrusions.
Unfortunately, however, most of these older stories involved more traditional on-premise and data center security environments, so the buyers attracted by top-of-funnel messaging around security in the cloud, big data, and mobile were now confused by the traditional architectures.
“Just what is Securita about?” these buyers wondered. “Cloud and mobile, or on-premise?” Due to this confusion, fewer leads converted to opportunities than demand gen expected, and they missed their forecast.
Some of the leads were scared enough by these disaster stories that they decided to investigate further, and became sales opportunities. As sales got on calls with buyers, they used the decks and scripts that had been developed by product marketing to frame their discussions. These focused on the functionality that Securita offered around data protection, fraud protection, and identity protection with third-party white papers showing how Securita scored better than the competition on these features.
At this point the buyers were really confused. They initially became aware of Securita because of the problems addressed in the thought leadership content that corporate communications produced around cloud, big data, and mobile security. Demand gen’s stories about security disasters scared them and compelled them to look into Securita in more depth. But the messages that product marketing prepared and sales delivered had no relation to cloud, big data, or mobile, nor did they address how Securita avoided career-ending security disasters. As a result, buyers struggled to understand how Securita would help meet their software security needs. Most chose to purchase alternative solutions, and sales struggled to hit their revenue numbers.
The few buyers who were convinced by the third-party white papers on Securita features did buy and moved into the Securita post-sale process, run by the Securita services team. The services team had recently transformed their process, focusing the customer around a Safety Score, a metric they had produced to measure security maturity. In the kick-off call with the customer, the services team explained that all interactions with Securita would center on the Safety Score, and they’d track progress on it over time.
Customers were caught off guard by the Safety Score, a concept they had never heard about during prior interactions with Securita. It focused on broad progress with software security, but most customers had a burning need around either data, fraud, or identity protection that they wanted to address exclusively and right away. The surprise and misalignment produced by the Safety Score delayed customer implementation, and in SaaS, delaying time-to-value can be lethal for customer engagements. Much of the early interest in Securita waned. Customers struggled to get value, and many customers failed to renew a year later. Of those who did renew, few upsold and even fewer became the advocates Securita needed to drive further growth.
The Moral of the Securita Fable
What stands out in the story about Securita is that each team was doing a great job creating content for their piece of the customer experience: corporate communications created great thought leadership with blog, video, and eBook content; demand gen created great nurture content for email and webinars; product marketing created great content for the sales channel (all the analysts said Securita’s features were the best!); and services created a great post-sale experience around Safety Score.
But while all of their content was outstanding on a stand-alone basis, it was totally unaligned across the customer journey. At each stage, the customer became more confused about Securita and conversion to each subsequent stage suffered. As a result, opportunity, revenue, upsell, retention, and advocacy metrics all disappointed.
All marketers suffer some form of the Securita fable. We’ve responded to technology with siloed teams focused around tools. Each produces content for its own stage and channel, and the content often is outstanding—but only on a stand-alone basis. The resulting experience across the entire customer experience is disjointed and can kill business.
This Doesn’t Need to Be Your Story
Quelling chaos and creating a collaborative, integrated B2B marketing strategy starts with awareness. If you identify with the Securita fable, you’re already moving in the right direction.
So where do you go from here? The next steps are to build visibility and alignment across internal teams, so every part of marketing can deliver a consistent customer experience.
In the next post in this series, I’ll cover how to do this within your organization, with a focus on quick wins to start and a strong foundation to move forward.