Solving the Riddle of Demand Generation
- November 16th, 2011
- Crandell's Corner
- 1 Comments
Driving demand that results in customers is Marketing’s primary mission. Yet Chief Marketing Officers (CMO) struggle to deliver predictable pipelines which has hurt its credibility in the Board room. Every year, they embark on a quest to solve the same riddle with programs based on what industry analysts/experts say are effective; past experience of what yielded quality results; and a dose of new ideas to try. In other words, there is a good amount of educated guessing going on.
The riddle is rooted in social media’s affect on how buyers purchase. In today’s socially engaged world, over seventy percent of the buyer’s purchase process is completed before a sales person is every contacted. The process is self-directed and leverages the transparency of markets as buyers research their problem, potential solutions and the efficacy of those solutions without needing, or wanting, to talk with a sales person. By the time the buyer engages with a sales person, they have a preferred solution, a list of open questions and a price in mind. Sales, in turn, find they have limited influence on the buyer’s process. What most B2B marketers overlook is that the experience the Buyer wants as a customer is as important in the purchase decision as the capabilities of the product or service. If CMOs want to drive growth, they need to engage with the Buyer on their terms.
Solving the riddle requires a new mindset, one that is rooted in aligning to the Buyers Journey. A core principle of the Buyers Journey is that everyone is a buyer all the time, even customers. A set of organizing principles, the Buyers Journey aligns company functions and roles to enable, engage and establish enduring relationships with buyers.
By adopting the Buyers Journey, there is a clear opportunity for B2B CMOs to achieve two significant goals: Proactively shape the buyer’s experience and, by doing so, accelerate revenue growth. Since the buyer self-defines their journey, it is Marketing’s responsibility to intimately understand and enable the buyer by offering the right content and calls to action through the information channels the buyer prefers at each step in the Journey. Done correctly, vendors can achieve the twin goals as well as build the trust and credibility needed to earn preference when the buyer enters the Purchase stage.
How can marketers align to the Buyers Journey when it is largely invisible to marketers?
There are four major steps that buyers typically go through: Enablement stage: Problem Definition, Solution Search, Evaluation and Validation.
Buyers begin their Journey not by looking for a vendor but by understanding the issue’s root cause, exploring best practices, and learning how peers have addressed the need. In the Problem Definition stage, buyers are doing the homework necessary to decide if and how they might want to approach solving their problem. In the Solution Search step the organization agrees on target outcomes and success metrics, the desired approach, and any particular constraints that need to be addressed. It isn’t until the Evaluation step that buyers being researching vendors. Requirements have been agreed on, selection criteria are finalized, and discussions begin around the type of customer experience and lifetime value streams the organization wants. Through social media they connect with peers and learn what it is like being a customer, if the product performs as promised, and the actual outcomes others have realized. At the end of this step, the buyer has a short list of vendors and a preference along with a list of open questions.
Up to this point the Buyers Journey has been self-directed by choice with limited vendor involvement. At the same time the buyer’s experience has been shaped by their interaction with vendor content, social media, customers and others. As far as the buyer is concerned their experience to date defines their expectations of what it will be like as a customer. That perceived experience may or may not reflect what it actually is like be a customer nor may it match the experience the buyer is looking for.
How can marketers align to the Buyers Journey?
The key to revenue growth is to enable the buyers by directly aligning marketing programs to the actions of buyers at each stage in the Journey. The first step is to leverage the enormous amount of data that companies have in their marketing automation, CRM and sales automation systems. Analyze the data in a data mart and look at it longitudinally. By looking at how buyers have engaging with the company over time, a pattern emerges. Fine tune the patterns by separating the data by industry and role/persona. Second, augment these insights with market research. Interview customers, new accounts, and lost sales opportunities to uncover their steps in the Problem Definition and Solution Search stages. The end result is a detailed Buyers Journey timeline map for your target markets and personas that outlines, beginning with the trigger event, the actions they took, where they went, what were they looking for, whom they ‘spoke’ with, and how they evaluated the information they found.
Next, map current marketing activities directly to the Buyers Journey map. If marketing is currently conducting an activity that is not identified on the Buyers Journey; stop investing there. Likewise, if buyers are looking for specific content or interactions that marketing currently does not provide; fund that activity. There should be a one-to-one relationship between the Buyers Journey map and marketing activities. However, alignment to the Buyers Journey is an ongoing process and the map should be updated quarterly.
The answer to the riddle of demand generation lies in aligning to buyer expectations. Only by being where buyers go and enabling their self-directed journey with value-generating interactions will companies succeed and grow. The pay-off is well worth it: Three to five times velocity of sales cycles and reduced cost of sales by thirty percent or more.