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Of course big accounts as always shift around and cause incumbents and prospective supplier a lot of effort and palpitations, but the reality is (and as a former client I know this only too well) it's all about shifting business around to get a better deal for less money, so margins are getting leaner.
What's really interesting in this environment is our commercial response - clearly managing our businesses to maintain profitability is key - but there is new business to be had, question is how good are we at getting our basis B2B marketing pipeline in good order to find it...wait for RFPs, or try to disrupt a bit of attention and create some appetite?
As a marketer I think getting the brand proposition out there and engaging with customers is probably the most important part of any business; that said, Ironically it's in the leaner times that marketing tends to gets the main focus of attention from the FD when it comes to budget reductions.
This in itself is is counter intuitive because it's actually the one area of business spend which fuels most businesses and arguably when times are hard it's where we should be investing not reducing. If it is getting the required investment it's probably because it has earned the respect as a business function that it should and has proved value to the business - if it hasn't chances are the wrong KPIs are being looked at, it hasn't earned its stripes and it isn't going to win any resourcing arguments in the short term...
The "R" word
I had the pleasure of working a few years ago with a famous General, with an equally famous reputation for his interplanetary intellect. He was laser focused on the "R" word, it was he believed at the very core of operational success - it implied ownership and empowerment and it was the key to winning wars - the word was...responsibility.
So I have been mulling over the basics of our responsibilities in B2B marketing and wondering how well we follow the basic commercial disciplines...
Having spent a year in publishing with one of the most fearsome B2B commercial engines I have worked with, as a B2C marketer I had a real eye watering experience about the fundamental differences between the precision and efficiency of a finely tuned and measured B2B Sales and Marketing process. None of your profligate brand eye candy and wafty creative types - this was all about driving sales and client lead generation - it was a lean process that took no prisoners...and as publishing businesses I think we can all learn a bit from the underlying process model in which everyone knew their responsibilities and targets.
It all starts with target lead data - the most important commodity, whether compiled locally or bought in from brokers, mapped against defined sectors and the job roles with highest propensity to buy product - in the case of publishers, marketers, customer acquisition and customer engagement.
Once the data was built the key is to create a systematic building e-marketing campaign based on some form of lead insight proposition - an event invite, a survey, a seminar, a webinar, a free training or consultation session, each designed to build a dialogue and engagement with prospects - hit the data right and you could expect a response from over a third of the target group.
But it doesn't happen in one, go wave on wave of e-marketing with a frightening frequency would hit the data, causing unsubscribes and opt-ins of equal measure. Supported by new content at each mailing, along with PR, thump plans (detailed targeted proposals based around depth company insights), invitations to your own events; and taking platforms at trade shows, social media discussion, white papers, thought leadership, new product launches all contributing valuable marketing content, but...it all leads to one thing...
Then an outbound call from a courageous telemarketer designed to open the door for a meeting at which the strategic commercial expert then asks the business about what is causing them real angst - and then begins to set out the solution.
In this ideal B2B model everything is measured from spend and result so we focus only on the activities which are forensically and measurably shown to deliver result and in the B2B instance marketing and sales should be in total alignment, segmenting suspects, prospects and targets into tiers mapped to value and proposition.
The "R" word - is absolutely and clearly defined for all participants in the Sales and Marketing process everyone knows their part to play and exactly what you need to do and trust those around you to play their part and you have one helluva team...kind of the fundamental military principle...
Posted by: Mark Bainbridge