Continuing my conversation with Sean Dwyer, CEO Loopfuse, here is part 2 of our Q&A dialog where Sean asked me to talk more about trends I see affecting B2B marketing today, the impact of lead management automation on these trends, and where I see B2B marketers heading in their shift from conventional to digital — and from outbound messaging to blending broadcasting and dialoguing. Here’s what we talked about:
Part II: Trends, Impacts, and Market Directions
Q4: What key trends drive adoption of Lead Management Automation (LMA) today?
Besides weathering the current economy and improving sales pipelines short term, I think B2b marketers need to invest in and use lead management automation to meet longer term needs. I would describe these as the need: 1) for greater accountability from marketing, 2) to produce not just more demand, but better-qualified demand, and 3) to scale the sales process more efficiently (in other words, to reduce the cost of customer acquisition).
Beyond this, there are other macro trends that will continue to drive widespread change in B2B marketing, and where I see automated demand management as a key response to these trends. For example, I expect marketers to adopt lead management automation to build customer dialogue and relationships much earlier in the purchase process and counteract issues like advertising avoidance, commoditization, and social computing (which creates unprecedented transparency and information sharing that is wonderful for buyers, but challenging for sellers).
Q5: What impact will a Lead Management Automation (LMA) system have on the typical marketing organization?
The impact of automation on a the marketing organization in a large firm can be quite different than the impact of adopting this technology in a small one. Both size firms experience different issues and challenges. Let me focus on the midmarket here and refer to back to the three trends I mentioned in the prior question to address you question about the impact of LMA:
1) Greater marketing accountability. Over the past 10 years, B2B marketers have witnessed an explosion in available marketing approaches, especially in the digital world. While this has made more channels available, many marketers struggle to execute tactics in an integrated fashion that engage B2B buyers during what is often a lengthy sales cycle. Racing from tactic to tactic, B2B marketers can fail to demonstrate marketing’s impact beyond campaign execution. Lead management automation helps marketers get a handle on the marketing mix and to learn which approaches work at which points in the buyer’s journey. LMA can also give marketers more flexibility to try new approaches and experiment with new techniques because the system lets them see, more directly, the impact between marketing activity and the volume and quality of leads that result.
2) Better qualified leads. Good sales organizations – and sales management — don’t really want more leads from marketing, but they do want better ones. Lead management automation helps marketing and sales get onto the same page and to answer the critical question “what makes a great lead?” Without automation to score leads across the purchase cycle, and the capability to nurture leads – start a conversation, educate, build dialogue, persuade – marketers will fail to put the best leads in front of sales and to help sales to convert pipeline into closed deals.
3) Scaling the sales process. Many executives think LMA helps marketing. In fact, it helps sales. And it helps the bottomline. Starting in the last decade, trends like software as a service, virtualization, and on-demand provisioning have changed how firms deliver high technology products. The services component of any solution has become more important. And IT buyers want to pay as they go. Long-term, on-premise, perpetual licenses will decline in favor of the on-demand model. This also means that long sales processes, backed by high-commission sales reps, must become less expensive. Companies can’t afford to spend time, money, and resources on customer acquisition like some did in the past.
Marketing will become key in this transition as buyers rely more on online channels – and communities of like-minded participants – to inform and validate purchase decisions. Lead management automation can help marketers connect with these buyers long before the first sales call and make selling more efficient as a result.
I think large, multinational firms can certainly achieve these results at the departmental level. However, the challenges associated with building a global brand, driving message consistency, and managing marketing interactions across geographies, regions, industries, and multiple product lines increases demand management complexity significantly.
Q6: Are you seeing a shift in focus from traditional outbound marketing activities to inbound marketing? If so, how can marketing leaders prepare themselves?
In 2009, we saw B2B marketers continue to shift from traditional to digital channels as marketing budgets got cut and as buyers became harder to engage. Social media popularity also kept the digital transformation going. However, much of what I see happening online in B2B – with social media in particular – I would characterize as “outbound marketing using new channels.” For example, firms put out a stream of press releases and marketing communications, and then tweet about them on Twitter. Little value is added and certainly not much happening there to make buyers want to strike up a conversation.
To truly move to inbound marketing, B2B marketers need to stop thinking about campaigns and start thinking about multi-step conversations. They need to efficiently reach buyers at a group or individual level. Mass marketing doesn’t work in B2B, relationship marketing does. This is where I can see LMA playing a key role because lets vertical industry, product management, or local marketers in the field have conversations with targeted groups of prospects – customer segments in the truest sense – using online tools and social media to fuel the dialogue. By tracking their behavior and interactions, marketers can then pass a rich set of “background” information – behavior, preferences, activity — to sales and help them close deals more efficiently. When this doesn’t work, because it doesn’t always, the LMA system can now give both marketing and sales quantitative, factual information about what they need to do differently.
I know there are one, maybe two, more parts to this conversation, but let me know what questions you would ask about the Lead Management Automation market if you were Sean. Feel free to submit your question via the comments function below. I’m curious to see what you want to know about and will certainly answer the “best” ones.