What’s the difference between a winning demand generation strategy, and a mediocre one? Between generating enough leads to keep things going (and keep your own head above the water), and taking your marketing to the next level?
That’s a question all B2B marketers grapple with daily — and there’s no better way of finding the answers than by hearing from industry leaders who’ve proven they know how to do it best in practice.
So as a demand gen marketer, the Leadspace-hosted panel at Marketo’s 2017 The Marketing Nation Summit in San Francisco — which brought together marketing thought-leaders from Microsoft, Facebook and Marketo — was a real treat for me.
Chaired by Leadspace CEO Doug Bewsher (himself a former CMO at Salesforce and Skype), the panel featured Microsoft’s Director of Marketing Technologies and Operations Charles Eichenbaum — whose team won the prestigious Revvie Award for Enterprise Marketing Team of the Year — as well as Principal Product Marketing Manager at Marketo Brian Glover (both of whose companies are Leadspace customers), and Facebook Client Partner Lauren Griewski.
It was the perfect chance for me — together with the hundreds of other marketers who packed the auditorium — to gain a rare insight into the workings of some of the most successful B2B marketing organizations out there.
And while it can sometimes be hard for us mere marketing mortals to relate to tech giants equipped with the kinds of marketing budgets we can only dream of, the best part about this panel was how relatively simple — yet powerful — their advice was.
Here are 5 key takeaways on how any marketing organization — no matter what their budget — can reach its full potential:
1. Focus on the “big rocks” — ignore the “pebbles”
Charles drew on his own wealth of experience to offer three very useful tips. His first piece of advice underlined how even the largest companies aren’t able to do it all. Instead, he cautioned, marketers should be “getting really focused, understanding what your business goals are, and using those (goals) to drive your focus,” while resisting the urge to “try to do everything.”
He offered an interesting metaphor to illustrate his point. Strategic focus, he said, is about “understanding what you need to accomplish, and then really doubling down on a few big rocks, instead of trying to throw pebbles — because the pebbles aren’t going to make the waves you need to grow your business.”
The same applies when deciding which marketing technologies to invest in. Echoing the results of a recent survey by the Leadspace-sponsored Marketing Technology Industry Council (on which he sits), Charles noted that the rapidly-expanding, increasingly noisy martech market makes it more difficult than ever for B2B marketers to prioritize effectively.
Companies need to be crystal-clear on their top objectives in order to maximize their marketing spend.
“There are hundreds and hundreds of new martech vendors coming out every year, if not thousands,” he said. “So it can be really easy to get distracted.”
2. Have the courage to walk away
We’ve all been there: spending countless hours on campaigns that just aren’t taking off as we’d hoped or expected; or writing and rewriting content again and again — all while battling the voices of doubt in our heads telling us to just give it up.
Well, sometimes we should.
Or, as Charles put it: “If something’s not working, don’t be afraid to pivot.
“Sometimes you can have this escalation of commitment: ‘oh, I put all that time into this’… (But) you need to be authentic about yourself in how things are progressing or not progressing,” and be ready to start again if need be, instead of wasting time on a losing battle.
Still, that doesn’t mean you should always walk away! Marketers need to balance humility with the confidence to follow through on ideas and initiatives they truly believe in. Which brings us to Charles’ final tip:
3. Ignore the naysayers (but keep an open mind)
While it’s important to have the humility to admit defeat, Charles’ third and final piece of advice to marketers was to have the confidence and courage to persevere even in the face of cynicism.
“I can’t count how many times people told me ‘No you can’t do that’, or ‘you need to integrate with this system’, or ‘that’s definitely not going to work, that’s not how we do things’,” he related. “If I’d listened to that Microsoft wouldn’t be where it is today.”
At the same time, he added, it’s crucial to always maintain “an open mind, because maybe you are wrong. You still need to listen and continue to question.”
4. Embrace innovation
Facebook’s Lauren Griewski urged marketers to keep their fingers on the pulse and never miss an opportunity to leverage a powerful technology when they see it.
Of course, even the likes of Facebook and co. can’t buy all the genuinely great martech platforms out there. Lauren’s recommendation was to focus on technologies which specifically help to “shorten the sales cycle.”
In particular, she singled out intelligent/predictive modeling and Artificial Intelligence as two cutting-edge technologies which “can help us qualify leads (and) shorten the time between ‘I’m interested as a prospective buyer’, and ‘I’m connecting with a salesperson’ or ‘I’m getting more resources directly from the company.'”
5. Spend time developing your Ideal Customer Profile and understanding their buyer journey
Brian Glover’s advice further developed the idea of using the right technologies to gain an intimate knowledge of your audiences.
In particular, he said marketers’ first priority should be to “spend time developing your Ideal Customer Profile [ICP] and understanding what the buyer journey is.”
“We are moving to a world where you’re going to be able to automate (and you can today mostly) one-to-one [customer] journeys,” and B2B companies needed to make sure they don’t get left behind the early adopters of technologies like AI.
However, Brian emphasized that the rise of AI won’t ever replace the need for marketers to roll up their sleeves and piece together an accurate buyer journey for each of their ICPs.
Bringing us full circle in a way — back to Charles’ point about “rocks and pebbles” — AI offers an opportunity for marketers to finally have the time to focus solely on a few crucial tasks, like mapping buyer journeys to target customers at every stage of the funnel.
“As AI begins to be used more and more it’s going to take some of the heavy lifting off your shoulders — but not all of it,” he cautioned. “The more you understand your customer and the buyer journey, the more you’re going to be able to develop the content… to personalize those one-to-one journeys for your customers.”
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