At its core, a marketing strategy is about how a company is going to target and convert its ideal customer profiles into paying customers. A good marketing strategy should align to a firm’s business strategy goals and describe positioning, target segments, value proposition(s), products & pricing, distribution mix and marketing mix.
As marketers have been placed under increasing pressure to deliver leads to Sales, many impatient executives claim they don’t have time for strategy – thus, the focus is placed on marketing mix tactics and quarterly campaign calendars. As a result, marketers often try to A/B test their way to lead generation success wasting time and budget in the process.
Effective marketing strategy doesn’t have to be difficult nor does it have to be time-consuming. However, it does need to be performed as both B2C and B2B buyers expect brands to personalize their buying experience and those that don’t will no longer remain relevant in the consideration set. Doing this effectively requires an updating your approach to marketing strategy.
Segmentation: Focus on the Journey
I realize that virtually every company has structured itself into silo’s (Marketing, Sales, Customer Success, Customer Support, Customer Experience) – but the fact is, buyers don’t care. While most marketers have been hearing about buyer journeys and customer experience journeys for several years, marketing strategies have not evolved much to reflect a journey-based engagement model. The proof lies in the artificial constructs that we’ve created such as the MQL to SQL handoff (Marketing to Sales), or the SDR to AE hand-off (within Sales), or the Sales to Customer Success hand-off, etc. While these hand-offs serve an internal purpose for brands, where does ownership lie for the journey and what is the impact to the customer?
The rising importance of Customer Success has only complicated matters as aggressive CSM strategies not only own customer renewals but are also make plays to own cross-sell and up-sell into the installed base. This has implications for Customer Marketing and Sales BDR’s – both tasked with deepening relationships and growing revenue from the installed customer base. Further, these internal teams typically operate in three separate data environments that are all supposed to integrate with CRM: marketing automation platforms (e.g. Marketo, Hubspot), sales engagement platforms (e.g. Salesloft), and customer success platforms (e.g. Gainsight). With each team operating with their own “playbook” the customer experience can be disjointed.
So how should marketing strategy adapt to this new normal? More than ever, Marketing must drive a shared vision model with Sales and Customer Success as it relates to creating journey maps for each target segment that clearly articulate the experience goals, engagement tactics, messaging and task ownership at each stage of the journey.
Messaging: Appeal to Personal Motives
While brands are spending over 20% of their marketing budget on content, buyers and sales teams are not reading it. Content engagement numbers are dropping as buyers (and customers) are inundated with messaging that lacks relevance and a clear, compelling reason to change from what the buyer is doing today. Remember, marketing is about influencing buyers to become customers and for customers to buy more over time (LTV). This requires change and people are psychologically averse to change.
While we’ve all been taught to quantify the value proposition our solutions can deliver to a prospective buyer (eliminate a pain, or achieve a gain), in the B2B world marketers are just now understanding how to create value propositions that appeal to personal value dimensions. In a 2013 study entitled “From Promotion to Emotion: Connecting B2B Customers to Brands,” CEB and Google found that although brands have gotten better at “...claiming impressive business outcomes, so too can that brand’s competitors. In fact, business value perceptions hardly vary at all between brands, either within an industry or even across industries. The reality is that buyers perceive little difference between the business value various suppliers can offer.”
How does this apply to marketing strategy? Because merely nailing your positioning (how your brand is different/superior to competitors) may not be enough. Further, merely personalizing your value propositions to vertical industries may not be enough. Effective marketing strategy now adds the dimension of personalizing value propositions and campaign messaging to the personal motivators of individual buyers. Personal value includes professional benefits (performance, improving leadership, simplifying life), social benefits (acceptance, recognition, respect/admiration from peers), emotional needs (daily frustrations, job security, optimism), and self-image (giving back, accomplishment). CEB found that doing this can deliver 2X the purchase influence of appealing to business value alone.
Marketing Mix: Make Your Customers the Lead Actor
Buyers increasingly do not trust vendor content so they turn to peers for insights into how they are framing and solving similar problems inside their organization. This is not good news for brand marketing and sales organizations competing for the short attention span of buyers.
For years we’ve been told by content industry leaders such as Joe Pulizzi and Ann Handley that “marketers are now publishers” and so VC/PE money flooded in to fund a variety of content management platforms and every marketing department built a content team. But here’s the problem, marketers are not publishers – because publishers have a deep understanding of their audiences and publish what readers want to read. Marketers have been trained to create product messaging and self-serving narratives that are the opposite of what buyers want to read.
I don’t believe Marketers ever were publishers – or that they should be. Perhaps the more appropriate paradigm is that marketers should think like film directors.
Here are 3 reasons why:
• The human brain can process visual images 60,000 times faster than text
• Video and audio create an emotional connection (which leads to trust/credibility)
• In video/film, the director remains off camera and the actors tell the story
In today’s era of buyer distrust, smart marketing strategy will include marketing mix and distribution channels where the customer takes the lead. Written case studies can become unscripted customer stories, vendor events can evolve into customer-led knowledge sharing opportunities, blogs can evolve into contributed editorial opportunities for lead customers/advocates, and more.
By adapting Marketing’s role as an orchestrator of customer-led content, brands stand a great chance of improving buyer trust, deepening buyer engagement – and ultimately delivering revenue results.