Brand Marketing versus Lead Generation Tactics
Be under no illusion, B2B Technology Sales is hard. CEOs across the globe agree that a 42.9% failure rate in sales is unacceptable (CEO World). The constant demand to make sales quotas adds relentless pressure, driving tech firms to limit their marketing efforts to lead generation tactics alone – tactics that are at the very bottom of the marketing food chain including webinars, seminars, events, inside sales, email marketing, and direct mail.
It's time for technology organizations to start understanding the danger of pitting lead generation and brand management against each other.
Just take a look at today’s business environment. Each and every one of us is busy trying to juggle a never ending deluge of emails and phone calls every day of the week, both inside and outside of the office. We all accept this, so why do organizations continue to send sales staff out unarmed and unsupported without the right marketing support? Why are these same sales teams only using the outdated and ridiculed sales technique of cold calling potential customers?
Do you know anybody who sits around waiting for someone they do not know to call and sell them things they don’t want or need? I suspect your answer will be no. Now deep in the digital transformation, our world has dramatically changed. Maybe it’s time that sales strategies evolve to align with marketing and connect with prospects who have a very different perception of how the sales process should work.
The key problem is that the core fundamentals of marketing have been neglected. The typical inside sales firms are rewarded for delivering activity: How many contacts; how many calls; how many appointments generated.
Traditional marketing concentrated on AIDA (Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action), reflecting and reinforcing the true process customers go through before taking action. Again and again, technology marketers now focus solely on “action” and wonder why new potential customers simply tune out the white noise that pollutes their world.
Let’s look at how traditional marketing ties to today’s marketing landscape:
- Awareness: How do you make buyers aware of your products or services? What is your outreach strategy? What is your brand awareness campaign? Which tools or platforms do you use to connect to all levels of your potential sale? Do you have a particular messaging strategy that connects what you do best to what your prospect wants most?
- Interest: How will you gain interest from the different buyers within the process? What is your content strategy? Social proof available to back up your reputation? How do you make this information available and where?
- Desire: How does your product interact with prospects on a personal level to make an emotional connection? No matter what your new technology solution is, you are still connecting to a human being who has feelings. Yes, even IT people.
- Action: Finally, we get to taking action. What are your calls-to-action and where do you place them? How do consumers connect and engage? (Emails, website, landing pages, inbound lead generation phone calls, webinars, etc.)
As you see, for decades “action” was the last—not the first—step of successful marketing.
Yet today, technology marketing often skips over the first three crucial steps of the process.
We know that in the B2B world, someone needs to champion your cause inside the organization. What they want and need is confidence and security in your new technology solution’s reputation and brand story. The key is creating this reputation early in the sales cycle when your prospect is feeling a need and driven to search for a solution. The key to accelerating your sales cycle is being heard and breaking through the clutter during this part of the process. By doing that, when Sales starts calling, prospects already know who you are and what you stand for.
Customers increasingly want to build a relationship with brands they know, feel attached to, and trust. The question technology companies need to start asking is how do you earn your customers trust and build a reputation before Sales knocks on the door.
One reason it has become so difficult is that business buyers have changed how they connect to vendors and new solutions. Multiple decision makers, alternative solutions, and overvaluing legacy systems all pose new challenges. Even more problematic, the buying process is happening before prospects are ready to hear from you. Decision making is being totally flipped on its axis, with 60 to 90% of the buying cycle now completed before a B2B buyer ever speaks with a sales rep.
John T. Gourville, in the Harvard Business Review, discussed a concept called the “9x effect.” This means prospects overvalue what they already have by a factor of 3x and undervalue what your new solution brings to the table by a factor of 3x. To break through, your solution must be perceived as 9x better than what they currently have. So how is your marketing changing the formula to help sales break through?
Connecting with prospects and creating brand engagement is crucial to changing this dynamic. It starts with building a brand story that gets remembered and told throughout the organization. The art of storytelling has survived the test of time and is more important now than ever before. It’s the critical early stage of the marketing process that creates desire and builds interest.
Since cavemen started drawing on rocks or telling tales around campfires, storytelling has been the most efficient way to get remembered. Thousands of years later, we are still communicating by sharing our very personal life experiences around virtual campfires. While our ancestors roamed from village to village creating tribes, we now create digital tribes of like-minded souls scattered all over the world.
A growing number of businesses are already reaping the practical benefits of storytelling. A well-constructed narrative that leaves your audience wanting more is rapidly becoming a secret weapon that can change the attitudes and behaviors of customers.
If you don’t take storytelling seriously and use it to build your reputation at the beginning of the marketing process, you’ll be stuck with a slower sales cycle, ineffective sales calls, and reduced closing rates.
So where are your marketing efforts focused—at the top of the marketing food chain or at the bottom? What are you waiting for? Start building your story and reputation. End "Tactics-Interruptus" disease forever.