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Cut Through the Red Tape of Consensus for B2B Buying Decisions

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This headline caught my eye - 53 Percent of B2B Fortune 500 Companies Use Marketing Automation - so I clicked through to read it. Mathew Sweezey wrote the post based on his research into the State of Demand Generation. Mathew presents three reasons for why this increase in the use of marketing automation foretells good things for the industry and his first one got me thinking.

Reason #1: Lots of Red Tape

Mathew makes the point that these enterprise companies are not light in the wallet, but that the process of getting through all of the red tape to get a deal done is exhausting. The fact that this obstacle is being removed bodes well for giving marketing automation the visibility it needs to gain more market share.

I agree. Even though I find it curious that only 53% are using it so far.

But what it made me think about is how many companies I work with where the sales team is convinced that losing deals is about price. We've all heard this argument, but we've also heard the repetitive push back that value overrules price considerations. Both marketing and sales are told to go prove the value.

And I agree with value playing an important role in the decision - perhaps a critical role.

But what if we haven't looked far enough?

When I think of red tape, what I think about immediately for a B2B complex sale - and marketing automation is definitely complex - I think about consensus.

Consensus is hard to get. With the growing number of people (43% increase in stakeholders per IDC) involved in a B2B buying decision, 34% say it's so, getting all of them to buy-in to a decision is requiring more effort.

But are B2B marketers tackling this? Or are they leaving it up to sales? It appears that neither are doing a stellar job as Sales Benchmark Index finds that 58% of typical pipelines are stalled or end up as no decision.

Here are a few reasons marketing needs to get the jump on this:

  • 58% of buyers say they spend more time researching
  • 53% rely more on peer recommendations
  • 34% say purchases were initially unbudgeted
  • 65% said the winning vendor's content had a significant impact
  • Non-executives view more content than executives

B2B marketers are very concerned about reaching decision makers. This is primarily because this is who salespeople want to speak with. But we need to start thinking about consensus. For without it, we have no deal.

If your marketing content is focused on engaging the decision maker and/or economic buyer, what about the other 3 - 7 (or more) people who can argue against the decision and stop it cold?

What are we doing to convince them that making the decision is the best answer to their problem, issue or achieving their objective?

Context and Conversations

One-size-fits-all content won't get this done. The context, care abouts and decision criteria are different for every influencer involved. In order to promote consensus, marketers need to figure out what the "overlay" conversations are amongst the stakeholders and provide ideas and insights that can be used to aid in their discussions about solving the problem. The key here is that you want them to use your ideas.

By addressing the context of each of them, we can help them to understand the opportunity that exists for them, specifically, as well as how these all culminate to be the best way to solve the problem for the company as a whole.

Establishing value is of course important, but relevance will determine its impact and this means it needs to be "personalized" and based on context.

The shift required here is for marketers to think beyond trying to getting their salespeople into the conversation. By working to facilitate conversations among the stakeholders based on our ideas, we'll find that getting invited into these conversations follows more easily.

What are you doing to ensure your content and nurturing programs are stimulating conversations among stakeholders that build consensus?

Shameless Plug - Mathew and I will be co-presenting a charged-up session on Advanced Nurturing at Content Marketing World in September. I hope we'll see you there.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Ardath Albee

Ardath Albee, CEO & B2B Marketing Strategist of her firm Marketing Interactions, helps companies with complex sales increase and quantify marketing effectiveness by developing and executing interactive eMarketing strategies driven by compelling content.

Her book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale, was published by McGraw-Hill.

Her articles and blog posts have been used for university ezines, published in CRM Today, Selling Power, Rain Today and Enterprise CRM News. Marketing Profs has incorporated her blog posts into a number of their "Get to The Point" newsletters.