B2B marketers have always wanted to link their creative endeavours with the honest graft of sales for decades. So why is so much of B2B marketing not effectively aligned to the sales process? How do you go about about making B2B marketing pay?
Marketing success, by definition, is making more sales. Bigger sales. Better sales. So why has there been this perennial disconnect? Maybe it can largely be attributed to a mutual failure to understand the difference between marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and sales qualified leads (SQLs).
B2B Marketing can never, and should never, promise sales conversions from its activities. Salespeople sell. It’s their job to take a lead – a defined MQL – and convert it into hard cash. And marketing? Well, its job is to provide more MQLs, better quality MQLs – MQLs that are more likely to convert, and thus, less likely to waste the sales team’s time. Simple right?
Once a business has clearly defined its value proposition, the ‘WHY people want to and then actually buy this stuff’, they then need to define ‘HOW they buy this stuff’. By this, we mean understanding the prevailing circumstances in which they buy. This will be a combination of segmentation data, sales process analysis, geography, timeline and of course a level of brand and marketing engagement. Digital and physical. (This is in effect Customer Attribution – more on that in part 2 of this series)
When you understand the WHY and the HOW of a sale – well, then you can definitively build all of your marketing, advertising and digital content into marketing campaigns (more in parts 3 & 4) that meet those WHY and HOW needs.
Here are five ways to better align your sales and marketing action to maximise the leads you generate, the sales you make and shorten the sales conversion process: making B2B marketing pay
1) Marketers – understand the sales process
B2B marketers can’t help sales and the sales team if they don’t understand how leads are developed and defined within the business. Discover where the marketing messaging and sales patter overlap, then ensure marketing has developed tools and guides to maximise these engagements. The first-hand experience is essential in building awareness of the difficulties sales face.
How does the sales team use their CRM platform? What can marketing do to ensure they add value and don’t complicate this process – CRM systems can cause a turgid experience at times! Sales enablement tools should be developed in a way that encourages all sales folk, of any digital competence, to take MQL information and convert it to a sale.
2) Define Marketing Qualified Leads for your business
Each company defines a lead differently and with varying success and, at the risk of generalising, you can guarantee that the sales team will have questioned the validity and quality of what marketing has provided at some point too.
For some teams, the moaning is more habitual than for others. But it’s crucial both sides agree on the definition of a Marketing Qualified Lead. Some may qualify a lead based on content consumption and general website interaction, while others have such an exaggerated site visit ratio that they need to go through a more linear understanding of which pieces of content were consumed in what order, and over what time period, before a value can be attributed.
No matter which bracket your company falls into, you need to use statistics to determine which leads have the highest interaction rate, and therefore a higher likely close percentage, BEFORE you hand them over to sales.
Only those with a score that both sales and marketing have agreed is worthy of SQL status, should be handled by the sales team. All others must remain MQLs and be retained by marketing for ongoing nurturing. If you do this, then both sales and marketing are held accountable for what happens to the MQLs developed.
3) Analyse, learn and refine
With historical lead creation and conversion data you can of course immediately set parameters and measures based on that data. If you haven’t, then you need to collate as much statistical information as you can from your current and new campaigns. Analyse:
• What content creates the most interest (click-throughs, views and downloads)
• Which combination of content has the most MQLs and SQLs
• Which SQLs convert to sales the quickest
• What SQLs fail to convert – is there a pattern to the content or persona?
All of the above (and more) will define the marketing you do next in terms of targeted campaigns and new content creation. It will also help define the content and conversion journeys of specific personas, as well as help you tweak your lead scoring across your audiences.
4) Train together, learn together
Marketers need to stay ahead of the game. They need to be reading, digesting and facilitating tech and theory changes with each new go-to-market channel. Sales people that can sell will always be able to sell – it’s a natural state. The key is that sales teams are given the opportunity to learn and understand new processes.
These processes must be presented as simpler and more efficient. You need to invest in joint training on how to use the automated marketing system and its benefits to sales. Above all else you must not add complexity or time-heavy process, otherwise, sales will disengage very rapidly.
5) Measurement and ROI
Establish measures that ensure both marketing and sales are accountable. When marketing in this way, it will produce more leads, and, if the process is right, they should be easier to convert into sales. The essential elements you should be tracking are:
• Volume site/content engagement (leads) vs MQL defined
• Number of MQLs vs Sales converted
• Time taken from Lead to MQL and from MQL to Sales conversion
If the conversion rates don’t change, you may discover more about your sales process than you were prepared for, but at least you’ll be armed with data to make informed changes.
These are 5 tips on how to ensure your B2B marketing is sales aligned.
In Part 2 of this series, we will look at Customer Attribution. The art of defining who is most likely to buy from you and why. Knowing this will define how you ‘market to them’ and how they should interact with your brand and sales process.
How the making B2B marketing pay blog series develops:
- Making B2B Marketing Pay: Aligning marketing to the sales process
- Customer Marketing Attribution: why they should care
- Website & content hub: how hard is it working?
- How integrated B2B marketing works: Generating demand, lead, and sales
Subscribe to receive our next instalment – Customer Marketing Attribution: why they should care? It deals with how you identify companies that are most likely to buy and design your marketing accordingly.
BREW’D Marketing: integrated B2B marketing experts based in Datchet, near Windsor, Berkshire, SL3 9ED. Delivering marketing consultancy, creative & content services, and lead generation to London, the Thames Valley, and the South East.