Updated: Jul 15
There is a famous speech in the 1992 film ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ (warning: expletives!) given by Alec Baldwin, which reflects the ‘Hero’ Sales culture that I was used to in the nineties, working, as I was for US software companies. In the film, Alec Baldwin, an old school Sales Manager threatens his ‘loser’ Sales team, accusing them of lack of effort. Sales is about 'ABC’ – Always Be Closing:
‘A-I-D-A. Attention, interest, decision, action. Attention; do I have your attention? Interest; are you interested? I know you are because it’s <**> or walk. You close or you hit the bricks. Decision; have you made your decision for <**>? And action. A-I-D-A.’
While the role of Sales in closing deals has evolved – and the culture of Glengarry Glen Ross has mainly been consigned to history- Marketing and Sales together are still primarily focused on getting buyers to take action. The idea of a ‘lead’ is that it is the sign of interest and therefore a potential buyer. A lot of the conflict historically between Sales and Marketing is over what behaviour – what actions – constitutes the definition of a ‘lead’ – and this definition is fundamental. But I want to focus on how Marketing should Always Be Moving buyers towards the point of committing to your company and placing an order.
If a buyer is not moving forwards, towards a purchase decision, then interest is stagnating and this has a major impact on conversion metrics. According to an article in Harvard Business Review in 2017, ‘Clearly, much of what makes the [buying] process so hard has nothing at all to do with suppliers and everything to do with customers themselves.’ Their solution: make it easy. In other words, you need to keep buyers engaged and give them reasons to prioritise you and overcome a natural propensity to the status quo.
This idea that ‘we want to be the kind of company that is easy to buy from’ has become a bit of a mantra. But what does it actually take? And how is Marketing translating this into measurable execution?
Campaign Design, Setup & Testing
As I have written before, marketing tactics are aimed at getting the right target audience to take the planned action. The CTA is a staple of direct marketing and core to the design of Web UX. The point being, that in a world where we all compete for attention (average attention span, 8 seconds) marketers are responsible for very quickly providing compelling reasons for visitors to engage – to take the next step. In Web UX this means minimising the number of clicks to get anywhere worthwhile; in form design it is about minimising the number of fields on a form and pre-filling and/ or progressive profiling. However, as I have explored in previous posts, visitors are most likely to take ‘the next step’ when it is clear that you have personalised their buying journey to their needs. This means they are seeing this particular offer in this particular channel at this time because it is the right next step for them. They will then engage with that offer because it makes sense to them – making it very easy to do that is then the sweetener that ensures they do not get distracted mid-action.
Setup and Testing
If a campaign design needs to be built around the customer journey and to provide a genuine and measurable step forward in the buying/ sales process, how are marketers setting it up for success?
The detailed answer to this is dependent on your MarTech stack, of course, but in general terms there needs to be a way of uniquely tracking:
Posts (e.g. paid ads)
Channels (e.g. Ad on Facebook)
Post designs (e.g. A vs B ad design on Facebook)
Offers (e.g. eBook download, webinar registration)
Clicks, Visits, Form Submits (dependent on offer and how / whether gated)
Campaigns (e.g. a series of ToF messages to a particular persona offering a particular eBook)
Leads generated (actions that mean contact engagement meets an agreed ‘lead’ threshold
MQLs, SQLs, Pipeline value/ volume, Won deal value/ volume
Other measures of value contribution
Cisco MarTech Stack for managing and tracking digital engagement
UTM codes are used to track web URLs, which can be uniquely created for a single post in a single channel. Together these unique snippets of code – data – can be collected in Google Analytics (or other similar platforms) and marketing automation platforms, like HubSpot or Zymplify, amongst others, where they can be scored, combined into agreed campaign hierarchies and passed through to Sales as a marketing qualified lead (MQL) in the CRM system (e.g. Salesforce, MS Dynamics).
The logic of how data is collected, processed, interpreted and used to drive automated actions requires a clear taxonomy and agreed strategy. This is all part of marketing operations and the enablement required to execute effective, measurable demand generation tactics. I will look at this more in my final post in this series.
Marketing-influenced Vs marketing-sourced demand
Encouraging your target customers to take - and then measuring - the ‘right action’ is predicated on there being data on how engagement with marketing activity is predictive of the level of readiness to make a purchase. This cause-and-effect relationship between marketing activity and revenue is hard to prove.
Historically, justification of investment in marketing to generate demand has been a bit of a blunt weapon: tracking how a ‘marketing sourced lead’ (assuming an agreed definition of what a lead is) has become a customer order. Typically the attribution of the lead source is the original campaign activity, or the one immediately prior to an MQL being created for Sales– although the order may come maybe 3 -12 months later! As a result, there is now a tendency for marketing to consider all of the touch-points with the target customer, from initial source right through to the order, as a measure of marketing’s influence. This is particularly popular in ABM, where there are far fewer targets to source but much greater customer lifetime value in converting each target to a customer. However, the ease of measurement does not diminish and for marketers charged with optimising digital advertising spend, for example, the metrics for success still need to be clear and agreed.
The Call-To-Action (CTA) is the final piece of the marketing armoury in what I have contended is marketing's primary goal: to ‘get the right message to the right person at the right time in the right channel to take the right action to drive the required outcome’. This post should therefore be read in conjunction with the others in the series, as no single element can be considered without all of the others and that takes a well-informed marketing strategy. A data-driven approach, which sets out what outcomes marketing is seeking to achieve, combined with appropriate metrics and attribution framework will ensure that there is clear evidence of the value add of marketing investments.
This series has been a rallying cry for a return to the basics of strategy and urging us all not to get hung up on the latest tactical shiny new things. In B2B, we live in a world that requires an agile, performance-driven approach to the economic realities of competing for eyeballs and clicks in a global economy. Data – and real-time interpretation of its meaning, to drive automated actions – can be the difference between success and failure. Between hyper-growth and mediocrity. Marketing needs to respond to these challenges by showing the business how it is the engine of growth.
In my final post on B2B strategy I will be looking at what is needed to enable this agility, this data-driven insight, this ability to learn quickly, fail fast and scale sales and marketing operations to deliver growth.
This is blog is part of a series on the role of B2B marketing strategy in performance marketing.
The first focuses on the need for B2B marketing strategy. The second article focuses on the role of brand strategy and a company’s value proposition. The third considers how we take this offer to market through messaging and personas and in the fourth, I look at identifying our market through segmentation and content strategy. Five and six look at how marketing is aligned with the B2B Sales funnel in generating demand and seven considers our channel strategy to reach buyers. This post has considered how to generate the intended action from target buyers.