What is B2B Marketing Process? 5 Processes You Need to Know

As someone who has been intimate with digital and marketing operations for over 10 years, I find myself talking a lot about process, workflow, data and the like. It seems familiar territory if you have worked in the information technology industry for any length of time, particularly in software, as we make a living automating process for our customers.

But, as we used to say, ‘process’ is a dirty word for many, even though it is shorthand for ‘how we do things around here’. It is certainly not something we think a whole lot about, until a business change prompts us to recognise that we need to be more explicit about what we do and how we do it.

To be successful in a digital first marketplace, it is important to spend some time on understanding why explicit business process definition has to be second nature to marketers and in particular, which processes are significant in marketing performance.

BPM, BPO and RPA: A Brief History

My early introduction to business process concepts at BT was driven by marketing bespoke software, based on structured development methodologies like Information Engineering and being taken through ISO9000 quality certification which focuses on and audits process.

The Business Process Management (BPM) discipline was adopted by IT professionals, following on from early BPR initiatives that resulted directly from introducing information processing software.

Business process management (BPM) is a discipline that uses various methods to discover, model, analyze, measure, improve and optimize business processes. A business process coordinates the behavior of people, systems, information and things to produce business outcomes in support of a business strategy. Gartner

Definition and management of the processes surrounding a company’s relationship with its customers, including its automation, eventually followed manufacturing, logistics, order-to-cash and other enterprise processes to become packaged ERP systems. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and the Marketing Automation Platform (MAP) are the best-known systems automating relationships that touch customers, or target customers. But most of marketing’s touch-points don’t start or end in these systems.

Now, in our AI/ robotic-obsessed era, more and more processes are being automated and optimized in the name of productivity (cost-savings) by robots. RPA is taking over the process automation world.

Sales and Marketing can not escape. Our employers and our customers are driven by Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that obsess about reducing costs - and process efficiency means automation. Process innovation can drive growth.

So What Does This All Have to do with Marketing?

As large parts of the buyer’s journey have moved online, and engagement with vendor salespeople is left later in the buying cycle, marketing is expected to take a greater share of the responsibility for identifying engaged buyers and qualifying their readiness for sales contact.

This is a reflection of the process changes happening in the buyer landscape and the corresponding changes that B2B marketing need to make, both to read and interpret the digital body language of buyers, but also to respond in real time with content and messaging appropriate to their needs. Marketing needs to provide customers with a great experience and at the same time ensure leads which are sales ready are getting through to Sales in a timely manner with all of the appropriate information included.

How Marketing supports these differing needs, perhaps on a global scale, with multiple languages, localised variants on what is a sales-ready lead and with differently performing engagement content and channels, is complex. To do this consistently, so that data is captured and integrated, to complete a picture that can drive the appropriate action, is complex. How to do it requires internal cross-functional agreement; documentation and consistent deployment/ training. These agreements about ‘how we work’ will have components that need to be automated, analysed, reported on and optimised.

This is all about the process of B2B marketing in a digital economy.

5 Processes for Marketing to Obsess About

So now we have established that, in order to scale marketing activities in a way that can be optimised and changed in response to market dynamics or new insights, while maintaining a consistent customer experience and brand reputation, we need clear processes.

Of course, some processes are more important than others – particularly those that touch the customer experience and drive net promoter score (NPS) performance for the company and those that significantly impact marketing’s KPIs. The Top 5 for B2B marketing are:

  1. Lead-to-Revenue Marketing Process

  2. Marketing Planning Process

  3. Campaign Creation and Build

  4. Attribution

  5. Customer Experience Management

Lead-to-Revenue Marketing (L2RM)

According to Forrester, companies that have implemented a managed lead-to-revenue marketing (L2RM) process are showing 30% better performance in marketing contribution to pipeline and revenue and 50% higher revenue growth.

Lead-to-revenue processes and revenue operations functions, which report funnel performance against the end-to-end sales and marketing engagement cycle have matured over recent years as companies have worked on sales and marketing collaboration, although as my recent post discusses, there is still some way to go as teams fall back into familiar silos. However, where companies have established formalized sales & marketing operations teams, governance is much better.

The fundamentals of sales and marketing alignment that lead to establishing clear definitions of who does what in the L2RM process accountability have to be supported by workflow in the systems of record (CRM, ERP) that reinforces the agreed actions, and capture data that can be reported. This is often where system usability and the time it takes for ‘administration’ of the process become stumbling blocks. Change can take time and project scope should be limited to make time for training and for users to become familiar and accepting of the need for consistency.

Marketing Planning

Marketing planning has always been the poor cousin of marketing doing! And lack of planning is often excused by pointing to the speed of change in the market and the need to stay ‘agile’.

But executing marketing without both a short term plan and a long term strategy is like driving a car without either a planned destination or a map: sure, you’re going to get somewhere, but how do you know when you’ve arrived and what did you learn that will allow you to take some shortcuts on the next trip?

I have posted about planning here and highlighted the need for plans to be clearly associated with driving measurable outcomes. But the process of planning is just as important to get you where you want to go, and it of course starts with knowing where you are in relation to your intended destination. While it may be difficult to forecast the exact timing of a pandemic, for example, if it is a scenario that is likely and will impact your plans, then it needs to be considered along with all other environmental factors (political, social, technological etc) as well as those related to the markets we serve and any internal constraints.

For marketing, the annual planning process, which drives budget and resource allocation needs to not only encompass achievement of revenue goals, but also brand ambitions, ABM initiatives, customer retention, channel and influencer programmes and so on. The priorities will be driven by the business strategy and Sales focus, but Marketing needs to bring the voice of the customer and may need to champion investments that span fiscal years and for which ROI is less easy to show. This is a key role for the CMO.

Campaign Creation and Build

Campaign build should not commence before the above strategic marketing planning process has taken place. It should be supported by a clear L2RM process that identifies clearly how demand generation campaign outcomes will be managed. Non-demand campaigns will have a different set of KPIs that relate to SMART campaign objectives.

The SiriusDecisions framework is a valuable way of looking at the process of defining and creating campaigns that deliver against the marketing goals. It defines a process that identifies the needed participants, the tasks and the deliverables from each stage. For global companies seeking to roll-out international campaigns with central build and localised components (not just language) the coordination of the campaign definition, targeting and execution processes are critical to successful delivery. A global demand centre is often deployed, sometimes incorporating a project management office (PMO) to support the coordination of these activities as well as allocation of build components to internal and external centres of excellence.