Part 6 of 9
There has been a major shift in how marketing is done and it is being driven by what is called buyer-centric marketing. There are two main factors behind this shift. The first is the need to keep the customer acquisition costs as low as possible. The second is a change in buyer behavior, which we will come back to.
The result is marketing taking over more and more of the sales process. In a traditional model, marketing is responsible for the first phase in the sales funnel – creating awareness and generating leads, leads that are passed along to the sales team for follow-up. Now, marketing is becoming responsible for the front-end of the sales cycle (see graphic below). The combination of buyer-centric marketing, content marketing and marketing automation takes prospects through as much of the sales process as possible, with sales getting involved only to close a deal. The Holy Grail for many companies is to have the whole process automated, but this isn’t always possible. The key is to delay human involvement as long as possible in order to minimize the cost of sales.
Buyer-centric marketing is a focus on the individual and how you get information about the benefits your solution offers to your prospects. The building blocks of this new marketing approach are:
- Start by defining personas and buying roles, which are not necessarily the same thing. A persona is typically an organizational role, such as CEO, CFO or VP of marketing. The buying role is how they are involved in the buying process, and this will vary by solution and by company. For example, in some companies that CFO is the decision-maker while in others they might be a ratifier or influence.
- Define the steps you want to take a buyer through as they educate themselves. Remember, the new buyers are more likely to be self-educating.
- Develop and provide content that gives a prospect the information they need to make an informed decision, hopefully the decision to subscribe to your solution.
In this brave new world of marketing, the objective is to somehow get to the invisible buyers, buyers that do their own research and do not respond to traditional marketing outreachs, and get relevant information into their hands that will ultimately lead them back to your website so you can engage them in some form of conversation.
The fundamental building blocks include:
- Social media campaigns
- Paid search and search engine optimization
- Content marketing
Social media campaigns
The first step is to find the so-called “digital watering holes” – the places your personas are most likely to go for information – and post useful information there. Within the social media realm, LinkedIn is usually the first place they go. It can also be Twitter, maybe Facebook, industry blogs, etc.
Ideally, develop yourself as a thought leader around relevant topics through your own blogging and publishing or by writing something other sites are willing to post. An easy way to get started is to comment and add value to blog posts from others – a simple way to create some awareness.
Search Engine Marketing
Here are some tips for optimizing your SEO/SEM campaigns:
- Use negative words to reduce unwanted visitors. For example, if someone is selling “eye glasses,” they would add “wine glasses” as negative words to avoid paying for irrelevant searches;
- Individual landing pages are key to effective content marketing (more on this in the next question), as well as helping to improve your search scores;
- Videos greatly increase conversion rates and your search scores;
- Content is king. Develop content to drive engagement through social media. Social media engagement improves your SEO results.
There are a few basic principles of effective content marketing:
- Make it useful and relevant to the target buyer. Remember, the invisible buyer is trying to solve a problem specific to them;
- This is a building process. A short blast using Twitter or LinkedIn will have limited effect. It takes time to establish thought leadership;
- Build yourself or someone in the organization as the subject matter expert. Instead of having everyone posting to LinkedIn, consider having one person as the company’s voice so you can create a critical mass of content positioning that person as a thought leader, even if the content contributions come from multiple people within your company;
- Don’t be afraid to be provocative, as long as you are reasonable. There is nothing like creating a bit of controversy to raise your profile;
- Don’t try to sell anything through the content. You are providing a service that creates interest in what you do. Let content be content and sales be sales;
- Make sure you maintain quality in everything you do. Spitting out content for the sake of content will be counter-productive.
The good news is, there is no shortage of marketing automation tools on the market to help you execute your marketing plan. In January 2014, there were 974 companies in 43 categories. But that clearly wasn’t enough, because as of March 2017, there were 4891 to choose from. And you think your market is competitive!
There are large, fully-integrated marketing automation engines such as Marketo and HubSpot, which can be great for larger companies that are making a real commitment to marketing automation, but they can be expensive and time-consuming to implement.
Just as a sampling of the almost 5,000 options, here are examples of solutions for different categories of marketing, most of which are reasonably priced:
Marketing automation (low end)
Previous blogs in this series
- Every SI should be an IP company
- Repeatable IP – strategic or opportunistic?
- Overcoming the cash flow chasm
- Managing customer acquisition costs (CAC)
- Minimizing churn
- Building the right sales organization
- Sales compensation
- Customer support
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