‘Buying is a burden’ according to Philippe Marnier of Salesforce. He made the comment when keynoting an Aberdeen Group event in the US last year. It’s quite true. While shopping may serve as therapy in the consumer realm, making an enterprise purchase of any magnitude can be a real headache.
Alleviating this burden should be the goal of every B2B sales and marketing professional. When organisations help people to buy, rather than selling to them, it changes the dynamic of the buyer/seller relationship for the better.
People making significant purchases such as enterprise level IT solutions are faced with multiple, complex decisions. The investment must address existing business needs, while having the flexibility to adapt to evolving requirements. Initial outlay must be stacked up against ongoing savings. Logistics of delivery, installation and integration have to be considered. And areas such as employee training and change management should be factored in too.
In many cases, expert guidance is needed to ensure these decisions are purposeful and well-informed. This represents an excellent opportunity for marketing departments to create and deploy meaningful content assets that address prerequisites encountered during the buyer journey. When marketers and sellers work together to achieve this, they can become trusted advisers, potentially carving out a powerful new positioning for the brand.
Use data to grease the wheels…
Data has an important role to play here. For one thing, it enables buyer needs to be anticipated so communications can be aligned accordingly. That might manifest itself in the themes covered by content and the depth, breadth and style of individual assets as well as how and when they are used to engage with buyers. It also enables sales and marketing teams to work in synergy, with the shared end goal of helping the buyer. This can underpin an effective, joined-up approach which makes a compelling connection between data insight, content marketing and revenue generation.
Marnier went on to stress that data should be used to reduce friction and remove guesswork from the buying and selling process. Much has been written about the potential value of insights gleaned from social sources such as LinkedIn. Such insights can influence both strategic and tactical decisions surrounding content development. However, data management processes need to optimised from the ground up before unstructured data can be embraced on a large scale. And inaccurate, out-of-date records along with data silos are still a challenge for many organisations.
…but get your house in order first
It’s not just the volume of data, but the number of sources and the mixture of structured and unstructured information that can cause problems. With B2B marketers using up to eight channels to capture details about buyer behaviour and sentiment, things can get messy.
Data can unlock powerful insights for sophisticated B2B marketing. But to leverage this data, organisations need to invest in the technologies and people to manage it. Otherwise, it is impossible to ensure accuracy and difficult for marketers to the access data, let alone ask it meaningful questions.
Smart organisations that find ways to ease the burden of data management will be in a stronger position to ease the burden of buying. What’s more, they’ll be able to micro-optimise sales and marketing tactics and clearly track the effectiveness of different approaches. This in turn can power a ‘continual improvement’ approach where the links between marketing and revenue generation become stronger over time. B2B brands need to stop selling and focus on becoming trusted partners instead.