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Are Your Marketing and Sales Systems Broken?

Everything Is Broken

Everything Is Broken (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For many in marketing and sales, the march continues towards the attempt to develop tactical plans that will connect them to buyers.  We have seen many variations over the past two as these attempts are made.  Whether they relate to demand generation, content marketing, sales enablement, and more, efforts are being made to make adaptations to changing buying behaviors.

After two or three years, there is still much frustration that some of these new tactics are not working.  Senior executives are scratching their heads and wondering where the ROI is on some of these new tactics.    The problem may lie in the inert marketing and sales systems that are in place.  By systems, I do not refer to technology.  Technology enables systems and processes.  What I am specifically referring to is that companies have built-in systems and processes that have been in existence for years and may not have undergone a serious overhaul in many years.  Simply put – in today’s connected buyer world company marketing and sales systems can be broken and out of alignment with buyers.

Buyer Designed Systems

B2B companies today will need to evaluate whether they have systems and processes that are buyer designed.  If they are not designed with the buyer in mind, then getting good results from whatever systems or processes you have in place will be a difficult mountain to climb.  This especially true for larger organizations where layers upon layers of systems and processes have been designed over the past two decades – and they can be as thick as the United States tax code.

In marketing and sales, various systems and processes have been built around how to market and sell to the customer and prospective buyer.  When we live in a frantic chaotic world, the annual budgeting process unfortunately can become routine and thoroughly evaluating the results of in-placed systems and processes can be overlooked.  Sales systems, which have been put into place several years ago and with considerable investment, may no longer be aligned with the buyers of today.  Marketing systems and processes may be slow in transitioning to be more aligned with new buyer behaviors associated with search and content.

Here’s what happens when strategies and systems as well as processes are out of alignment themselves.  There is a struggle to execute.  When there is a struggle to execute, teams generally will fall back to the way things have always been done.  And, when you go back to the way things have always been done, then they will be out of alignment with buyers.

Based on Knowledge of the Buyer

The key to aligning newer marketing and sales strategies with your systems and processes is buyer knowledge.  Without it, the connection between them will not be evident.  With true buyer research, the glaring holes in systems and processes get shined on with a bright light.  For example, many a frustrated sales rep will personally walk a buyer through systems and processes to close a deal – out of fear that the company’s own systems and processes will cause a deal to go awry.  And many a frustrated buyer has abandoned a buying process and decision with a company out of frustration from too many hurdles to jump before they can get the information they want.

The design of systems today within companies will need to revolve around the buyer.  What’s interesting in this area today relating to strategy, tactics, and systems is that companies struggle to get the right frame of reference.  Most organizations continue to have the frame of reference that even with new strategies in place – the focus is still on marketing or selling to the buyer.  The buyers of today are looking for a connection with them - not seeking a connection to them.

Do you know enough about your buyers to discern the difference between strategies and systems designed to do activities to the buyer versus with the buyer?  Understanding this critical difference today in designing system and processes that allow you to be with the buyer can put you in alignment with buyers – and ahead of competitors.

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Grow SMB Revenues With Buyer-Based Marketing

This is part 3 of a series on the challenge of targeting SMB markets and how the use of buyer-based modeling and buyer-based marketing help organizations to grow their SMB customer base. 

Buyer Persona © All Rights Reserved Cristian Cardenas

The sheer size of the SMB makes for a daunting task for any organization intent on marketing to the SMB segment.  When you consider some Fortune 1000 or Global 2000 organizations can have in the 10’s or 100’s of thousands of companies in their customer bases, the expression of zeroing in on your target buyer can sound near impossible.  It is a dilemma however that cannot be ignored.  The U.S. Small business Administration estimates that the SMB segment accounts for better than 98% of all businesses in the United States.

In the previous article in this series, How To Get To Know The New SMB Buyer, I touched upon the means to get to know the SMB buyer.  Marketing to the SMB segment and buyers should first start with visiting the segmentation issue a little deeper.  There have been many means tried for SMB segmentation whether it is by size, type, vertical, products, solutions, and etc.  To some degree, they have helped to manage the challenge of bringing a tighter focus to the SMB segment and its’ sub-market segments.  Analytics of your SMB customer database is like fighting numbers with numbers – you can contain the data but without behavioral insight – you will not be able to get inside them.  The call to action now is for organizations to bring more science and evolution to the challenge.  Why?  Because buyers in general have changed so rapidly in the last three years alone that gaining a competitive edge has become much more complex.

Getting Descriptive

Going beyond conventional methods of segmenting the SMB customer base means getting more descriptive about how SMB buyers behave and how goals drive their behaviors.  This includes getting a good sense about their Buyergraphics – their attitudes, perceptions, values, information needs, and more.  The attempt here is to answer some tough questions that help to bring more focus to an SMB strategy:

Who are our best customers in the SMB segments and why?

In what SMB sub-market segments are our best customers?

Who are our best prospects and in which SMB sub-market segment are they?

What are the best means of engaging our best SMB customers and best SMB prospects?

Descriptive buyer modeling helps you to get answers to these questions and gives you insight into the data as well.  In the previous article I stressed the importance of buyer modeling to help get to know your SMB buyers.  Modeling buyers and portraying them via buyer personas and scenarios helps you get to the first two questions mentioned.  To help round out the SMB buyer picture, learning their attitudes towards your product, service, or technology and how these attitudes drive information needs help to get deeply descriptive.  There are three specific buyer modeling efforts that can help shed light on the attitudes and goals driving SMB buyer behavior and help inform buyer-based marketing strategies:

Buyer Mental Models: collecting a picture of SMB buyer attitudes, perceptions, and goals that influence buying decisions can be a descriptive means for segmenting as well as buyer-based communicating.  For example if your product technology is getting high marks for user-friendliness and there is strong attitudinal resistance to perceived complex technology in 3 out 5 identified sub-markets, then  creating buyer-based marketing strategies around this mental model is one way of segmenting.

Buyer Content Models: identifying the information needs and goals of buyers today extends well beyond just the concept of content marketing.  With the rise of SMB sub-market segments engaging not only in new technologies but forming new ecosystem, the information needs of SMB buyers are vastly different and changing rapidly.  Carrying the above example further, the information needs of the 3 sub-markets may vary differently in context and how information is shared amongst both suppliers and partners.  More and more, organizations will need to think context-based marketing and context-based selling as opposed to just content-based marketing.  While this will apply to all types of businesses, I believe this will be especially true for the SMB markets.

Buyer Experience Models: how SMB buyers view, perceive, and expect experience is undergoing transformative gyrations.  The way SMB buyers experience inbound marketing and other newer technology-based marketing and sales is certain to be different than larger enterprises.  There are many more what I call Buyer Moment of Truth in SMB that are frankly invisible to marketers and sellers today.  Not identifying where these moments of truth are can be a significant disadvantage in laying out both inbound and outbound marketing and sales strategies.  Understanding experiences is important since they are instrumental in shaping attitudes, perceptions, and perceived values.  For the examples mentioned, previous experiences with technology not yet cleared of bugs may have created entrenched resistance to both new and complex.  Reshaping thinking around experience can then become an important strategy.

Modeling SMB buyers to a deeper level and around the three modeling efforts mentioned gets organizations closer to a true buyer-based marketing effort.  In addition, it gives more robust ability to segment SMB by behavior and context.  Buyer-based marketing can be most effective when it addresses how buyers behave and understanding the context of why they make purchase decisions.

Informed with behavioral buyergraphics that hone in on buyer behaviors and how they are influenced by mental models, information needs, and experience can be a powerful way to resonate with SMB buyers.  Getting at the heart of their contextual environments, which will vary by sub-market segments, gives the insight needed to develop specific buyer-based marketing strategies that defies one-size fits all.   When it comes to the dilemma of how to make sense of thousands of SMB customers and prospects, taking these steps eliminates wasteful guessing and pinpoints buyer-based marketing at the right buyer, the right sub-market, the right context, and the right time.

Next Up: Connect With SMB Buyer Through Buyer-Based Selling

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4 Ways the Power of Buyer Choice Will Transform Business Marketing

Higher Grade Product Design Concept Models

Higher Grade Product Design Concept Models (Photo credit: Jordanhill School D&T Dept)

This is part 5 and final article of a limited series on why buyer choice modeling is the new view B2B Business must adopt to improve revenue performance and develop long lasting relationships with buyers. 

How buyers make choices today, in large part driven by empowering new technologies, will transform how B2B businesses will view buyers as well as redefine what is meant by business marketing.  The rigid funnel will no longer serve as a workable means of communicating unique views of buyers and their buying behaviors.  This not to say that buyer processes, stages, and steps are no longer relevant but to highlight that buyers today no longer make choices neatly in the paradigm of the funnel.  A rigid funnel view, whether it is drawn up horizontal or vertical, cannot provide the orbital view of choices being made continuously.

There are four ways that new buyer choice dynamics will transform the practice of business marketing and alter the view of what practices are relevant:

Predictive Buyer Modeling And Intelligence

As we covered, many B2B businesses are wrestling with the unknown and the invisible.  B2B buyers are remaining invisible in their behaviors associated with exploring as well as establishing new networks of participants in decision-making.  There will be a rise in the use of buyer modeling techniques as well as integrating the use of buyer intelligence, predictive analytics, and the illuminating aspects of predictive buyer modeling.  The changes underway in buyer behavior will cause B2B business marketing to extend well beyond conventional buyer profiling as well as simplistic buyer persona creating for demand generation.

Reorient From Business Marketing Teams to Buyer Driven Marketing Teams

Traditional business marketing has been historically put together teams that are seller driven and narrowly funnel focused.  The single buyer model view narrowly shared across all channels.  Leaders in B2B marketing and sales will soon have to migrate towards buyer segment teams that are focused on activities that are focused on the buyer’s entire brand and buyer experience.  We are beginning to see leading organizations, such as GE, move towards aligning their organizations to industry buyer segment teams focused on deeper understanding and alignment with buyers.

Create Orbital Match With Buyers

B2B is becoming more complex with every passing month.  When informed with deep buyer intelligence, business marketing can begin to align to the continuous orbital loop of what confronts buyers and how they make choices.  The new role of business marketing is to pull buyers into an orbital loop that mirrors their own and enables choices that are buyer driven.  The new business marketing strategy is to create the gravitational pull that buyers feel and are drawn to because it aligns with their own orbital loops.  Conversely, how can your organization get close to the buyer’s own gravitational pull and be drawn into their orbital loop?  This is a departure from the seller driven and narrow funnel view of push messaging.  Another way of positioning this concept in simple terms is this: either your B2B business becomes part of the orbital loop or you can watch it from afar with a telescope – and be out of the loop.

Total Brand and Buyer Experience

Business marketing today can take a strong leadership role in organizations by transforming itself to an orientation around the buyer.  Historically, in the seller driven and narrow funnel view world, business marketing has been positioned as the conveyers of getting information in front of buyers.  Producing material that buyers could read, provide messaging to sales, and putting together promotional programs with the aim to get sellers to sell harder.  My intuitive guess is that in the world of business marketing, this positioning still exists in a large majority of B2B organizations – perhaps trapped within the label of marketing communications.  To influence corporate strategy and decision-making, business marketing must now become the conveyors of buyer intelligence and influencing organizations to orient around the buyer.  Conveying that what counts is the total brand and buyer experience and that business marketing’s role is to help create these experiences for buyers.

Business marketing today, by making these four ways the cornerstone of transformation, can enhance their leadership role in organizations.  Orienting businesses around the understanding of buyer choices being made in a new complex buyer driven world.  This is no easy challenge yet one that business marketing must take up.  It must demonstrate that it understands buyers deeply and that a designed focus on the total brand and buyer experience is the new business marketing strategy.  It is time for business marketing to come out of the literature closet and lead.

(This 5 part series has been compiled into an eBook entitled, A Matter of Choice: How B2B Buyers Choose in Today’s Complex Markets, to make for easy reading and sharing.  Click on the hyperlinked title to receive.)

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3 Ways To Connect With Today’s B2B Buyers

Pamban Bridge ~ Connecting Rameshwaram Island
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This is part 4 of a limited series on why buyer choice modeling is the new view B2B Business must adopt to improve revenue performance and develop long lasting relationships with buyers.

Connecting with today’s B2B buyers is on the minds of most CEO’s and their teams today.  Not too long ago, reaching and connecting with B2B buyers was a straight forward proposition.  Depending on surveys from such sources as IDC, IDG Connect, DemandGen Report, Forrester, and more, we know that buyers are remaining invisible to B2B businesses and spend only a quarter of their time talking directly to sales when making purchase decisions.  The idea of connecting to B2B buyers has gone from straight forward to major league complex.

There are plenty of debates regarding the best tactical means to connect with B2B buyers.  The effectiveness of these tactical means, as reported by once again the likes of IDC and etc., show that many B2B leaders believe these tactical efforts such as content marketing and marketing automation may only be effective about a quarter of the time.  It does represent a big gap and it begs for a rephrasing of the challenge – this a big disconnect with B2B buyers.  Enough to keep any sane B2B CEO and their senior management team scrambling for answers.  Part 1 and part 2 of this series pointed out that conventional funnel thinking is woefully inadequate in today’s B2B buyer landscape and is limited in the ability to address new and evolving complexities.

Determining new strategies as well as tactics that can meet the challenge of connecting with today’s B2B buyers revolve around understanding new buyer psychology and dynamics that are in a state of continuous evolution.  B2B businesses can do three things to help grasp the connection issue and make plans that close the gap:

Buyer Modeling To Understand Buyer Choices and Scenarios

Business executives today are using the concepts of buyer modeling to understand as well as visually illuminate buyer choice.   Buyer modeling incorporates the elements of attitudes, beliefs, values, goals, perceptions, needs, and motivations.  By modeling buyers, buying scenarios, buyer experience, and decision journeys, B2B executives can then map strategy as well as tactical marketing and sales activities that enable them to connect with B2B buyers on a relational level.  Buyer modeling is based on qualitative research that addresses choices being made versus inadequate interviewing that is done in the context of the funnel.

Focus On The Total Brand and Buyer Experience

B2B businesses are learning how to think outside the context of the funnel and how to encompass the total view of the brand and buyer experience.  The invisibility of buyers who are in explore and network mode of the buyer choice model makes it an imperative for B2B businesses to better understand how different buyers interact with different channels that create impressionable brand and buyer experience.  The emphasis here is on identifying critical Buyer Moment of Truth™ impression points that contribute to the overall brand and buyer experience.  For example, does the web channel brand and buyer experience stay true to form when buyers interact with either the social media, sales, resellers, partner, or service channels?  HP, for instance, has a strong ecosystem of reseller and partner channels where the brand and buyer experience has many potential pitfalls and has several challenging Buyer Moment of Truth handoff points that can make or break their involvement.  B2B leaders today can conduct buyer experience mapping that identifies critical Buyer Moment of Truth and ensure that the brand and buyer experience stays true to form throughout.

Descriptive Buyer Segmentation Based on Buying Behavior and Opportunity

By integrating the benefits of predictive analytics with that of predictive buyer modeling, B2B leaders are gaining smarts on taking segmentation to a new level.  With the use of visually illuminating B2B Buyergraphics, buyers can be segmented descriptively by explore and buying behavior and also by modeling buying scenarios that identify where the organization can reach a “best fit” level with buyers.  This can be especially useful in industries where there is a strong company or account focus as well as complex buying scenarios that involve lengthy buying cycles.  Descriptive means of segmentation helps to illuminate the many elements related to choice, needs, goals, attitudes, behaviors, values, and experience.  This approach enables both marketing and sales to focus on resonating with buyer segments that have similar goals and buying behaviors where knowledge in doing so is dynamic and enriched with each company or account interaction.  In essence, allowing B2B businesses to build strong connections with B2B buyers in buyer segments that have higher winning percentages.

When B2B leaders can do these three things, they can be better informed on how to guide the overall trajectory of their organization.  Their focus is on identifying the buyers and buyer segments that they can best establish a connection within the context of understanding choices being made.  More importantly, they can learn how to connect with B2B buyers today in ways that resonates and invites participation into the buyer driven world of goals, challenges, issues, uncertainties, and growth objectives that orbit them continuously.

Next up: Transforming B2B Business

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How B2B Leaders Respond to the Psychology of Buyer Choice

© All Rights Reserved Kenny Madden

This is part 3 of a limited series on why buyer choice modeling is the new view B2B Business must adopt to improve revenue performance and develop long lasting relationships with buyers. 

When it comes to understanding the psychology of the buyer, much has been done in the world of B2C to get inside the mind of consumers to understand buying choices and preferences.  For B2B, it has been harder to translate B2C research dynamics into ways that would make the psychology of B2B buyers more readily understood.  However, what we do know is that there is an increasing consumerization effect happening in B2B buying whereby B2B buyers have the same desires for more experiential purchasing as opposed to a heavy emphasis on sterile transactions.

In part 2 of this series, I discussed the Buyer Orbit and the elements of the Buyer Choice Model.  Each of these now filled with more psychological aspects related to why B2B buyers buy.  This comes with many implications for B2B leaders to not only understand new buyer psychology but to also shift business models, operations, strategies, and interactions that transforms the way they connect with B2B buyers.  In part 3, let us look at how B2B leaders are responding to new buyer psychology in relations to the elements of the buyer choice model.

Psychology of Buyer Choice

Understanding buyer choice has many implications for B2B strategies and tactics – whether they are focused on demand generation, content marketing, or selling approaches.  Addressing new buyer psychology and buyer choice paradigms, within elements of buyer choice modeling, can be transformational:

Explore

With more and more buyers mapping out exploration due to the proliferation of content and information channels, a side effect of B2B businesses scrambling to be noticed in the 50% to 70% window of buyers remaining anonymous, B2B businesses are considering the implications of buyers taking deliberate action to map out their exploration.

What this means: predicting and modeling how buyers map and begin their exploring as well as what forms of navigation they usually take specific to their industry.

How to respond: devote more resources to qualitative investigative means, such as contextual interviewing and ethnographic research, to uncover how buyers begin their efforts to explore and how they are dealing with content proliferation.

Network

As elaborated upon recently, the single buyer model is no longer sufficient and more and more B2B buyers operate from the new buying model of working within ecosystems and relying on network participation.  Codependency is here to stay and B2B businesses must adapt.

What this means: reexamine how buyers are viewed internally and what forms of outmoded approaches may be resulting in missed opportunities.

How to respond: use various forms of B2B buyer research and begin working with buyers to understand important ecosystem and network drivers for their business and industries.  Incorporate important ecosystem views into strategy and organizational infrastructure.

Decide

The art and science of decision-making is becoming more complex each year.  An increasing number of variables are being introduced into decision-making such as globalization, uncertainty, ecosystem considerations, and more – shifting how buying is taking place.

What this means: how buyers are buying today is shifting dramatically and B2B businesses need to understand the new rules of decision-making, in addition to the buyer decision journey, that are being implemented for purchase decisions.

How to respond: shift internal focus to understanding new rules affecting decision-making, acquired through the mix of analytics and qualitative insight, and support how buyers are making purchase decisions.

Buy

Buying today, as mentioned in part 2, is a higher stakes game for many businesses today.  The margin for costly mistakes is the slimmest in decades.  The extent of poor choices can have disastrous effect on many aspects of a business.  Understanding high stakes motivations enables a focus on why B2B buyers buy.

What this means:  B2B leaders must not confuse how buyers buy with why buyers buy.  The focus here is on understanding the new buyer psychology in terms of their collective attitudes, goals, beliefs, perceptions, and drivers.  This new collection of mental models are changing each time new variables, such as new technologies, are introduced.

How to respond: getting an understanding of buyer mental models through qualitative research efforts will become more crucial each year as buyer psychology continues to shift.

Relate

With higher stakes involved in decision-making and purchases today, B2B buyers seek more assurances post-purchase than ever before.  Unlike the emphasis on engagement in B2C post-purchase, the need for deeper ties relationally is affecting long-term loyalty.

What this means: shifting out of funnel thinking and viewing the entire buyer experience cycle is a new rule of B2B thinking today.

How to respond: post-purchase support and talent can no longer be an after-thought of organizational planning but be seen as the gateway to being included in newly formed ecosystems and networks by buyers.

What we are witnessing today is a marked shift from funnel-thinking to that of focusing on the total buyer experience that does not fit neatly into stages or step approach thinking.  The new buyer psychology compels B2B businesses today to make the buyer the centerpiece of strategy and respond to the continuous loops of what confronts them (the buyer orbit) and the choices (buyer choice model) they must make.

Next up: Impact on Marketing and Sales

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Revenue Growth by Choice and The Buyer Orbit

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This is part 2 of a limited series on why buyer choice modeling is the new view B2B Business must adopt to improve revenue performance and develop long lasting relationships with buyers. 

Growth is getting harder and harder to come by.  With this comes the realization that some of the embedded thinking about how to reach and market to buyers are not working well.  In part 1 of this series we looked at how the funnel is facing a slow death and the limitations of so called funnel thinking.  We are entering a new era of the buyer.  Buyer behaviors are shifting yet we know only a fraction about this shift.  One emerging insight is that of buyer choice.  Simply stated, buyers are making multiple choices prior to as well as well after buying decisions.

Why It Is Important to Understand Buyer Choice

Buyers Have Many Options.  The floodgates have opened on channels, social media, old media, the Internet, and countless other ways to interact, explore, retrieve, and digest information in this new era of the buyer.  With countless options available, buyers are making choices on where to start their exploring.

The Buyer At The Center Of Strategy, Marketing, And Sales.  Conventional funnel thinking has a hard time doing this.  A better way of stating this is that conventional strategy, marketing, and sales decisions are funneled through an old paradigm of the buyer where marketing and sales held the information cards – cards used to target, sell, and persuade buyers.  Today, buyers make the choice on which information cards they decide to deal.  B2B leaders today must find ways to focus strategy on the buyer, the choices they make, and the experiences they have with their organizations.

Experience Determines Choice.  A while back, I made a choice to attend a Broadway musical – of which I am a big fan.  The pre-show experience and excitement was plenty of fun with a great dinner in New York.  The musical started and about 20 minutes into the musical the dread began to overcome me.  I knew this musical production was going to be – dreadful.  We made the choice to leave at intermission and the choice didn’t ruin the entire experience of the evening but it sure changed it.  We chose to find a jazz club and had a great time which meant cancelling out the plans we had after the show.  Buyers today are taking experience cues well before the buyer decision journey and well after.  The buyer experience cues they take-in alter their thinking about the choices they make.  And they could be choices about whether to continue having an experience with your organizations – or – find another.

Understanding Buyer Choice Helps You To Make The Right Choices Available

© All rights Reserved Buyerology

Buyer choice anchors five choice elements that can be thought of as continuously orbiting buyers today.  A fundamental shift is happening here.  In the conventional DNA of funnel thinking, we are accustomed to thinking that involves phases or steps.  One phase ends and another phase begin.  What I propose is something we can call the Buyer Orbit.  This is meant to shift the thinking towards recognizing that buyers are continuously addressing goals, challenges, issues, uncertainty, and growth that are in a continuous orbital loop.  This applies to buyer choice:

© All Rights Reserved Buyerology

Explore.  As mentioned in part 1, funnel thinking usually started with attempts to make buyers aware of a product or solution.  It is still rooted in the thinking of flashing attention-getting means before buyer’s eyes as well as push messaging outwards in the hopes of making buyers aware.  Today, buyers are mapping out deliberate exploration prompted by the orbital loop of the goals and etc. that orbit them.  Confronted with many choices, buyers are taking time to map out where to explore, how to explore, and etc.

Network.  As buyers make progression towards less of a single buyer model to that of a world that includes ecosystems and open networks, buyers are making choices to interact with networks and different ecosystem players to collaborate on addressing the issues orbiting them.

Decide.  The way buyers decide today is becoming increasingly complex.   Choices are being made on such things as the rules for deciding, who is included, checking dependencies, and assessing impact.  Buyers today no longer make decisions in a vacuum.

Buy.  The actual buy choice has become a higher stakes game in the B2B world.  Not only are the rules for deciding more complex, but there are more dependencies related to buying and potential impact as well.  The experience element here is now more critical than ever because of the high stakes.  Making the wrong choice, for example, on a software platform designed to measure quality of manufactured parts could have drastic affects downstream with OEMs and distribution.

Relate.  The word – relate – has more applicability in a B2B context than say engage for example.  The higher stakes involved means buyers needs an organization that can relate to the high stakes and a relational bond is being formed.  In the example mentioned above, there may be many discussions before and after the buy choice to ensure that the software platform meets an intended goal.  The ability for B2B companies to provide relational choices and experiences becomes an important factor.  Does the company provide relational choices whether they are face-to-face, telephone, or complex networking technology that involves exchanging design ideas and specifications?

The new era of the buyer is resulting in a paradigm shift on what is required thinking about the buyer today.  Letting go of funnel thinking is no easy task – especially when you strip away the hyperbole and promotion that can surround strategy, it is still very much about the funnel.  Buyers today have many elements related to growth, goals, and uncertainty orbiting their world.  Making choices as this orbital loop continuously impacts their world is changing the very nature of buyer behavior today.  These changes are rocket propelled by a new world of hyper-connectivity and hyper-competition.

Next up: The Buyerology of the Buyer

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Slow Death of the Funnel: Why Buyer Choice Matters to Revenue

IT Buying Process © All rights reserved by Kenny Madden

This is part 1 of a limited series on why buyer choice modeling is the new view B2B Business must adopt to improve revenue performance and develop long lasting relationships with buyers. 

Finding the keys that unlock improving revenue performance and achieving growth is becoming harder and harder as we go from a single buyer model to that of more interdependency among ecosystems and networks by B2B buyers.  B2B marketing and sales is still predominantly tethered to traditional ideas, approaches, and systems that are being dragged into the modern era.  While we have seen modifications, the idea of the traditional funnel is still at the core of many B2B organizations today.  It matters little whether you keep it vertical or flip it sideways and make it horizontal – it is still suggesting a funnel that winnows down opportunities down to a “buy” decision.

As the modern era rages on with increasing speed where the Internet and Social Technologies are converging into new forms, the oversimplification of the funnel becomes more and more apparent.  Simply put, buyers just don’t act or behave in that way anymore.  Evidence suggesting that buyers are behaving well out of the norm of our conventional views of the funnel as well as the buying process is abundant from surveys.  These behaviors cannot be represented in the view of a funnel.  DemandGen, for example, reported that B2B buyers don’t talk to a sales rep until they’ve conducted independent research 77% of the time.  There are plenty of surveys around showing buyers acting and behaving differently – yet – the willingness to snap the tether cord of the funnel doesn’t appear readily apparent.  It does beg the question of: what is going on?

I believe that is still an open question without an answer.  We are about to see an uptick in Big Data being touted as the next Big Thing.  Why?  To figure out what’s going on.  My thinking is that if this Big Data explosion is designed to tell us what’s going on within the confines of the funnel – then B2B organizations can find themselves in the untenable position of explaining why Big Data is not telling them anything.  Here’s why: we will learn a lot about what buyers purchase and we will learn a lot about how they are purchasing – perhaps.  What is missing is the most important question of all – why.  And there are two very important components to the why question:

First, why are they buying and second, why are they making the choices they make. 

Traditional marketing and sales, oriented towards the funnel, don’t answer these why questions very well.  To get close, it may take years of piling on data after data to get a clue.  This is a very expensive proposition for companies to take on today.

Despite the many super hyped concepts coming to the forefront attempting to address the 77% who are not getting a sales rep involved until much later, the funnel – whether vertical or horizontal or even cyclical – seems to be glossed over like a sacred cow.  The language of these many new concepts is spoken through the prism of the funnel – still.  For example, if we take an often used expression of the first part of a funnel – awareness – many of the new concepts are really talking about how to make awareness happen differently in the new social buyer era.  But is that what’s really going on?  I don’t believe so.

Before moving on to what I believe, let’s review limitations of funnel thinking against the new realities of today:

Buyers Explore vs. Become Aware.   B2B buyers are less likely to become aware of solutions and more likely to explore and find them.  And they are making significant choices during their exploring based on what they find.  Unlike consumer purchases where there is an object of purchase desired – for example a HDTV – B2B buyers are making choices on which path they will invest more time hiking and exploring.

Buyers Are Part of Ecosystems and Networks.  The age of the single buyer has come to a close in complex B2B environments.  While there may be a target buyer per se’, they are increasingly dependent upon various ecosystem participants who are directly impacted by purchase decisions and have a voice in these decisions.  The funnel is very limited outside the scope of the single buyer.

Buyers Just Don’t Make New Buys.  In the complex realities of today, buyers are not repeating the new buy orientation of the funnel.  There are many choices being made around how to modify different alternatives.  In the age of just-in-time – and now in the age of real-time, buyers look ahead into the longevity of repurchase – or continuous supply that feeds the ecosystem with little disruption.

Buyer Views Extend Beyond Purchase.   The funnel is based on the short-term view of making the sale and it is measured in quantities.  In today’s environment, the funnel cannot accommodate the long term views buyers have on the overall buying experience and doesn’t account for many factors that happen well after the sale.

Given these limitations, I believe that companies today must attempt to understand buyer choices and adopt a different model.  A Buyer Choice Model that begins to reflect buyer behavior and provides the language and terminology needed to understand why buyers choose as they do.  It puts the buyer at the center of B2B marketing, sales, and service and reflects, more accurately, that buyers are making multiple choices throughout their actions as well as behaviors that ultimately lead to a purchase decision.  But – it doesn’t stop there at the purchase decision.  There is a continuous loop that extends beyond the purchase decision.  The idea of buyer choice modeling is to understand choices that are being made in this continuous loop – so as not to be left out of the loop.

Next up: The elements of the Buyer Choice Model

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As The World Churns For CMO’s

English: Churning paddle wheel, higher ferry, ...

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The good news is that CMO tenure continues to rise.  Spencer Stuart, the executive search consulting firm, in their study released early last year reported that average tenure rose to 42 months.  Up from 35 months two years ago and up from 27 months in 2007.  The bad news is that the CMO position still churns and remains one of the riskiest positions in corporate business.  Additional bad news is that the rise is largely due to economic instability and CEO’s desire to stay the course during uncertain times according to Spencer Stuart.  Not the best reason for a rise but nevertheless it presents opportunities for CMO’s to succeed in longer tenures.

Economic instability and uncertainty will remain constant variables I believe for the next two years.  Compounding the complexity for CMO’s is the state of the buyer.  Or, a better expression may be - the ever changing and unsettled state of the buyer.  CMO’s can and should play an instrumental role in leading organizations out of economic instability and providing a clear picture of the state of their company’s buyers.  There are several guiding ideas that CMO’s can consider to ensure not only a longer tenure but solidifying a leadership role:

Caught In A Spider Web

The CMO role is first and foremost one of leadership.  Their role defined by the challenge of leading their respective organization and the company as a whole into the future of marketing to the new hyper-connected and hyper-networked buyer.  The cautionary tale here is to avoid getting caught in the spider web of hype and tactics.  The state of the new buyer has sprouted new buzz words, touted tactics, and channels all promising the chance to lift marketing up to higher levels.  When uncertainty reigns, the temptation can be as alluring as rich chocolate to bite into these new tactical measures.  Good CMO’s today will focus on setting the entire course as opposed to thinking about the dessert.

Spinning Wheel

CMO’s today must figure out how to keep the marketing wheel turning.  Looking at what relevant spokes in the wheel will result in the right balance.  Some of these spokes will come from internal while others may come from external.  Sound assessments are needed to determine where it makes sense to bring in outside expertise to keep the wheel balanced and spinning.  External spokes can come in the form of customers, partners, and consultants – all being brought together to help them navigate the risky and uncertain road ahead.  Balancing expertise in new forms of marketing and direction providing is a skill that CMO’s can develop to ensure less churn.

The Vision Thing

For most organizations, CMO’s can shape the role of not only being the eyes and ears of customers and buyers today but also help to give vision of where they are likely to be in the future.  CMO’s today can cause fundamental shifts in buyer understanding through the balance of quantitative predictive analytics and qualitative predictive buyer modeling.  When combined, helping CMO’s to offer a vision of the future buyer and how their company can best respond.

Using A Periscope

CMO’s will need to rely on the use of customer and buyer insight to guide strategy planning and gain foresight.  Taking care to realize insight gathering should be ongoing and not a static moment in time.  Repeating the refrain of balance, endeavors must include balancing quantitative insight and analysis with that of qualitative insight and analysis.  CMO’s will need to use these twin periscopes to look out above the turbulent waters and gain deep understanding about buyers that informs them where to find land where buyers reside.

Time For Good Behavior

In significant fashion, buyer behavior continues to be metamorphic as the heat of change rises each year.  CMO’s can influence how their company connects with buyers with deep analysis and portrayals of buyers that extend beyond demographics and firmographics.  Instead, focusing their sights on a more penetrating view of Business Buyergraphics aimed at understanding the purchasing behaviors of buyers as well as what tangible and intangible drivers are influencing these behaviors.

Getting All Techie

Understanding new technologies today, especially those related to digital, social, and Enterprise 2.0, remain an important function of the modern CMO.  New technology can either be your best friend or your worst enemy.  Some CMO’s, at least gleamed anecdotally, have had their tenure cut short by placing a big bet on implementing a new technology that turned into a sinkhole with little to show for it.  Careful assessment can result in good choices whereby new enabling technology moves the needle forward.  More profoundly, CMO’s of this era need to engage in the role of determining how introductions of external new technologies change buyer behaviors and what impact they have on their organization.

Don’t Forget Your Best Friend

It might be a good idea to get your office next door to that of the CSO and become fast friends.  Neither can exist without the other in today’s complex world where there is elusive understanding of not only buyers but how to create synergy in go-to-market strategies.  The marketing and sales alignment issue over the years has revolved too much around tactical concepts as opposed to strategic common sense about buyers.  It’s like two assistant coaches arguing about how to get a first down versus how to score points.  Get on the same team and worry about scoring points with buyers.

Going To School

On the job learning is critical to keep up with new understandings about markets and buyers.  This should not be confused with trying to learn all about the intricate details of social media, content marketing, and etc.  The focus on learning should be on understanding buyer behaviors and making sound assessments of what means help organizations best respond to these new behaviors and win over customers.  My sense is that the Spencer Stuart tenure numbers will fluctuate downward each time new technologies are introduced and new economic environments arise – caused primarily by skill gaps.

Can any of these guiding ideas ensure longevity beyond 42 months?  No, that would be a bet worth not making in these complex times.  What I do believe is that it increases the probability and that CMO’s will be better off than when they first started their tenure.  Regardless of how long the tenure, it will also enhance preparedness for the next assignment.  There is a ying and yang that comes with churn – if you are on the exit side you can always be sure that there will be an entry side somewhere waiting.

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The Single Buyer Model: A Dangerous Road Towards Competitive B2B Marketing

Building A Tribe Of Buyers ©All Rights Reserved Kenny Madden

Many B2B Marketers today are faced with the daunting tasks of connecting with buyers in new ways and using new mediums that are still in infancy.  New tactical approaches have been introduced at a rapid rate and some old ideas repurposed with new labels – all in an effort to find the ever flowing fountain of gaining buyer attention.  The shelf-life expectancy of some of the new approaches is yet to be known; making investment and resource decisions for leaders in B2B Marketing a road filled with risks.  For many of these new approaches, the foundation of thinking is still directed towards the single buyer model that has been the standard way of thinking for several decades.

Evidence is building that the standardized focus on a single buyer model has major disadvantages: depictions have lacked in the reality of the real world today, they are narrowly focused on messaging to one buyer or role, it is an over simplification of marketing and selling to a buyer, they are created with little research, and are routinely ignored by selling teams today.  These disadvantages are overshadowing the higher-cost and dangers of the single buyer model used in ways where missteps are being made in overall buyer strategy.  These missteps resulting in significant loss of marketing dollars and waste of valuable yet limited resources.

How Did We Get Here?

The single buyer model had worked well right up to the advent of the Internet and email.   That’s when the barriers started falling down like the Berlin Wall at the end of the cold war.  Up until then, all the power of information was held in the hands of the supplier.  And in most cases, there was a single buyer target that needed the closely held information.  Complex buying was an arduous task assigned to one decision-maker and sellers did all they could to target that one most important buyer – including bringing coffee and donuts.  Marketing played the role of supplying information in literature form and focused on advertising.  Sales role was to target the single buyer.  Sales training was all geared to train sellers how to persuade the single buyer and in the 1980’s we started to see models of how to determine the psyche of the single buyer – was he or she an amiable or an analytical?

The single buyer model is still the major face of the buyer in many B2B organizations.  Evidence suggests that this singular picture of the buyer is cracking like an old oil painting found in an attic:

    • It made sense for many years.  After all we are talking about the buyer and that is the focus of marketing and sales.  On the surface, the profiling of a buyer target seems like an easy fix.  In this new age of social and newly emerging forms of networks – it is no longer an easy fix.
    • Emerging is buyer networks extending beyond our traditional views of the buyer.  New technologies, social and Enterprise 2.0 as examples, have completely erased the barrier to information and allow buyer networks to operate as one and to weigh-in on purchase decisions.
    • Buying has become more complex since a key factor in buyer networks and the ecosystems they support are interdependent.  Meaning more parties participating and more validation is occurring in the purchase decision-making.
    • The tools of the single buyer model are no longer effective.  Sales in particular at the frontline routinely discard sales enablement tools given to them by marketing according to recent IDC research.

What Are The Dangers?

Continuing a narrow focus on the single buyer model is a dangerous path for B2B Marketing.  Evidence points to major disadvantages occurring.

First, with a focus only on the single buyer model, businesses risk finding their organization being excluded from a buyer’s network and not seen as an integral part of the buyer’s ecosystem.  This is a heavy price to pay if you are indeed outside of the network and not an ecosystem player.

Second, the use of the single buyer model has proven to be fraught with shortcomings.  They can best be characterized as only helpful today but not revealing.  Several executives I interviewed in the last six months of 2011 are saying it best:

“What we’ve learned is that buyer personas, building tools for sales, creating lots of content, and etc. don’t meet the mark in today’s competitive market we are in – we need to know more.”

“Our marketing department created marketing material that targeted a specific role in our industry and they rolled out it out with all the fanfare you would expect.  Let me just say everybody had a piece a cake and the party was over that quickly.”

 “Our sales people barely look at the tools we give them.”

Third, the research connection has been lost in the conversation.  While we are seeing a rise in predictive analytics, companies are yet lacking profoundly in qualitative buyer behavior modeling.  This is important due to the evidence which suggests that the introduction of new technologies and networks are changing buying behaviors rapidly.

Fourth, companies are experiencing missed opportunities.  When marketing and sales operations have a singular focus on one buyer, it is like having horse blinders on.  There is much swirling around the buyer and their buyer network.  If the company doesn’t seem to “get it” in terms of what is going on from a network standpoint, then they are unlikely to be privy to other opportunities.  More from the voice of a senior director of global marketing:

“We did this whole campaign around the CFO.  Yes, we even did a buyer persona.  Only to find out we could never talk to a CFO and that they were not the right buyer!”

Fifth, the use of a single buyer model has misdirected focus towards targets that have always been there and has even backfired.  They are problematic in today’s world as they are fraught with many built-in assumptions that were developed over the years.  The risk here is that buyer requirements and the very nature of the buyer have changed.  Here’s the voice of a senior level sales executive articulating this point:

“After the first year of joining this company, I began to realize there was a disconnect between sales and our customers.  What occurred to me is that our customers have become highly educated folks and were of a different background of let’s say fifteen years ago.  The disconnect is that our sales force hasn’t kept pace with this change.”

Is There A Better Way?

For many executives today in B2B leadership positions, there are three constant clouds twirling around their heads: the lack of insight about buyers, they are faced with tremendous uncertainty about the direction to steer their organization, and they lack the ability to predict as well as forecast into the near as well as far future.  The better way points towards providing clues to disperse these clouds before the rain extinguishes any hope they had.  There are several ways that I believe can give businesses the insight they need to respond to the ever changing buyer of today:

  • Engage in predictive buyer modeling that models the behavioral trends of buyers – a need that aligns with the fast pace of change
  • Connect predictive buyer modeling to predictive analytics to illuminate a 360 degree view of buyers
  • Balance market and buyer research investments to include qualitative research along with quantitative research
  • Develop robust B2B oriented Business Buyergraphics based on purchasing behavior that extend beyond buyer personas, demographics, and firmographics and serves as the triborough bridge between marketing, sales, and strategy
  • Utilize target buyer modeling as a gateway to understand and model fast emerging buyer networks and buyer ecosystem dynamics
  • Develop a renewed focus on descriptive buyer segmentation based on purchase behaviors

The single buyer model no longer works in this new complex world.  We are confronted with a world where buyers no longer act independent of others in decision-making and are dependent upon networks and ecosystems.  The imperative for senior B2B executives is to adapt to change and make the tough decisions that come with change.  Modeling the behaviors, decisions, and buying scenarios of buyers and their networks give leaders what they seem to be asking for: deeper understanding of buyer behavior, how to attract more buyers, know which direction to lead their organization, and keep the ship floating upright while at the same time plugging the leaks.

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Eric Got Me Thinking About The Next Buyer Revolution

English: Yemeni protests typical day at Sana'a...

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In my most recent article, Boost Demand Generation Using Target Ready Buyer Models, a comment was posted by the ever thoughtful Eric Wittlake, author of the blog B2B Digital Marketing and a member of the team at the Integrated B2B Marketing Agency – Babcock and Jenkins.  Here is a portion of what he said:

 “As more buyers wait to engage with sales and as more companies, in order to attract potential buyers, open up their content, the need to meet your audience’s needs before you know who they are is likely going to be one of the next revolutions we see.”

This comment really got me thinking.  What I have been thinking about is that we are in the midst of the next revolution right now – that we are in the midst of a business version of the Arab Spring.  Business today has its’ own Buyer Spring taking place today and some businesses are yet not awaken to the reality of this revolution.  Like the chaotic nature of revolutions, I am going to share the random thoughts I have been thinking about since reading Eric’s comment:

Anonymous Environment

Eric, in the same comment, also used the expression “creating demand in an anonymous environment.”  In many ways, it is a buyer’s revolt against years of having to first identify themselves before they can get an ounce of information.  The registration debate is really not about registration.  It’s about attempting to block a buyer’s revolt about identifying themselves.  Business needs to accept the fact that it will never know who is behind the door – until they knock and say let me in.  If your business has been engaged in knocking on the door of a buyer endlessly and no one is opening it – it means no one is home to greet you on your terms.

Organization Infrastructure

Many businesses still have not adapted their organizational structure and operations to an anonymous environment.  Marketing and sales functions as well as operations are still geared to the days when a buyer had to pick up the phone and let it be known they need information.  Buyers realizing that they were going to identify themselves in the process.  I hear the “but, but – we have a website” cries out there.  Take a hard look at it and see if it is any different than the phone – what are you requiring of visitors to do to get an ounce of information?  Is your sales function still geared towards that “first” call, designed 25 years ago, under the presumption the buyer knows nothing yet?

Research and Insight

Businesses that know they are in the midst of the Buyer Spring revolution are going to double down on research and insights.  Identifying buyer needs and goals, before you know who they are, are going to make the difference between surviving the next revolution and being exiled.  Business will need to connect the quantitative with the qualitative to make this work.   And I am not talking about buyer personas here folks – which have been bastardized to mean everything but the real research and insight intent established in the late ‘90’s.  I am talking about real world buyer research that means getting out from behind your computer, laptop, or tablet screen and knowing buyers in their environments.

Rush to Tactics

The rush to tactics such as content marketing, demand generation, marketing automation, inbound marketing, and more is a rush to meet mass Buyer Spring movements where they are marching in the buyer square.  B2B marketing is rushing head on into tactics without thinking about some of the ramifications of this next revolution.  While there are businesses enjoying success with these tactics, there are equal numbers or more getting little return because they haven’t yet figured out what their new strategies and business models need to be in this next revolution.

Smart Content

I like this term which has been bantered around – more so than content marketing.  Why?  Because it makes you think about how to make your content smart for buyers.  A big part of this next revolution – this Buyer Spring – is buyers not wanting a return to old style push marketing.  No matter how you cut it – and I am talking on the basis of buyer interviews I’ve conducted – when buyers hear and read that you are doing content marketing they still see it as a mental image of push marketing.  And believe me I am continuously amazed how companies are broadcasting to their buyers about their great content marketing.  Shutting down automatic defense behaviors is no easy feat so why make it harder?

 The Waiting Game

Buyers are waiting longer and longer to engage with sales.  Getting predictive about what’s happening in this waiting game is going to test the abilities of businesses to anticipate and be in a state of readiness when buyers do identify themselves.  B2B leaders are going to be measured on how well they can get their organization in a state of anticipation and readiness.  A significant majority of businesses are still oriented towards persuasion.  In the next revolution buyers are saying – be ready to tell me something important.

For limited time only in the Middle East
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These are random thoughts and I am sure I will think of more as you will have more.  One thing is clear, just as in the Arab Spring, the Buyer Spring will result in old regimes being thrown out and old ways of doing business being cast out like furniture being thrown out of the palace window.  Revolutions and democracy building is a messy affair as we are seeing with the Arab Spring.  In terms of the Buyer Spring revolution, it is going to be messy at first.  Businesses need to start figuring out today whether they are going to fight or join the revolution.  Which side are you going to be on?

Hey Eric, thanks for making me think!

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