Article

What Silicon Valley can teach you

about B2B marketing

Author

After working with the growth agenda for B2B companies for a few years, one take-away has been this: there’s a big gap between what companies at the forefront of digital marketing are doing, and how most established B2B companies approach growth.

I went with a colleague of mine, Thomas Vasehus, from Implement Consulting Group, to get a peek inside Silicon Valley – to see how tech companies charged with triple-digit growth expectations from their venture capital investors go about it.

This is the first post in a series about some of the things we learnt.

Changing the conversation between marketing and the business

One of the difficulties facing marketing in a B2B context is the historical emphasis on sales (above marketing) in the industry combined with siloing of marketing and sales.

If you’re a B2B marketer, this dialogue may be familiar to you:

Siloing marketing and B2B increases the risk of sub-optimisation where marketing is measured on acquisition, sales on conversion (and customer service and others on retention). Too often, marketers focus on top-of-the-funnel metrics like traffic and brand exposure instead of the downstream value created.

In your organisation, is marketing often challenged by business units to explain what value they’re creating?

Marketers wish they could make the business see how important brand perception is, how valuable the recent increase in website traffic is – without it, the leads that sales are cold calling would stay cold, it would be harder to charge the current prices etc. Valid arguments – but if you don’t connect the dots between traffic and top-line results, it will be hard to get the business’ attention; and even harder to get the budget for that project to implement superior content marketing, lead scoring/nurturing etc.

What if you had this kind of conversation with the business:

Connecting the dots

To change the conversation, a shared, conceptual understanding of how marketing impacts revenue is the foundation. Here’s one way of connecting the dots between top-of-the-funnel activities like content marketing and digital distribution (read top to bottom – each box enables the one it points to):

The challenge with insights approach builds upon the challenger sales methodology applied from a marketing perspective. By adopting that approach, marketing can create content (or insights) driven by real, quantifiable customer pains/gains and distribute this content digitally to generate leads and nurture them.

Once you’ve established a conceptual understanding with the business, the next step will be to create some traceability of the activities. We’ll touch much more on this topic in subsequent articles, but I must stress the importance of tracking.

  • Poor marketers track nothing
  • Good marketers track top-of-the-funnel metrics
  • Great marketers link top- and bottom-of-the-funnel metrics

I don’t mean linking metrics on a conceptual level only. To achieve tight co-operation between sales and marketing – to change the dialogue to the second illustration above – tracking is an essential ingredient. Marketing automation tools enable that.

In Silicon Valley, B2B companies apply tools like these to deliver extraordinary results, and sales reps consider marketing an irreplaceable companion in creating leads, qualifying and converting prospects and in keeping customers coming back.

For example, we met with an information security firm. They had given up on cold calling due to poor conversion rates. In need of a solid pipeline, they engaged with leading specialists to produce strong content and arrange seminars to drive awareness among their customers, software development companies. To derive maximum value from content and events, they use HubSpot to track interactions online and offline and nurture leads with curated content. Through their platform, they can monitor exact return on investment on all activities and tweak their engagement model. This is an excellent example of a company where marketing is, in fact, an irreplaceable companion for sales.

The series

For the next couple of months, Thomas and I will be writing about our learnings and reflections on digital B2B marketing.

We will structure the blog posts around a familiar structure – the sales funnel:

Acquisition: How to acquire leads and prioritise/score them to ensure they’re qualified to become prospects.

Conversion: How to nurture prospects through the funnel and convert them into customers.

Retention: How to keep customers coming back, increase your share of wallet with them and advocate your brand.