Plan Before You Execute

In the previous installment of this series of posts on achieving greater success by modernizing your approach to marketing, we talked about how an integrated technology stack  can make it easier to increase profitability.

Having the right technology, and knowing how to use it, is the essential first step in getting the kind of results attributed to modern marketers in a Forrester survey of marketing decision makers which shows, among other things, that 94% of modern markers attain significant market share, with 49% holding the market-leading position. (Forrester. “Why You Need to Be a Modern Marketer: The Business Impact of Marketing Maturity in the Age of the Customer.” Oct 2014.)

With technology in place, the next step toward modern marketing success is to build an engagement strategy that stretches across the buying cycle, from inquiry to close.

The key is sales and marketing alignment.

Because such an engagement strategy should serve as the foundation for all your marketing and sales activities, both parts of the business must share a common language and agree on goals around lead qualification, buyer personas, and more.

According to Forrester, sales and marketing alignment is more important than ever in the digital age, because “customer engagement is a lot more complicated. Marketing execs need to … let the buyer journey define a sales-ready lead; focus more on shared stewardship than a smooth handoff; and recognize sales as a vehicle in attribution analysis.” (Lori Wizdo. “Shift Focus to the Customer Life Cycle to Take L2RM to the Next Level.” Forrester, January 30, 2015.)

To be effective, treat the alignment between marketing and sales as an ongoing initiative. You might consider jointly creating a measurable Service Level Agreement (SLA) to define expectations and accountability for clients, pipeline value, and lead development. In an SLA, for example, marketing might provide clear stage definitions for advancing leads to sales-readiness, and sales might provide defined follow-up time for leads received by marketing.

HubSpot says that organizations with SLAs between sales and marketing are more than 5 times as likely to be effective, but found that only 22% of respondents had such formal agreements in place.
Whether you have an SLA in place or not, you still need to build your engagement strategy. Here’s how:

Define the Prospect Buying Cycle and, Within it, What Constitutes a Sales Accepted Lead.

All of the behaviors of aligned sales and marketing organizations hinge on a mutually-agreed, consistent definition of what marketing is delivering to sales. The SiriusDecisions demand waterfall is the industry standard for defining the buying cycle, delineating roles, measuring results, and optimizing demand creation efforts.

Develop a Framework for Scoring Leads and Routing Them Through the Buying Cycle.

Companies that get lead scoring right have a 192% higher average lead qualification rate than those that do not, according to Aberdeen Group. Use prospect identity and prospect interest data to understand each customer’s position in the funnel and to determine the appropriate marketing activity, such as sending an email or picking up the phone.

Build Buyer Personas and Map Buyer Journeys.

All your lead scoring efforts are wasted if prospective buyers aren’t compelled to buy. Getting to know your buyers, by building personas and mapping typical journeys, will help you create compelling messages and deliver them at the right time.
An effective buyer journey map explains:

♦  Why a buyer puts down money
Who makes the decisions—the average B2B buyer group consists of 5.4 people, according to CEB.
When a buyer needs your product
What a buyer’s challenges are
Where a buyer wants to get information

Use data to make your strategy more effective.

When you’ve come up with your engagement strategy, you’re ready for the next step on the road to becoming a modern marketer—the ability to use data to drive better decisions.

In the next post in our modern marketing series, you’ll learn how to ensure that your prospect data is clean, accurate, and complete.

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