Does B2B marketing need to be transformed?

If you’re creating content without understanding how your customer buys…  if your lead gen and lead nurturing aren’t coordinated… if marketing isn’t marching in lockstep with sales… you’re feeling the pain.  And Carlos Hidalgo wants to help.

I just finished his book Driving Demand, which presents a modern framework for B2B demand generation.  It’s a strategic take on demand gen – covering people, processes, content, and technology.  The book is peppered with real-world examples and practical recommendations, diving into what leads to success or failure.  It’s also candid about the difficulty of change and offers guidance on leading change.

To oversimplify, the book’s dominant theme is customer centricity.

Publishing content your prospects don’t value.  Executing cookie-cutter programs across markets.  Spamming prospects with too many emails from your siloed org.  Throwing your sales rep at them the moment they say hello.  Forgetting that every lead is a person.  That’s not winning.

Customer Centricity in B2B Marketing

At the simplest level, customer centricity is about obsessively understanding and serving your customer.

The foundation of modern B2B marketing is customer insight.  Yet too often buyer research is glossed over in the march toward program execution.  We need to build robust buyer personas, but that’s not enough.  Understand your buyers’ trigger events, content consumption patterns, and buying committee behaviors.  Don’t just rely on your sales team’s input.  Get out and talk with customers about how they actually research and buy solutions in your category – who’s involved, when, what are the triggers, what are they trying to learn, and how do they answer those questions.  Ask some lost prospects too.

The foundation of modern B2B marketing is customer insight.

Driving Demand also highlights how outdated org structures and processes can make it impossible to serve the customer effectively.  Silos especially are a killer.  When marketing’s left hand doesn’t know what its right hand is saying, when it’s saying it, or what tone of voice it’s using, what’s the customer experience like?

I’ve seen this dysfunction too often in billion-dollar companies.  Disparate incentives and even org choices made with good intentions hinder customer centricity and marketing effectiveness.  Startups often perform better here – by definition, they’re smaller and easier to coordinate across – but they can fall into the same traps as they grow.

Marketing Roles & Coordination

Hidalgo makes the case for evolving marketing specialists to generalists – oriented to buying stage or buyer segment.  The idea of a customer-first generalist (rather than function-first specialist) is powerful, and gaining currency in the startup community.  Marcelo Calbucci first introduced the notion of a full-stack marketer, and Tom Wentworth illustrated the value of versatility in startups using agile marketing.  Cultivating or hiring these well rounded marketers isn’t easy, but what an advantage it can provide.

Wherever you land on questions like specialist vs. generalist and decentralization vs. centralization, think through your execution.  For example, if you decentralize email marketing responsibility, you might need an internal traffic cop customer experience advocate to coordinate across teams and avoid inundating prospects.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on another major theme in the book – the importance of aligning marketing with sales around a common set of objectives with bottom line (revenue) impact.  The topic has gotten much ink recently and for good reason.  I won’t go deep on it here, but Hidalgo covers it well.

Nuggets of Wisdom

Here’s a taste of what else you’ll find in the book:

  1. Buyer-centricity in content creation.  B2B marketers often fall into the trap of taking an inside-out mentality, rather than outside-in.  Hidalgo nails it: “The temptation to focus on the tactics – white paper, e-books, videos, and social media – rather than the substance of the content is very easy to succumb to.  However, the most important part of content development is understanding the themes that will resonate with buyers.”
  2. Lead scoring and nurturing done right.  Now that you’ve built the right content, use it to gather accurate lead intelligence for the purpose of qualifying:  “Allowing buyers to interact with the content as they want and qualifying these interactions by stage in the buying path versus type of content asset will… generate a better qualified lead.”  Although B2B buyer journeys aren’t linear or consistent, when a person downloads an asset on Theme X or Theme Y, it still provides some indication of where they are in the buying process.  (As an aside, there’s a great debate today about using lead capture forms at all, with Dave Gerhardt laying out a strong case against it.)
  3. Leave no influencer behind.  Selling to enterprises is hard – so many buyers, influencers, motivations, and objections.  My brain hurts.  But if that’s your market, you need to understand and address those influencers.  Maybe there are too many personas to build a content library for each.  But at least identify the number 1 pain, concern, bias, or goal that will drive their behavior in the process – and create something to address it.  It could be as simple as a quote sheet of satisfied customers in Role X using your product, or a brief on The Top 5 Ways [Role X]’s are Improving Business Performance with [Your Solution Category].

While Driving Demand‘s anecdotes center on large companies, there’s plenty of insight that smaller ones can apply too.  If you’re looking for a thorough approach to modernizing your B2B demand generation, grab a copy and dig in.


Winning on Customer Centricity

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