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Inbound Marketing: What Comes After the Tipping Point?

“Inbound marketing is more effective than outbound marketing.”  

Sound like a quote from a recent marketing article? It’s actually a key takeaway from my doctoral thesis, published back in 2008 and entitled, “How Companies Use Customer Insight to Drive Customer Acquisition, Development, and Retention.”

No, I’m not Nostradamus, nor do I have a crystal ball. But, for a long time, I have been watching the signs that B2B buyers’ needs and patterns are changing.

Today, buyers – not sellers – are firmly in the driver’s seat. In fact, according to a recent DemandGen Buyer Behaviour report, almost half of buyers create a short-list of potential vendors and a third conduct initial research on solution options before the first communication with a sales rep. (For more on the evolution of buyer behaviour, see my blog post: Smarketing: A Sales and Marketing Love Story)

How are buyers conducting this research? Through search engines, vendor websites, and social media sites.

Hence the tipping point for inbound marketing. But what comes next? Here’s how I see the marketing landscape changing over the next 12 – 18 months:

1. Social media will gain traction in new ways

Social media is playing an increased role in marketing and buyers are now connecting to sellers via social channels rather than just browsing. DemandGen reports that 72% of respondents said they used social media to research the solution purchase.

This total is unchanged since 2013. What HAS changed is that there is a 57% increase in buyers connecting directly with potential solution providers via social networking channels. So they’re no longer just browsing social channels to do research, they’re using social channels to connect directly with sellers.

2. Marketers will adjust their budgets accordingly 

In reaction to buyer behaviour, marketers will continue to adjust their spend on inbound marketing. Sirius Decisions predicted back in 2013 that there would be a slight increase from 51% to 53% spent on inbound marketing by 2015. But what’s really interesting is the portion spent on social media: a big bump up from 36% to 44%.

3. Traditional sales and marketing roles will be turned on their heads   

We used to say, “Marketing opens the door and sales charges through it to close the deal.” Today, social media is driving role reversals within sales and marketing functions.

Increasingly, marketers are learning more about customers through their digital footprint and social media usage. We’re using real-time, behavioural data and analytics to complete a 360 view of the customer. And we’re leveraging this deep customer insight to close deals – because we’re able to make the right offer through the right channel at the right time.

Conversely, salespeople are now using social selling techniques to open doors with clients and prospects. They’re using social channels to connect, start conversations, and share knowledge and content. These nurturing techniques are paying off. According to a recent Social Media and Sales Quota Survey, more than 40% of salespeople say they have closed between two and five deals as a result of social media.

4. Revenue Marketing will become Profit Marketing  

Using Revenue Marketing principles, sales and marketing have begun to ensure that marketing strategies align with sales and business objectives to generate a measurable return to the bottom line.

But that’s just step one. As marketing shifts from a cost centre to a revenue centre, there is a deeper realization of the fact that not all customers are created equal. Inbound marketing tends to generate more new customer logos than outbound marketing. Based on lifetime customer value, new customers could be more desirable to a company which could translate into more importance placed on inbound techniques.

5. Employee advocacy will fuel marketing  

Although traditional advertising techniques (like TV advertising) are on the decline, social media makes it possible for employees to be a company’s best brand champions. Employee advocacy programs empower a company’s employees to support the goals of the brand using content and employee-owned social channels. This approach can have a huge impact on marketing and sales. According to Dynamic Signal, a digital marketing company, “Your employees are already on social all the time. And since people trust their social connections more than marketing messages, you can increase brand awareness by 14x and sales leads by 25%.” (Stay tuned for more on this topic in an upcoming blog post).

When will these 5 trends reach their tipping points? Last time my crystal ball looked 7 years ahead so let’s set it at 5 years this time – 2020! Watch this space….

Are you seeing sales and marketing changes in your markets and geographies? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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Smarketing: A Sales & Marketing Love Story

Once upon a time, sales and marketing were in love

True, Marketing wanted a long-term relationship and Sales only wanted a one-night stand, but it was clear where everyone stood.

Then, the relationship began to change

With the advent of digital and social tools, buyers – not sellers – stepped into the driver’s seat.  They began using online means to conduct ROI analyses before making final purchasing decisions.  Today, according to Sirius Decisions, buyers are more informed than ever because they’ve got access to online content as well as an extensive online peer network.  And, according to a recent DemandGen Buyer Behaviour report, almost half of buyers create a short-list of potential vendors and one- third conduct initial research on solution options before the first communication with a sales rep.

Marketing started to use tactics that buyers, not Sales, preferred

Marketing started to change too.  As Cisco’s CMO Karen Walker has said, “Marketing was the last function to be industrialised and the first function to be digitised.” With the buyer in control, Marketers started moving away from outbound tactics like tradeshows, live events, and email campaigns that Sales was used to.  We started using digital tactics that matched the buyers’ desire to look for information online using search engines, vendor websites, and social media sites. But neither Sales nor Marketing was happy.  Things got so bad that Hubspot reported:  “87% of the terms sales and marketing teams use to describe each other are negative.”

Enter Revenue Marketing

Like a good marriage counsellor, Revenue Marketing helped Sales and Marketing rekindle their relationship.  In a nutshell, Revenue Marketing ensures that Marketing strategies and campaigns align with Sales and business objectives to generate a measurable ROI to the bottom line.  Using Revenue Marketing principles, Marketing started to transform from a cost centre to a revenue centre. Marketing and Sales began to work in partnership again. And they began speaking the same language – using terms of endearment like planning, forecasts, pipeline, bookings, and revenue.

Back on track:  Smarketing

Today, the romance between Sales and Marketing is back on.  And, like all happy couples, they’re using a pet name:  Smarketing.  Hubspot defines the term Smarketing as “the alignment between your sales and marketing teams created through frequent and direct communication.” We’ve embraced the term and the concept here at Cisco, and here are four lessons learned to strengthen the relationship between sales and marketing.

4 Tips For Smarketing bliss

 1. Speak a common language

It’s important to be on the same page. For example, here at Cisco, Sales and Marketing both know exactly what we mean by terms such as Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL), Sales Accepted Leads (SAL), and Sales Qualified Leads (SQL).

2. Gaze in the same direction

Marketing and Sales must also share revenue goals and strategies.  We have defined how much Marketing will contribute to Sales  – both to the pipeline and to bookings.  We have also articulated what each team will do to support the others’ efforts.

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate

Once you’re on the same page, tune your operational systems to give visibility into results – and refine your processes continually.  At Cisco, Sales and Marketing use common reporting dashboards and hold each other accountable.  Both teams listen and respond to feedback.

 4. Celebrate success hand-in-hand

Now that Marketing can concretely prove its value, both teams can celebrate together. This builds strong team morale.

Smarketing may be a cute term but it has very real ramifications.  In fact, according to a study done by the Aberdeen Group, companies with strong sales and marketing alignment can get 20% annual revenue growth.  Now that’s worth celebrating.

So please raise a glass and join me in congratulating the happy couple.  To….Smarketing!

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CRM Implementation is Crucial for Revenue-Generation Marketing

In the last blog on revenue generation marketing, I took some time to discuss how our operational implementation was working at Cisco. As part of that, I shared the four main best practices we discovered during our revenue generation marketing journey. Of course, if you missed that post, please give it a read. To sum it up, however, I believe your operations team simply has to focus on:

  • Setting a goal
  • Keeping the goal simple
  • Setting key success indicators for individuals
  • Reporting

That is the high-level look at operational implementation that we saw here at Cisco. But in this final blog on our revenue generation marketing journey, I want to dig a little deeper and talk about implementing those best practices within your customer relationship management (CRM) software and combining that with marketing automation. Read More »

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Cisco Partner Weekly Rewind – October 25, 2013

Partner-Weekly-Rewind-v2Every Friday, we’ll highlight the most important Cisco partner news and stories of the week, as well as point you to important, Cisco-related partner content you may have missed along the way. Here’s what you might have missed this week:

Off the Top

In her most recent blog, Sherri Liebo talked about transforming marketing from a cost center within Cisco, to a revenue generating center. By explaining the term “revenue marketing” she opens up the conversation with you on tying marketing into a measurable ROI for your bottom line.

Sherri is striving to help partners understand the changes at Cisco, and use the resources and training we have available to continue making our partnership succeed.

Be sure to join the conversation with Sherri. Read More »

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Marketing: Trading in Fluff for Buff

“Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.”

— Coco Chanel  

 I love that quote by fashion maven Coco Chanel. In today’s B2B marketing world, challenges can’t be addressed using outdated marketing tactics – hoping they will magically open new opportunities along with new revenue and ROI.

Growing trends in customer buying behavior and the technology used to make purchases are driving major changes for the role of marketing. As marketers, this gives us a fantastic opportunity. We can transform from what has sometimes been seen as simply “fluff” (and what many sales executives see as a cost center) into a revenue-generating center. Read More »

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