Last week’s SiriusDecisions Summit in Orlando was another three-plus days of amazing content, networking and connections with more than 2,000 B2B marketers from across the country. I can often judge an event’s value in part by the pages of notes and stack of business cards I bring home, and this year’s Summit (by those measures) may have been their best yet.
It was a challenge to condense those pages to just 10 takeaways, but for those who couldn’t make it last week here are ten takeaways that hopefully help you think a little differently and drive new value for your sales & marketing efforts moving forward.
1. Transformation requires reframing
Keynote speaker Malcolm Gladwell gave numerous examples (from seat belts to urology) of how transformative thinking and innovative new ideas often require a complete reframing of the problem, not to mention how they are approached and executed. This can be particularly difficult in organizations where change requires getting numerous individuals and constituents on board with an approach or idea that, by definition, doesn’t align at all with the traditional way of doing things. But staying the course doesn’t often lead to innovation, and more often can lead to decline. In other words, transformation is a business requirement, not a choice.
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2. Customer-centric marketing isn’t new, but we still generally suck at it
SiriusDecisions introduced their new Messaging Nautilus, a compelling framework for developing and operationalizing more effective messaging throughout sales & marketing efforts. The gist of the framework was to focus messaging on the customer, not the product or service. This may sound like table stakes to some, but a quick scan across B2B marketing efforts in almost any industry shows that we still haven’t learned this important lesson.
3. Predictive analytics will increasingly be a differentiator
Process, content, marketing automation. All important for world-class marketing organizations. But in 2014, predictive analytics has emerged as possibly the single-most important technology and competitive differentiator for marketings to adopt and leverage. Simply put, platforms such as Lattice Engines and Infer can help you mine & leverage the vast amount of data that exists across the Web relative to your customers and prospects to customize messaging, approach, offers and more.
Imagine having personalized, 1:1 conversations with every prospect based on real-time context, significantly increasing engagement & response rates.. Companies are doing that right now with predictive analytics, and I have a feeling it’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the potential this technology has for us.
4. Intelligent growth happens primarily by design
SiriusDecisions outlined a model for “intelligent growth” on the first day of the Summit, including the five primary means by which companies grow: 1. New Markets, 2. New Buyers, 3. New Offerings, 4. Acquisitions, and 5. Productivity Gains.
The presentation and model got a lot more complex than that, but think about that list of five focus areas for your business. You can’t successfully focus on all five at once, but take time in the next week or two to outline the potential focus areas underneath each of these pillars. Where are the biggest opportunities for growth unique to your business? Where is the low-hanging fruit that can deliver faster results?
5. Sales & marketing are in this together
DocuSign has been an example of world-class strategy and execution on a number of marketing fronts lately, and on Friday it was clear they’re also leading the charge with world-class sales & marketing collaboration as well. The two teams at DocuSign work incredibly close together, with common objectives and seamless, integrated execution.
Integrated collaboration with sales used to be a nice-to-have for marketers, but we’re clearly past that point now. In B2B organizations moving forward, as sales goes, so goes marketing. Revenue responsibility is now a requirement across both organizations. Marketing leaders can lean into this, or soon be out of a job.
6. Sales enablement programs are still primitive
Despite this growing mandate, it was clear that sales enablement programs still haven’t come far enough. A break-out session last week featured four great examples of sales enablement programs from companies across a variety of industries. But even some of these programs left a little to be desired. And if they represent the best we have right now, we have a lot of work to do.
B2B marketing organizations would be well served to pay closer attention to the SiriusDecisions sales enablement frameworks and best practices. It serves as a great standard from which marketers can develop more effective programs now, with plenty of growth potential moving forward that can improve sales effectiveness & results.
7. Centralized demand center roles can increase efficiency, leverage & results
The idea of a demand center for organizations is relatively simple: create a centralized team that serves common functions to facilitate demand generation programs across business units, local markets, etc. But you don’t have to be a multi-national company to make a demand center work.
Even smaller companies that operate multiple product units, or have field marketing groups that largely operate on their own, can gain from centralizing key functions such as planning, design, new request management, templating, archiving and more.
8. Content is king, context is king, and conversion is the ace!
I can’t remember which speaker gave this quote, but I loved it. Content marketing programs not only continue to improve across B2B marketing organizations, but continue to become more deeply integrated into the organization well beyond marketing.
Great content programs today are heavily integrated into the sales organization as well. They’re driving direct & deep interactivity with customers & prospects. They’re taking form in a variety of channels, media, sizes and types. And they’re focused on conversion (which sometimes means simply getting the prospect to the next piece of content, or compelling a deeper click into the product, NOT always just filling out the next form!).
9. Disrupt & cannibalize yourself if you hope to keep competitors at bay & keep growing
This speaks a bit to the transformation theme that Gladwell began the conference with, but was reinforced in the last session Friday when three SiriusDecisions analysts attempted to describe what our world will look like five years from now.
The question they posted that stuck with me was simple: What if your biggest competitor five years from now doesn’t exist today? And if that’s the case, why don’t you create that product or service first?
This requires not only vision and reframing, but courage. Courage to change something that’s clearly working today. Courage to devote resources towards unknown outcomes. But that’s exactly the risk new businesses take that will become disruptive to you in the years to come.
10. Marketers aren’t always very good at marketing to other marketers
A side benefit of attending conferences like this is collecting marketing ideas from fellow marketers. I was able to visit booths, hear pitches from sales reps, and come home with handouts from all of the sponsors (each of which was spending a lot of money to market their products to fellow marketers).
There were some good examples of sales & marketing, of course. But in general I left unimpressed with much of the execution. Tomorrow, I’ll outline some of the problems and opportunities I saw from marketers marketing to marketers.
If you were at SiriusDecisions last week, I’d love to hear some of your takeaways as well in the comments below.