Confluence is emerging as a key theme for B2B marketing leaders in 2017. What previously has been managed in operational silos (marketing, sales, demand generation, lead management, even predictive and artificial intelligence) is being pushed together to for more coherent, integrated and powerful strategies moving forward.
B2B marketers are at the forefront of this trend, and the themes behind it will be key areas of discussion at next week’s Revenue Summit in San Francisco. Earlier this week I caught up with two featured speakers at the Summit who are leading and innovating in real-time. Rohit Prabhakar runs digital marketing and technologies for McKesson, and Julia Stead manages demand generation at Invoca.
Matt : What stands out to you so far in 2017 about how sales & marketing have changed? Internal or external conditions, increasingly complex buyers, whatever. In other words, how have you already had to adjust to the market to drive results for your business?
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Rohit: Impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is probably the most important change that stands out for me. I have seen practical use of AI in the field of UX, Data (Big Data), Customer Service and Content Marketing. I firmly believe that next many years will see rise in practical use of AI in both sales and marketing. This will enable companies to serve the intent of the user in real time to nurture the sales to close and provide great service. Most of the major platforms like IBM, Salesforce, Adobe and Oracle are already offering it part of their platform. Every vendor that I have recently met is either already offering AI features or their product teams are working on it.
This will a very natural progression of sales & marketing with the evolution of user behavior. I am not aware of anyone in my personal or professional network who is already not using or testing the real-time use of AI with Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, Cortana etc.
Julia: In my world of B2B Martech, more businesses are setting their sights on the lucrative Enterprise market, which brings about a new set of challenges. Longer, more complicated sales cycles, multiple influencer and buyer personas, competing internal priorities, and a need for outbound marketing strategies. As a result, I’m seeing sales and marketing functions work more closely together, for better alignment in achieving revenue goals and creating a seamless customer journey. I think this is the outcome of many organizations shifting to an ABM/ABE (Account-Based Marketing/Account-Based Everything) strategy, to support those Enterprise goals.
Matt: Talk about the best practices you’ve employed internally to drive greater results by integrating cross-departmental efforts more successfully? Sales and marketing, but even beyond that.
Julia: This year we’ve taken a top-down approach to driving more cross departmental efforts, through our company goals. Historically, each department would come up with their own set of top level goals and metrics for the year, and then break them down by different departmental team members. This year, we’ve set top level priorities, goals and metrics for the business as a whole, and then broken them down with shared owners across multiple departments. For example one of the company’s priorities is winning new Enterprise customers, with strategies co-owned by sales, marketing and product. By having these groups work together to establish goals, metrics and plans for execution, it’s fostering true collaboration and transparency, rather than departments operating as silos.
Rohit: We have employed and are planning to employ best practices in the areas of data, analytics, content, UX, search and integrated demand generation.
Matt: How important is it to operate marketing as a profit center? What have you done to change the conversation, reporting dashboards and more to increase impact and perception of marketing at the c-suite and board level?
Rohit: It is not just important but vital. If marketing is not already operating or working on the direction to become a profit center than it should not exist.
When you talk about a large B2B organization change is a journey and it takes a few years. We are on a similar journey towards making marketing a profit center. Some of our BU marketing teams are now profit centers while Corporate Marketing and other BU teams are heading in that direction.
We call it Digital Transformation of Marketing that we started almost 2 years ago. We have been working on breaking organizational and BU silos especially around data. Data has played the most important role in changing the impact and perception just not at C-level but every level. The digital transformation started because of the data analysis and dashboards that we built almost 3 years ago. As we now progress in our journey we have been focused on enabling the skills of the marketers for the digital world, providing them with the best of required and essential Marketing technologies, provide resources on best practices for UX, SEO, Content, Marketing Operations, analytics and much more.
We are participating in revenue generation with our BU partners by providing them platforms like McKesson.com and also helping them amplify their efforts on all other channels. On the technology side we are standardizing and procuring solutions for the enterprise instead of each BU and teams building their MarTech stacks.
Julia: I think it’s extremely important for marketing to operate as a profit center, with objectives and KPIs around creating pipeline and revenue rather than just ‘activity’ goals or top of funnel metrics like leads. At Invoca, marketing has taken co-ownership with sales for pipeline and revenue goals, working together as a team to drive real business growth. Metrics like downloads or leads aren’t a big focus for us, instead marketing is focused on numbers like engaged accounts, pipeline and bookings.
We’re implementing the platform Engagio to help drive greater visibility into account engagement, and use BrightFunnel to easily get insights and actionable data around which marketing efforts are driving pipeline and revenue. By tying all of our activities and resources back to revenue generating activities, we naturally gain the attention and support of the c-suite and board.
Matt: Why is it so important to have an event like Revenue Summit that brings both sales & marketing leaders together in one place?
Julia: It’s one thing to say that as a marketer, you want to work closely and be better aligned with sales, but it’s often easier said than done. Bringing the two groups together physically, in the same space, to share ideas and network, goes a long way in making that alignment actually happen. It’s hugely beneficial to hear the challenges, successes and case studies from both sides of the revenue generating team, to foster deeper understanding of how each component works.
Rohit: As more and more B2B companies are doing Account Based Marketing (or were already doing for many years), it is more and more important for both marketing and sales teams to work together. ABM cannot be done by the Marketing team in a silo.
For a sales professional, this conference will provide them a chance to learn directly from the best in Marketing and at the same time help them learn how to use the power of digital to become even better at sales. The conference plans to cover topics like how to ramp your reps, grow your sales team, measure their results and explore all the sales technologies you need to grow revenue.
For a marketing professional, this is a significant conference to learn how they can better support the sales in revenue generation while learning about ABM, MarTech etc. I am not aware of any other conference where there is a similar opportunity. In a digital world marketing owns majority of sales funnel but sales still owns the front end and close of the B2B sales. Sales-Marketing alignment is a very important part of the success equation. If you are an organization where you are in more sales-support model this information is even more critical as this enables you to become a better partner.
I love the title of this event “Where Sales and Marketing Go to Move the Needle Together”. What else a business needs? In general I am very excited to learn from the best in both the fields as by background I am Techie+Sales+Marketer.
Matt: What do you most look forward to at an event like this? Content, networking, strategic vs tactical ideas, etc?
Rohit: I rely on my connections, conferences and articles/books for most of the information in the area of my interests and responsibilities. The most important for me is networking with my peers and vendors. This helps both my strategy and execution. Good ideas at such events have helped me avoid a wrong direction and a costly decision, few times.
Julia: I love events like this, for two main reasons:
- The networking. Being able to chat face to face with my peers in sales and marketing is invaluable. Swapping ideas, discussing challenges, getting recommendations on new channels and vendors, etc.
- Hearing case studies and getting ideas about what the next best new strategy might be for our revenue creation goals.