5 Steps to Fix B2B Marketing’s Failure to Orchestrate the Buying Experience

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Complexity, overwhelm, lack of confidence, and perceptions of risk lengthen the buying process. Or stall it indefinitely. This is evident as the growth of “no decision” is surpassing that of won deals in B2B.

The B2B buying process takes 6 months to 8 months—or longer, depending on complexity of solution. Research shows that buyers push vendor conversations out until they’re about 70% of the way through their process. And 75% of B2B buyers prefer a rep-free sales experience. If you apply these stats to a 6-month process, it means B2B buyers are spending more than four months researching, educating themselves, and internally discussing options to create a Day One list before they ever talk to a vendor.

B2B marketing programs and content are now responsible for generating more of the momentum and intent in a buying process than your sales team. It’s therefore imperative to think about how your buyers identify problems and options, build the business case, and gain internal consensus before they talk to a vendor.

I say this because research also finds that if your solution isn’t on the Day One list, you’re likely not in the running at all.

Simplifying the buying process calls for marketing to present a unified brand-to-demand experience. This starts with creating awareness, gaining trust, and engaging at the right time with experiences that drive momentum to help buyers make progress. Not just for one buyer but addressing all influencers on the buying committee.

B2B companies have lost this unifying thread.

Somewhere along the way, we thought it was a good idea to divide up marketing into siloed areas of tactical execution. We separated brand from demand. We created standalone social marketing teams. We decided lead gen was a download. Then we needed growth, so we added a performance marketing team and an ABM one. Oh, yes, and let’s not forget the event team, the marketing ops team, the content team, the product marketing team, and all the others.

We have turned the problem-to-solution quest into a convoluted maze that confuses more than it helps — not only us but our buyers. Rather than one voice, we speak in many tongues. Buyers who visit us on one channel can feel like aliens have landed when they run into our brand on others.

And, if you ask one team about buyers, you’ll get different answers than if you ask yet another. We’re no longer clear on the who, what, why, and how that we desperately need to grasp to build a strong, unified, and credible foundation our buyers can rely upon — because it “speaks” to them.

B2B Marketing: A Failure in Orchestration?

Stop for a minute and consider the similarities and overlays between marketing functions.

Let’s review the “primary” goals of six B2B marketing functions.

Provided by Perplexity.ai

Do you see what I see?

Overlap. Lots of it. And there are more overlaps than those highlighted to address awareness, lead gen, and revenue goals.

You would think that this overlap means these teams are on the same page – but in most cases, that’s not true. Each of these teams creates their plans and programs, and defines KPIs a bit differently. One team likely doesn’t know what the others are planning, doing, or executing.

Until post-execution. And maybe not even then, depending on channel overlap, or lack thereof.

Issues this lack of orchestration creates include:

  • Redundancy
  • Conflicting messaging
  • Added friction to the buying process.
  • Wasted resources.
  • Inefficiency
  • Cross-team frustration
  • Missed opportunities.
  • Lower buyer confidence and trust.
  • Brand damage

One team can launch the best campaign ever with high engagement that shows increasing buyer momentum and intent only to stall when another campaign or program launches that fails to align with (or substantiate) the takeaway from the first. Buyers are busy. At the first hint of doubt or confusion, they’ll defect to something that “feels” less risky.

It’s Time to Re-Unify the B2B Buying Experience

It’s important to consider where B2B marketing—as a function—is operating from. What are the foundations you’ve established to guide operations? Orchestration is most successful when rolled out from a strategy. Yet, what passes for strategy is more often tactical planning.

What’s guiding the objectives, goals, and execution for your marketing teams?

Examples of what I see include:

  • Editorial calendars (a collection of ideas for content without a through line used to track workflows and outputs)
  • Short-term campaign plans (monthly or quarterly when a buying process is 6 months or longer)
  • HiPPO demands (highest paid person’s opinion irrespective of buyer needs or current programs)
  • Shallow mandate from above (marketing must focus on net-new acquisition without GTM guidance for the mandate)

None of the above have any relation to strategy. Quite often, each team has its versions or interpretations without a noticeable connection to the other team’s efforts.

To fix the silos and cross-purposes of marketing functions, step back and look at the big picture. Revisit your strategy and how it informs and rolls out across all marketing functions.

Take 5 Steps to Re-Unify Marketing Functions

1. What’s the current business strategy?

What you planned for at the beginning of the year may not align with the pivots your executive team makes in response to market shifts and the past quarter’s results.

2. Is your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) still valid?

If business objectives have changed, your ICP may have changed. Even if you’re still targeting the same ICP, they may have changed. Therefore, you need to reassess attributes beyond revenue, employees, industry, and geography.

3. Are your personas still on point?

If your business strategy is different and/or your ICP is different, it’s arguable that your personas are also different. Even if they have the same titles, their roles and responsibilities may be different. Or maybe you launched new key features that apply to a new persona. Buying committees change — therefore, so do the personas involved. Or you’re changing focus from net-new acquisitions to retention and expansion. Those personas have different objectives. The first is solving the initial problem, the second is looking for additional value adds.

4. Fine-tune your positioning and messaging.

If the above three things have shifted, it’s also critical to assess your positioning and messaging. Remember that these evolve along with markets and business objectives, not to mention target accounts. Cross-functional involvement is key here. You lead the charge with insights from steps 1 – 3 above.

Once you’ve taken the four steps above, then assess the flow across marketing functions to re-unify the story told from awareness to problem to solution to retention and expansion.

With 15% less marketing budget and 62% of CMOs saying they lack budget to execute their 2024 plans, your best shot of achieving objectives is improving orchestration across marketing functions.

Step 5: Orchestrate flow across marketing functions.

By aligning for flow, you’ll get all functions on the same page and interconnect brand with demand by addressing buyer needs across the buying process. Notice that what helps restore flow is by creating oversight and involvement of the content marketing team across the entire journey. That’s what ensures the stories you tell build engagement with relevance and consistency at every stage.

Note: this should also include sales enablement and retention and expansion, but that’s another article.

A focus on the orchestration of B2B marketing with the intent to unify the B2B buying experience helps marketers facing reduced budgets strengthen brand and feed pipeline. And make it possible with fewer resources by establishing flow across marketing functions.

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