Will New Marketing Automation Tools Let Sales Climb Back Up The Funnel?


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Trends are signposts of the future: they point to where we’re headed. But the signposts are unreliable because trends are often interrupted – the classic example being the “Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894”, when experts predicted that major cities would soon be buried beneath horse droppings. I’m beginning to suspect the much-cited trend of marketing playing a larger role deeper into the sales funnel has reached a similar peak. If the pendulum is really swinging the other way, then sales people will be taking a more active role earlier in the buying process.

This particular thought emerged quite unexpectedly during a vendor briefing yesterday. The talk had turned to the industry in general and I was ticking through my usual list of trends – external data, predictive modeling, sales enablement, advanced attribution, adtech and martech integration, local/partner marketing systems, all-in-one systems, content creation support, and of course customer data platforms. But I also had in mind another system I had just seen, MDCDOT, which gives marketing automation functions to sales people. For some reason, I suddenly saw a connection of this to external data: if vendors like NetProspex and InsideView could provide sales people with prospects and vendors like MDC provide tools to nurture those prospects, then sales people really don’t need marketing to do either of those things. Sales could then push marketing back to its traditional narrow role of generating promotional materials and doing research. That’s pendulum swinging with a vengeance.

Once an idea like that pops up, other pieces quickly fall into place.  Integration of advertising with marketing technology potentially gives sales people another route for generating their own prospects. Advanced data enhancement and lead scoring make it easier for sales people to automate lead nurture processes without becoming marketing automation experts. All-in-one systems and customer data platforms both unify marketing and CRM technologies, making it easier to shift boundaries between marketing and sales responsibilities.  Those shifts could be permanent or vary dynamically based on fluctuations in needs, resources, and individual interests. Sales enablement tools like Velocify and Clari help salespeople pick the right treatment for each prospect, which can include sending them to automated campaigns.

In short, the conditions may be ripe for a counter-revolution: a sort of Terminator 2-style conversion where some machines defend the humans instead of trying to replace them. It even dawns on me that having marketers restrict their focus to content creation has some advantages, given how much more content is needed these days.

Let me be clear: this is a shiny new idea which could quickly lose its luster. It only applies in B2B and considered-purchase B2C relationships where actual salespeople are involved in the buying process. And it may be that most salespeople are happy to let marketers handle the lead generation and nurturing, which they never enjoyed in the first place. Or perhaps corporate management will decide it’s more effective and safer for marketing to handle those tasks, regardless of what sales people want.

On the other hand, sales departments are usually much larger, more powerful, and better funded than marketing departments, so it could be in the marketing automation vendors’ interest to serve sales people directly. This leads to the long-expected assimilation of marketing automation into CRM, a trend that has never quite happened but might finally take place.

Or maybe the future is really about machines selling to other machines, and the whole distinction between sales and marketing will no longer matter. Only time will tell. In the meantime, bear in mind that you never know whether a signpost is correct until you’ve passed it.*
*I don’t know what that means, either, but it sounds pretty deep, don’t you think? I can definitely see the motivational poster.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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