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Three key takeaways from SiriusDecisions Summit 2017

Has the death knell sounded for email marketing? Do we need to aim our selling tactics at groups not individuals? And how should the marketing department deal with change management? The SiriusDecisions Summit in London gave attendees some surprising content to think about. Here’s our three key takeaways:

1. Email is dead: long live email

SiriusDecisions used its 2017 European Buyer Insights Gap Index to give us some context around how well sales and marketing tactics are performing. The answer: not that well. The survey showed a clear misalignment between the types of content and engagement methods buyers want versus what marketing and sales organisations give them.

Marketing is offering primarily self-serving content that discusses or demonstrates the virtues of a specific product or service, rather than helping customers through their pain points. This lack of alignment with the buyer needs is further compounded by marketers then hedging their bets at every stage of the buying journey and trying a little of everything (email, webinars, ROI calculators, infographics etc), rather than operating a coherent, original strategy designed to support the buyer as they progress through to a decision point. And the worst culprit was email which was overused (in buyers opinions) at every stage of the process. So what do buyers want? High on the list were analyst reports and customer case studies particularly at the early stages. They want to gain guidance on the value of exploring a particular approach, not necessarily a specific product. But sales and marketing teams, the report stated, are still focused too heavily on pushing emails, demos and videos, and while this type of content does entice, it’s not powerful enough to help customers make important buying decisions.

Our take: Email marketing isn’t dead, but the more sales and marketing teams punt out content that buyers don’t want the more likely emails are to be ignored. Email is cheap and easy, but good marketing is not about quantity – firing off 10,000 mails because you can. It’s about targeting the right five people with a bespoke tailored interaction that encourages them to engage. The only way to ensure real alignment is to know your audience. Conduct discovery through data and insight on how the audience want to engage, what their pain points are and what content they need to help them make their buying decision, don’t just send a datasheet or shiny brochure!

2. Target groups, not individuals

The SiriusDecisions Demand Waterfall is about measuring the health of demand creation and demand management processes and performance. The company used the Summit to talk up the Next Generation Demand Waterfall; selling to groups or units, rather than individuals. Often, particularly in the B2B environment, there are cross-departmental buying groups wielding power over purchasing decisions. And no individual acts in isolation. Everyone is influenced by those around them so targeting just the CIO without his team, or the finance team or management team could be fruitless. Marketing needs a holistic view of the decision maker and his sphere of influencers and to treat them as ‘demand units’. This will require a different and much more co-ordinated approach to managing the funnel. You need to identify and map these groups early on in the funnel so you can ensure you market to them smartly in a clustered manner and ensure sales are informed and aligned.

Our take: For those who have been already on the ABM journey this will not be unfamiliar territory – ABMers do this day-in day-out on key accounts. The challenge for organisations will be how to scale this and make it programmatic – recognising buying groups interacting with your organisation across marketing and sales channels will be key. If you don’t spot these you could miss opportunities or send the wrong message.

3. Change management makes way for change marketing

The change management panel at the Summit provided some food for thought around the need for culture change, not just tactical changes. The module consisted of a number of  vendors, Tata Communications, Eaton and Automic, each commenting on ways they’ve used change management tactics to make marketing more effective.  

Tata Communications Mehul Kapadia has skilled people across the globe, but his challenge with such a dispersed workforce, was how to bring them together to work effectively as a team. He described conducting change management in three parts. Firstly, group people based on skills and desired outcomes and create action teams. Let these teams run for 90 days to discover what works and what needs changing. Finally, look at performance in a very transparent manner - what do people cost and what do they deliver. This way, small, agile groups that test changes, mean a greater chance of success when change is applied on a greater scale. But, according to Kapadia’s boss Julie Woods-Moss, ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’, so regardless of your tactics, your skills or your budgets, without the right people involved, successful change management will be a challenge.

This thought was echoed by Cyrille Brisson from Eaton, who discussed why it’s important to have the right people involved or a ‘coalition of the willing’. By categorising people into those who were eager for change, those who could change and those who would never change, he was able to fill his team with those who embraced the changes he was looking for. Brisson also advocated quick pilot approaches to find out what works and what doesn’t to increase agility and speed of change. One way he has encouraged change around the spending habits of his marketing team is to unite budget with skills development. For example, if the team in the UK request budget for a paid social campaign, they must be able to prove their competency in such a task. This, he said has a two-fold benefit; it stops money being spent on ill-thought out campaigns and it encourages all team members to understand more about each aspect of marketing discipline.

Rachel Teare from Automic, a customer of ours, shared how the firm has embraced a rapid move to digital, from a strategy dominated by events. Read our full case study on the project here. Interestingly she said one of the outcomes of the digital strategy was the increase in measurable pipeline it has delivered and what a change this had been. By better understanding what the sales teams actually needed, and communicating the benefits and strategic advantage marketing was delivering, it had helped to align the two teams.

Our take: Making changes to the marketing team and tactics is a constant, but unless sales teams are kept informed and the two strategies interlinked, then any change is likely to have little effect on the pipeline. And that is the ultimate goal – investing time and resource in the campaigns that will deliver more revenue to the business should be the priority of the marketing team. Whether that’s through a quick and effective social campaign, a 12 month ABM program, or a longer term strategy, only by mapping out the outcome upfront in conjunction with sales can you deliver on it.

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