Guest Post: B2B Marketing = Shift from Sales “Push” to Demand “Pull.”

Here is a guest post from my friend Charles Gold who has been a software marketing executive for nearly 20 years. He serves as CMO at Sonatype, page where he has helped propel the company’s growth to category leadership. Charles believes passionately marketing is rapidly becoming *the* thing that distinguishes software market winners.


Leadership-Charles-GoldHere is a guest post from my friend Charles Gold who has been a software marketing executive for nearly 20 years. 
He serves as CMO at Sonatype, where he has helped propel the company's growth
to category leadership.  Charles believes passionately  marketing is
rapidly becoming *the* thing that distinguishes software market
winners.  Read Charles' blog on software marketing at www.cgoldmarketing.com and find
him on Twitter at @chasgold
.

Have you bought a car recently?  How much information did you get from the
sales person?  Not much, right?  You probably did your research online, read
reviews, determined fair pricing, and checked in with your network on
Facebook. Then, and only then, were you
ready to talk to a sales person.  You
had self-educated, and were ready to enter a buying process.

Sales take place when a buyer has convinced him or herself
of the value of a purchase — and generally not until then. Like so many things, it’s true in B2C and
it’s true in B2B.

In our connected, social, and content-rich world, much of
the buying process takes place before the prospect has even engaged with
us.  It's now generally accepted that in
B2B, more than half of the buying process takes place in a self-directed
fashion before our sales team are engaged.

GuestpostCGold

For B2B marketers, there are massive implications to how we
do our jobs, allocate our budgets, and invest our time.   But at the core, we now have two critical
imperatives:

1)  Ensure our content
marketing strategy matches the buying process.

2)  Ensure our Sales
team is properly enabled for the points at which they will engage with
prospects.

Matching Our Content to
the Buying Process

I've written before about creating a
great content factory
, so I'll focus more on aligning content with the
buying process.

Every piece of content (webpage, whitepaper, video,
infographic, case study, whatever) we create should be designed systematically
to serve a purpose in the buying cycle. 
A prospect that is just starting to look for solutions to a problem is
in a very different place than one who is comparing your offering to a
competitor's.  Our content must be
tailored to this difference — and should be designed to move a prospect to the
next phase of their investigation. 

For instance, when a prospect is just becoming aware of the
full scope of the problem you solve, our content must educate without selling
to hard.  Your prospect should come away
thinking of you as a thought leader. 
Contrast this with the stage where he or she is actively investigating
solutions.  At this point, it's ok to
sell a bit by focusing on our unique value proposition and differentiation from
our competitors. 

I like to use the following buying stages to focus my own
content development efforts. 

Stages
What you offer (and how you offer it) at the awareness stage
is vastly different then what you offer when the prospect is already engaged
with your sales team.  When content is
pushed at the wrong time in the buying cycle, it's the equivalent of
leisure-suit-larry jumping on you as soon as you enter the car showroom.   

Enabling Our Sales Teams to Achieve
Situational Fluency

With all this great content, and buyer pre-education, our
Sales teams must be prepared to interact in a different way with
prospects.  Generally, your reps will be
dealing with a prospect that has already formed some opinions about what they
need and how your organization might be able to help. 

Perhaps the best way to think about it is this: your reps
are continuing a conversation that has already been going on for some
time.  This pre-conversation including
your content, your competitor's content, interactions in the social sphere,
articles in trade magazines, and probably a dozen other sources.

This puts a lot of pressure on the rep to be highly
confident in the details of your solution and to be totally conversational in
discussing the prospect's problem.  The
combination is called "situational fluency" — that is to say that
our reps must project the confidence it takes to interact with an educated and
empowered buyer.

For Marketers, it is our responsibility to help our reps
achieve this level of situational fluency. 
Our training and enablement materials should be rich enough to guide our
reps to the right level of interaction.  
And the materials we give them to send prospects should be designed to
meet specific buying stages or address specific known objectives.  This type of content must be clear, concise,
and focused.  People don’t read – and
overblown content will just wind up in the virtual or physical bin.

The overarching theme is this:  prepare your entire revenue engine, from
initial engagement through opportunity close, for an educated buyer.  Every link in the chain is important, and
it's important to think of the entire chain as one long, multidimensional, and
often-interrupted conversation. 
Marketers who think this way will position their organizations well.
Those who don't will put their organization at risk when one of their
competitors figures out and captures the prospect’s attention. 

Comments open: True
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