e-Marketing Strategies for the Complex Sale

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When we look back at the past decade, I believe we will see a significant inflection point in the transformation of B2B marketing and selling. The rhetoric of the internet has become the reality of the internet. The web, along with digital media, web 2.0 technologies, and the proliferation of wireless and mobile computing have resulted in the long-awaited convergence. Even user adoption rates, traditionally the regulator on the velocity of technology impact, are accelerating noticeably.

Of course, not all is perfect. We tend to implement new technologies using old processes and methodologies. True breakthrough occurs when we re-engineer these processes based upon the new technologies.

To paraphrase an old line, to ask, “given my business, how should I use these new technologies?” is fundamentally the wrong question. A more helpful question is, “given the capabilities provided by new technologies, how should I design and run my business?”

Ardath Albee helps answer this question for marketers and business executives in her new book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale. For marketing practitioners and executives who are looking to innovate their revenue engine, this is indeed a must read.

The motivation is considerable. When “marketing has taken charge of propelling prospects farther through their buying process, salespeople are selling to more qualified buyers. This means shorter time to revenue and optimized results from your sales force. ”

Starting with the well accepted premise that business-to-business (B2B) buyers begin their buying process online with searches for a rich array of available information, Albee lays out the business implications along with a cogent framework for content strategy and execution.

Most organizations lack a content strategy, and many lack a marketing strategy. “Event thinking” pervades our approach to marketing, lead generation, content creation and sales support. Albee makes the case for a “mind shift” required to capitalize on the potential of emarketing and marketing automation.

“It’s time to shift your thinking. Think of today’s marketing department as a publisher with a variety of content channels at its fingertips that can provide you with a larger communications reach than you’ve ever had before. Even though 80% of companies say that they “found” their vendors rather than their vendors finding them, chance are high that their initial discovery was somewhere other than your corporate Web site. ”

With her guidance, readers will begin to develop not only effective strategies, but new processes and procedures to create the volume and kinds of “contagious content” buyers demand.

“The buying process for a B2B complex sale has shifted in recent years. This shift means that much of the time that was previously spent with salespeople is now spent reviewing online resources. For this reason, it’s imperative to be found in the places where your prospects are looking. Now more than ever, your company must be recognized as a source of relevant knowledge that pulls prospects into the sales pipeline. Well-executed content will play a bigger role in building trusted relationships that get salespeople invited into the process more efficiently.”

Content — buyer relevant, edu-focused, convenient, compelling, story-based content — is indeed the fuel for today’s revenue engine. It is the “bait” that attracts prospective buyers to find you on the web, and to be found by you, long before they are ready to speak with your sales people.

For most organizations, “Content development is seen as an overwhelming task that takes too much time, effort and money from an already stretched-thin budget and overworked marketing staff. The reality is that a well-structured content-development plan can supercharge marketing and sales results. A well-designed, integrated content strategy will give you more content with less effort.”

Albee fulfills on this promise with practical, actionable prescriptions and recommendations.

I found the following concepts especially valuable:

    • Begin the process by thinking from a “problem-to-solution-scenario” perspective
    • How to create content for specific “personas” — because “relevance is king”
    • Create a “buyer synopsis” to direct the creation process
    • Create content for multiple purposes, buying stages, issues related to the topic, and stakeholders — in one creation process
    • Create content also for sales “conversational resources” and “conversation starters”
    • Create content for both “scan” and “read” value
    • Numerous ideas for creating content as compelling stories so “people to step into your stories and envision their future with you”
    • Create content to support “persistent progression” through the buyers journey
    • How “listening” is the marketers “secret sauce”
    • Create content to support buyer “step backs”
    • Five content “catch factors” that impact viewer attention
    • Five content “amplifiers” that guide content creation