Today's post is by James Rogers, chief marketing officer at OneSource Information Services.
Marketing teams today are faced with an increasingly dire problem: there is a fundamental lack of knowledge about who their customer is and what the customer’s needs are. A company’s inability to articulate who will benefit most from its product or service damages its corporate reputation, delays projects, and reduces profitability and productivity.
What is the source of this problem? First of all, the environment in which marketing teams operate has drastically changed. More than half of respondents to a survey sponsored by OneSource in November 2013 said that their company’s marketing strategies have changed “very much” over the past five years. As we begin 2014, we must now assess what processes are in place to help companies efficiently target customers and sell their products or services.
Since the 1980s, CRM technology has enabled companies to easily track business contacts, radicalizing the prospecting process. The drastic increase in the amount of content available for companies to research and prospects to sort through, however, has changed the playing field. According to the survey, the degree of online information available to decision makers has had the greatest impact on marketing departments. A need to aggregate this data has brought CRM shortcomings to the forefront, but they can be rectified through the use of insight from marketing analytics and automation technology.
The survey found that only 31 percent of companies have a unified database for marketing, sales, and CRM relationships, and 26 percent rely on databases that are not connected. We have already seen these numbers begin to rise, and as more companies consider implementing sales-enablement technology, there are several things to keep in mind in order to maximize its use:
- Establish where the disconnect lies, and choose a solution that fits your needs. Every business will have different requirements; therefore, when finding a marketing-automation solution that satisfies both sales and marketing challenges, selecting out-of-the-box tools and features might not work for your company. Come up with a specific set of requirements so that you get what you need but don’t overspend on tools that aren’t useful to your business.
- Align IT knowledge with marketing insight. Marketing has not always been considered a major revenue driver for organizations. This often prevents marketing and sales departments from implementing the most relevant tools that will help them develop customer understanding. There is data that suggests that, by 2017, chief marketing officers will gain an increased percentage of the purchasing budget and spend more on IT than chief information officers. That means marketing is going to become a greater part of the entire organization, and other departments must tie in closely in order to meet end-to-end goals.
- Similarly, align sales and marketing. From the November 2013 survey, 33.5 percent of those surveyed responded that “marketing owns more than 50 percent of the responsibility for getting leads.” In comparison, only 14.2 percent surveyed said that “sales owns 90 percent of the responsibility.” Despite variations across companies, sales and marketing must work together to identify requirements and implement the appropriate tools. Because lead and customer nurturing is becoming more of a shared responsibility, it is essential that goals, processes, and IT purchases are jointly discussed.
- Integrate business insight with CRM platforms that facilitate action. Enhance the CRM experience by implementing marketing insight tools that aggregate dynamic data from multiple sources. If a company continues to rely on simple CRM platforms to reach out to new and existing prospects, it could be missing out on opportunities to engage clients on a deeper level by utilizing recent information released by the clients themselves.
- Set up real-time triggers that facilitate traction. Including a timely analysis of available live content enables sales teams to quickly apply tangible business insight that can successfully secure timely prospects. Actionable information leads to greater efficiency in prospecting and differentiation from competition.
- Don’t forget about social or contributed content. The survey showed that social-networking sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter ranked second to search-engine data when uncovering information on prospects. This underscores the need for sales and marketing teams to be equipped with tools that constantly monitor social data that can be used for prospecting. The majority of the buying process is complete before a salesperson interacts with a client. In order for companies to influence this key time, they must utilize social data plug-ins for marketing automation systems and CRM platforms to engage prospects earlier in the decision-making process.
Stronger customer connections can be achieved through next-generation sales enablement technology that aggregates business insight in an integrative system with CRM. Companies that can quickly adapt to this technology will reduce prospecting inefficiencies through less back-end research. In this manner, marketing departments can play a greater role in facilitating a comprehensive understanding of the customer, ultimately leading to stronger revenue for the business.
How have your marketing strategies changed over time? Do your marketing and sales teams work well together? Share your thoughts in the comments section.