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Do You Have a Marketing Strategy or Just Marketing Automation
By Scott Hornstein

Corporate decision-making is messy, confounded by perceptions, expectations, and personalities, with individual and professional motivations that often conflict. And, depending on who you listen to, 60% to 70% of the b2b sales process now occurs before the prospect engages in sales.

Marketing must stretch its intellectual tools to find and nurture prospects through more of the realization and qualification process until we have created a sense of preference.

Said differently, if your strategy is marketing automation, all you are doing is pumping out stuff, only a tiny fraction of which may actually be relevant. It is unlikely that a prospect will engage based on the sheer tonnage of communications.

If, however, your strategy is to align your marketing with the needs and preferences of your prospect, as they express them, then you are providing true value, and it is that value that will tip the scales.

Let me tell you a story about a really smart technology company with disruptive technology for the enterprise. They have come up with a longer lasting, more powerful, smaller, cleaner way to store and retrieve energy, in counterpoint to batteries, which can be noxious, are large and occasionally fail. Did I mention that this technology is new and thus has not been tested over time? And, because we are early in its lifecycle, it’s also expensive.

The impact on the industry could be huge. Think of a company’s data center. In case of an outage, most rely on lead-acid batteries, which cost a lot of money to maintain and have a shorter life expectancy.

To get real-world input to the marketing plan, this company engaged targeted executives in purposeful conversation, or an evolved form of prospect persona research designed to bring clarity to prospecting. The goals:

  • Identify high-potential prospects and low-potential prospects
  • Understand their information behavior – how they learn or don’t learn
  • Assemble the information into human form, to drive messaging and focus sales and marketing

Here’s what the research revealed – the decision making process in all its beauty:

  • The CEO only cares that he has a signed agreement regarding how many micro-seconds it will take for all of his critical data to be back online if there’s an outage. Doesn’t care how it gets done. Has a say in the final purchase decision.
  • The CFO is open to the concept of buying an expensive, superior technology to decrease the cost of ownership, but is under short-term pressure to push down costs. She is wary of being on the bleeding edge of technology. Get the vendor info through purchasing. She signs the check.
  • The CIO is very experienced. He lives and breathes data recovery. Losing power is his worst nightmare, and he’s survived a few. Batteries have always saved him. This makes him unlikely to “cross the chasm”. His peer network is his primary source of information on innovation (the engineers are his second). He also learns online, at executive-level events and from the trades, which he skims online in the office and reads at home on paper. If interested, he assigns indepth research to his assistant. He’s involved with key vendors, leery of others. He makes the purchase recommendation.
  • When exposed to the technology, his remark was “unproven”. He was specific about the testing and results that might eventually get him to try the technology, if not change his mind.
  • Engineers are voracious, gobbling bits of information from their favored websites, communities and social media. Always curious, looking for new ideas, innovative technologies that do things more elegantly – better, cleaner and faster. If an idea intrigue, they research (and they were very specific regarding the information they require), valuing anonymity until convinced. They feel a responsibility is to champion such innovation to the CIO.
  • When exposed to the technology they were impressed but cautioned that the data center’s batteries were unlikely to be ousted anytime soon. Instead, they brainstormed, what about use in remote installations, like switching stations on top of mountains, where they are critical to operations and maintenance is almost impossible.
  • Purchasing is responsible for vendor evaluation – both initially and ongoing – and their recommendation is part of the decision making process. They get their information from trade shows, vendor presentations, and online research. They have an uneasy relationship with Engineering.

These results, to me, are a beautiful thing, an intellectual and technological road map for marketing and sales to sit side by side and combine their energies. Marketing to sell.

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