The Future of B2B Marketing: How to Strategically Attract & Engage Leads in a Self-Service Customer Journey

What does it take for B2B marketers to be successful in today’s self-driven, buyer-in-control world? Two things: understanding today’s buyer, and surfacing the right content at the right time with the right call to action. Here’s how to do just that. 

In the recent 2015 B2B Lead Generation Report compiled by BrightTALK, it was discovered that nearly 80% of B2B marketers rate their marketing efforts as only slightly or somewhat effective.

In large part, this may stem from the rapid and sudden evolution of the buying behavior of today’s B2B decision maker. Before the internet, customers relied heavily on salespeople to identify their needs and the solutions needed to resolve them. This was a relationship built around two primary factors: a) trust, and b) necessity. 

Today’s B2B Decision Maker 

But today, with unparalleled access to information at our fingertips and more marketing messages than ever competing for our eyes, both trust and necessity are out the window.

The buyer now has access to research products, services and solutions before talking to sales teams. They are installing ad-blocking software and paying for subscriptions to reduce the amount of advertisements they see. And this access and control is changing the way B2B decision makers buy. Consider the following stats compiled by Google:

  • Today’s B2B sales process takes 22% longer than 5 years ago
  • 89% of B2B buyers use the internet during the research process
  • 80% of business decision makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus an advertisement
  • In most cases, B2B prospects are 57% down the path to a decision before they perform an action on a site

In this new world, the buyer is now the one in control. The aftermath of this seismic shift is that an overwhelming majority of B2B marketers feel dazed and confused, wondering a) what the hell happened, and b) what the hell are we supposed to do now? 

What We’ve Always Done Won’t Always Work 

In the old days, when salespeople controlled the conversation with buyers, all marketing had to do was generate “leads” and throw them across the fence to the sales team. 

Marketing was a volume game, repeating the same basic message across channels, mediums and platforms: You have a need? We are the solution. Contact Us.

But those days are gone.

The explosion of digital content, social networks and personalized technology killed the traditional linear buyer journey and replaced it with a new chaotic and (seemingly) random journey.

This is why B2B marketing is no longer about generating leads and tossing them over the fence to sales. We are no longer in control of the conversation—we’re participants in it. And that means marketing today is about educating the market, targeting the right types of leads, and handing off hot leads to sales at the right time.

Doing this well may well require a seismic shift in the way your marketing and sales teams operate.

Success Today Involves Unity

Successful B2B marketing today isn’t about shouting louder, saying more things, or investing in more ad spend. It’s about finding out what to say, when to say it—and how to say it 10x better than anyone else.

Because of this, success hinges on aligning sales and marketing teams into a customer-winning force unified around shared goals and information. This is called SMarketing.

The businesses who will win today and tomorrow are the ones that understand it’s not about casting blame—but about sharing responsibility for the solution.

When B2B sales and marketing teams are aligned, magic happens. The Aberdeen Group reveals that B2B companies with tight sales and marketing alignment experience 32% annual revenue growth. Conversely, companies without said alignment registered a 7% fall in revenues.

Smarketing enables companies to strategically win over new business by creating the right helpful content and have the right value-add conversations at every stage of the chaotic customer journey.

Aligning Sales and Marketing Around Inbound Marketing

To recap: The traditional buyer with her linear purchase path is gone. 

In her place are savvy, connected, well-informed prospects who are seeking value-add conversations to help them make the right decisions. Reaching her will require B2B companies to attract her with educational content, provide her with can’t-get-anywhere-else resources that help her solve critical problems, share personalized content that continues to earn her trust, and facilitate the purchase conversation when the time is right.

Aligning marketing and sales around a unified, integrated inbound marketing program may well set you apart.

Wondering what it takes to get it done? Download our free ebook, The Future of B2B Marketing In A Self-Driven World: How the Best B2B Marketers Align Sales and Marketing Teams Around Inbound Principles, to learn how to align your marketing and sales teams into a unified customer-winning force—and how to to apply your new structure into a successful inbound marketing strategy.