B-To-B marketers: still not walking the talk

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Marketers have been waiting for quite some time to turn the tables of accountability from sales to marketing. And now that it's here, the other shoe is about to drop.

According to an Extraprise survey, 80 percent of marketing professionals assumed increased responsibility for sales activities and results in their organization. Almost universally, marketers' accountability extends beyond campaign design and execution, and now these individuals are on the hook for the success of the entire front end of the value chain of their organizations.

Marketers are no longer order takers - they now set the agenda for the customer facing portions of their business.

While most marketers are excited about the increase in responsibility, they are finding it difficult to deliver in their new role.

Issues begin with poor implementation of lead management, where almost 70 percent of leads are not pursued properly and 56 percent of companies surveyed do not even have a formalized lead prioritization system in place. The challenges of marketers are further complicated by questions concerning data integrity in sales and marketing databases, where 86 percent of companies surveyed have serious reservations about the quality of the information in their systems that support front-end efforts.

With pressure to find new ways to reach seemingly unreachable customers and executive emphasis on spending wisely and delivering ROI, it is not a surprise that only 12 percent of marketing organizations have brought their organizations up to date with new technology and systems.

So, with all of these challenges, it should come as no surprise that no universal yardstick exists to determine the success of marketing programs. The Extraprise survey indicates that 26 percent of respondents track closed business (ROI), 12 percent cite qualified leads, 10 percent use response rates, 32 percent measure all three (ROI, qualified leads and response rates), and 20 percent use no measurement yardstick.

Without a common understanding on how to measure success, marketers consistently find themselves chasing undefined targets, typically leading to suboptimal allocation of resources and lower returns on marketing investment. However, the horizon for marketing executives is not completely bleak, because there are solutions to these roadblocks faced by b-to-b marketers.

The combination of proper sales planning and tracking, judicious investments in CRM systems, and implementation of disciplined measurement systems, can address all these deficiencies and lead to dramatic improvements in the success of sales and marketing efforts.

Chief marketing officers can make a big difference by evaluating their CRM investments and ensuring that they align with marketing efforts. CRM and marketing automation initiatives have stalled, failed, and underperformed over the past few years because the database marketing industry hasn't fully understood or developed its role in the customer experience.

Many companies believe CRM and database marketing live on islands unto themselves, but the reality is that no development could change the database marketing industry more than CRM. Companies have realized (many through failure) that CRM is only one step in the path to customer optimization.

One thing all CRM investments have produced is a large amount of customer interaction data from the front lines of marketing, sales and service. One of Extraprise's clients - a $1 billion records management company - has found success by revamping its database marketing efforts to use this information.

The company found a new approach to database marketing in the form of Extraprise's Insight-to-Interaction solution, a combination of Extraprise's marketing consultants and an outsourced database marketing platform that integrated seamlessly within its business operations.

The result: The company successfully transitioned to a closed loop marketing solution by integrating marketing automation with sales applications, thus allowing marketing to track campaigns from its origin all the way to specific sales people.

Most importantly, the company also discovered that most of potential customers existed within certain segments of its existing customer base and reallocated sales resources to penetrate those accounts accordingly.

Another b-to-b company, a $500 million MRO (maintenance, repair, and overhaul) supply organization, also faced a variety of marketing challenges.

The most obvious was the fact that its sales force was not captive, meaning it had limited control over the group responsible for the company's success. To add insult to injury, the sales force was comprised of retirees looking to make a few extra bucks a year and once they reached that point (sometimes within the first quarter of the year), they simply stopped calling on customers. As a result, customers purchase from competitors because the sales guys literally disappear until the following year.

Its problematic model only allowed the company to recognize if a customer was active or not. By using the Extraprise i2i platform, the joint client and Extraprise team was able to use analytics to project spending, redesign sales territories based on geographic models and identify the high value prospects that needed dedicated, full-time sales people.

Ultimately, the company was able to increase customer retention based on reorganizing its marketing strategy. The company is now able to conduct divisional cross selling/up-selling, unheard of for decades.

With CMOs now responsible for the success or failure of the entire front end of their value chain, the pressure to perform has increased considerably and the tolerance for poorly performing sales and marketing investments has dropped dramatically. Marketers need to take action quickly, or they will find that the increase in responsibility they long have coveted will disappear just as rapidly.

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