It’s a brave new world for B2B. Traditional models are falling apart, with research from Forrester now indicating that up to 90% of the buyer’s journey is completed before a salesperson is even contacted. The balance of power has shifted.

There are three main challenges the B2B business of today must overcome in order to succeed:

1. Close the gap with a lifecycle

Over the last 50 years, a lot of work has been done in optimising the value chain – in particular the supply side.

We are very good at driving efficiencies into the supply chain and removing unnecessary cost from the business, but when it comes to sales, marketing and service, we tend to leave these teams to their own devices.

There is more to being successful than eliminating cost. At some point, the business has to grow its revenue in order to survive. A successful business will compete on supply but win on demand.

A divide between Sales and Marketing is not new, but we’re still reluctant to invest in closing the gap. Integrating sales, marketing and service is a priority to create a harmonious and positive revenue cycle.

Marketing’s role should be to identify, nurture and validate prospects into sales-ready leads. This gives the Sales team the best chance to convert and save time chasing prospects, not at the buying stage of the cycle.

Customer service (which can include Account Managers) plays an important role in validating leads in the retention side of the process. They can help lower any churn rate and work with Marketing to make sure customers are placed back into a relevant customer nurture stream. Service experience is now marketing.

The demand chain needs to integrate. They need to define and plan the process together and work towards a common set of goals and objectives. A dedicated customer lifecycle strategy needs to be developed that helps attract, engage, nurture and consolidate prospects into leads.

Ideally, this will incorporate an integrated marketing automation program that tracks, monitors and transitions prospects through the funnel and allows for a transparent and truly defined process.

Two male colleagues walking in office hallway

2. Content has to convert

Remember when website visits were king? Over time business owners realised that this was not enough – marketing needed to drive and measure converting behaviours.

So content marketing, which spoke more to these behaviours, grew. Now we’re all drowning in content, increasing the need for that content to be highly targeted, relevant and successful in driving conversion.

What made my users act in a way I wanted them to? Did they read the full article? Did that lead to them filling in a form? Do I know what other content pieces this user has digested? Is my content targeting them at different stages of the buying cycle? If you aren’t targeting, tracking and measuring the behavioural relationship of your content to existing and prospective users, you’re just adding noise.

A planned, dedicated, relevant and smartly automated content strategy is required that has the ability to adapt as the consumer evolves. One that is targeted, measured and part of on over-arching customer nurture program.

Read more: Lead scoring models for B2B marketing automation

3. Data to drive decisions

The modern marketer must have a solid understanding of data and the tools that allow for the easier digestion of it. Visualisation of data is often best suited to a marketing team, who can unpack and tell the most useful story with it.

Working with modellers and analysts, the data can then be further interrogated.

Data never ends, so neither should the digestion of it – visualisations should be tested, interrogated, evaluated and refined so that the right data is provided to the right person at the right moment.

The ability to take data, visualise it, collaborate with business units, share insights and then make decisions is a fundamental shift in the way we do business. Decision-making from tacit knowledge and real-time data – or ‘experience-based data’ for decision-making – is vital for the future growth and development and potentially the survival of the organisation.

A cohesive demand chain, with a process-driven lead lifecycle or nurture program, that utilises experience-based data, is a trinity 21st-century marketers have to master.

Learn more about aligning your sales & marketing efforts.

Three top challenges B2B must tackle

Shawn Low
Shawn has more than 15 years of content and marketing experience, working both client- and agency-sides. His diverse career has seen him work across both the B2C and B2B segments, as well as with start-ups. As Head of Content and Social for Green Hat, Shawn will drive effective content in order to meet strategic, commercial and business needs.