PowerViews with Trip Kucera: Best Practices & Surprising Trends
My guest today for this third PowerViews interview is Trip Kucera, Senior Research Analyst at Aberdeen Group. His focus in the Marketing Effectiveness and Strategy practice helps his clients achieve extraordinary results. Prior to joining Aberdeen Group, he spent years in the trenches with companies including Progress Software, LogMeIn, and SuccessFactors. Trip is also an author, a speaker, and a blogger.
Below, you can read highlights from our discussion or use the links to start the video from different parts of the conversation.
Video Marketing - A Surprising Trend
Click to start video at this point—Asked about what marketing trend he’s found surprising in the last year, Trip immediately mentions the focus on and investment in video-based marketing. He adds that this is part of a larger, content-driven marketing trend that includes rich media. He notes this evolution is surprising given the number of challenges that are out there, and yet it makes sense given content asset trending.
Social Media is Becoming a Lead Gen Vehicle
Click to start video at this point—Trip sees social media marketing starting to turn a corner. While still in the early days of companies adopting it and developing best practices, Aberdeen is seeing social media marketing moving from being around awareness and thought leadership to really being around demand generation and lead management and so forth. Their recent research showed 60% of best-in-class companies have actually closed business sourced through social media marketing, and this points to a significant shift to see social media as a lead generation vehicle.
Along with this trend, media integration is becoming more prominent. Trip notes that, while email was what social media was supposed to put out of business, best-in-class companies are integrating email with social media marketing at a much higher rate than other companies.
Social media has to be considered, too, in the context of the buyer’s journey. He describes the argument in the following way:
“If social media is becoming more and more an important part in the way that buyers educate themselves about products and services they are exploring, then, frankly, a lot of companies are going to be a little flat-footed right now in terms of being able to really take full advantage of that.
“So I think there’s going to be a whole lot of investment and a whole lot of focus on a) understanding that buyer’s journey, and b) starting to instrument social media in the same way that we’ve instrumented other aspects of our channels and processes, and starting to fold that into processes like lead management, lead scoring, and lead nurturing.”
The Role of Social Media
Click to start video at this point—Asked about the role social media plays for companies selling a $250K software solution compared to lower average dollar goods, Trip affirms the impact in the complex sale and also notes different dynamics. The $250K purchase will have many touchpoints of influence across the sales cycle, and social media will be integrated as one of those points of influence.
He notes the rise of social selling and the way sales teams are being empowered with social media tools and social media listening. Sales reps can actually engage in conversations and start to identify when there might be some buying signals or see different ways their prospects are sharing information or participating in conversations. This awareness might signal a stage in their buying process, or it might signal that they have certain concerns or certain requirements.
As the social buyer becomes much more educated using these tools, Trip says social media will become part of the tool bag for both marketing and sales going forward.
The Impact of Mobile
Click to start video at this point—Trip sees mobile as one of the top three channels that companies are identifying with and planning to invest more in, adding that there are going to be different value propositions to different organizations depending on what their marketing challenges are.
From a B2B perspective, he uses the email term, “deliverability,” in a broader context. He shares an example of a prospect boarding a flight with a few minutes of downtime to check email. This might be a perfect opportunity to start influencing them. And if the email doesn’t open properly on a mobile device, if it doesn’t render properly, or if the target landing page isn’t mobile friendly, that’s going to impact the relationship.
Every opportunity to get your message out there and share value with the prospect is significant, and, again from a B2B perspective, a lot of companies are going to be thinking about mobile marketing in this way.
The Marketing Automation Learning Curve
Click to start video at this point—Trip shares that we’re starting to see the early majority adopting marketing automation—that crossing-the-chasm moment. He adds what’s holding companies back is the skills gap: only a subset of adopters are using more of the advanced capabilities like lead scoring and lead nurturing. He compares this to having a gorgeous Ferrari that’s only kept in the garage—a powerful engine that you’re just not bringing to full potential.
For many companies, marketing automation is about a learning curve, and they are saying, “All right, let’s start there. We know where we want to go, but we don’t want to swap out technology in two years’ time once we develop that skill set.” So companies on that learning curve are starting to develop and grow their competencies internally to drive these systems and start to get value.
Trip notes, when talking about marketing automation, he uses the phrase, “marketing process management,” because it draws a parallel with previous process management cycles seen in the industry. But the big story isn’t about the process itself:
“While you get improvements and so forth in terms of automating that process, the real value comes in all the data that you get by digitizing, essentially, what were previously manual processes.
“Now you start to get a really rich set of data that CMOs can really start to leverage and use to get much better visibility and much better instrumentation of their marketing operations, and start to use that to optimize those processes.”
Outbound vs. Inbound: Focus on Adding Value
Click to start video at this point—Asked outbound vs. inbound strategies, Trip says, “Inbound versus outbound. I say, ‘yes.’ It’s an all of the above proposition, really.”
He notes that, right now, inbound marketing is winning the debate because of better messages, adding that inbound marketing has largely been conflated with content-based or education-based marketing, and they’re often talked about in the same breath or in the same conversation.
He talks about the goal for marketers being the addition of value at every point of contact, and, in a perfect world, it wouldn’t matter in what form that interaction took place—whether a buyer found you through social mention or search, or whether you found a buyer through an event, through outbound marketing like an email campaign, or some other third party campaign.
What does matter is that content is relevant, valuable and interesting; that it makes sense; and that the interaction is a positive one for all concerned. So a better focus is, “What’s the content that’s being shared? What is the value exchange that’s happening between buyers and sellers?”
Many companies are focused on content marketing as a strategic initiative, and the biggest challenge they’re facing is the content itself. Trip notes that timely, relevant, impactful and targeted content is key, but it’s also really tough because they can’t get enough of it. In response to this challenge, he sees approaches like corporate journalism and using third party resources.
Trip emphasizes the importance of aligning content with the buyer’s journey as really getting in and understanding what piece of content is right at what stage, and with which targets:
“It’s much more important that organizations focus on the right content—we’ve talked about right person, right message, right time—bring that back to the right content, and align that.”
The State of Marketing & Sales Alignment
Click to start video at this point—Trip believes marketing and sales alignment is improving, and he notes an indicator is the way the two groups have identified alignment as a shared top priority.
Alignment now is particularly important given the new buyer’s journey and what Aberdeen calls “the hidden sales cycle,” or the hidden influences of social media, blogs, forums, and direct peer connections that happen at a hyper scale on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
He notes an asymmetrical relationship between the B2B buyer and seller where buyers have more knowledge and more power in the information exchange, particularly in the very early phases. Trip explains that this trend puts a new burden on marketing and sales to be more aligned because buyers are coming in with a whole set of new biases.
Given this shift in buying process dynamics, buyers have pre-shaped visions by the time they engage with sales. Trip notes that if processes are working correctly, then part of the buyer’s vision has been shaped by the marketing team through its inbound and outbound marketing touches across the nurturing cycle.
Alignment around the processes continues to be important, and operational issues have to be dealt with. These are questions such as, “What is a lead? When are they qualified? How do we hand things off? How do we hand things back if they’re not qualified?”
But there is the challenge of marketing and sales alignment around the message: understanding what messages the buyer is coming in with, the context of the social conversations, the conversations with marketing they may have had, and then being able to carry forward that conversation.
Trip summarizes this process and message alignment by noting the following:
“So those kinds of transitions in terms of what the buyer’s context is, and what kind of biases they are coming in with are so much more important now than a few years ago. That’s why we see this renewed focus on sales and marketing alignment. And I think we’ll see that continue very strongly.”
What Should Marketing Do Differently?
Click to start video at this point—Asked about what marketing can do differently, or better, that they haven’t done so far this year, Trip comments on the how the buyer journey is changing and understanding how marketing is impacting that. He notes that this journey doesn’t just stop at the front side of the funnel, and he adds it isn’t just about “let’s get them to the point of sale, and then they’re handed off.” Rather marketing needs to be thinking about that relationship much more end-to-end.
Trip adds that organizations need to have a portfolio approach dealing with new engagement opportunities:
“You don’t want to solely focus on execution at the risk of missing out on new opportunities and developing skill sets. Those need to be compartmentalized.
“So I think the message would be: keep your eyes on the prize, but have a framework for experimentation in place if you can afford it and if you have some bandwidth for it. But obviously prioritization is key.”
Sales & Marketing Need a Mindshift to Revenue-Driven Marketing
Click to start video at this point—Trip also shares comments on the shift they are seeing around marketing and sales’ relationship and focus:
“I think there’s this notion that marketing typically serves sales, if you will. We talk about sales-driven marketing. And I think, increasingly, that’s transitioning into being about revenue-driven marketing, where both sales and marketing are focused on the same thing. One isn’t working at the service of the other.”
Trip elaborates by noting that traditionally marketing’s objective was to hand over leads to sales and have some processes to ensure that the handover was right and that the sales leads were well qualified. With the transition to marketing being judged by top line revenue growth, it’s necessary for marketing and sales to share a new vision focused on revenue:
“As a CMO, I don’t want to be one that hands over leads and entrusts some other organization—as much trust as I may have in them—to deliver on goals that I am ultimately responsible for.
“So I think that both sales and marketing need a mindset change—where they both are focused on driving revenue, and are working together toward that end.
“We talked a minute ago about that end-to-end buyer’s journey, and the other end impacting new business in that cycle. That’s everyone’s responsibility. I think that the old idea from the sales perspective with ‘my account’ and ‘my customer’—that mindset is going to have to shift a little bit.”
You can connect with Trip and learn more about his marketing effectiveness and strategy work by visiting the following resources:
Trip Kucera on Twitter: @TripKucera
Trip Kucera at Aberdeen Group: Profile
Trip Kucera’s research at Aberdeen Group: Marketing Effectiveness & Strategy
The next PowerViews will be with Paul Gillin of Paul Gillin Communications. Stay Tuned.
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