Over the past decade, new, well-received strategies have revolutionized B2B marketing and sales. Technological innovations have largely contributed to this evolution.
For example, marketing automation systems paved the way for inbound marketing strategies and the importance of content, thought leadership, social media, and more.
Similarly, innovations in audience data (e.g., predictive analytics, firmography, technography, intent data) have led to the widespread adoption of audience-based marketing and sales initiatives. accounts, despite account-based forms of marketing having been around for decades. ABM is now incredibly sophisticated and dynamic due to the nature of these new datasets.
New marketing strategies require new marketing processes
These new strategies have had great results, causing companies to be much more scientific in how they focus their resources and communicate their messages. Unfortunately, the dynamic nature of the data sets that now drive go-to-market (GTM) strategies makes it much more difficult to execute those same strategies. In other words, there is a disconnect between strategy and execution, ideas and actions.
More than just aligning teams at the strategic level (e.g. the old marketing-sales alignment problem), GTM teams must also align at the procedural level. For example, when new data dictates a change in targeted accounts, not only must that change be communicated quickly and clearly to those responsible for engaging accounts (regardless of department or role), but they must also clearly understand the processes required to implement the revised strategy. This may require adjustments throughout the buyer’s journey, such as changing targeting settings for media purchases, updating messaging, and/or assigning content assets to specific accounts. redirecting leads or accounts to better follow-up channels, and more. It’s a huge struggle for most B2B organizations.
B2B organizations should focus on developing tactical processes that support the execution of scalable and highly dynamic strategies, rather than trying to “glue” existing processes onto new strategies.
Technology is an important ingredient, but it’s not everything. It is far more important and effective to map out these new or revised processes, and then discover where the technology can have the greatest impact (whether for accuracy or efficiency).
Related Article: Figure Out Where You Can Earn: 4 Steps to Mastering Go-to-Market
Intent data as a microcosm of an industry problem
I’ll use intent data as an example because that’s what my business focuses on and where I feel I have the most expertise. However, the gap between strategy and execution goes far beyond intent data and the strategies, technology, people and processes it affects.
Intent data has significantly influenced B2B marketing and sales strategies over the past few years. This is increasingly helping B2B organizations better understand their market so they can focus their time, effort and resources where and how they will have the most impact.
Specifically, intent data analyzes companies’ online behaviors (in a variety of ways) to identify:
- What are the target accounts to buy from the market, so you can allocate resources more efficiently.
- What are the challenges, concerns, and interests of these accounts — so you can select the right messages and tactics to use with them.
- Where are the buying groups for these accounts located – to ensure messages reach decision makers in the target account.
- What stage of the purchase cycle each account is in, so you can further customize the selection of messages and tactics based on the needs of the purchase stage.
This is all incredibly useful information. And the more sources of intent data used to inform strategies, the more accurately your strategy will be informed. More intent signals ensure greater coverage of online search activity and buying behavior while allowing you to verify signals from different sources.
The problem is that many B2B organizations struggle to:
- Quickly gather intent signals from multiple sources.
- Update their planned tactics based on new intent signals (often updated weekly).
- Distribute intent-driven information to teams and/or individuals tasked with taking action.
This is a clear example of the disconnect between strategy and execution. Further, the importance of the gap between strategy and execution specific to intent data is highlighted in a recent survey conducted by my company, Intentsify and Ascend2, which found that the #1 challenge facing B2B marketing teams face with intent data is “Creating a strategy for [its] use” (43% of respondents). Additionally, “Acting on intent signals/insights” was also identified as a top challenge (28% of respondents).
Dawn Colossi, CMO at SoftwareAG, explains the industry problem this way:
Lack of planning and alignment presents the first challenge to effectively using intent data. For example, while marketing has tried to respond to intent data, sales hasn’t really changed the way they plan how they’re going to make their numbers. Sales thinks they have a prescriptive method that works, either using their named account list or planning accounts in their territory. And when marketing comes along and hands them an account that’s “not on their list,” it’s often dropped somewhere in the funnel. This is clearly a process problem. I think what needs to happen, in this specific case, is that sales needs to provide their named account list or target accounts to marketing, who in turn needs to compare it to their intent data to give a read on which accounts appear to be in the market and which are not. This helps align sales and marketing on who they are both trying to reach and how they will focus their efforts to succeed.
A repeatable, or even automated, process must be in place to take full advantage of intent data: integrate accounts into your targeting strategies through the tactics you use in the right campaign, at the right time in the buyer’s journey .
While many B2B organizations use intent data to inform their strategies, they struggle to implement those strategies comprehensively and effectively. As a result, their intent-driven strategies don’t work as well as they should.
Related article: Intent data and the gap between sales and marketing
Don’t forget your processes
I almost always end my articles with concrete ideas. But in that case, I think I would be doing you, the reader, a disservice by listing the actions to be taken. This is because I am still working on this issue – trying to better understand all the causes, implications, and potential solutions to disconnecting strategy execution.
Instead, I think the best thing I can do is advise marketers to focus more on process. It seems to me that marketers (and I certainly include myself here) keep adding new trends, strategies, technologies, data, etc. to the pile. without removing or revising the items (often processes) they were meant to replace or improve. As a result, many of these investments that were largely intended to create efficiency and/or greater effectiveness are not paying off as we hoped. I do not know why. Maybe because technology, innovative strategies and people are just more interesting topics to focus on, while process improvement is just too tedious and boring.
But until B2B marketing, sales, and even customer success teams focus on ensuring that our processes can adequately handle the increasingly dynamic nature of our strategies, we will likely fail in our efforts to effectively communicate our values to the market, meet the needs of prospects, customers and employees, generate the best return on investment in technology and media, and grow our business. This is a challenge that organizations need to prioritize and launch plans to address.
David Crane is VP of Marketing at Intentsify, a leading provider of intent data solutions. With a decade of B2B marketing experience in the technology industry, David leads Intentsify’s go-to-market and messaging strategy.