A Tale of Sales and Marketing Intercept Points
Back in the 1990’s I went to work at EMC Corporation. One of the first slides presented to my new hire class was the classic tech “Spider Cloud” graphics that were the rage at the time. In the middle was a large EMC Symmetrix, an enterprise storage device. I was in shock. After 9 years of seeing the same graphics, the server was always in the middle as the most important piece in an IT infrastructure. I thought people at EMC had lost their minds and this was just a product centric point of view. As it turns out, EMC’s graphic was prescient. The next decade from 1995-2005 might be remembered as the open storage wars as the dollars shifted from servers to storage with storage becoming a focal point.
Fast forward to today: marketing, and in particular, demand generation, is now led by marketing. In the “Spider Cloud” of 2016, marketing and sales are in the middle together with equal rankings. That is the case as marketing must drive the right results to enable sales to succeed. No longer can sales reps be left on their own to “figure it out”. Not in high performing organizations. Marketing demand generation must fly air cover with net new sales reps being fed a reliable and predictable stream of qualified leads, appointments or door opening activities.
Here are some observations about what 2016 may have in store for demand generation.
Predictive Marketing – Beyond response based marketing, it will now be critical to intercept signals of likely buying as the prospect enters the buying cycle. This is no longer going to be optional. Every available prospect must be identified as they come into the buying cycle. Some will be early stage, some late stage, but none can be missed. The cost of missing a possible opportunity is too great to not play in an available customer acquisition potential. While there has been much hoopla about this the past 2-3 years, the methodologies have matured and there are now second stage companies coming to market with strong predictive portfolios of products and services offerings.
Account Based Marketing – Predictive marketing is going to change ABM in some ways. In the past, accounts were selected to target based on revenues, historical spends, geography and desirability. That’s the old way of doing it and that will more than likely continue, and it should. The new way of doing it is predicated on Predictive Marketing. Target the accounts that approach the buying cycle. Intercept them as they become a real prospect. While your close ratio will depend on many factors (Can you engage? Can you get short listed? Can you win the account? ) This is the first intercept point in the process: when the signals indicate a high level of interest in a particular product/solution/market. An ABM strategy for getting inserted into the sales process vary; and there is much written about the wrong and right ways of doing this, but in the end, whichever path one takes, it will be essential for high growth companies to get the intelligence to understand who is actually in the process of potentially buying. One would expect a much higher ROI on those opportunities that are in play as opposed to a wish list of accounts. This isn’t possible without predictive marketing. ABM and predictive marketing are yet another intercept point.
Data Intelligence – This goes beyond just knowing what’s installed. HGDATA out of Santa Barbara, CA has done something very interesting: they use data aggregation techniques to not only understand what’s been purchased, but the “intensity” of that purchasing. For technology firms, this is going to be critical. If you follow predictive marketing and get into an account by targeting them with ABM, you need to know what you’re up against. The power of an installed vendor is compelling. It is the easier choice for many customers as they already know the technology; understand how to operate it; know how to get service or help when necessary; and may have deep relationships with that vendor. If you don’t have this information as a sales team, you may have no idea what you are up against. Then again, as all of us who have sold net new business know, it’s never easy to replace that installed vendor unless one or both of the following two conditions exist: 1) unhappiness with installed vendor; 2) They believe that by not changing, they are not getting the value for their spend (read engaging newer technology) that they have in the past. Another intercept point – Data Intelligence.
Marketing Attribution – This has been the case of every marketing program attempting to take some credit for a sale to justify their program. No more. BrightFunnel out of San Francisco is changing the revenue attribution dynamic by being able to accurately consolidate all the touches made to an account (not just a contact) on the way to a sale. Many will look at the results of BrightFunnel’ s attribution software for further marketing investments, but the real genius of BrightFunnel in my opinion, is the ability to understand what type and how many touches it really takes to acquire a new account. Based on the research BrightFunnel has been publishing, it’s been a strong validation of my own suspicion over decades (and based on my own experience selling net new accounts) about the true length of a net new sales process. Marketing Attribution is going to become one of the most important tools the next decade so that demand generation can change its tactics and leverage existing campaigns for higher ROI in the long term. This is no longer going to be a nice to have. It will be critical. Another intercept point – Attribution.
All of this has deep ramifications for the structure of sales teams, channels and marketing demand generation programs in general. High performing organizations will be the first to utilize these technologies. That does not mean that the classic kinds of programs are going away, it does mean that there is an efficiency that must be put into place in order to perform at the levels necessary to win. Multiple intercept points complicate the process for both marketing and sales, but managing those is going to be critical for future success.