“The ideal model for understanding how B2B buyers buy is a life cycle, not a funnel.”
“When your sales involve multiple buyers in a complex, highly considered process, and when there is a distinct hand-off from marketing to sales—it can get a bit murky when figuring out where marketing’s influence ends and sales’ influence begins.”
The question that came up for me (and has for some time) is: Why is there a distinct handoff?
If you look at the first quote above (which I also agree with very strongly) there’s no stop and start for marketers. A life cycle indicates a continuum, not a campaign-type focus. There shouldn’t be any stopping. There shouldn’t be a pause.
What marketers should be doing is addressing each stage of the buyer to customer to advocate life cycle as it happens and in relation to what’s relevant at the time.
If marketers are to prove business impact, they must be able to show influence at every point and pivot.
This doesn’t mean that they need to own it as a “marketing” function, but that they empower the relationships held by buyers and customers with the company – no matter how or with whom they happen.
Marketing has a brilliant opportunity to become the support system for the customer experience lifecycle - across the organization.
Think about all the ways customers play in your business, including:
- Marketing to Sales
- Customer support, service and training
- Product development
- Branding, reputation, credibility
- Advocacy and referrals
Marketing, as the organization responsible for attracting, engaging and initiating relationships, must expand beyond that early role to sustaining and growing those relationships over the entire continuum of the life cycle.
Here are a few reasons why:
- Marketing collects a lot of data about customers and the marketplace their companies serve. They are the ones positioned to provide the most value by integrating other sources of data and feedback from other departments to evolve the big-picture view used to drive business.
- Marketing is on the front lines;, they are often the first “face” presented for the company. If they stop there the story stops with them. Then the organization has to count on whatever story sales shares is complementary and that the story also makes the transition through to customer service and support. Good luck – did I mention that “hope is not a strategy?”
- Buyers and customers are clamoring for higher relevance and vendors who can help them set the vision, realize it and move gracefully forward into the future. This requires consistency in experience and the story that’s started to continue to develop and expand over time. Marketing is in the best position to facilitate this.
- Social media has shoved everyone into a marketing and potentially customer-facing role. Someone needs to provide some orchestration for how the story is shared from those differing perspectives in a way that honors both the brand and the customer.
By staying in the game, marketers can enable every touch point with customers with the parts of the story needed to build a longer-term relationship. With the technology available today, all the points and pivots can be tracked. Proving business impact doesn’t mean marketing must close deals, it means they must be able to show influence across the continuum of the customer life cycle and relate it to business-driving metrics.
It will take time. But I firmly believe a continuum approach is what’s next given the changes we’ve seen so far…