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Lois Dixon
by Lois Dixon - April 24, 2019

St Pancras2

The IT Marketing Leaders’ Forum is an exclusive, invitation only group for tech marketing leaders. Made up of a select mixture of Sherpa clients, industry leaders, consultants, tech marketing thought leaders and global MarTech companies, the ITMLF is a group on which best practise is actively shared on subjects such as Channel Marketing, Account Based Marketing and blended Sales and Marketing.

On the 25th April, team Sherpa, as part of the IT Marketing Leaders’ Forum played host to a dozen of Tech marketing’s leading figures. Looking down from the Clock Tower at St Pancras, we engaged in an evening of fine wine and dining, whilst the discussing the landscape of tech marketing in 2020 and beyond.

Over a five course Argentinian meal discussion centred on four main topics.

1. Content

Content must be exceptional

The first point that was discussed is the ongoing requirement for exceptional content. It is still given the status of royalty in today’s congested marketing landscape, but is this actually a deserved status? Well the general consensus was yes, IF the content is good enough. Too many companies are distributing generic content for the sake of it and relying on it to qualify leads…this is not sufficient. Many tech companies are trying to be publishers and many publishers are trying their hand at tech, but this leaves a shortfall in expertise. In order to cut through the clutter, content needs to be top level, reflective of your brand, contain thought leadership which challenges existing practices and above all, creates conversation. 

Content should create conversation

Creating conversation should be our number one objective…this will not only help show that the content is resonating and therefore provide us with a necessary metric, but also in itself generates further content. In B2C there is a huge amount of content generated from customer feedback, reviews, call centre transcripts and general consumer feedback, but this is less prevalent in B2B. If the B2B world could adopt this inbound content model more and use content to generate conversation and from that conversation, generate further consumer relevant content, then it would be beneficial.

However, it was argued that content is not the biggest challenge…but in fact there were three other contentious issues at hand:

  1. Everybody chasing the same market
  2. Marketeers not utilising the right tools
  3. There is too much MarTech

 

2. MarTech

Underusing MarTech comes at a cost

MarTech is a popular subject at the moment, but it was highlighted that at the recent B2B Marketing Get Stacked expo, there was a prevalence of Marketeers actually getting rid of tech. Marketeers are generally quite impressed by marketing and with MarTech vendors getting better with their own comms, people aren’t always taking the time to see what the tools actually do and very much underestimate the resources (time, money and manpower) required to get the MarTech to work. Tech is evolving at an enormous rate and as tech vendors bring out continuous upgrades companies are paying inflated prices, but only utilising a fraction of their technology. It was mentioned that there is a dominance of certain ‘Middle Aged’ providers who have become so integrated in to the companies which use their technology, that they are almost impossible to unpick. Costs aren’t itemised from the outset and the investment is often under-utilised and hard to undo. Even as Tech Marketing experts, we at Sherpa can be guilty of this – we use Hubspot for our own marketing and only utilise approximate 50% of the full functionality, opting for plug ins to fill any gaps.

Are we using Marketing Technology for the right purposes?

It was suggested by one attendee that the tech explosion was in fact caused by everybody simply wanting quicker results. However, the emphasis needs to be on the number one rule of marketing: ‘know your audience’. Consumer needs are constantly changing and tech must continuously evolve to cater for this. So are we actually just overcomplicating our communications with technology? The outbound process should be simple…perhaps we are too focused on the latest tool and platform when our strongest tool is right in front of us – the telephone. If we are consistently looking to generate conversation, the power of the telephone should never be overlooked. 

3. The disconnect between marketing and sales

 
Sales needs to be brought in to the marketing mix

This brought us nicely on to our next point of discussion…an ever popular topic of debate – the misalignment between sales and marketing. The main point here was that sales needs to be brought in to the marketing mix. As marketeers we spend time nurturing a campaign and getting to know the target audience and creating suitable messaging and then at the crucial time, pass leads on to sales and expect them to be experts on the subject and close the leads. However, this assumption of expertise is further amplifying the disconnect between marketing and sales. There is an issue with high churn for sales teams, which could be attributed to the lack of training and provision of content. It could in fact be argued, that the sales team should be some of the most highly trained people in your team – in fact, many Business Intelligence companies are labelling their sales team ‘Sales Engineers’. Does this have a scalability issue though? 

Is lead terminology further fracturing the funnel?

One issue that was touched upon within the sales and marketing misalignement conversation was the terminology used to classify leads as they progress through the tunnel. One attendee was clear that his company have opted against using segregating terms in order to ensure there is as little disconnect as possible between teams, instead opting for the term ‘opportunity’ throughout their sales cycle. We recently distributed a blog on this very topic as ‘lead tennis’ is clearly becoming a problem as marketing and sales volley leads between them as the criteria of what makes a prospect either an MQL or an SQL have not been suitably agreed. Perhaps we should all follow suit and remove these labels completely.

4. Data and Intent

Is intent just smoke and mirrors?
The natural progression for the evening was obvious…the one subject that any marketeer cannot avoid. Data. But more specifically intent and its importance in prospecting leads. It is certainly a tool which can set one marketing company aside from another, but is it all just smoke and mirrors? Intent is a great tool to show your client what their clients are looking at that is competitive, but does intent actually work and if so, where are the case studies proving it’s worth? Well it could be argued that the proof can be seen anecdotally. However, the main issue raised with intent was the lack of exclusivity. Everybody with access to the technology is working the same list of accounts and the top of the ‘triangle’ is therefore being saturated. This is compounded by the continuous production of newly surging target account lists. It was argued that the intent cycle needs to be more than 30 days and must in fact follow the annual buying cycle.

Never assume
The other weakness of relying on ‘intent’ is the assumptions made. One point that was raised was that PhD users are often mistaken for highly engaged prospects who are surging for intent, due to the amount of time they spend digesting content. However, they are a red herring! Therefore, assessing and measuring exactly how people are reading and digesting content is equally as important. Overlaying hosted assets with tools such as Hotjar can provide metrics on viewer activity, and often show the importance of visuals. Many people will skip straight to charts, illustrations and diagrams. So combining knowledge of how people view content with when they are viewing is integral.

So, as the clock above us struck 10pm, the final course was being savoured and the conversation had turned to future events and meetings, the evening drew to a close. We had a fantastic evening at the St Pancras Clock Tower, and it was a pleasure hearing the thoughts of some of the leaders in our field.

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