Why more B2B companies are turning to smarketing

Why more B2B companies are turning to smarketing

…and why your old lead gen strategy may already be antiquated. Way back in 2005, Hubspot CEO Brian Halligan coined the term “inbound marketing [https://www.hubspot.com/inbound-marketing]”, describing a phenomenon that was well under way in an increasingly digital world. Advertising and brand-building are still big industries, but marketing and advertising budgets everywhere have increasingly turned to digital platforms as inbound marketing strategies have become the standard, especially for B2

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Mateo Bilbao

scalestack

Why more B2B companies are turning to smarketing

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Sales & Marketing head at Scalestack

…and why your old lead gen strategy may already be antiquated.

Way back in 2005, Hubspot CEO Brian Halligan coined the term “inbound marketing”, describing a phenomenon that was well under way in an increasingly digital world.

Advertising and brand-building are still big industries, but marketing and advertising budgets everywhere have increasingly turned to digital platforms as inbound marketing strategies have become the standard, especially for B2B businesses.

Inbound marketing has become the foundation for modern lead generation strategies. While everyone wants an ad spot at the Super Bowl or a celebrity endorsement, the “real work” of turning marketing into sales is happening with ever-more sophisticated inbound strategies.

That’s where terms like “smarketing” were born. But before you jump into the deep end of smarketing, let’s cover the basics of lead generation (“lead gen”) marketing first.

Marketing exists to support sales

We’re simplifying to make a point - of course marketing serves a long list of other purposes such as internal culture building and recruiting. But at the end of the day, marketing exists to support sales and increase revenue.

In traditional advertising, it is sometimes easy to lose track of that purpose. Major campaigns become about “awareness” and “brand building”, and there’s very little accountability to budgets and ROI.

In a digital world where a million touchpoints exist and they’re all measurable, it makes a lot more sense to invest in inbound marketing designed specifically for lead generation. That’s why newsletters and other emails, webinars, gated content pages, landing page offers and more have proliferated. As your lead gen marketing team collects and “warms up” leads, they pipe them directly to the sales teams in what is often called a “hand off”.

That’s how lead gen marketing exists in theory. And many teams run some version of this strategy with great success. But many companies still experience the old tensions of conflicting interests between marketing and sales. Sales teams ask for more sales enablement content while marketing insists more resources are needed at top of the funnel, for example.

Even the best lead gen operations can allow this kind of conflict to continue between sales and marketing.

Lead gen marketing is not enough for the demands of today’s B2B marketing

Lead gen marketing is a great philosophy with which to approach your marketing and sales strategy. But the problem still remains, as long as leads are moving through the upper levels of the conversion funnel, that’s where the marketing team’s priorities will focus. And as long as leads only arrive to the sales team after a hand off, sales will be focused on the priorities of those leads after that point.

In effect, the “hand off” structure between the typical lead gen and sales teams fosters a “not my problem” mentality that can sometimes pit sales and marketing against each other.

Many teams have identified this problem, and they’ve also spotted an opportunity: Account-based marketing, or what’s commonly referred to as ABM. With all the tools available to today’s digital marketer, there’s ample opportunity to move past the foundations of lead gen and take your “smarketing” to the next level.

What does ABM have to do with smarketing?

While ABM and smarketing are not one in the same, ABM and its extremely focused, data-driven approach should be a key part of an effective smarketing strategy.

At its core, smarketing is about removing the barriers between your sales and marketing teams. Instead of holding these teams to different KPIs that could potentially place them at odds with each other, smarketing acknowledges that the old “hand off” of standard lead gen strategies does not go far enough to bring leads across the conversion finish line.

The first step to bringing marketing and sales together operationally is outlined in this excellent blog by Mike Volpe, former Hubspot CMO. He outlines advice around these six bullet points:

The last bullet point, “Use data to communicate”, is where an ABM strategy can make all the difference.

Why ABM and smarketing are smart choices for lean organizations

Every business can benefit from a more effective smarketing strategy, but these tactics are especially helpful when triage is necessary. If your organization is still in its start-up phase, or if budgets are tight for any other number of reasons, ABM can facilitate the data-driven culture you need to set smart priorities.

ABM is all about identifying those companies that not only fit your ideal client profile, but also show signs that they may be more amenable to your product. With more and more data available to the average marketer or sales professional, using data to hone in on your targets and measure your success as you go can save tons of time and money.

What kind of data points can an effective ABM strategy use to identify target accounts? Gartner suggests:

With the granularity made possible by today’s data targeting tools, we’d add to that list with suggestions like:

There are so many ways that your targets may leave digital “breadcrumbs” that indicate growth and a good fit for your product. If you have limited resources, an ABM strategy that carefully tracks these breadcrumbs can set your smarketing team up for success.

How does ABM drive success for a smarketing team?

Imagine, for example, that your smarketing team decides on a set of specific data points that help to identify ideal accounts to target. How could this kind of system improve on old lead gen ways of doing things?

Standard brand-building and marketing exercises can continue “business as usual” - steady and consistent progress across SEO and paid media can continue as budgets and bandwidth allow.

Meanwhile, your ABM techstack is monitoring and collecting data all the time. As accounts meet the criteria defined by your smarketing team, they are piped into your CRM.

As accounts meet the lead score threshold for sales engagement, marketing does not stop, because in smarketing, your sales and marketing colleagues are working side by side to see leads over the finish line. Marketing knows what emails or demos are taking place, and sales knows what targeted ads, webinars or white papers are being shared with the prospect. And each side can address the pain points of their target more effectively because they have full visibility to what the other side is doing.

Moreover, resources can be spent wisely when the full smarketing team is monitoring a lead’s journey through the conversion funnel and engaging with each lead based on priority level.

As we know, sales and marketing strategies can change in the blink of an eye as new tools unlock new possibilities. As more companies discover the efficiencies made possible by ABM and “smarketing”, those most willing to adopt new, fully data-driven ways of converting leads into customers stand to gain the most.