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ITSMA Marketing Strategist

February 19, 2015

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Are Marketing Metrics Eroding Our Core Competence?

By Julie Schwartz and Nicole France

Nicole FranceJulie SchwartzAt the turn of the last century, some of the most revolutionary changes in society came about as a result of germ theory. The work of Pasteur, Koch, and Lister, among others, opened up a previously unseen world of microbes and forever changed the practice of medicine with empirical data and evidence of causal links between pathogens and disease. It also elevated the status of physicians and laboratory research far beyond that of the home remedies and bone-saw surgeons that also constituted the medical care of the time.

B2B marketing is experiencing a similar kind of revolution now. We could call it the lead-generation theory of marketing. Marketing automation tools have given us the ability to identify, track, and measure the progress of leads. We have a new window into an online world of behaviors we could previously only guess at.

germsAs with germ theory and medicine, the fact that we can finally measure something concrete in a profession that has for so long managed the intangible is giving B2B marketers a credibility we have never had before. The importance and immediacy of this data has made lead generation today’s top priority, according to ITSMA’s 2015 Marketing Budgets and Trends survey.

But is this new focus on tactical marketing around lead generating distracting us from the core competence of B2B marketing? Is it coming at the expense of more strategic—and less easily measured—activities that focus on reputation and relationship development? Are we undermining the value that only marketing can bring to our companies?

As our survey results show, something has changed. A switch has been flipped: as marketing technology and automation systems have climbed up the list of priorities, lead generation has jumped from 7 on the list of priorities to 1. Sales enablement has fallen from 3 to 10. At least one respondent to the survey described the trend these numbers seem to indicate: marketing has completely taken over responsibility for the sales funnel.

Indeed, it often appears the only element of marketing performance anyone outside marketing cares about measuring has to do with lead generation.

In contrast to 2009, when the focus was on strengthening relationships, increasing share of wallet, and gaining insights into customers’ business issues, the top priorities for customer engagement today are all about revenue: increasing share of wallet, retaining customers, and acquiring new ones. Marketing is far more focused today on generating revenue than on investing in the kinds of activities that make it easier for our sales teams to generate revenue.

Is marketing trying to do the job of sales, too?

This trend is cause for concern. As B2B marketers, our real value is in understanding our customers. It is our job to capture market and customer insights and use that knowledge to drive business strategy: what to sell, who to sell it to, and how to sell it. Marketing is talking about nurturing leads when we should be talking about nurturing relationships.

It’s worth remembering that while germ theory greatly influenced the practice of medicine, it didn’t supersede it. Sanitization and sterilization became critical aspects of performing surgery, for example, but they didn’t eliminate the need for innovative surgical techniques. While germ theory offered insights that make today’s medical research possible, it’s most significant impact was on basic hygiene.

Focusing unduly on leads alone risks turning marketing departments into the equivalent of cleaning crews rather than pioneering medical researchers.

However, if we consider the new insights gained from marketing automation and other tools as valuable inputs that enrich our understanding of customers, we’ll be on to something big. To do that well requires changing the focus from leads back to customers or buyers. It means transforming what we today call lead generation into a means of identifying characteristics and behavior patterns that expand our understanding of why, when, and how people buy from us.

There is some good news. Thought leadership is still in the top two priorities, and customer insight continues to climb up the list. Content development budgets are increasing for the majority (64%) of respondents. And as we know from other research, like our New Architecture of Marketing Talent survey, there is a sense that the focus of marketing is set to shift over the next two years to focus much more on relationships and engagement.

Perhaps as we get over the newness of marketing metrics that have opened up a whole new world of lead-generation data, we will focus on developing a more sophisticated use of marketing technologies. Instead of pushing leads through a nurture pipeline, we will be better able to identify and respond to different patterns of buying behavior. We will integrate these insights into the more significant, though less easily quantified, efforts that build long-term relationships and reputations. We are at the dawn of a new era in B2B marketing. It is up to us to make the most of it.

For detailed results of the study, see Services Marketing Budgets and Benchmarks: 2015 Budget Allocations and Trends.

Connecting the Dots between Value Propositions and Buyer Personas

By Nicole France

Nicole FranceIf you’re a marketer in a technology company, chances are you’ve got a nice library of value propositions for all of your offerings. You might even have them for each customer segment for each offering. If you’re really on the ball, they’re also up to date.

But how well do those value propositions reflect the real-life motivations and needs of the buyers to whom you’re selling? Do they encapsulate what’s really important to a well-understood group of buyers, or are they more a vehicle for communicating what your company thinks is cool and different about its offerings?

Times have changed, and our approach to value propositions must change too, if we want to remain competitive. Many technology services companies have historically been driven by product development. Although the buyer (typically in IT) mattered, the emphasis was very much on the offering’s features and benefits. As more technology and services buyers come from outside IT, building value propositions that emphasize technical differentiators is no longer good enough. They often fail to resonate with buyers and sound much like what other competitors are saying.

Newer competitors in the market, in particular cloud players, have led the way in responding to a new set of buyers with a different approach to value propositions. Salesforce was one of the first to do this well: from the beginning, the company has understood that its main buyer is a sales director looking for a better way to track and report opportunities. This buyer needs something that is easy for salespeople to use, is quick to implement, and doesn’t depend on getting approval for capital investment. That’s exactly what Salesforce’s core product offers: an easy-to-use, browser-based application that is billed per user per month.

Companies like Marketo and Eloqua are addressing similar needs for marketing directors who want to track the behavior of potential buyers, report on marketing activity, and automate campaign-related activities. Some providers have concentrated on the needs of HR; others focus on fleet management.

The list goes on and on. The common thread is that these companies have a clear understanding of who their buyer is, the problem they are trying to solve, what they want to buy, and how they want to buy it. This has shaped both the way these companies communicate about their offerings and indeed the offerings themselves.

Good buyer-centric value propositions are not the exclusive domain of the new kids, but these players have a distinct advantage. This buyer-centric, as opposed to technology-centric, perspective has been ingrained in their cultures from the outset.

Yet for more established players in the technology industry, moving to buyer-centric value propositions can be a major challenge. This approach often runs counter to the way value propositions have typically been developed in the past, the way product or offering teams are organized, and in some cases, the way the sales teams are organized as well.

The task of spearheading this critical change falls to marketing. Luckily, we have two powerful tools at our disposal: a methodology for developing value propositions and buyer personas that give us the insight we need into buyers’ need, priorities, and motivations.

While the exercise of developing value propositions may be old hat for many marketers, buyer personas probably aren’t. At ITSMA, we’ve been talking for some time about the importance of developing buyer personas to better understand what really motivates your customers to buy, when they choose to buy, and why they choose to buy from you.

Now it’s time to start putting these buyer personas to use. If it seems like too big a task to take on across the whole of the company, start with new groups of buyers with whom your company has less experience.

If your company is still building value propositions based on offerings and customer segmentations, it’s time for a new approach. Take a look at ITSMA’s research on buyer personas to learn more or get in touch with us to see how we can help.

Making the bold move to develop value propositions around buyers may have big repercussions one day, but for now, it’s an important first step.

Marketers Are Being Asked to Do More, but not Necessarily with Less

By Julie Schwartz

Julie SchwartzITSMA’s Annual 2015 Services Marketing Budget Allocations and Trends results are out! The bottom line? B2B service and solutions marketers are optimistic about both their budget and revenue growth.

On average, marketing budgets will increase 4.4% in 2015. Nearly half the marketers in our survey expect to see budget increases, while one-third expect no change. Only 17% anticipate a decrease in their budgets.

We see a similar pattern in marketing headcount. On average, marketing staff in 2015 will grow 3.8%. Forty-four percent expect to see growth in their staff, with another 44% expecting the number of staff to remain the same. Just 13% foresee a staff decrease.

Though positive, 4.4% marketing budget growth is best described as modest. And while senior management’s perception of marketing is improving, they are expecting marketing to do more—and those expectations far exceed the budget increases. Sixty-five percent of marketers in our study say that marketing’s scope has expanded. Here are some of the new things they said they are doing:

“We are closer to sales, working with account manager, following the ABM approach.”

“The marketing team is taking over the full funnel for sales and driving Salesforce implementation mechanics to enable accurate reporting.”

“New marketing leadership has been hired to provide more strategic input.”

“The services marketing team’s scope now includes solutions marketing for all Internet of Everything and cloud solutions, plus all thought leadership across corporate marketing.”

Marketing Budgets and Staff Continue to Grow

How will marketing cope with climbing expectations? With budget from outside of marketing. A whopping 79% of respondents said they access resources beyond the official marketing budget, up from 58% in 2014. The size of the pool is also increasing: in 2014, marketers received an additional 7.2%; in 2015 that amount has grown to 12.9% of the overall money spent by marketing.

Where is this money coming from? The top sources are:

  • Business units/lines of business
  • Partners
  • Sales
  • Business development

 This is marketing’s ultimate vote of confidence.



Vincent Rousselet

By Vincent Rousselet (photo) and Jeff Barak

Each month, ITSMA receives a number of queries through Ask ITSMA, a resource designed to give members a quick and easy way to get insight on important services and solutions marketing questions they face. In this column, we will publish some of our favorite questions, along with excerpts from our replies.

Q: How do you get consistency without squashing creativity across multiple campaigns in a global company?

This is a dilemma we face every day at Amdocs. With ITSMA’s help, we have been able to compare our approach with those applied by other members, in particular a successful initiative driven by HP. In discussion with our HP peers, we identified four components of what is essentially a change management program, which we will introduce in our processes.

They are:

  • Bring the business units and market leads together to determine the value proposition, giving a joint sense of ownership.
  • Create a clear messaging framework to later be turned into an agency brief. Actively include the regions for input and further alignment. When the agency delivers, make sure to include comprehensive guidelines as to how the material should be used and how much local flexibility is possible.
  • Ensure consistency from the company’s leadership on down: everybody is expected to follow the agreed campaign direction. It’s definitely a top-down process and demands management commitment to enforce alignment.
  • Measure the business benefits in terms of time and money saved by centralizing major aspects of the campaign while allowing some flexibility for regionalization.

We are grateful for HP’s insight and for the facilitation that ITSMA provided.


Do you have a sales or marketing question?
Visit Ask ITSMA to access our experience, insight, and research results.


Services Marketing News

For up-to-the-minute services marketing news, follow ITSMA on Twitter: @itsma_b2b.

Upcoming ITSMA Events

ITSMA’s 2015 State of the Marketing Profession: The European Perspective

In-Person Event
March 4, 2015
6:00 pm–9:00 pm GMT
One Alfred Place, London, WC1E 7EB United Kingdom

Introduction to Account Based Marketing

Online Training
May 5, 2015
7:30 am ET, 12:30 GMT, 5:00 pm IST (90-minute session)

Account Based Marketing Certification Program

In-Person Event
June 30–July 1, 2015
The Charles Hotel, Cambridge, Massachusetts
(This course will also be run in the UK on 30 Sep–1 Oct, 2015)

To view all events, please see our online events calendar.


Recent ITSMA Thought Leadership

Leading Marketing into the Future

During a marketing leaders panel at ITSMA’s Annual Conference, Pegasystems CMO & SVP Robert Tas and HCL EVP & CMO Matt Preschern discussed their top priorities and how marketing organizations must change to succeed amid the disruption, transforming the way they do business and market to their customers.

Read more in this Viewpoint:


ITSMA’s 2015 State of the Marketing Profession Address

ITSMA survey results indicate that B2B services marketing budgets are increasing in 2015, as is headcount, but these gains are likely to be focused in some very specific areas. Although respondents indicate that just over half of their marketing efforts and investment will go into offline activities, the biggest gains are in online marketing. In this Online Briefing, Dave Munn and Julie Schwartz share their views on key trends and marketing priorities for 2015, including highlights from ITSMA’s 2015 Marketing Budgets and Trends Survey. They also offer insights and recommendations for marketers to take advantage of the changes coming in the year ahead.

Listen to this Online Briefing:


Buyer Personas: What Are They?

Marketers everywhere are faced with pressure to improve and increase sales opportunities while managing a profusion of channels and content. Relying solely on trial and error to get it right simply isn’t a viable option—things are moving too quickly. Buyer personas offer a focused, effective means of ensuring that everything your marketing department does—from creating content to shaping messages to enabling sales and everything in between—is squarely focused on a clearly understood audience. The insights generated through buyer personas provide invaluable insights into the motivations and perceptions of your target buyers.

Read more in this Viewpoint:


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