In Part One of 6sense’s 2020 vision, we discussed how B2B buying has shifted, specifically focusing on the shift from an individual’s journey to a buying committee.
Today, B2B buyers are in control of the information flow, pace and preferred channel of communication, and are often resistant to engage until they have completed their own research and product comparison. This shift has created a huge problem for revenue teams that 6sense calls the “dark funnel.” The dark funnel is made up of all of the research activity and buying signals within an account, such as anonymous web site visits, 3rd party research, and false form fills that go unseen by Sales and Marketing teams and systems. In fact, roughly 90% of B2B buying activity is anonymous and takes place in the dark funnel.
While B2B buying has evolved, Marketing and Sales teams are basically fumbling around in the dark, relying on the same old bag of tricks for prospecting: forms, spam, and cold calls. Ever since Marketing declared “content is king,” we’ve tried to lure prospects out of the dark by gating content that we believe they need in order to make an informed decision. The thinking is that a prospect will step out of the shadows and give up their anonymity in exchange for some exclusive, or even relevant content. However, marketers are beginning to wake up to the fact that B2B buyers aren’t willing to sacrifice their anonymity to access information that is readily available online, so content gates are declining, and so are leads!
Even with this realization, Marketers are still holding out hope that if we gate some of our “high value” content, this approach will continue to deliver enough quality leads to meet our pipeline goals based on the assumption that anyone who fills out a form must be a good prospect. The other thing Marketers love to do to lure prospects out of the dark funnel and turn them into “leads” is scanning badges at trade shows. Once we get their email address, “leads” likely go in our “nurture track,” where we’ll send them every video, eBook, blog post, article link, and customer testimonial we’ve got, relevant or not. This tactic puts “leads” on the fas track to unsubscribe island - and if they don’t unsubscribe and do actually earn enough “points,” dictated by an arbitrary lead scoring system, these leads turn into MQLs and are passed off to a BDR to call them. If you think realistically about this strategy, you will realize that it is a bit crazy.
It is clear that forms, spam, and cold calls aren’t working. The way we generate demand is broken, and we need to fix it.
How will the prospect experience change? Here are our predictions for 2020.
1. Account-Based Marketing Will Evolve
Few people knew what “ABM” meant just a couple of years ago. Now, Account-Based Marketing has become common term and practice. Forrester predicts that by 2025, the term "ABM" will disappear as most B2B organizations will shift to account-centric strategy to identify, plan, manage, and measure buying and post-sale motions. Either way, ABM is here to stay but like anything else, it must evolve. ABM relies on understanding the buying groups cast of personas and ideal customer profile (ICP) in order to create compelling, personalized content that is delivered over the right channel, at the right time to the entire buying group in an account. From display to direct mail to BDR cadence to website experience, each communication is personalized by account, persona, and most importantly timing.
Those who don’t currently execute ABM strategies and rely solely on inbound strategies to work individual leads will need to make the shift. Early ABM adopters will start to scale and stop manual flows and guesswork associated with traditional ABM. They need to look at how to engage the entire buying committee at scale instead of focusing on giving points to individual leads and throwing them over to sales. As evolution occurs, best-in-class Revenue teams will go to market with insight-led experiences powered by AI orchestration instead of one off marketing touches.
2. Personalization Fueled by Insights
Personalization is no longer based on readily available online research about a company or a pain point that you discussed in an introductory meeting. Field Marketing and Salespeople have to really know the business in order to personalize every prospect’s experience with relevant information that provides value to their unique situation. It’s no longer enough to put a logo on a landing page and fill in the company name in a template. In 2020, revenue teams must join forces and come armed with real insights like account, persona-map and buying stage prior to engaging with buyers so they can create a meaningful personalized experience from the very first touchpoint on.
3. No More Forms
As marketers, we spend tons of time creating killer content, everything from eBooks to whitepapers, and then gate that content hoping we’ll persuade credible leads to reveal themselves by filling out forms. The problem is leads tend to value anonymity over the killer content you’ve produced and will choose to pass up content or fill out false forms to remain unknown. In the eyes of modern buyers, killer content is not worth being bombarded with irrelevant nurture streams and having to unsubscribe. In 2020, marketers will stop relying on gating content as a way to attract “hot” leads and instead, use the power of AI to uncover which accounts are in-market and have the highest buying propensity based on intent data.
4. No More Spam
Overcoming buyer resistance at scale means orchestrating “always-on” personalized, multi-channel, multi-touch outreach based on AI-driven insights. Spamming buyers with irrelevant emails isn’t getting you any business, but it is getting your message sent straight to unsubscribe island! Rather than bombarding buyers with messages they’re not interested in, marketers will harness the power of intent data to understand what buyers truly care about and provide value. By pairing intent data with predictive analytics, marketers have the ability to uncover what stage buyers are in so they can ensure communications are valuable and align with the exact timing of their specific journey.
5. No More Cold Calls
You heard us right. No more forms, no more spam, AND no more cold calls. If your sales team is still making cold calls to prospects, you haven’t warmed up accounts enough for your sales team to even stand a chance at being successful. To avoid this problem, in 2020, Marketing and Sales teams must align and utilize AI and clean data to nurture prospects throughout the phases of the buying journey, all the way from awareness to purchase!
Insights are absolutely critical to truly knowing about an account, what they are interested in, and when they are in-market. Without these insights, providing value to a prospect is guesswork. These insights are the key to making sure your business is the first vendor a prospect engages with. Cold calling is a waste of your BDR’s time and talent. As a Revenue team, we must change the way we prospect. Luckily, we now have the tools and information available to ensure all accounts are warm enough for outreach and that all outreach is hyper-personalized.
Based on these predictions, in 2020, Marketing will evolve to shift the focus from a “lead-based” to an “account-based” approach where knowledge and insight about an account, powered by AI, are used to create targeted, personalized outreach to the buying team of accounts that are in-market. ABM comes with a smorgasbord of benefits including getting into deals earlier, larger deal sizes, higher win rates, and the elusive Marketing and Sales alignment.