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Tech Marketing Leaders' Forum event: Marketing 2020 and beyond

Tom Perry
by Tom Perry - May 14, 2019

The Tech Marketing Leaders’ Forum is an exclusive group for tech marketing leaders. Made up of a select mixture of Sherpa clients, industry leaders, consultants, thought leaders and global MarTech companies, the TMLF is a group through which best practice is actively shared on subjects such as Channel MarketingAccount Based Marketing and blended Sales and Marketing. 

On the 25th April, team Sherpa 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 wine and fine dining, whilst discussing the tech marketing landscape of 2020 and beyond. 

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

1. Content 

Content must be exceptional
The first point discussed was the ongoing requirement for exceptional content. It is still given royal status in today’s congested marketing landscape, but is this status actually deserved?

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… but content cannot qualify. 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, create 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 generate further content. In B2C a huge amount of content is 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 content creation model more, and use content to generate conversation, then top level content would become the norm. 

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

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 getting rid of their tech. Marketeers are generally quite impressed by MarTech vendors (without always taking the time to see what the tools actually do) but very much underestimate the resources (time, money and manpower) required to get the MarTech to work. Costs aren’t itemised from the outset and the investment is often under-utilised and hard to undo.

MarTech is evolving at an enormous rate and as 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 the companies which use their technology, that they are almost impossible to unpick. 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 MarTech explosion was due to 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 marketing technology must continually 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 into 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 into the marketing mix. As marketeers we spend time getting to know the target audience to create suitable, nurturing messaging and then at the crucial time, we pass leads on to sales and expect them to be experts on the subject and close the leads. However, this assumption of expertise further amplifies the disconnect between marketing and sales. It could 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 touched upon in this conversation was the terminology used to classify leads as they progress through the nurture and sales process. One attendee was clear that his company have opted against using segregating terms in order to reduce any disconnect 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. Marketing and Sales volley leads between them as the criteria of what makes a prospect either an MQL or an SQL has 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?
We then turned to one subject marketeers cannot avoid - Data. More specifically intent and its importance in prospecting leads. It is certainly a tool which can separate one marketing company from another, but is it all just smoke and mirrors?

Intent is a great tool to discover what your clients are seeking, but there is little evidence that it actually works. It could be argued that the proof is merely anecdotal. However, the main issue raised with intent data 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 raised was that PhD students are often mistaken for highly engaged prospects who are surging for intent metrics, 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 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.

As the clock above us struck 10pm - the final course was being savoured and the conversation had turned to future events - 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.

Don’t miss out on future events - join the Tech Marketing Leader’s Forum and stay part of the conversation.

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