B2B Digital Marketing Maturity: Prepare for the Long Journey (1/7)

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15mn   Beginner Level

First in a 7-part series on digital marketing maturity, find out today how to prepare for the long journey of B2B marketing digital transformation. It’s time to set up base camp!

Table of contents of the series
  1. Preparing for change
  2. The first 3 months and the content strategy
  3. Start your marketing automation
  4. Towards the “demand generation”
  5. Conversational Marketing (in progress)
  6. Conversational marketing (in progress)
  7. Revenue performance management (in progress)

To help you navigate through the article, consider using the summary :

The origins

By dint of my many marketing automation projects – mostly with large B2B accounts – I ended up noticing certain behaviors that came up quite often, and that can explain why one account succeeds in its digital marketing transformation and another does not. I tried to sequence everything over time, with notions of milestones and costs. I took the opportunity to compile these thoughts into a digital marketing maturity model that internally we call the “I love the mountain”.

A question of maturity
Why talk about “marketing maturity”? It’s simple, it’s a notion that helps explain why some marketing teams struggle to “find a second wind”, or sometimes fail on a particular project.

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The genesis of my reflection on the maturity of digital marketing

From euphoria…

I have sometimes “launched” certain clients in their journey towards the digital transformation of their marketing – often starting with a marketing automation project -, euphoria prevails in the first weeks, the teams are trained and get excited because they can now do in two clicks what took them two hours before. Then comes the time to let them go, so that they can fly on their own wings, confidently towards the top…

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… to the harsh reality

And I come back to them 6 months or a year later and sometimes the flight didn’t happen, or it did, but to go 100 meters further!

Transforming marketing through digital is like climbing Everest: it takes time and organization and involves going through certain indispensable stages (base camp, camp no. 1…).


A metaphor… or a symbol
I found so many similarities between my daily life with my clients and the stories of climbing the roof of the world that I decided to use this metaphor. And since I have a lot to tell, I’ve broken the journey down into seven articles.

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The base camp

At the beginning of your journey to become digital marketing champions, there is a trigger. This can be:

  • the hiring of a new marketing manager who is tasked with dusting off the store, and bringing it right into the 21st century ;
  • a realization that what we were doing before “doesn’t work anymore”: pushing emails to “leads” bought by the hundreds on lists, or having these same “leads” called by telephonists to place its offer.

The tragi-comedy of digital transformation

According to a true story… One weekend, a CEO stumbles upon an article promoting his direct competitor, praising their “digital strategy”, the “perfect alignment of marketing and sales”, the “four-handed” work between the customer and the account manager, the “real-time personalization” of the digital conversation… The CEO calls everyone together on Monday morning and says something like this: “Well, I don’t understand it, but you’ll manage, in 6 months, I want my interview in Les Echos”.

At that moment, all the N-1s on the marketing side go into “panic mode”, rush to type “digital transformation” in Google, quickly come across “marketing automation” and breathe a “phew! Indeed, it is well known that “you just have to buy a marketing automation solution, it’s like the CRM project we just finished, we know how to do that…”. And that’s the drama! (well I caricature, but frankly we are not far).

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Digital marketing transformation: start your journey for the right reasons

In order to best prepare for the climb, it is best to make a factual analysis of the situation. What is not working today? Is the cause :

  • the number of new leads (sales leads)?
  • a conversion problem?
  • we can’t measure the return on marketing?
  • our current methods are damaging our brand by being too pushy and generating negative customer feedback?

At this point, we need to document the starting point. Unfortunately, there is often a lack of tools to get a comprehensive view of what is happening in marketing. You have email sending statistics, opening rates, clicks… Many actions are taken without concertation with each other and therefore without overall coherence or transverse reporting.

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The right decision: do better

The right decision at this stage is to say to yourself that you now want to have a marketing that respects your customers, that generates engagement, not noise, to go towards real conversations with your prospects and customers, to automate what can be automated, to put quality human beings where it counts, in short, to do maybe less but better!
Want a summary of my method? Download our white paper on digital maturity, which follows the framework of my series of articles.

Putting the customer experience on the horizon

Our belief at Merlin/Leonard is that successful companies are those that deliver the best customer experience. A 2014 McKinsey study showed that companies that deliver a successful end-to-end customer experience:

  • See customer satisfaction increase by 20 percent
  • Employee engagement increase by 20 to 30 percent
  • Customer service costs reduce by 15-20%.
  • Their profits increase by 10

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Prepare your transition to digital: get your CoDir on board

One of the first mistakes is to tell yourself that you are going to do a “shadow” project, i.e. hide it from your management (or from the IT department “Oh no, please, I don’t want to relive the hell of the CRM project, I’ll never work with IT again…”).

Even if it is quite useful to test the mechanics “by hand”, if you are a large account, you will be overwhelmed quite quickly by the amount of information to manage.


Why it’s useful to test the mechanics “by hand
Sure, when your name is Merlin/Leonard, it’s easy to free up time in the evenings to set up a blog, write your first articles, amplify them on LinkedIn/Twitter, set up landing pages, start getting your first touches and strike up a conversation. It’s less obvious when you’re a well-known brand and your internal processes forbid you to expose a post to the outside world that hasn’t been proofread 17 times before publication…
This tells you several things:

  • It’s exhausting to write content when you’re not in the business (we’ll leave that to the pros)
  • Sending internal emails to “everyone” to proudly announce that you have written an article, and that you need to amplify it on your LinkedIn works twice (three times if you are the boss ;-))
  • Once the conversations start, they don’t stop, and it takes a lot of time, as your contacts always ask you for things you don’t have at hand easily
  • The data you collect is too much to be analyzed by a human brain
  • But if you do your job well, you learn a lot about what your customers want

Conclusion: automate what can be automated to focus your time on the conversation!

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Digital transformation: there is no magic wand

Let’s break a myth right away: there is marketing automation, content marketing, “demand generation” strategies, , BUT there is no “magic marketing“. No matter what Merlin says. Technology will help you but you need teams to keep the mechanics running.

If you don’t get your Co-Director on board, you’ll end up with a “cheap” project, spending the entire budget on the marketing automation solution – or the content strategy – and missing out on essential parts of this strategy. As a result, you’ll come back to the CoDir with your head down, having absorbed your entire budget, without any convincing results to show.
And you should be warned, you will have ups and downs in your ascent, the adventure will not be linear, the results will take time to arrive (at best 6 months, at worst two years).

If you have taken the time to explain the profound change you are going to make – and that your company has no choice at the risk of being quickly downgraded -, that it will take time, that you will have to mobilize a budget to set up a content strategy, to reinforce the operational marketing team, to buy a marketing automation solution… you will have a management team that will support you in the difficult moments

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Charting Your Course to the Top: Developing a Three-Year Budget

80% of the costly pitfalls in the next three years are decided during the first 5% of the journey.

Indeed, as for the climbing of Everest, you will have to prepare yourself carefully, establish an itinerary, watch the weather conditions… But if I had to continue the metaphor, I would say that the companies I meet start the ascent in flip-flops, having planned the rations for the first relay, and saying to themselves “we’ll see once we’re there”.

… once you finish reading this series of articles, I hope you’ll realize that buying technology isn’t enough to make everything work.

My advice is to get some guidance to :

  • have an accurate view of your situation
  • size a well-structured budget, with no missing elements over 3 years,
  • help you convince your management committee

I even want to say: if you start out ill-equipped, there is a very big risk that you will fail after a year (stuck on a wall in the storm), and that you will have consumed the entire budget without having managed to prove anything. (The chopper comes to pick you up and brings you back to the base).

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Define the milestones of the journey: objectives and KPIs

He who has no goals is not likely to achieve them.Sun Tzu
“He who has no goals is not likely to achieve them.”
Sun Tzu

In connection with your starting point assessment, I recommend that you define and share goals within your team (but also with the CoDir and sales). Define what you expect from the project and your marketing in the long run.

The end of visual navigation

It’s amazing how many companies I’ve come across that start out without defining goals. Even better, I once heard “Oh yes, but if we can measure the results of marketing in detail from now on, I might get fired…”.

That’s extreme, but quite revealing of the comfort in which some marketing teams evolve (were evolving?). It was quite difficult to prove the contribution of marketing without the right tools, so a budget was renewed year after year “because that’s how it’s always been done”. Those days are over, the marketing department has to prove its contribution to the revenue and earn its place at the CoDir!

If you don’t define clear objectives, you will throw yourself into your transformation, do hundreds of things, and when you find yourself in front of the CoDir who will ask you “So, is it working?”, you will start to stammer, not knowing what to answer, because you will not have documented your progress.

Key indicators for specific objectives

With today’s solutions, you can have goals like:

  • To be at the origin of XX% of the revenue (the opportunity was born on the marketing side and was passed on to sales who turned it into revenue);
  • Contribute XX% of the revenue (in B2B, usually 6 to 7 people are involved in an opportunity and they themselves have about 10 interactions with sales or marketing). We can now allocate revenue finely on the marketing and sales sides in order to measure the contribution of each.

Beware, this type of KPI takes a long time to set up, so don’t expect reliable data for two years. In the meantime, set simpler objectives.

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Plan the food in quantity: the data

Another topic that is almost never discussed at the beginning of a project: data quality.
What I hear:

1/ “We have perfectly clean data, our sales people update contacts and accounts.”

digital marketing maturity: Ray Liotta in Goodfellas

On the one hand, this is not their job, they are asked to be in contact with customers; and on the other hand, for those who are aware of the MBTI, a good salesperson normally has a personality opposite to the one required to have fun filling in a CRM tool.

My friend Stéphane Py from Nomination passed me some terrifyingly enlightening figures:

  • 21% annual turnover among contacts
  • 27% of contacts in a B2B CRM are unusable (change of position, company or lost to follow-up)
  • 1 to 2 contacts filled in per account (customer or prospect) on average: a far cry from the 5 to 7 contacts allowed in a decision circuit today…
  • 60% of “core target” prospects are missing from the database: a glitch in the performance of marketing operations!

Knowing that 12% of your base degrades every year due to the natural movements of your contacts, this means that your base is to be thrown away after 5 years without any action on your part.

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2/ “Our base, it’s a real eyesore. But that’s okay, we’ll clean it up as we go…”

As long as the sales data was confined to the sales side, it could still pass (and again, this is one of the reasons why we lose CRM adoption by sales), because it was not visible to the outside world. But when you start doing emailings on this basis, you’ll quickly be branded by :

  • your customers who will not appreciate receiving several mails on their business and personal email for example,
  • your marketing automation provider who will realize that out of 100 mailings, 45 are rejected, and will give you a lower reliability “grade”, or even warn you and ask you to stop “spoiling” his IP. Indeed, you share the same reputation with all the clients of your marketing automation provider if you do not have a dedicated IP. The bad quality of one reflects on all the others.

But by the way, maybe you also have monsters in your CRM!


3/ “We asked for an audit but it’s super expensive to get your data corrected.”

OK, but how much does it cost your brand to receive complaints from your customers or have massive unsubscribe rates (and I’m not even talking about RGPD!)

And what is the cost in terms of demotivating your sales people? A sales person who searches the CRM once, twice, three times and comes across the wrong data for the contact – or worse can’t find it – starts building their personal CRM in Outlook / Excel nicely.

Do you see the hundreds of thousands of euros you have invested in your CRM going down the drain?

4/ “We’ll attract new customers who will enrich their data themselves.”

Yes, that’s the goal, but the full effect of this inbound marketing strategy will only be seen after two years (at best). You have to survive until then! And this transition period consists in relying on outbound marketing, which is more qualitative, because it is based on quality and enriched data, allowing you to make finer segmentations. In short, the best practice is to plan (at the very least) a data cleansing or enrichment project before migrating to your new solution. Otherwise “Garbage in, Garbage out!

We have an offer specially designed to improve the quality of your data, The CRM Clinic. Contact us to discuss it.

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End of the base camp : soon the ascent

It’s the end of base camp! I can already hear some of you being discouraged before you’ve even put on the cleats… It’s true that I could tell you that everything is rosy in the wonderful world of digital marketing, but those of you who know me know that I prefer to speak the truth, even if it stings a little. Nothing pains me more than seeing a client fail, I can’t help but feel that I didn’t do the right thing.

One of the main causes of failure is to have believed that you could climb Mont Blanc in sneakers with two cereal bars: even if in our professional world, you don’t risk a real death, nobody likes to fail on his project.

But keep in mind that all this is worth it: the air is so much cleaner in the summits! Your prospects come to you, you have no parasite contacts, you have good level conversations with your customers, you listen to them and co-construct your offers with them, you have time…

Now it’s time to start the climb to camp #1 to start creating the digital “conversations”. This is when you realize that you need to start talking about customer journeys, buyer personas and content strategy.

Image credits : Vecteezy

Posted By Sylvain

For the past 20 years, Sylvain has been choosing and assembling the best technologies for his key account clients, to help them create a successful end-to-end customer experience. Surely the Leonard of the team, he is a fan - and expert - of Marketo! He sits next to his clients, drives them forward and makes Marketing Automation projects succeed with his team.