B2B selling has become increasingly difficult as buyers have become increasingly resistant to outreach and other marketing efforts.
Buyers want to spend less time with vendors and educate themselves before making purchasing decisions.
Companies that don’t evolve with changes in buyer’s behavior will lose out on revenue potential and market share.
Guest Sandra Moran is the CMO at WorkForce Software and a veteran marketer in the B2B and enterprise space. She joins the show to lay out concrete solutions you can implement today in order to meet resistant buyers where they are and help them to see you as the solution to their business problems.
If you want to be on the front foot when marketing to your ideal clients, you need to listen to this episode!
Mentioned in this episode:
- Website: workforcesoftware.com
- Sandra on LinkedIn
Voiceover: This is Performance Delivered. Insider secrets for digital marketing success with Steffen Horst and Dave Antil.
Steffen Horst: Welcome to the Performance Delivered Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success podcast, where we talk with marketing and agency executives and learn how they build successful businesses and their personal brand. I’m your host, Steffen Horst. The topic for today’s episode is the evolution of marketing against an increasingly resistant buyer. Here to speak with me as Sandra Moran, who is the CMO WorkForce Software, which is the first global provider of workforce management solutions with integrated employee experience capabilities.
Sandra has more than 25 years of experience enabling global software technology companies to strengthen their brand and accelerate revenue growth for a customer centric approach. Having held leadership roles in marketing, sales, new business and product management, Sandra has built and led high performing global cross functional teams to support edification and delivery of substantial business growth. Sandra, welcome to the show.
Sandra Moran: Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Steffen: Well, Sandra, before we before we discovered today’s topic, let’s find out more about yourself. How did you get started in your career? And how did you end up in b2b marketing?
Sandra: That’s a great question. Because I certainly did not start off in a traditional role that would have led me to b2b marketing. I actually started out much more on the technology side. I was a systems analyst, building software, editing that software, implementing it with customers. And that background in technology, I couldn’t have actually anticipated how valuable it would be to me as I kept moving closer and closer and closer to marketing. So starting with that systems foundation, moving from behind the screen to in front of the screen in pre sales roles, taking over development, delivering solutions to market.
Once I’d built some of those solutions, I actually moved into a sales role to see them adopted by customers, and then really crossed over into the marketing side of things, leveraging all of those tools along the way. And I have to say, I’m not unbiased in my love of marketing. I think it’s the place where all of these things come together. I mean, where else can you be with some of the smartest data people, technologists and the most fabulous creative people bringing those two sides together? So I was probably destined for marketing, but certainly didn’t realize it at the beginning.
Steffen: Interesting, well, obviously, today, I want to talk about the evolution of marketing against an increasingly resistant buyer. So are there any specific changes that you see in buyer behavior that have an impact on marketers?
Sandra: I do. And, you know, I’m going to emphasize you’ve said b2b, multiple times, and the the majority of my experiences in enterprise selling in, in b2b with, you know, some experience, where we were marketing to small to medium sized businesses as well as an enterprise segment. So a lot of what I’m going to talk about is about enterprise b2b selling. And what I think the fundamental changes in buyer behavior really fall into four areas. First, I would say the b2b buyers are much more sophisticated. They’ve been used to learning about, implementing software solutions or technology solutions for many years.
So a little bit of a double edged sword, because they’ve had some great experiences, and they’ve had some difficult experiences as well. Even as they become more sophisticated, and the software has become more sophisticated, the second way that I think they’ve changed is they really want to spend less time with the vendors. Gartner did a in depth study. And what we’re finding is that the majority of the time that a buying decision is being made, it’s being made outside of their interactions with suppliers. In fact, about 17%. And at first I was thinking wow, 17% we get to spend with them. No 17% across all of the suppliers that are trying to sell to them.
I think the next way that things are different is we’re seeing many, many more people involved in an individual buying decision. And when we’ve got more people involved, especially as that sale price goes up, we see more challenges with building consensus. So not just consensus for is this the right solution, but consensus all the way through the buying cycle. Is this a problem that the company should solve that they should prioritize over others things that they could do? Is this a problem that we all even see in the same way so that we’re evaluating whether these solutions meet the needs of the problem?
And lastly, do we have confidence that if we select this solution that we will achieve the value that we thought we would get by making this decision? And then I think the last piece of this is really about the sales rep’s ability to articulate what they heard the buyer’s problem is in a way that helps address the consensus that needs to be developed, as well as what is it about our solution that’s differentiated in a way that matters to that buying committee?
Steffen: Now the last point you mentioned, I think, is really interesting, because obviously, as you mentioned, the market has become so busy with different solutions that all do the same or similar things, right. And it kind of to, to stand out there sometimes can be really difficult. Now, you talked about that, what the role of the sales rep is, but from my perspective, obviously marketing has to first get that prospect to the sales rep. So how do you from a marketing perspective, deal with that changing behavior and stand out and shout louder, or, or make yourself look more attractive, so that people actually come to your company, and then want to inquire about your solution instead of that of your competitors?
Sandra: So I think marketing has to change because the buyer has changed. And understanding that their behavior is changed and becoming a partner to them in their needs to self educate. So I already mentioned they don’t really want to talk to us, they want to spend less and less time with us. They think they do, even though they’re trying to make a decision that is sometimes difficult for them to discern the difference among vendors. So I think marketing can do that by making it easier to just support that education process.
I never believe that because somebody wanted to download one piece of content, to educate themselves, that all of a sudden, I should start bombarding them with hundreds of emails, unwanted emails. But what I can do is make sure that my content is available to them. I can make it easier for them to interact with us. I can deliver content that is richer in its point of view, and its ability to help them navigate through that education period. And so one way that marketing can change is to make sure that we’re offering that content.
I don’t actually believe all that content needs to come from me, it could come from multiple sources, there’s so much data available. That’s actually one of the complaints that buyers have, that there’s so much to consume, it makes them harder to assess. So can I take them through a streamlined experience that supports what I know that they want to do, and then not bombard them with emails, cold calls, I can really be true and authentic to this change in buyer behavior.
Steffen: So are you then approaching this more you’re you’re obviously providing the content you, you invite them to educate themselves about the market about your solution. And you’re almost waiting for them to make the next step to say, hey, let’s, let’s talk. I’m making a more clear statement about I want to talk to someone on within your company about your solution.
Sandra: Well, I try to do that. But I also do try to nudge them along. So you know, in our particular case, we’ve implemented some technology that helps me detect when customers are in market when they’re in market for the kinds of solutions that we provide. So I’ve shifted from a more email focused heavy bombardment strategy to a persistent ever strategy. So as soon as we detect that companies that are in our target market are actually evaluating solutions like ours, we start digital advertising that is more oriented toward thought leadership. That why change, why now?
Why is this the time that you should be possibly even reframing the way that you think about potential solutions? When we draw them to us, so we’re getting above average you know, click through rates, because we already know the individual is out there searching for solutions like ours. They can see our content following them around with the kind of messages we know they’re searching for, and what I would say as opposed to forcing it on them, I’m making it available to them, obviously, knowing what they’re looking for. And I’m changing that content as I see them move from awareness to finding us.
Now I know they’re on my side, I know what they’ve consumed. Ultimately, when they’re in a selling cycle with that with us, I’m thinking about what are those things that are going to give them confidence that we’re the right company for them, and that they’re going to be successful. So I’m following them around in the digital world, and varying the content, as I see them moving through our sales cycle. So less interruption, but more oriented toward what matters to this buyer at this phase of their buyers journey.
Steffen: It’s more guidance at the end of the day, right? So you guide them through the process by providing them the information for each of the steps at the end of the day. Now, have the channels that you use changed? You mentioned a second ago, obviously, in the past, you might have just bombard them with emails. What are you using now? You talked about, you know, you’re doing this play, etc? Are there any other solutions that you might not have considered in the past that you’re using now to guide prospects through their journey?
Sandra: Yeah, we are far more, using far more channels than I think marketers did in the past, because buyers are individuals at the end of the day. So a lot more video content, a lot more across multiple channels. Some people will respond in LinkedIn, and social, some people still do want to educate themselves through webinars, some people do want to download and read. And it isn’t as if I have abandoned email. I mean, we use email as part of our outreach for, you know, potential buyers, as we see them coming into a buying journey.
What I am suggesting is that that isn’t the only tool that I use anymore, because there are so many other tools in our quiver today, from digital ads to various types of content that we can offer to them, because I need to reach buyers. Buyers are people and people have different preferences. So I find this sort of surround sound marketing is necessary. And what one person educates themselves with might not be what another person chooses to educate themselves with. So for me, it’s very personal. And it’s about having multiple ways to reach the individuals that are, you know, at the end of our targeting.
Steffen: Yeah, that’s, that’s really interesting, especially in you know, before we jumped on the on the episode here, we talked about how many people are these days involved in in kind of making a buying decision, whether that’s the person that uses the software, whether it’s IT, or finance, who probably starts the negotiation when you’re on an enterprise level. And you want to kind of have communication with almost all of them, because all of these people have different needs, all of those people have, are convinced by different aspects, that your solution is the right solution at the end of the day. And in that case, you got to have content for each of those groups, so that they are satisfied and in the end, all together make the right decision. Now, what are some current marketing tactics that help influence modern buying decisions, you know, briefly, for in their webinars, for example, but talk a little bit more about that.
Sandra: So I think, you know, for us, we’ve leaned very heavily into intent based marketing, you know, really taking the time to learn not only about the organization, but about their past behavior with us, and then leveraging that data about the company and the individuals inside that company to help do what you and I were just talking about, which is what is the most effective channel to reach the individuals along that buying cycle. And not just as individuals, but recognizing that there are various buying groups and understanding enough about the way decisions are typically made to ensure that we have involvement from all of the areas that we need to in order to conclude the sale.
Not with no decision, but with a decision in our favor. And you know, we see a lot of increase in the number of abandoned deals, deals that just don’t close. And part of that is because I think, this increasing complexity, this inability to drive consensus is underlying that. So one of the technologies that we’re Using shows us intent, it shows us intent across the buying committee. It shows us engagement across the buying committee. So that we’re going back and making sure that we’ve got the right team on our buying committee and that we’re serving them the kind of content that we need to, for them to have confidence in the decision.
Steffen: That’s, that’s really interesting. And then you talk about more and more deals are abandoned, you know, you have great conversation that sounds like it’s a perfect match. And you just think like, hey, you know, they just need to put their signatures down there. And in the end, they just fall through. Now, the software, you mentioned, obviously, is something that is really interesting and helpful for companies to kind of take a little bit of mystery out of what will it take for someone to, to say yes, and sign a contract. But is there anything else that that you use to overcome the fact that more and more deals have been abandoned?
Sandra: We are very heavily leveraging past relationships. So one of our best buyers, and therefore, influencers of buying decisions are past customers. So, you know, this isn’t a digital marketing tactic, but it is a marketing and sales motion, as part of our go to market motion. And that is, what are the things that we can do to increase confidence in the decision. So that’s increasing customer success stories, that’s creating opportunities for customers to interact with each other.
So mixing customers and prospects in either digital environments or in in person environments, as we’re starting to return back to that. So what I would say is we look at each stage of the buying cycle, we call it our best chance sales cycle. And we look at what are the tools that we’re providing to our sellers that help our buyers not only come through that step to the next step, but come through it with preference for our solution. So what we’ve had to do is create many, many more individual elements to a marketing campaign.
Especially as we, I’m not just interested in producing pipeline, I’m interested in producing pipeline that closes, and I find that I have to have more tools to help with some of those things that I described at the beginning. Have I built consensus? Does the buyer think they’ve looked at all the solutions? Do they believe that they’ll be successful with this solution if they adopt it? And is it differentiated in ways that matter to me? And that’s led us to produce more types of content, to produce more types of interactions than we had to in the past.
Steffen: That’s really interesting. I think I had a conversation on a podcast episode, a couple of months back where the CMO of the company talked about the fact that they have webinars where their clients actually are on there, and they do air quotes, the selling of their solution. They’re just basically the host, but it’s almost like an round of people getting together and people are interested, and they ask question to the people that already use the software. Right. And it’s not coming from the company, it’s coming from the customer of that company that answer the questions, which obviously creates a much stronger response on the prospect side. So that’s, that’s really interesting, that you guys are doing something similar. Now, from from a marketing strategies perspective, what have you implemented to impact that increasingly resistant buyer?
Sandra: So we have implemented demand base as a technology, which is our intent platform, and platform is enabling for us this ad serving by buyer’s cycle. We also have implemented personalization into our website. We’ve also implemented personalization into our sales opportunities. Once they’ve you know, they never leave marketing. We’re in partnership with sales all the way through. But we find that buyers are expecting to see their name. They’re expecting to see us articulate back to them that we understand the business problem that they’re trying to solve.
So a lot more personalization. So we we’ve actually implemented some additional technology that enables us to create buying centers that are personalized to customers. So I think leveraging what we know about the companies from research from our interactions with them and creating these digital experiences that help us support a personalized journey from the beginning all the way through the selling motion are things that we’ve done specifically to address turning off buyers because of some of the older marketing tactics used against them.
Steffen: Yeah, I mean, from what you’re saying, the marketing approach on your end sounds much more complex than definitely it was in the past. Right? Again, we talked about email marketing earlier, it’s like you’re not not just sending emails out and bombarding people with that and hoping someone will kind of respond to you, other than saying, leave me alone. Right? Now, there are so many different things you can do to, as you said, personalize different channels, to engage with people, to achieve the goal that you are after, which is creating a new customer. So how can marketing teams ensure new strategies or tactics are competitive and effective?
Sandra: So I think you have to be as a marketer, very committed to implement a change, but constantly test and adapt. I don’t have any set it and forget it marketing tactics running on my team right now. We are constantly looking at the results across every spectrum. Did I actually reach the intended buyer? Does the message resonate with the buyer? Do I have a demonstration that the buyer is having a positive experience from the content that’s being served to them? And you know what I’ve said many times through this, I don’t want to just generate pipeline, I want to generate pipeline that closes. So we’re really looking at how are we executing at each step.
And then we’re also measuring overall effectiveness. Now, in b2b enterprise, I’m dealing with a very, very, very long sales cycle in this case. And so I wouldn’t want to put something in motion, and not test it at the right interval. So I am looking for signs or milestones, that would be indicative of the fact that that tactic is working. And then I’m always going to be looking at what is the right horizon for me to assess whether or not this is or isn’t working.
And so again, at our case, you know, my CTA is not download this white paper, and you’re gonna call me for a demo. Since I believe that they want to do things like self education, then some of the things that we use to assess is this tactic working, it’s not just click through, I am engaging with the content, how long they’ve engaged with it, did they share it internally. And so the measurements have actually, I think, also increased in complexity.
But if I don’t see those signs, I wouldn’t be able to expect it to have that long term effect. But short term, I can start to get indicators by setting these milestones, setting different kinds of measurements of success in the interim, I can begin to put that short and long term together, to learn faster, and maybe adapt faster than if I waited until you know, a campaign ran its full course. So I think both of those things are really important.
Steffen: That’s really interesting what you just said, because, as you mentioned, you know, in a b2b environment, the sales cycle, the cycle in general from marketing to sales, and then becoming a new, or creating a new client is so much longer, right? You first have, you know, upper funnel, mid funnel, lower funnel activity that you’re doing, right? And then you create a lead that goes over to the sales side, marketing qualified, sales qualified opportunities, conversation, etc. And depending on, you know, probably how expensive your product is, etc, it can take quite a long time, up to a year, maybe even sometimes longer from passing on the lead to closing, right?
How do you, how do you change the view of your data points, when you finally get information from the sales side from close, because I get what you’re saying you set milestones. And I think that’s really smart, because you need to have something along the way to measure and, as you said, to identify early enough, something is going either right or wrong. Right. But once you start seeing sales coming through from your activities, how do you use the data from there to bring it back to the beginning, to the marketing side to probably also adjust your milestones potentially? And your KPIs?
Sandra: Absolutely. So you know, we have employed a third party resource to help us with win/loss analysis. That win loss analysis we take pretty seriously. So we are getting some of that I mean, I can look at the data what’s happening and now I so I’ve got the quantitative now I want the qualitative to overlay against that. So we do use win/loss analysis. What was important to you in the buying? Like, what were your evaluation criteria? How did we do in each one of the things that mattered to you? And again, we have this foundational framework of the best chance sales cycle that we’re constantly returning back to. And we get surprised.
We thought this was so important in the buyers mind. And then when we ask the buyer, if that influenced their decision or not, sometimes we find out it didn’t really have anything to do with it. And so we’re trying to use data, did they consume this content during the cycle? Did we take this step? Who were their references? Overlaying it with what the buyers told us mattered to them, whether we won or lost, it’s like a double edged sword. It’s funny. One of the principal insights that came out of the win/loss analysis was how important empathy and communication were during the selling cycle. And it was both one of the reasons why we won, and one of the reasons why we lost.
So it’s not enough to just look at that. We have to go one level deeper and unpack what does that mean, in the sales cycle? What tools are we offering to the sellers to make sure that they’re communicating clearly, and that they’re offering empathy? And we go back into our selling machine and we look at what are the tools that our sellers have that are effective there. So again, I’m like a long answer person, but it’s not one thing. It is tying those two things together, the data that I see with what I understand when I add qualitative facts to it as well.
Steffen: Really interesting. Now, before we come to the end of today’s episode, how do you predict marketing will evolve in the near future?
Sandra: I think we’re going to continue to see what we see in other areas. And that is, people are not different people at work and in their private life. And so the kinds of expectations that even enterprise b2b buyers are more and more and more like what they are in their own personal buying decisions. So I see much more of a need for b2b marketers to adopt some of the cool b2c kinds of tactics that we see. Way more personalization, way more fusion of technology today that links you in your personal life to your professional life.
So I think you’ll start to see even maybe a little bit more hopefully very good marketing, but interruption less interruption but more fusing of those kinds of tactics. Because you are, who you are, we know who you are. And we can actually create great experiences that are data driven on the b2b side, like the expectations that you have on the b2c side. So I think that that you’ll see the merging of those two, or personalization in the content, and following you around whether you’re at work or at play.
Steffen: Perfect. Well, Sandra, thank you so much for joining me on the Performance Delivered podcast and sharing your knowledge on the evolution of marketing against an increasingly resistant buyer. Now, if people want to find out more about you and your company, how can you get in touch?
Sandra: So they should get in touch with me on LinkedIn. I’m happy, happy, happy to interact with individuals. Please don’t try to sell me any more marketing technology. Find me on LinkedIn at Sandra Moran and I’m with WorkForce Software.
Steffen: Perfect. Well thanks everyone for listening. If you’d like the Performance Delivered podcast, please subscribe to us and leave us a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast application. If you want to find out more about Symphonic Digital, you can visit us at symphonicdigital.com or follow us on Twitter at Symphonic HQ. Thanks again and see you next time.
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